Thursday, February 23, 2006

Another Food Allergy Post

More about The Clown – poor Ronald has found himself in a quandary after announcing there are wheat and dairy derivatives on their fries. It looks like three parties have sued The Clown over the announcement. To fight these suits it’s become priority number 1 to get a scientist to test the foods to prove there are not allergens present…and the scientist found no allergens present. So which is it Ronald? This blog I found seems to have a pretty good report on the most recent news.

The Case of the Disappearing Pizza – tonight was a pizza night, and we hired Pizza Hut. While I was putting my pizza together on their website I decided to check for new food label information. I was handsomely rewarded. They are now admitting to egg in the pizza sauce, and acknowledge that peanuts and tree nuts can possibly exist in products manufactured for them. It seems pretty obvious that this is a CYA claim along the lines of, “if we say everything has everything in it then we can’t be breaking the law.” Come on Pizza Hut, do the work, find out for sure. It might be worth a customer or two. I enjoy this statement the most, "Please check with the store manager." If you only knew what I knew about what store managers know about food allergies!

So I jumped over to our other pizza of choice, Papa John’s. Their site has the same statements as it always has. Well good! At least we still have the Papa…or do we? There’s a voice in my head telling me it’s more likely their legal department just hasn’t fully grasped what the new food labeling laws mean.

The saga continues...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Amory Lovins - Despair is a Sin

The Internets have provided a pretty hopeful week!

Today’s finding is in Discover Magazine. They have an article that provides Amory Lovins’ perspective on an oil free future. In the article there is the case for lighter cars and even a hint of validation of my belief that each home should be responsible to generate its own energy. And he makes it all sound so possible!

Here’s the lead in:
AMORY LOVINS is a physicist, economist, inventor, automobile designer, consultant to 18 heads of state, author of 29 books, and cofounder of Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental think tank. Most of all, he's a man who takes pride in saving energy.
And here’s some inspiration:
...after a while someone in the back will get up and give a long riff about all the bad things that are happening-most of which are basically true…after this person calms down, I gently ask whether feeling that way makes him more effective. As René Dubos, the famous biologist, once said, "Despair is a sin."
Thanks again to The Other Tyler Hamilton. Maybe I should rename this blog to The Best of Clean Break.

Report: February 13-19

Trips -
MinusCar: 5
Multi-occupant Auto: 7
Single occupant Auto: 6

Again another less than inspiring bike performance but pretty good reliance on the bus.

My Car Miles: 64
My Bike Miles/Hours: 14/1

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Tough Allergy Day

Great news! I bet you didn’t know that new federal food labeling laws went into effect on January 1st. Yeah that’s pretty big stuff for parents like us who avoid 7 of the 8 major food allergens for their children. It will be so easy now to avoid the allergens and increase the likelihood that The Boys will live to outgrow their food allergies, right?

Well, it will help us avoid the sort of allergic reaction that could put them in the hospital, but it’s really only great news for parents of kids who are less than 3 years old. For my The Boys these laws are a very mixed blessing.

Here is the downside (there’s always a down side).

This morning we opened the morning staple Honeycombs for breakfast. Did you know that Honeycombs are manufactured on equipment that processes wheat? Nope, neither did we…until this morning. Maybe we can get Post Cereal to explain to The Boy 3 why his favorite cereal has to go away.

When I went to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) website to find information about the new food labeling laws for this blog post I found a statement for the press. FAAN’s response to McDonalds quietly released statement that their fries are produced using dairy and wheat derivatives. The Clown at McDonalds even errantly suggests ignoring The Doctor’s orders and continuing consumption of the fries. Nice.

Hopefully once all this new packaging comes out there will be foods left that can be consumed. I’m not ready yet to have The Boys selected out of the gene pool.

In more entertaining allergy news, the This American Life: Living Without radio show featured a story by Sarah Vowell about her wheat allergy. It’s the second segment of the show, and is probably quite revealing to someone unaware of what it means to be wheat allergic. You can listen free using Real Audio.

Keep listening to section 3, there’s a guy doing his own The MinusHome Project.

Monday, February 20, 2006

More News & Another Blogger Joins the Fray

First off: The Uncle was apparently traversing New Zealand media and came across a news article indicating that South Africa has beaten the world to super efficient solar panels. Is it too good to be true? Perhaps, but I’m not going to let a little doubt running my today…check this out:
In a scientific breakthrough that has stunned the world, a team of South African scientists has developed a revolutionary new, highly efficient solar power technology that will enable homes to obtain all their electricity from the sun.
Second: Wheel Revolution is a new sustainable living conscious, biking blogger from Portland, OR. She has a The Boy too! Check her out now and you’ll be getting in on the ground floor.
Being the chronicles of one family's evolution toward a sustainable life.
Third: Even W makes the MinusCar news highlights today. He’s touring alternative energy companies this week and promising a little alternative energy shock and awe in the not to distant future.
Our nation is on the threshold of new energy technology that I think will startle the American people," Bush said. "We're on the edge of some amazing breakthroughs - breakthroughs all aimed at enhancing our national security and our economic security and the quality of life of the folks who live here in the United States.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The News: CNN

From the land of inattentive drivers: here is a CNN video news article about a training film for police officers put together by the International Association of Police Chiefs. The second most common cause of death to officers is being struck by other vehicles while outside their cars making routine traffic stops; the first cause is car on car traffic accidents.

This video is quite stunning and surely shows clips where people have died. Two clips are extraordinary for the damage they don’t do. The very first one in the report involves an officer bending over talking to a driver through the window and being grazed on the backside by a car, sending his citation booklet flying. The second shows an officer instructing a woman to stand away from her vehicle to be safer. 10 seconds later her car is rammed by another.

Some of these situations are extra meaningful to me. They remind me of the time a car came quite close to me while I was biking on the sidewalk up a steep hill. Also, there is evidence at my office that I see daily, of a car jumping the curb crossing the sidewalk and running into a planter outside the front of the building. I suppose there were no pedestrians in the way during that unfortunate incident.

From the land of brilliant inventors: (thanks to MinusCar reader /KT for pointing me to this) Dean Kamen, the man who invented the Segway, is hard at work again. This time on two machines, one that can purify water…any water! and another than can generate 1kW of electricity by burning cow dung. The implication this has for the less developed nations and villagers is incredible, especially given the business model being employed for the machines implementation. You’ll have to read the article for details.

In a world where I wish each household would (or is it a fear that each household will need to) meet its own energy needs this machine sounds pretty useful. Reduce its carbon emissions by converting it to operate on concentrated sunlight or heat from the wind and I’ll buy two.

How much power is 1kW? The article claims 70 efficient light bulbs. Yeah, I have 70 light bulbs in my home so I might have to give up something…I think I hear my television volunteering to go first.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Knowledge Is Power

Before you read this, can you answer this question: How much water does your household consume in a day?

Over at my favorite blog, Clean Break, The Other Tyler Hamilton writes about wanting a better history of his household power consumption. I agree. I also agree it is highly likely energy companies already have this data. And why not provide it? Is it too confusing for us dumb consumers? Would it generate too many phone calls for customer service? One helpful commenter to the post offers a more literal than usual, “Knowledge is power.”

I processed my water bill this week. I was shocked and awed to find that my household water consumption is 169 gallons a day! A day! A day! And I didn’t water my lawn a single time this month. To my knowledge, this is the first time the information has been provided. I have no idea how this number relates to my neighbor's (here’s your chance to help), but I do know I’m well short of the 1,233 gallons per day point where I’d incur a consumption penalty. Still, 168 hours in a week, minus 47.5 hours away at school and work, minus 63 hours asleep, that's 57.5 hours at home where we consume 20.5 gallons an hour.

I can’t remember where, but I read once that if the whole city (any city) were to leave for vacation, the number of gallons of water still consumed by the empty city would be staggering. How many leaky toilets do you have?

I think I’ll make some phone calls to my utility companies tomorrow.

Dentists v Crusty Brakes

While The Uncle is over here enjoying a corporate dental plan that apparently requires a three hour post-dentist cooling off period before returning to work, I have a much less picturesque “the ride that wasn’t” story to tell. (Which dental plan is that anyway?) Seriously, if you’d rather go look at some real nice pictures of places I like to ride than read this, now is the time. (You have to scroll down a little)

I went to bed stoked for the today’s ride home from work. I woke up stoked for today’s ride home from work. Why all the excitement? My city was scheduled to get its second bout of winter today. It was supposed to hit around 6pm…which I was figuring made the probability quite high for a ride home with snow falling and a dusting in the ground. And by that I mean, perfection.

I prepared and dressed for the -2 windchill. I went to the garage and grabbed the winter bike. And. I. Pulled. The. Brakes. The front one closed and snapped back with a tart, “I’m ready!” The rear one sleepily closed, stayed closed, and rolled over and went back to sleep, “Don’t bother me.”

Oh no!

Repair stand. Allen wrench. Molasses (well the can read lube but I’m not paying much attention to storage temperature guidelines). Towel. 30 minutes and a mini-brake overhaul later I had two working brake arms but I was much too late for work to ride. Besides, part of the problem was a rusty cable which would have required a brake adjustment…which is…well…I have friends for that sort of thing. So the bike went on the car and I went in the car and off we went to work and later The LBS.

And then it didn’t snow, so I could have ridden the other bike, the one with the gears and the slick tires.

I let one get away today.

Report: February 6-12

Trips -
MinusCar: 5
Multi-occupant Auto: 4
Single occupant Auto: 3

Not a bad week. It’s easy not to drive when I don’t have to go anywhere. I stayed home two days with an ill The Boy 8.

My Car Miles: 27
My Bike Miles/Hours: 14/1

Monday, February 13, 2006

I Wonder

Over the past seven days three people have mentioned that they see my car parked at the park/ride once in awhile. It’s not hard to spot; it’s usually the only one there. By usually I mean when it’s there, it’s always(?) the only one. The most interesting thing about this is that I wasn’t able to detect any underlying pity in the telling. I wonder if that means people are getting it.

Unfortunately pity was quite abundant in the case for one person I know of who is making use of the bus when she can. It sounds like she found herself in the uncomfortable position of having to justify leaving the car at home to someone whose perception of a bus rider might be (like a Dick Cheney shotgun) a little off target.


The other day The Boy 3 gave me a little blue hand print sticker. I stuck it to my employee identification badge. Today a teammate asked me about it. He wondered if it signified a particular cause since I seem to be, um, you know, passionate about stuff. I could only offer that I'm passionate about The Boy 3.


The MinusCar Project just got easier to find –

Friday, February 10, 2006

The News: It's Pretty Good Today!

The Best First: Sweden is getting ready to roll in setting an example for the rest of the world. They’re working on a plan to be "oil-free" by 2020.
"Still, this is what a grown-up approach to energy policy looks like. Nothing mind-blowing. Nothing impossible. All you need is a government willing to act."
The Second Best: Never mind the misleading headline, it’s really an article about a whole lot of evangelicals ready to take the Genesis ideas about stewardship of the earth seriously. That’s right Genesis, the first book of the bible. I'm going to cut them some slack for their delay though, the steward ship idea gets a little lost there because it follows right after the verse about abortions being bad and right before the verse about gays ruining the sanctity of marriage.

Who knows, maybe soon I’ll be able to go to church and hear about the world issue I care most about.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Culture in the North

Yesterday St Paul, MN hosted mountain bike time trials inside their skyway system. It takes a pretty vibrant bike culture to pull that off.

Where I live the city won't even let us ride on their weeds.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Report: January 30-February 5 (How to Fight a House Bill)

Trips -
MinusCar: unknown
Multi-occupant Auto: unknown
Single occupant Auto: unknown

Three weeks in a row of mid-winter blahs? Actually no! Monday morning I awoke inspired to put the previous horrible weeks behind me. On my ride to work I crashed! But that’s not the story.

Monday morning three of us met to strategize and mount a push to get the South Dakota Legislature to change HB1190, a bill that was generating much laughter because it would allow drunks to ride bicycles and horses. This bill was anything but funny in that it would (unintentionally?) remove bicycles from the definition of vehicle in State Law. This is a very bad thing for a vehicular cyclist.

Ultimately I took Monday and Tuesday off from work. Over the next five days I was directly involved in the writing of a press release announcing a press conference, contacting every South Dakota cyclist possible and many national organizations, a television interview, the writing of an HB1190 fact sheet, the development of a web page, a press conference (yes, any idiot can call a press conference), and three radio shows. Not to mention 11 blog posts, countless hours of discussion, some of the regular family obligations, and a couple hours of sleep a night.

One of my favorite parts of The MinusCar Project is the simplicity it forces on me. Part of that simplicity comes from lingering in a grassy area while waiting for a bus with The Boy 8 and his friend. Or riding bikes to the park and making the trip there part of the fun of actually being there. Or sitting on a bus and looking out the window and enjoying the sites instead of the license plate in front of me.

This week was anything but simple. But the cause fit the project. And the project fit the cause.

Here is the fiasco that occurred Monday because I didn’t have a car. Mom picks me up at Cyclists Against HB1190 Central. I take her to her teaching job. I return in her car for ultimately postponed television interview. I pick up The Boys. I feed The Boys. We pick up mom at conclusion of her teaching job. She drops me at Cyclists Against HB1190 Central for interview and takes The Boys to her house. At completion of interview The Owner takes me to mom’s house. Mom takes me and the boys’ home. OUCH! Thanks mom. I drove the remainder of the week.

My Car Miles: 223*
My Bike Miles/Hours: 25.6/2

* 223 miles over the course of two weeks.

Report: January 23-29

Trips -
MinusCar: 2
Multi-occupant Auto: 12
Single occupant Auto: 9

The midwinter cracks in The MinusCar Project continue. I refer you to my January 24, “I’m Not Dead” post regarding the 1st anniversary of the events that came to be the genesis of The MinusCar Project. The motivation to ride is low.

My Car Miles: unknown – but will be mentioned in the January 30 report.
My Bike Miles/Hours: 13.7/0.9

It sure is nice I can be so honest around here.

Report: January 16-22

Trips -
MinusCar: 2
Multi-occupant Auto: 8
Single occupant Auto: 6

Playing a little catch-up here, this is from a couple weeks ago. I don’t imagine it’s too difficult to figure out why it was delayed. Look at all those car trips and the lack of MinusCar trips. Pretty bad news here!

If there’s any redemption to be had it in the relatively low miles added to my car.

My Car Miles: 56
My Bike Miles/Hours: 0/0

The MinusCar Project is showing some mid-winter cracks!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

New SD Cycling Blogger

Go over and give a shout to DW at the CycleSD blog. He says he's a recent convert to the road, and from what I remember from last season, he's ready to roll. If you go there quick you'll be greeted with the after effects of of crash (disturbing image warning).

Saturday, February 04, 2006

HB1190 Decompression

I hit the road with The Uncle this morning. The single digit temperatures were more extreme than I was ready for, but I needed to remember the two best parts of why I ride...the friends and the ride.


The three of us who put our faces and voices on the airwaves about the fiasco HB1190 would have been got our first fan mail on Friday. It pushed the common argument that the more we start acting like vehicles the more likely it is that somebody's going to get killed.
First, one word...responsibility.
Second, this is the way it is and the way it has always been, the law is staying the same, and I still ride my bike knowing I could die.
Third, anyone can call a press conference...not anyone can get people to come.

A couple interesting things converged in January before I was consumed by HB1190:
1. January 7 & 13 - Red Lights/Red Mist Parts II & III - including h's comments (I call him dad) about Character Counts and needing better laws.
2. In late January the local daily did a series of articles about teen drivers and how dangerous they are. There was talk of banning cell phone use for teens. I figured the teens ought to stand up and tell on their parents for being bad drivers when they talk on the phone.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'm Proud of My State

When was the last time your State Legislature affirmed the status of a bicycle as a vehicle?

HB1190 Title Before: "An Act to specifically exclude ridden animals and bicycles from the definition of vehicles."

HB1190 Title After: - "An Act to specifically exclude ridden animals and bicycles from violations of the DUI statues."

This bill is sponsored by 19 Representatives and 15 Senators. That’s 34 state legislators responding to concerns of their peers and their citizens by saying, "this is a DUI bill, don't worry. It won't affect bicycles rights to the road." Shhh, it's ok, go back to sleep.

For many motorists the very presence of a bicycle on a road is viewed as an act of defiance. Arguments about legal definitions aside, cyclists’ sole claim to be on the road is in the definition of bicycle as vehicle; whether that’s in the rhetoric of an argument with a motorist at an intersection or the rhetoric of a title of a House Bill in a state legislature. Note: in a legislature, we can win!

If I fought this battle alongside you, or if you fought it alongside me, I thank you.

Besides, it was a nice distraction from the Warmest. January. Ever.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

If Defending Cycling is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right

Just because I was right on this one, can I please still be wrong about Global Warming? Please?

Our cohort Greg testified against part of HB1190 today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. An amendment to the bill that addressed our concernes passed the committee unanimously. The vote for the bill itself had one dissenter who was (rightly I think) concerned about allowing drunken people to ride bicycles.

Greg also reports that he sat next to the bills author, Rep Tom Hennies and had a nice talk; thank you Rep Hennies for allowing modifications to your bill. (You might remember Rep Hennies from such previous posts as "I'm Wrong Again (still HB1190))."

If reading my posts somehow encouraged you to contact your representative I thank you for doing so. In Greg's report to the BicycleSF Yahoo! Group he says, "One senator even noted that all of our communications exceed that which he has received on the major issues of education funding and abortion." If reading my posts somehow disgusted you and you still wrote to your legislator I still thank you. If you wrote a legislator, please write them again and thank them for their efforts.

When I ride my bike in traffic having bicycles included in the definition of vehicle is literally a life and death issue for me. When I ride my bike in traffic I almost literally ride with this law on my sleeve.
"Bicycles have all the rights and responsibilities of all other vehicles on the road."

HB1190 – The Drunk Cyclist Bill

Let’s say you’re on the Tour deKota. You get to Smalltown, South Dakota and want something to eat. You walk in to the main street café and there are 13 guys at the counter drinking coffee and talking about how it’s not fair that Ed, the town drunk is in the pen. Last week he got busted for the fourth time riding his bike home from the bar down the street. It’s only two blocks away for crissakes!

The more they talk the more serious they get and they realize that if bicycles weren’t vehicles then DUI laws wouldn’t apply. Then boom, they make it so, and every state law that applies to how one vehicle should respond to another vehicle on the road no longer applies to how one vehicle should respond to you on your bike. No legal need to wait for you to clear an intersection before departing a stop sign. No legal requirement to give you space after passing you on the highway.

You sense that something is wrong with that, but you’re also confused. With great fear and trepidation, you approach the group of 13 and ask, “Well, umm, I just want to know, like, if you do this I’m, you know, still going to be able to ride my bike on the road and stuff, right?” (Representative Al Koistinen from Codington County. Seriously Al, thank you. You were the first to ask the right question.)

They look at your cleated feet, your padded shorts, the beer cooler on your head. They look at each other and smile knowingly. “Sure, they respond. Well you know, you might have guys legally blowing stop signs and all that, but hell, your people want that anyway.” And then they turn around and go about their business of getting the town drunk out of jail.

If you want to hear a non-fiction version of this story please listen to the House Transportation Committee discuss HB1190 on the South Dakota Public Broadcasting website. It was discussed January 25, the 11th Legislative Day.

It’s more like my story than you would believe and it’s only 8 minutes long – the guys in the café didn’t even have time to finish their first cup of coffee.