Tag Archives: fall

In Praise of the Sick Ride

I have come to praise the sick ride.  No, not the kind of “sick” ride where you need to make sure to capture some footy for the boys.  This is about the ride you take after a sick day.

It is that time of year when the kids go back to school, so after a summer of days out in the open everyone is crammed back together in a single building.  Inevitably this begins the cycle of germ transmission that makes these places the equivalent of a low level biohazard zone.  I only half kid.

This is about the ride you take the day after you spend a day consuming Sudafed and Mucinex while wiping your nose with the equivalent of the boreal forest of Kleenex.  After a night of Nyquil induced sleep you wake up to a beautiful near fall day of full sunshine, no discernible wind, and temps hovering in the low 60s.

The leaves are starting to turn on the edges of that one tree in the neighborhood that always blazes red earlier than any other tree.  It is the harbinger of fall and the dreaded day when you hang up your bicycle until spring.  You cannot pass up days like this just because you spend the last thirty six hours binging on Netflix, mainlining herbal tea, and slipping off into fitful sleep.

So, you clip in and head for a ride.  The weather may be perfect and your bike is finally dialed in after an entire season of riding, but you are a mess.  Your cadence is jacked.  The hills you normally whiz up become grinds.  At the turn your legs are somehow managing to feel like Jello and be tight at the same time.  Your sinuses are torched and your skin has an oddly prickly feel to it.

Heading home you have gulped more than twice as much water as normal and your clothes are soaked.  The backs of your gloves are covered in an odd combination of grime, sweat, and snot.  Your teeth itch.

You unclip and slump onto the steps in your garage.  Your water bottle is empty, but you try and coax the last few drops out of the cap.  There is more liquid inside, just a few steps away, yet you remain glued to the second step.

A hot shower is a miraculous thing.  A few minutes with hot water and a bar of lemon scented soap makes a new person emerge from the other side.  All of the grinding of the past couple hours is forgotten.  The sickness of the past few days is forgotten.  Something magical happened over the course of thirty miles that no day on the couch could ever replicate.

You went on the sick ride.  Praise the sick ride!

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A Mixed Bag for Solar Production in August

The solar photovoltaic system on my roof had a mixed record of production in August:

Solar August

I would have thought the system would come in a little closer to July’s number, but a consistently rainy and dreary end to the month dashed those hopes.  Still, over 563 kWh of clean solar energy was more than enough to offset my consumption and I ended the month up a little over 100 kWh.  In total, over the course of the past year or so since my system was installed I am up over 800 to 850 kWh.

It’s a little hard to tell exactly where I am at because my utility company replaced my electric meter without telling me so I lost some data points that I was tracking manually on a spreadsheet.  If you have a solar system watch your electric bills like a hawk.  My utility company consistently uses incorrect meter readings that discount the amount of solar electricity that I produce.  It is amazing that my consumption from the grid is never discounted.

My hope is that September turns into a good month for solar production, but the rainy weather that ended August is carrying over in September.  The first few days of the month have been little more than rain.  So much so that the ground is like a wet sponge and my grass is growing like crazy.  Maybe a I should just get a goat to mow the lawn…

It’s Your Dystopia and None of My Own

Dystopian prognostication is popular right now.  Donald Trump, tension in the Korean peninsula between nuclear armed combatants, increasing economic inequality, climate change…you get the idea because you are living in this news cycle every day.

In a world where it seems like the first war between two nations with nuclear weapons could be started by an errant tweet it is not a far stretch of the imagination to visualize a dystopian future.  However, this forecasting is not something that is new to modern civilization.  Almost since the close of World War II musings on the dire future of human civilization has been a theme in literature and popular culture.

Seriously, spend a few minutes reading the entries on Wikipedia for dystopian or post-apocalyptic works.  Damn, we are some dark creatures.

Add in a dash of climate change and the Kardashians…bam, you have all the elements for everyone with a keyboard, camera, or microphone to paint a picture of a really shitty future.  What if the future, as drastic as the impacts of climate change might be, is not really as bad as Mad Max: Fury Road?

Maybe the future is different than today, but not altogether bad by most objective measures.

What if the future is less Walking Dead without the zombies and more solarpunk?

Consider what the future will look like with a look back on history.  Civilizations do not “fall” in the sense that one day things are all Athenian democracy and the next it is apocalypse.  From the perspective of a historian writing about the decline of a civilization hundreds of years after the fact a long period of decline may be interpreted as a “fall,” but it is nothing of the sort.  One of my favorite examples of this is how native Mayans respond to people asking “What happened to the Mayans?”  Nothing, people of Mayan descent still live in the exact same places that they did when the temples you visit on a cruise excursion were built.  The markers and remains of the civilization changed, but the people remained.

What would our modern civilization look like if the markers of a high energy system fueled by non-renewable energy were forced to adapt to a lower energy future?  Would some future historian or current pundit—yes, I am looking at the talking heads on Fox News, lament the “fall” of modern Western civilization?

Perhaps, but would it really represent a fall or is just an evolution?  The difference in how that question is answered may rest with our response to a world wracked by climate change.  If we hold on to our old ways of doing things then a fall is likely as we prop up existing paradigms in ever more complex systems that are pre-ordained for a spectacular collapse.    However, if we pivot either by choice or circumstance to the changing conditions maybe society will have a chance to evolve into something more compatible with a long term sustainable arc.

Friday Linkage 10/16/2015

Made it out of Los Angeles. Barely. No, seriously, I thought I might get stuck forever walking the mile and a half from the car rental return to my airport hotel. Two dead ends and a convoluted route finally got me to my destination. Maybe it is true that no one actually walks in Los Angeles.

On to the links…

Dire Glimpses of What Pollution Is Doing in Bangladesh—Bangladesh is not a nation that is at the fore of the consciousness of the West. The fact is that the nation will likely be devastated by climate change and that has the potential to destabilize the entire region.

California Bans Microbeads to Protect Marine Life—California has done what should be done at the national level. Microbeads should be outlawed immediately.

Wyoming Made It Illegal To Take A Photo Of A Polluted Stream. Now They’re Being Sued For It.—This case needs to be watched because it will set the boundaries for what can be done to prevent the use of citizen science and journalism to expose the threats to our natural world.

Chile to Create One of World’s Largest Marine Parks around Easter Island—Marine parks may be one of the few good tools we have to preserve pockets of ocean health as our rapacious appetite destroys the oceans.

The World is on Target to Get 26 Percent of Energy from Renewables by 2020—This is according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Gorgeous 11MW Bioenergy Plant in Leeds will sort 214,000 Tons of Waste Each Year—In Leeds the black bins collect general household waste and it will be converted into energy at this amazing power plant. Damn, I want one of these in my town to replace the ugly coal turning into natural gas hulk that inhabits the south side of town.

Chinese Solar to Jump Fourfold by 2020, Official Tells Xinhua—Get ready for solar to feel the “China price” phenomenon full force in the coming five years.

Solar Power Bids Fall By Over 50% In 5 Years In India—Think about a 50% reduction in price in 5 years. It is a pretty wild decline in the price of solar power.

Big Victory in Minnesota Will Retire Coal, Ramp up Wind and Solar—Xcel Energy has bent to the will of its ratepayers and will retire fossil fuels in favor of renewables. The support for renewables in Minnesota is simply amazing right now.

This Startup Wants To Plant One Billion Trees a Year Using Drones—I love this idea for drone technology. Think about reforesting huge swaths of rugged country following wildfires or beetle kills with drones instead of people. We live in the future.

Church Protests That Bike Lane Would Impede Their Free Practice of Religion—In a post-Hobby Lobby world I am anticipating that churches will object to everything on the grounds that it impedes their personal freedom to practice religion. Granted, it’s generally a load of hogwash but that is the world we live in today.

A Farmer Explains Why Fall Is the Best Time to Join a CSA—Maybe this is the fall where I make the leap and join another CSA. Maybe…

Who Is the Wet Prince of Bel Air?—What does 12 million gallons of water per year even get from a landscaping and lifestyle perspective?

A Higher Purpose for Hefeweizens

My distaste for hefeweizens is not something I am shy about.  Considering that recently I have decided to cut my beer consumption down to a single night a week or less, I am left with some odd duck beers in the back of the refrigerator.

For some people, this might mean a few cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon gathering dust behind that jar of pickled jalapenos. In my house it means a bomber of Steel Toe Brewing’s Sommer Vice:

Steel Toe Sommer Vice

Sure, it’s a hefeweizen. Why would I waste my limited beer drinking bandwidth on a hefeweizen? The answer is that I would not.

However, I have found a higher calling for these witch’s brews of banana and clove esters:

Sommer Vice Brats

Par boiling brats prior to grilling is a honorable way for a beer to meet its demise.

Friday Linkage 10/11/2013

Do you ever have weeks go by where you stop. Look up, and wonder, “Where did the last month or so go?”  Yep, I am having one of those periods of time.

On to the links…

The Huge Chill: Why Are American Refrigerators So Big?—I found this exploration into the gargantuan size of American refrigerators fascinating.  Maybe our fascination with giant sized cooling boxes and Costco sized quantities is a bad thing?  Hmmm….

How America Cultivated a Generation of Obesity—The idea of a hamburger’s pickles being considered a vegetable in terms of a serving is just asinine.  But, someone figured out a way for a few parties to make money so it became law.  I do like how the anti-fat crusade of my childhood is getting some of the blame for our current dietary straits.  When I was a kid no one wanted to eat anything with fat.  If a package said “fat free” it was carte blanche to eat.  Too bad all those carbs made us fat.

Unease in Hawaii’s Cornfields—You do not think about Hawaii having corn or soybean fields, but such fields are very common on Kauai.  There is a growing sentiment on the islands that these fields of GMO crops are not welcome visitors from the mainland.

How to Build a Cider Press and Harvest Apple Juice—After reading this I spend my days walking around the area looking at the apple trees dropping fruit no one wants and daydreaming about making gallon upon gallon of fresh pressed cider.  I am also daydreaming about using my homebrew skills to make some homebrew apple hooch.

Just What is in a Chicken Nugget—I am glad that someone asked the question and did the science, but I am now even more disturbed.  Only 40% meat?  Fat, cartilage, and pieces of bone make up the rest?  Reminds me of the classic John Candy movie The Great Outdoors when the he is challenged to eat the Ol’ 96er.  At the end the cook says he needs to eat what’s left on the plate.  But it’s just fat and gristle.  Part of the weight.

All You Can’t Eat, Pigs Will—This is a great story from a while back about a hog farmer that takes the leftovers from Las Vegas buffets and feeds them to his animals.  I wonder if the animals also wake up in a few days sunburned and full of regret.

The Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant In New England Is Shutting Down—It’s not the dirtiest coal plant in New England, but the Brayton Point Power Station is the largest of six coal fired plants in New England and it will be retired in 2017.  Good riddance!

Illustrating How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Fails President’s Climate Test—This article is just filled with data and charts that show just how awful the Keystone XL pipeline would be for the environment.  As if most people with half a brain who follow the news did not already know that.  There are three or four such people out there.

New Arizona Solar Plant Uses Salt To Keep Producing Electricity When The Sun Goes Down—It’s electricity derived from solar energy after the sun goes down.  It’s not from a traditional battery, per se, but rather a bank of molten salt that stores heat to create steam to drive turbines later.  Freakin’ cool.

Is Solar Power Facing a Dim Future?—Too often the story about solar power focuses on the panel makers and the trouble that these providers are having.  Panels, however, are turning into a commodity and that business is defined by the race to the bottom in terms of price.  Solar is here to stay!

Could Mexico be at the Start of a Solar Boom—Mexico has some pretty audacious goals.  It wants to generate 35% of its power from renewable sources by 2026, which would be up from ~15% today.  Solar is part of that equation because like the American Southwest a large swath of the country is bathed in excellent solar resources.

How Apps are Helping Us Drive Less—The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)—an acronym that is almost as convoluted sounding as SHIELD—released a report that finds our mobile technology is helping drive the trend toward less driving.  Anything that gets us out from behind the wheel is a good thing.

Industry Ahead of Schedule on Mileage Goals—According to an official at the EPA, the auto industry is ahead of pace to meet the new mileage goals instituted recently.  It’s amazing how these new targets were going to be catastrophic according to the pundits on the right, but now industry is ahead of the game.  Oh, and how is the auto industry doing right now?  Pretty dang well.

Plastic Waste is Hazardous for Sub-Alpine Lakes as Well—Is there anywhere that our plastic pollution will not soil?  Just asking.

Engine Exhaust May Be Contributing to Bee Colony Collapse—Is there anything that we humans do anymore that is good?  It seems like every action we take has a dark side that harms the environment.  It’s enough to get someone down in the dumps.

Fall of USSR Locked Up World’s Largest Carbon Sink—Apparently, when the USSR fell into disunion millions of acres of farmland went fallow.  Over the years those millions of acres have sucked up carbon to become one of the biggest carbon sinks in the world.

The Scary Truth About Antibiotic Overprescription—Most of the press on this issue relates to the insane amount of antibiotics that we feed farm animals in feedlot operations.  However, humans are over prescribed antibiotics as well.  Great.

Dirtball’s ‘Green’ Jeans Are Made In U.S. From Recycled Water Bottles—It was not the recycled content of the jeans that really caught my eye, but the infographic showing where all of the components were sourced from.  Too often we think of “Made in the USA” to mean assembled here from foreign parts, but the supply chain is critical to creating sustainable industries.

A Good Sunday

Some days are just made for the kitchen.  On Saturday the temperature tickled 70 and the sun shined throughout the day.  It was so pleasant that I mowed my lawn in shorts and a t-shirt without the slightest hint of fall cold.

Sunday was an entirely different story.  The temperature dropped twenty degrees from morning to afternoon and it rained from the moment that anyone in my house was awake.  This was the kind of day to spend getting stuff done in the kitchen.

With the weather being miserable it was the perfect time for soup.  My daughter requested chicken noodle soup and chicken noodle soup she got.  Not condensed soup from a can.  It was the time intensive method where you poach the chicken in stock, simmer down the stock to make an intense broth, simmer the vegetables to really flavor everything, etc.  It is one of those pots that sits on the stovetop all day long and fills the house with a wonderful aroma.  I wonder if warm weather locales get the satisfaction of a house filled with simmering soup the same way.

The call of the kitchen continued.  How so?  I turned four pounds of peeled garlic into ten pints of pickled garlic.  Now that my dad knows I can make the stuff for cheap he is consuming it at a rate that makes me worried his warding off vampires in the evening.  I got a little creative this round by making five pints using a mix of regular distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar.  I am hoping it can add a little extra zing.

But my pickling wasn’t quite done yet.  Since I had all of the equipment out I went whole hog and processed two pounds of ginger.  I will post more about this adventure when I get a chance to look at some of my pictures.  Needless to say, when my wife came home from an errand she was a little surprised to see an entire counter full of jars containing pickled garlic and ginger.  Some wives may worry about their husbands going out and buying electronics or some other cliché.  My wife worries about coming home to a counter of pickles.

It was only five o’clock in the afternoon, dinner was already made, and it seemed like I could get more done.  Why not bottle some beer?  I had a carboy of Dry Irish Stout in the basement that was ready for bottling.  Just under two hours later I had twenty eight bottles of Dry Irish Stout in bottles hopefully carbonating.  In two weeks I get to enjoy the fruit of that labor.

It is days like today that make me wonder how productive we can truly be in our homes.  Sure, it was a lot of work but it seems like so much was produced.