Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stuff I Like: Revelate Designs

2019 has been a year of really dialing my bike for “big day” rides of 50 to a 100 miles.  It’s sort of a no man’s land between regular rides and the long rides that a lot of bikepackers undertake.  It’s also the sort of riding that is super prevalent here in eastern Iowa.

The requirements for being on a bike for several hours and tens of miles from home are the ability to deal with any mechanical gremlins that arise, have enough food on hand in case you begin to bonk, and be prepared for dramatic changes in weather.  The last requirement is key.  You may end up packing a compressible down jacket for a ride that may end in short sleeves.  That is spring in eastern Iowa.

On my bike right now I have a Terrapin System 8L and a Mag-Tank:

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The Terrapin System 8L replace a much more traditional seat bag that had just enough room for my phone, spare tube, mini pump, and a multi-tool if I spent a few minutes arranging everything just so.  Do not ask what happened if I had to actually get anything out of said seat bag.  It was reverse Jenga in all the wrong ways.

The benefit of a seat bag like the Terrapin System 8L?  Variable size.  If you do not need to carry a jacket or a burrito as big as your head just roll down the bag insert, close the one way purge valve, and clip it into place.  Want to carry a puffy, rain jacket, gloves, and a five dollar foot long?  Just unroll the insert, stuff it full, and get to pedaling.  About the only downside to bag like this is that the inside is one big compartment.  It’s liberating in that there are no internal obstructions to limit your packing imagination, but at the same time it can get a little bit jumbled.  I am considering sewing my own tool roll to contain some of the chaos.  More projects!

Before the Mag-Tank I had gone through a few top tube or stem tops bags, but ended up binning them after a few rides because nothing ever seemed to work.  The Mag-Tank is about the perfect size to hold my smartphone, driver’s license, keys, cash, and some trail snacks in an easy to grab location.  In the past I have stored these same items in a seat bag.  The problem?  To really access a seat bag you have to get off the bike and root through the bottomless pit.  Ugh.

Now if I want to take a picture of something on the trail I just pop open the Mag-Tank, which has a snazzy magnetic enclosure as opposed to Velcro or a zipper, and grab my phone.  All from the saddle.  If you need or want more space there is a larger Mag-Tank 2000, but that seemed like overkill if I was also going to be rocking the Terrapin System 8L.

My only real gripe with the Mag-Tank is that the strap for fastening to the top tube was obviously intended for more voluminous carbon or allow frames.  It was pushing things to the limit when I tightened down the strap on my steel Breezer Radar.  Granted, the tubes on my bike are of the very skinny old school steel variety.  I was left with a lot of extra strap.  A little scissor surgery remedied the offending flap.  Sure, this bag is limited to this particular bike but when am I going to change rides?

After approximately 1,500 miles so far this season of mixed surface riding in eastern Iowa I can safely say that these two bags have solved all of my cargo carrying concerns.  At least one thing has been figured out this summer.

You will notice that my bike now has a flat bar.  Updates to follow.

Note: I received nothing from Revelate Designs or anyone else for this post.  I bought both products with my own money and intend to keep using them until the end of time.  Okay, that might be a little extreme.  Regardless, there is no paid product pimping here.  I did use my REI dividend and bi-annual member coupon to reduce the sting a little.  These products are great, but they are expensive.

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Friday Linkage 7/12/2019

July really walloped us with heat and humidity this week in eastern Iowa.  After a wet and cool May and June, this month came in hot, humid, breezy, and dry.  It is just strange to be talking about high humidity and the soil drying out at the same time.  Yet, here we are.

On to the links…

The Most Important Thing You Can do Right Now to Fight Climate Change, According to Science—The best thing we can do is to keep hammering away at building consensus.

The Biggest Lie in Trump’s Environmental Speech Today—The fact that Ol’ Donnie Two Scoops felt the need to walk up to the podium and deliver a speech about his “environmental leadership” is, perhaps, the most appalling example of the man’s deranged ego run amok.

Tree Planting ‘Has Mind-Blowing Potential’ to Tackle Climate Crisis—Regardless of the degree to which this would be effective in combating climate change the question remains: What is the downside?  We have more forests?

Toilet Paper is Getting Less Sustainable, Researchers Warn—If your toilet paper is not recycled or tree free you are wiping your ass with carbon.  Until you clean up your triple ply, soft as angel wings toilet paper habit you are just destroying forests.

Beverage Companies Embrace Recycling, Until It Costs Them—I live in a state with a longstanding bottle deposit law and every couple of years the beverage industry lines up to try for repeal.  That is how you know it must be working to some degree.  Anything that can unite companies that normally fight like cats and dogs must be some kind of good.

New Wyoming Coal Company Abandons Mines and Miners—Coal companies have always treated workers like crap.  It is now just getting more mainstream coverage.

First Major U.S. Insurance Company Moves Away from Coal—Boring but important notice: If you cannot get insurance a lot of projects cannot get financing.  Financing is the lifeblood of fossil fuel projects.

This Is Exactly Why Clean Coal Is A Joke—There can never be “clean coal.”  Just like there cannot be “safe crystal meth” or “healthy White Castle.”

A President, A Parasite And A National Energy Policy Gone Awry—It is amazing that people want clean air and clean water.  Oh wait, that is just basic knowledge about humans desires.

Cheap Clean Energy Makes New Natural Gas A Risky Bet Utility Regulators Should Avoid—This is an editorial written in Forbes, bot Mother Jones.

It’s Time to Expand the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit—Again, Forbes.  It is like these ideas are hitting the mainstream.

Why Blue Jeans are Going Green—It may seem like we live in a business casual and athleisure wear world, but blue jeans are still a core component of our fashion lives.  These pants also happen to be an ecological nightmare.

Herbicide Is What’s for Dinner—Commodity agricultural practices have led us down this path and it is not sustainable.

One-Fifth of Americans are Responsible for Half the Country’s Food-Based Emissions—It’s almost like the 80/20 rule for emissions.  It just goes to show that relatively small changes for a slice of the population can make a big difference in emissions.  Too bad these are also the same people who gobble up “MAGA” hats and loudly proclaim Trump the be the biblical Cryrus.

8 Charts on How Americans Use Air Conditioning—The air conditioning impacts are too damn high!  The fact that almost twenty percent of people set their thermostats below 70 degrees is mind blowing to me.

Friday Linkage 7/5/2019

With July 4th falling on a Thursday this year it makes for a rather strange week.  If you are not taking vacation, like half of my building it seems, you get a day off near the end of the week and have to come back for a Friday.

It’s like a ghost town in the office right now.

On to the links…

What Will Our 2040 Energy Future Look Like?—These forecasts have a way of being very wrong when market forces and technology collide to change the paradigm.  However, when a relatively conservative news outlet like Forbes is sounding the death knell for certain fossil fuels you know something is up.

There’s a New EPA Air Sheriff in Town, and She’s Got a Shaky Grasp on Climate—Where is the Trump administration finding so many barrel bottoms to scrape these political appointees from?  How soon before Sean Hannity is appointed to be Secretary of State or some such BS?

The Sack Of Washington—Oh wait, it is like a concerted plan by the most polluting industries to destroy the EPA from within.  I was giving ol’ Donnie Two Scoops too much credit.  [LINK: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/two-scoops%5D

For the First Time Ever Renewables Beat Coal in the US—23% of U.S. power in April was generated by renewables. 23%!

Market Efficiency, Not Regulation, Is Driving People from Coal—Nothing Donald Trump does can stop this from happening.  His actions can slow down progress, but come January 2021 the game us up.

As Trump Attempts to Prop Up the Struggling Coal Industry, Illinois is Taking Another Step Away from its Dirtiest Source of Electricity—Illinois is merely pushing over a tottering industry.  The article states that the eight coal fired power plants at risk for closure are already uneconomic to operate.

A 100% Renewable Grid isn’t Just Feasible, it’s in the Works in Europe—I have said this many times on this blog, do you remember a time when skeptics said renewables could only be a small portion of our electricity generation? First, it was no more than 5%.  Then it was adjusted higher.  Each time renewables exceed a certain threshold the skeptics just keep adjusting higher.  100% is going to be the upper limit.

Fracking Creates A Glut Of Fossil Fuels & A Mountain Of Debt—If you want to destroy value just invest in the fracking industry.  Don’t listen to me, listen to a former shale gas executive lay it out:

The shale gas revolution has frankly been an unmitigated disaster for any buy-and-hold investor in the shale gas industry with very few limited exceptions. In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change. While hundreds of billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to hundreds of millions of people, the amount of shareholder value destruction registers in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The industry is self-destructive.

Cement Production makes More CO2 than all the Trucks in the World—Our love affair with cement and concrete is killing the planet.  This is why tall timber buildings are the future.

Shipping Sector Comes Under Increasing Pressure To Cut Its Carbon Footprint—This is why it is so critical to stop buying so much stuff.  That stuff we buy has to be shipped and shipping is a carbon bomb.

Cities are Beginning to Own Up to the Climate Impacts of What they Consume—What we consume has a direct relationship to our carbon emissions.  Consume less, emit less.  As the economic engines of the modern world cities have a lot of power to change consumption patterns.

One Man Is Trying to Fight Climate Change By Mobilizing an Unlikely Team: Iowa’s Farmers—Actual farmers, as opposed to giant corporations and absentee land owners, care about the soil because these men and women understand that the soil is what sustains generations upon the land.  We need to support policies that reinforce these beliefs at the expense of the agricultural industrial complex.

Big Farms Find Easy Ways around Trump Trade Aid Limits—Color me surprised that big corporate agricultural interests found a way to work around rules meant to benefit smaller producers.  Oh wait, that is basically how agricultural policy in the United States has worked for the past fifty years or so.

Everything You Need to Know about the Booming Business of Fighting Food Waste—We waste a lot of food.  Combating food waste is both an economic and environmental imperative.

Give Your Yard Back to Nature—Every square foot of turf grass that we replace with low maintenance native plants is a victory for bugs and the land.  Our never ending expanses of artificially green turf grass is an eco-catastrophe.

The Mycelium Revolution Is upon Us—There is a fungus among us.  Sorry, I could not help myself.

Second Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

June has come and gone.  Summer is officially here.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost six months. Through the end of June 2019 I have driven ~3,706 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~4,181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter, I feel like I am nailing it in the second quarter with $0—yes, zero—spend at Amazon in the past three months. It is surprisingly hard to resist the temptation to just order something from Amazon at nine in the evening.  It is like our brains are wired to just hit the “add to cart” button.
  • No more Walmart—As with my goal of spending no money at Amazon met with reality in the first quarter but improved in the second quarter, so too did my attempt at not patronizing Walmart. Zero dollars in the second quarter.
  • Read twenty five books—23 down, 2 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. I am actively hunting for additional trees to plant, but the nursery stock locally has not been very attractive.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— Plans are laid out and some of the hardscaping materials are sitting in my driveway. However, this is the kind project that has to wait until the temperature declines a little bit.  Spending a day digging out turf when the mercury is over 90 degrees and the humidity level is above 90 percent is a no go.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Almost 1,200 miles have been spent in the saddle so far and this includes a lost week spent on vacation in Colorado. I had the best of intentions to ride while I was out in Summit County, but I chose to hike and raft instead.

So far, so good I think.

Drinking Local in the Second Quarter of 2019

Here is what my beer purchasing looked like in the second quarter of the year:

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I want to apologize to the brewers at Barn Town Brewing for forgetting exactly which of their beers I drank following a spring bike ride in April.  It was an IPA and it was hazy.  After that my  memory has completely failed me.

A couple of things stand out.  First, I went a little overboard with the cans I brought home from Summit County.  There is no way to get Outer Range Brewing or Broken Compass Brewing beers except in the high country.  Plus, I wanted to share the experience with some people back home so I loaded up the cooler and acted like an old school bootlegger.  Twenty four cans of beer does not exactly make me a bootlegger, but let me have my moment.

Second, I bought a lot of so-called “middle craft” beers from brewers like New Belgium Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Lagunitas among others.  Normally I would have little reason to choose a national craft brewer over something more local but a combination of grocery store sale pricing and rebates via the iBotta app changed my behavior.  The combination of the two often meant that I was buying a twelve pack of Sierra Nevada Hazy Little thing for less than $14.  That would compare with a local beer selling for $18-20 for the equivalent number of cans.

Once the summer rebates and pricing go away so does my interest.  Plus, Big Grove Brewery is carpet bombing the retail beer landscape here in eastern Iowa with twelve packs now.

Books I Read in 2019…in the First Six Months

You can see what I read in the first three months of the year here.

The books that I have read in second three months of the year go like this:

A note on a book that I tried to finish, but gave up on for various reasons:

This book came highly recommended from two sources that I take seriously on what books to read next.  However, I could not finish the book.  Why?  It felt like every chapter, regardless of theme, was there to make the point that the medical establishment had failed Lyme disease patients.  As in the chapter could be about the spread of disease carrying ticks due to climate change but it would segue into a harangue on doctors ignoring Lyme symptoms in a patient in Wisconsin.  The topic is important and timely, but an editor could have tightened the narrative to make it more impactful and readable.  Sometimes you just gotta’ cry “Uncle!”

The best aspect of this, in my opinion, is that all of these books were borrowed from my local public libraries.  Yes, I said “libraries.”  I am one of those weird people who has a library card for three different library networks in the area—Cedar Rapids Metro Library Network, Iowa City Library, and the University of Iowa Library.

I have finished 23 books with just 2 to go until my goal of twenty five.  Maybe I was selling myself a little short in the reading department.

 

Note: The links to buy the books from Powell’s yield me no benefit.  I would encourage you to find these books at your local library, but if you must buy a book do not buy it from Amazon.

June 2019 Solar was Back on Track and EV Miles were Extra Efficient

June was a better month for solar production:

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Over the course of the entire month my household ended up ~150 kWh (consumption minus production), including all of my EV charging for that same period as I did not use any public chargers.  With at least eight more panels being installed on my roof this summer I am going to be seeing a lot more months with excess production.  Every kilowatt hour that I produce from my solar array is like a nail in the coffin for coal.

The excess production in June was a little artificial because we were on the road for more than a week.  With no air conditioning running it is to be expected that we would run a surplus.  June was also fairly cool with a corresponding lack of need to deploy air conditioning.  The last few days of the month were a reminder that summer in Iowa is a hot and sticky affair.  I am talking temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and humidity levels exceeding 90%.  If there was ever a time where I did not want to come home from the mountains this was that time.

For June I drove my Nissan Leaf a total of ~555 miles at an average efficiency of 5.9 miles per kWh.  This is my best number by far, in terms of efficiency, and makes me wonder if I can nurse my way to a figure over 6 miles per kWh in July.  For the period I saved ~646 pounds of C02 being emitted assuming that my charging came via the grid at an average carbon intensity.

You may ask how I can be ahead in terms of energy production yet still account for some level of carbon intensity for my electric vehicle.  Unfortunately, my photovoltaic array’s production occurs when I am not charging my EV which usually happens at night.  Therefore, to run my Nissan Leaf I am utilizing grid electricity.  It’s a little like keeping two sets of books for the same business.