Friday, October 20, 2006

Carfree spaces

I think that I would enjoy living in a carfree area a great deal. I find these attributes very attractive:

  • cleaner air
  • less noise
  • closer-knit communities
  • safety, especially for children
  • better exercise for everyone
  • having less stress, and living around people with less stress
  • getting what we need locally (instead of from oil far away)
  • reduced dependence on government, major industry, and infrastructure

I saw this picture at, and found it beautiful:

Center of Groningen, The Netherlands
Part of the large nearly carfree center.

I read through the Wikipedia article List of car-free places with great interest, only to discover that the U.S. has very little to offer. Basically, Mackinac Island and Fire Island are your only real car-free options.

There is some mention of massive pedestrian shopping malls, but that's not what I'm looking for. It's not about shopping!

Why don't more cities have car-free spaces? Why doesn't each major city pick one district and make it car-free. Over time, some people will migrate in, and some will migrate out, depending on their taste. In 10 years, you'll know if you should grow it or shrink it.

For the Seattle, I propose Broadway on Capitol Hill.

How much can you do on a bike?

Bikes at Work has some impressive examples:

delivering 10 bags of groceries plus 15 rolls of paper towels and 70 packages of toilet paper

And I thought pulling 3 kids was a lot!  So now I'm all excited about how much I can do with a bike, instead of using the car.  If I can keep up the riding through the winter, then by spring I should be in good enough shape to start taking on a bit more.

What else can be done on a bike?

Bicycling a lot

Can it really be so long? 14 years?

When I was in high school, I started bicycling a lot. I rode to school every day. It was only 2 miles each way, but it made a difference. My dad & I would go for 30 mile rides each Wednesday, in the hilly Appalacians. A couple times we did the MS150, a fund-raiser ride for 150 miles in 2 days. I weight about 180lbs-190lbs, and didn't think about it at all.

Then I went to college, and stopped riding. I started smoking, made things worse a lot faster. I gained about 10lbs / year for a while.

Eventually I quit the smoking, but it was only this past spring that I really got any regular exercise. (a few summers ago I started doing a bit of exercise every day, mixing it up - swimming with my son, walking to/form work, in-line skates. I lost 15lbs from my peak of 280lbs, but the habit didn't stick when the weather changed).

However, for the last 6 months, I have been bicycling pretty regularly. I got a tandem attachment for my bike, and ride with my 5-year-old to school in the morning. I drop him & the tandem off, and then bike the rest of the way to work. I then pick up the tandem on the way home. It's a total of about 40 minutes of exercise each day.

I haven't lost much weight - maybe 4lbs in that time. But I can tell that I feel stronger, more able to move around. I am hopefull that as I continue to the biking habit I will continue to get fitter. I have 14 years to undo!

A couple weeks ago we picked up a kid trailer for the bike, too. One that can carry the twins. I attached it to the tandem trailer, so I now have a "bicycle" with 5 wheels! The trailer is way back there, so I bought a bunch of lights to make it a bit more visible. The seem to love the rides, which is a huge improvement over car rides, when they scream the whole time.

Last night the babies bike helmets arrived. They're a bit too big for their 8-month-old heads. Maybe I'll wait until the spring to take them out, when the weather is nicer and their heads have grown.In the meantime, I pull the trailer around whenever I ride with the tandem, so that I can build more strength and get some practice handling the rig.

I'm really enjoying it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The money thing

So, I did end up creating a blog about my personal finances.  I couldn't really decide if it was important to be secret about my identity or not.  It bugs me that we have all these social rules about keeping secrets, mostly about sex & money, two things that seem to occupy our attention a lot of the time.
I didn't make it anonymous because I believe it's important to keep it secret.  I made it anonymous because I couldn't decide, but I know how to go from anonymous to onymous, but not the other way around.  That is, I took the "safe" bet.
If you are a reader of this blog, and would like a pointer to my money blog, drop me a line.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A very successful cheese

Last week I still had a 1/2-gallon of milk left over when the week's delivery of fresh milk arrived.  Remember that this is excellent raw milk that I get straight from the farmer.   This 1/2-gallon had gotten pretty sour, and no one was interested in drinking it.  But I didn't want to throw it out.  So, I decided to try an experiment.

I put the jar on the back of the stove, and left it.  After a few days it had "clabbered", or turned semi-solid.  Similar to yogurt.  As it continued to age, the acid that was produced by the naturally occuring bacteria caused it the clabbered curds to separate from the whey.

When the separation was significant (and when the babies gave me a chance to work on it), I moved the curds in to a cheesecloth, and hung it up to strain.  I left that for another day.

What I found inside was thicker than yogurt, but not as thick as store-bought cream cheese.  Close to the texture of chevre.  I added salt (which I should have done earlier, probably), and some powdered garlic.  It was in the middle of the night, because a baby had me up, and I didn't have a lot of light, and the cheese, garlic, and salt are all about the same color.  I have no idea how much I put in.

Mixed it up & tasted it.  Delicious! 

The other adults in the house loved it, too.  Last night I toasted some bread to make it crispy, and we spread it on.  Mmmm.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

An open wallet?

I have seen a couple interesting blogs where people talk in detail about their personal finances.  For example, My Open Wallet.
I think that my finances are slightly unusual (thanks to working at Microsoft), and my approach to managing it is sometimes unorthodox (just like everything else I do).
It's strange to me that the most secret of secrets is how much money you make. 
So, should I start writing about my finances publicly?
Should I do it anonymously?

Tips for living simply #3 - It's not about products

When I started down the path of simplifying my life, I decided to do some research on the internet to see if I could find some help.  One of the things I came across pretty quickly were web sites dedicated to simplicity.  What was disappointing about many of them was that they wanted me to buy products to simplify my life.

Yeah, that's right.  Got a problem with stuff in your life?  Here's some more stuff to help you out!

There's a pretty big industry for simplicity products.  That fact is quite telling about the nature of the society I live in.  And it's quite disturbing...

Even beyond the simplicity industry, many products offer to simplify your life. It's a common advertising ploy, but usually an absurd one.  Like a credit card or a vacation would solve the fact that you are in debt and don't have enough time to keep your home in order.

There's another issue with products, at least one that I'm deeply concerned with.  Things that are produced for the mass market seem to conflict with the dreams that I mentione before.  They are made with plastics, or in sweat shops, or have to be transported a long, long way.

Despite the message of advertising to the contrary, they're not produced to do me a favor. The purpose is to get some other guy rich.  He's not likely trying to help me and help himself at the same time, but trying to help himself, no matter what it might cost me.
So, watch out for products.  You probably don't need the one that you're looking at right now...

It's about time...

I had this thought:
"I'm in no rush to invent a time machine"

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