Monthly Archives: February 2007

Day 22: My Life w Car

Oooh, golly, I love this news.
EU pledges to cut greenhouse gases by 30% by 2020! What’s the leader of the Free-Freaking-World doing about global climate change? Nothing, nix, nada, zip. The jury’s still out, Bush says, on whether global climate change is real.

global_climate_change_policy_and_budget_review-1.gif

There are kids growing up today who will not have a sense of our country as leading the rest of the world in anything other than saber-rattling and war. I really and truly mourn the loss of our country’s standing as a leader and a beacon for the rest of the world to follow.

But hang on, maybe the states will come forward and join the rest of the world in trying to deal with a very real problem that threatens all of us. California–New York–Washington state…or maybe companies who want to actually be 100 year companies will step up where our pig-headed prez dares not tread. Cal recently floated a law that would require eco-friendly lightbulbs by 2012 and Seattle residents recently set a new record for recycling not only yard waste but kitchen waste as well, reducing landfill by over 20%.

I used to be a believer in the fed government as leading the rest of the country to embrace changes that are good for us but are difficult for us. I have lost faith in the federal government to do anything but spend recklessly and ruin our reputation in the world. I hope we’re not the last ones to join in the effort to turn the environment around but I expect we probably will be.

Oh well.

Daily stats:
Car: 0
Bike: 8.5 miles, 4 tasks, brisk ride!
flexcar: 0
bus: 0

Day 20 & 21: My Life w Car

The weather in Seattle has turned windy, cold and wet–not so inviting for a quick bike ride to run errands or just tool around.

My partner and I are preparing to accompany my mother and her husband on a cruise, starting wednesday. Called the Sea of Cortez cruise, I’m at once looking forward to a break from the Seattle winter blues and dreading the epicenter of consumer americana–eating 18 hours a day, being shuttled from one staged activity to the next, creating mountains of throw away garbage everywhere we go….

ryndam1.jpg

well, so, lighten up. We’ve decided to put all those distasteful issues aside and enjoy the trip, make the most of it, because it’s my mom’s 80th birthday and it’s what she most wants to do. So we will turn a blind eye towards the less appetizing aspects of the trip and focus on the beautiful waters off Baja California and the Mexican west coast.

Mexico has increasingly set aside large underwater sanctuaries and national parks, and I intend to enjoy at least a few of them! Kudos to Mexico, even if the real purpose is to drive tourist dollars, they have figured out, like Costa Rica, that their best chance at getting those bucks is to save their environment…at least part of it.

sea-of-cortez-blog-photo.jpg

I suppose now I will have to add “Ship” to the many forms of transportation involved in my life. What’s weird is that I am probably traveling more this year than any other year, even as I’m trying to make a conscious decision to use my car less–much less–and maybe even get rid of it.

Time will tell.

Daily stats:
car: 14 miles, 4 tasks
bike: 0
flexcar: 0
bus: 0

Day 19: My Life w Car

Back in Seattle on a stellar early spring day!!

While I was in El Sal, I was thinking about my bike. I only saw two bicyclists while there, but notably, one of them was a cop–that’s a huge change.

Anyway, right before I left, the work on my bike was complete and I got to take it out for a very quick spin. Big kudos to Aaron’s Bike Repair –Aaron, as noted previously, is a bear to work with but his work is top notch. And if I’m going to be riding my bike more, hang the bad social graces, I’d rather have a great bike.

About 10 years ago, I had my dream bike–fit me perfectly, was tough and responsive, wasn’t at all fancy but I loved it. It was a miyata and alas, was stolen. When I tried to replace it, I found that Miyata weren’t even sold in Washington anymore for some weird reason. So I searched for my next great bike and landed on a Bianchi–trouble was, it never quite felt right and we never really bonded, even though I commuted everywhere on it.

Aaron and his crew have now made this bike one I can bond with–it fits like a dream, is smooth and lovely to ride–I feel we can be friends. I know that sounds weird but there are a few things I depend on in my life that when they work and are dependable, feel like partners to me. My PowerBook is one of those things–it’s just perfect and always works.

I just took my Bianchi out to run some errands and get a feel for how it works and I love it–it’s so comfortable and responsive. So, Thank You Aaron, and your team for making me one happy bicyclist.

Daily stats:
my car: 4 miles, 1 task
Bianchi the Bike: 7 miles, 3 tasks
flexcar: 0
bus: 0

Day 17 & 18: My Life w Car

Left El Salvador early in the am and hit LAX by noon. After the customs ordeal, I always head outside where I can get some fresh air and sun, just a walk around the perimeter is enough to make me feel human again. And this time was no different except that I was especially taken by the clean air.

El Salvador’s air quality, like so many struggling countries, is just awful. It’s painful to breath after a few days, though if you lived there, I’m not sure it would be so noticeable–we have the capacity to get used to just about everything. I saw the swallows flying around–El Sal doesn’t have a huge bird population, migratory or resident other than grackles and doves–and I wondered the toll this bad air must take on birds generally there. Fortunately, the swallows will head back north in a month.

Daily stats:
taxi/car: 35 miles
bike: 0 miles
flexcar: 0 miles
bus: 0 miles
airplane: apprx. 3,000 miles

Mergers and Separations

Oh what a Happy Valentine’s Day post! But I’m talking about corporate separations–mergers that are unhappy from the get go and what it looks like when a separation–not a divorce, but a separation–happens. I’m in the middle of one right now and as the consulting entity, I have the pleasure of being no one’s friend and everyone’s potential enemy.

So, why do merged companies separate and what does it look like? In this instance, I think it looks a little like The Perfect Storm in that several key things have conspired to make both companies point the accusing finger at the other side and as any good psychologist knows, no marriage can survive that level of blame and resentment.

perfect storm

First, the business models don’t agree as much as originally thought; second the business climate takes a turn for the worse; third, all those little and big changes foisted on the smaller business by the larger have created sizeable internal distrust and resentment which all comes to the fore when the pressure gets turned up, as it does when business climates go south and revenues are not what they should be.

I don’t have any solution for this kind of situation except to try and keep everyone in the boat until the storm passes. Even if they aren’t speaking to each other, no on goes over until cooler minds prevail. How to accomplish this? Communication is key–don’t leave parties out of communication, even if it’s oh so tempting. Keep communication clear and to the point without editorializing. Don’t take the hook even if it seems logical–tomorrow you’ll look back and realize it was a trick.

All this is human nature and best interaction practices, of course, but incredibly difficult to maintain in the middle of high stress. It’s as if the molecules are just flying around and haven’t yet formed a cohesive whole–until such time, it’s best to avoid adding any more energy to the situation than is necessary.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Day 15 & 16: My Life with Car

The thing about business travel is that the “throw-away” culture hits its apex–you keep nothing, you come with only the bare necessities…your trash quotient is likely at its highest, and dislike that as I might, I find myself eating off plastic plates with plastic utensils…everything ending up in landfill.

Daily stats:

Car: approx 20 miles, 10 passengers
bike: 0
flexcar: 0
bus: 0
a pied: 3 miles

San Salvador snap

Day 13 & 14: My Life with Car

The trip to El Salvador is a little over 3K round trip. Took the red-eye out of Seattle and arrived in ES Sunday morning early.

Pollution in El Salvador–mainly San Salvador–is pretty bad. The air smells like diesel and fossil fules and after a week down here, my throat hurts. I really like El Sal, don’t get me wrong, and I especially like it right now–middle of Summer–when Seattle tends to be so grey. I’m working with a company down here and I really enjoy working with the team down here as well.

I asked my driver, Cesar, yesterday about the pollution. He agreed it was very bad; I had heard that the same family that owns most of the buses that course the city are also highly placed in the government and won’t improve the fumes that spew out the back–pitch black billows of smoke. Cesar confirmed this and said that the bus companies can buy “credits” to offset their pollution–sound familiar? He said that there are newer buses and they’re a little better–but I haven’t seen so many of those.

Virtually no bike riders and I understand why: the sort of courtesy we take for granted in the US is simply foreign here. If a bike or ped is crossing the street with the light here, that person runs a pretty high risk of simply being run over. Cars and buses always have the right of way here–no questions asked.

San Salvador is the most densely populated city in the western hemisphere–not kidding. It statistically is. El Salvador is a tiny country with a fairly well developed infrastructure–it is known for the best highway system in all of Central and Latin America–a testament to decades and decades of war. Without roads, an army cannot move. So, with all of those roads, people from El Sal and neighboring countries can move around easily and industry/business can grow–mostly unchecked. The beautiful countryside, the flora and fauna, definitely takes the brunt of this very western-style economic growth.

el sal map

I have spoken to a few americans during my visits who mention the frustration they feel about the level of environmental consciousness they take part in in their own home towns–and then they come here and feel the enviromental movement is lost before it even begins. I totally understand that–it’s discouraging. But even El Salvador is starting to make

baby steps

towards cleaning up the environment. Tiny steps, but still….an awareness is growing.

I started reading The Weather Makers on the plane and found it so great a foundation to understanding the nature of our planet and the impact of our modern life.

daily stats:
car: 8 mi
air: 3018 mi
bike: 2.1 mi
flexcar: 0
bus: 0

Next: a review of Aaron’s Bike Repair in West Seattle.

Day 13: My Life with Car

I leave for El Salvador this afternoon so that’s several thousand miles of travel.

Did you see this from Richard Branson and Al Gore today? How cool is that: a big fat prize to solve the question of polluted air! I love this–and it helps balance out Branson in my mind, one of the many boys with too much money who are spending it on building rockets, for god’s sake.

the blue planet

Go Al Gore–you can do much more as the shoulda-been prez than you could ever do in the actual Office.

Daily stats:
car: 11 miles/1 task
plane: 4,000 miles (I think)

Day 12: My Life with Car

One of the things that struck me yesterday in my Flexcar experiment was how much stuff I’m used to carrying around when I’ve got a car or even a bike. I was lugging far more stuff around between dropping my bike off and my downtown appt. than I actually probably needed–but I don’t think much about how much crap I’m carrying around when I’ve got a big car to throw it into. The experience made me think about how much I actually need.

I think about this issue already, in fact, when I’m traveling. My question as a consultant is always: what do I really need to do my job? laptop, phone, notebook and pen. Really, that’s all. The good stuff is my experience and my brain–and those things come in a handy carrying case already.

Knowing what we reallyneed for anything–a healthy diet, money, housing, entertainment–is a peculiarly american problem. The answer lies in the general feeling of “you can never have enough.” But that’s just not true, and it’s just not sustainable. Why are we so afraid to have less?

Daily stats:
Car: 5 miles/ 2 tasks
Bike: 0
flexcar: 0
bus: 0

Day 11: My Life with Car

Today was interesting: my first experiment with FlexCar…and I learned a lot of things.

First, I dropped off my bike at Aaron’s Bike Shop for an overhaul and had my usual disagreement with Aaron–still feel bad about it, don’t know why he’s so difficult to get along with. But check it out: I spent about an hour and a half last week testing the fit of my bike and reviewing all the things that needed to be done. I also wanted to put a new rack on and a carrying case and an odometer. All tolled this was going to cost waaaaay more than I expected but the promise of a great functioning bike was worth it, I figured. Came back today, handed over the bike for the work, and handed over the odometer I’d purchased before. Aaron took the odometer and said, that’ll be $10 to put it on.

Now, call me nuts but I pretty much figured this was already accounted for in the overall and large estimate for everything else. It’s not the 10 bucks, not at all. It’s the fact that I already bought it, already put a down payment on the work and now, after all that, and the time, he hits me with the lousy 10 bucks. It just seemed petty and I said so. Aaron, thoroughly insulted, nearly kicked me out of his shop. I stood my ground and insisted that it should have been included in the final tab. I told him I think he does fabulous work, love the shop, love the local business, etc–but hey, I’m a customer! Treat me like a Customer, fer chrissakes.

Okay, rant over.

I went from the shop across the street to where the Flexcar is conveniently located. I reserved the car for 2 hrs, $20, and was headed downtown for a business lunch; as well, I had appts on both sides of noon so I was nervous the car wouldn’t be there, that I wouldn’t get it back in time etc.

Online reservation is a snap and all went pretty well, for a first time. It’s really weird using a communal car, though–I just gotta say that. The car isn’t anywhere near pristine, it smelled a wee bit like smoke, and it wasn’t so clean inside. But hell, it’s an experiment so I sallied forth.

Entry was pretty easy, got to my lunch on time, got back on time. Exit made me a little nervous cuz you put the key inside the car and shut the doors locked–it’s just so counter intuitive to lock keys inside a car.

Then I walked home–all good and well. Can I see myself giving up my car and relying on flexcar? Nope, not yet, but it’s early days, very early days. Here’s an interesting discussion of Flexcar usage in Seattle–I agreed with several of the points after my first attempt, but I need more info, much more info.

I realized today that part of the reason living without a car seems more plausible to me lately is because I’m traveling to El Salvador every month–and while I’m there, I just live without a car. I walk, or sometimes get a ride from someone else. And when I come back home, a car seems sort of a luxury. See? It’s always good to get away and get a different perspective.

Today’s stats:

Car: 0
Bike: 2 miles
Flexcar: 9 miles/3 tasks
Bus: 0

busy day.

Day 10: My Life with Car

I realized today that a better metric to measure trip efficiency than just mileage is to also include tasks, when necessary or applicable. Yesterday, for example, I had several things to tend to and managed to adjust my schedule to avoid several or even more than one trips–obviously this helps mitigate car usage to some degree.

I had an interesting discussion last night with a colleague, Bill Price, who is every inch the global business dude; the topic of US center-of-the-universe mentality came up and he noted, “our dominance over everything will be a thing of the past in 20 or so years…most everyone else knows this and the government here is trying to grapple with this reality. It will be a wake up call when China begins to flex its muscles.” Add to this the recent news that China is launching its first big “green” program to deal with global warming–putting us to shame.

All we seem able to do anymore is declare new terrorist threats and threaten new wars. I wondered yesterday what would happen if the government simply decreed that we would use 50% less gas in 3 years come hell or high water. Well, most likely, any hang-dog president who would do that would end up with a miserable term like Jimmy Carter–a true statesman who has done more for the world outside of the office than he was able to accomplish in it. But I wonder…could we all get a little more flexible in our thinking and yes, cut oil use by 50%? Is it even possible? How could we be held hostage by our own worst instincts then?

Daily stats:
Car: 20 miles, 3 tasks
Bike: 0
flexcar: 0
bus: 0

Day 9: My Life with Car

One day, maybe, the title would be: My Life without Car. Dunno…

Quiet office day today, got out for one long sprint in the area, but otherwise holed up on this gray, drizzly day.

gray seattle day

transportation stats:
Car: 0
Bike: approx 10 miles
Flexcar: 0
Bus: 0

this coming weekend I travel to El Salvador–that will be a big transportation day, and then while I’m in San Salvador, I’ll pretty much be hoofing it around. I work down there as a consultant on a long term project for a NW company; I go to ES once a month for a week.

When you buy your tickets on Expedia, they allow you to add in what they call a TerraPass which allows the traveler, for an added amount, to buy back the carbon footprint of your travel. I add it to all my trips and it helps a little. I travel a lot, so the pollution concerns get to me after awhile.

Also, nice blog entry on northwest bike commuting here.

Day 8: My Life with Car

Considerations: read Dave Pollard’s encouraging and always insightful blog this morning. He wrote about how he’s feeling a certain “buzz” that may indicate we are ready–collectively–to change the world. He used the phrase “something’s happening here,” recalling the Buffalo Springfield hit from the 60’s–such a great song.

Smashmouth’s 1997 song “Might as well be walking on the sun,” popped in my head with these lyrics:

“Twenty-five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
Of recession and oppression and together they toked
And they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
Just singin’ and clappin’ man what the hell happened
Then some were spellbound some were hellbound, some they fell down
And some got back up and fought back ‘gainst the melt down….”

Point being: a generation did stand up. And now we all need to stand up again. It’s possible–we can demand more, and future generations require that we demand more.

But changing requires re-engineering your life, and that’s a tall order for a lot of us. Each one of us who demands more, however, communicates to someone near that we can change the world.

Yesterday’s transportation stats:
car: 32 miles (biz trip to Bellevue and back)
bike: 0
flexcar: 0
bus: 0

Day 7: My Life with Car

So this is the end of the first week. My partner drove us both on errands today, about 12 miles, I’m guessing–to the gym and to PCC.

It was a rainy, wet day like Seattle is famous for–it was warmer than it’s been though. You gotta be hardy to bike around here; my bike is not yet ready for packing stuff out from the store–I took off the funky rack I had on there and I need another panier for carrying stuff, so we just drove.

My total miles for this week:
car: approx 38 miles
bike: approx 25
flexcar: 0
bus: 0
Days with no car usage: 3

Some good links:
Seattle’s official bike site is here, no mention of the many, many potholes that threaten bikers, the thing is outdated, but it’s still better than what many cities offer.

Seattle Critical Mass: I’ve only joined it once but I admire it a lot.

Some critical mass photos on flickr…the slide show is the best.

And finally, the Sierra Club–lots of information, petitions to George W., information and etc.

Days 5 & 6: My Life with Car

Friday and Saturday…weekends definitely pose a challenge to minimizing car usage. The biggest problem is time and social activities. Weekends are so short and there’s so much to do–perhaps as time goes on, I’ll just figure out how to have less to do. Our needs expand so as to fill the time and space available.

Friday: big haul day, Costco run and pet supplies. We get cat sand for our indoor cats in large quantities–about 50 lbs worth at a pop, so a car comes in handy. I scheduled this run with the Costco run which is also by nature a heavy load…though not as heavy as some. We eat a lot of fruit and Costco really is the best buy for as much fruit as we keep handy at home. Finally, I stopped at the gym for a good all-over workout.

I Love Fruit!

Total mileage: 13.5
Total time: 3.5 hrs.
If I’d used a flexcar that would have come to about 32 bucks. Bike was out of the question.

Saturday: This day seemed like it was a waste of gas. A few friends tell me that I should really focus on getting one car off the road one day a week, but that figure seems like about a decade old and it seems to me now that at the minimum I should shoot for two days a week, if not three. By that measure, I accomplished something this week but it all seemed to fade on Saturday. We drove to the gym (one of these days soon I’m going to ride to the gym on my bike), like so man other people, and then drove to the store to get flowers for the friends who were having us over for dinner; then we drove to Magnolia where I never go and we wandered around, got lost about four times looking for their house and finally finding it after too much cruising around.

Maybe we can kind of guide our social visits to central areas, like downtown–we often take the bus downtown for social stuff. But this was different and they wanted us to see their house, and anyway, after awhile, I realized I was stressing myself out by being altogether too rigid about driving/not driving.

Total mileage: about 25
total time: 7 hrs, including visit

I saw this commercial on TV that was run by environmentaldefense.org, they’re pretty amazing and focused where they should be: on generationst to come. Check them out.

the big news this week is of course the UN report on Global Environmental Change–90% of the world’s scientists now agree that global environmental change is real and is happening. Too bad the U.S. doesn’t agree or maybe we would lead the way to new thinking. I’d like to see us spend a trillion on building a new path to saving this planet–a trillion on stewardship. Yeah, that’s what I’d like to see.