Friday, July 30, 2010

New challenge, and no-driving update

Well, today is no driving for a week +2, and I still haven't gotten behind a wheel - and I was sorely tempted yesterday. First, I had to go get blood drawn in the morning (they're still trying to figure out why I had pancreatitis). Now, I've had blood drawn lots of times before. I know I'm at least in the hundreds of times. So I've got my routine pretty much down - except when I get on my bike after, and look over, and there's nice blue-black blood spurting out of my arm onto my upper arm (just like it does into the little vials that the phlebotomist collects it in) and then dripping on the ground. So I made an emergency stop and put pressure on it for a few minutes. Its stopped and I only moderately looked like a stabbing victim, so I went home and cleaned up.

Then for lunch I had to run to the store, and it wasn't nearly as interesting of a trip. And then later I went to get my CSA - at this point I had gone over 3 miles for the day, but it was still easier getting up the Walmart hill than it was the first time - no blowouts! By the time I had got home from that, I had done over 7 miles for the day, and was feeling a little jelly-legged (yeah, out of shape) but still, proud of myself. My average speed for the first trip of the day was about 12 MPH, which got down to about 8 for my last trip, but I'm still doing better.

And super exciting, dad found a trailer at a garage sale for 35 bucks! No more worries about hauling dog food/cat food/litter... that is, if I can figure out how to mount it on my bike...

Dad also found a scanner in good condition for 5 bucks. It'll probably only work with XP, but we've got that on the tower anyway, so hey, its all good. Of course, HP never put out drivers for Vista or Windows 7, because they want you to buy a new scanner. Down with planned obsolescence!

Which brings me to my new challenge - which I'm not going to start until after GenCon (for obvious reasons, lol). My new challenge is this: for one MONTH, buy nothing new. This means no books, kitchen tools (oh, these two are going to be HARD), clothes, shoes, whatever, unless they are used. Exceptions can and will be made for school supplies, birthday presents, supplies for creating, and food/consumables(yeah, no used food), but only after used/secondhand options have been exhausted.

Some of this is going to be easy. Honestly, in the last year and a half I have bought exactly one dress and two pairs of jeans new. The hardest part is going to be the kitchen tools. There's so much I still want to really have my kitchen running well; a french fry cutter, an Excalibur dehydrator, a Kitchenaid blender, a Yogourmet yogurt maker (ok, maybe I'll get this one before going on strike), pasta roller attachments for my mixer, glass food containers, a spaetzle press, a stainless steel roasting pan... and ohhh, the books...

Still, I think I can do it. The other day I found the perfect plates for making the cupcake holders for the wedding (thanks Martha, I'm going to glue candlesticks and/or vases turned upside-down to the bottom, ta-da! cupcake plates!) at St. Vinnies, along with two of the candlesticks. Total cost: 3 bucks. Compare that with wedding/cupcake plates new - the cheapest is around 35, up to over 200. And almost all of these are plastic, use 'em once type. Yeesh. I also picked up a large Pyrex saucepan in perfect condition - for 5 bucks. Not too shabby.

So, I think I can make it, and I'll keep reporting here on the results. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inception - on level seven you face Wart

OK, if you haven't seen Inception, this will have spoilers. Kind of -- if you're like me, you won't need any spoilers, as the entire movie is telegraphed in the second scene.

Honestly, I liked this movie much more when it was two movies called "Ocean's 11" and "The Matrix." Everyone seems to think that Inception is a really deep movie with so much creativity and a lot to say. Sorry, this was just a heist movie with a gimmick stolen from a "what's real?" movie.

Now, I'm not saying that Inception is a BAD movie. Its not BAD, its just not really good. It suffers from the same lack of internal logic that Nolan's Dark Knight (*shudder*) did. You know how we made a really big deal about how your inner ear can wake you up if you are asleep? Yeah, forget we said that, because it'll interfere with our awesome van rolling/hotel spinning scene. If there's one thing that drives me BATTY, its when movies go to great lengths to establish rules, then flagrantly violate those rules.

And why exactly did they go to... Mumbai? I think? for a "chemist" when I'm sure there are qualified anesthesiologists nearer... uh...

And why are all these people so ok with breaking into a guy's head and basically screwing with who he is as a person? Especially some random architecture student. Yeah, she learns she can do anything in dreams. So go find another dream machine - there are obviously other ones around - and do it there! No one questions what they are doing even for a split second.

Was some of the imagery cool? Yep, it had that going for it. Was the acting good? Yeah, it had that too. But the dialogue was so contrived, and everything was so set up (seriously, when the rich boy died, did he end up in limbo or not? Or... wait, when you die there what happens? Sometimes its a push, sometimes you just get stabbed... and.. ) that in the end it was a internally illogical mess that masqueraded as something deep and pithy. Who didn't predict the ending when Cobb first explained his wife's totem?

I guess I just wish they had gone a few levels deeper. I was looking forward to the boss battle where you catch veggies and feed them to a giant lizard that really doesn't want to eat fresh green peppers.

Week without driving, day 7

Well, I made it. One full week without driving (and only one day with car rides even). On my last day I ended up having to make a doctor's appointment for chest wall pain, and I biked myself over to it. It's only a little one mile jaunt over the bridge and up the hill; I was able to do the bike part in five minutes flat - much faster than when I started (and I didn't have nearly the problems with the hill that I did on the first day; I'm out of shape man!) Of course, the going down, unlocking the shed, getting everything ready on the bike, re-locking the shed, parking the bike, locking it up... that all took an extra 10 minutes, but hey. That's ok.

I'm going to try to continue driving as little as possible, both for my heath and for the environment. This week has been great, and has raised a lot of possibilities and questions for me. As today is Thursday I'm going to bike to get the CSA later, and I also have to hit the grocery store today, and I'm going to use my bike to do it (Dad actually found a nice bike trailer for 35 bucks at a garage sale, so we've got that now too!)

I really only have one remaining conundrum. Not to be indelicate, but, once a month I'm going to have some serious problems biking. Seriously, how do other women deal with it? The logistics and even more importantly, the pain? I think that once a month I'm going to have to switch over to air conditioned comfort.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Week without driving, day 6

Another uneventful one. I was going to leave to go to the store, but the series of thunderstorms that we had yesterday made me decide that I didn't need to buy parmesan that badly. So, instead I stayed in the house cooking what I had (and running out of gas in the grill... grrr) And continuing to work on the bit of code. No, it still doesn't work.

I think I have decided to continue using my bike to do pretty much all of my around town errands. I still have the problem of how to get copious amounts (25-50lbs each) of cat litter/cat food/dog food home tho; I want a trailer, but people seem to want as much for them used as new, and I am not on an unlimited budget. Any thoughts in that area would be appreciated! Thanks folks!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week without driving, day 5

Day 5 was easy again; didn't have to go anywhere. I was working on a slightly annoying bit of code all day, so that took up most of my time. I did get some thinking time in about options for people around here who don't have cars. I know in many big cities now they have Zipcars; its a great idea for people that only need to use cars occasionally. The big drawback in a place like Merrill - at least as it is now - is that many people work outside of the city and need to have their cars all day. There still isn't public transportation between the communities around here; even tho you can get almost anywhere in Merrill between the Merrill-go-round and the taxi, getting to Wausau is trickier.

Is there a way a car co-op could work? Let's say a family decided to split a car with another family. Each would pay for half of the car - maintenance, insurance, etc. The tricky part would be the actual sharing of the car; if there was one partner that was stay-at-home in one family and could give a ride to someone in the other family that worked in Wausau... but the problem of scheduling would be extremely tricky.

Ideally this area could have improved public transportation options - even just bus lines that ran four or five times a day between places like Tomahawk, Rheinlander, Merrill, Wausau, Stevens Point, Marshfield... and then something like a small, small Zipcar lot, with three or four cars (just speaking about Merrill here; other communities could use bigger ones) - would go a long way towards helping out those who don't have transportation, and maybe even cut down on how many people feel like they need to own cars at all. I'm not saying this would be easy, but it would be awesome.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Week without driving, day 4

OK, Sunday was a gimme. Didn't leave the house all day; just blanched and froze chard and cooked food and cleaned (and had a migraine, but that's par for the course). I'm thinking about extending not driving as much as possible, but I know I'll have to schlep another 50 lb of cat litter (or even a 25lb bag of food) eventually, and I'm not yet equipped to handle that without a car.

It does strike me that those without cars must buy less bulk foods. I can't imagine bringing home the quantities we get of flour, sugar, cat/dog food, noodles, etc, etc, etc on a bus or subway...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Week without driving, day 3

On day 3 of driving I took my first ride in a car since starting. We had to go to Prairie Pines (Mennonite store) in Gleason to load up on sugar, brown sugar, noodles and bacon; its a 15 mile stretch each way, takes about 25 minutes by car, and we have the kids, so bikes were out. Still, I didn't drive, and we took the little car, so at least the gas mileage was low.

Later we had a mini school reunion at one of my high school friends parents houses. It was just over 2 miles each way; uphill most of the way there, downhill on the way back. The last hill got me, and I got off my bike and walked it about 50 feet. Oh well, at least I tried. Still, its getting easier already; I need the exercise!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Week without driving, day 2

Well, day 2 was a bit easier than day one. I didn't have to go pick up anything at the store or anything, so I didn't ride my bike at all, much less use the car.

The only hiccup came when Josh was going to be late home from work, so Austin and I went to the kids' grandparents. Fortunately it's within easy walking distance - its only about 6 or 7 blocks - so we made it over there in about 15 minutes and back in about 20 (walking with a dog that stopped to defecate FOUR times and smell every little smell everywhere did not speed the process; neither did walking back with a 5 year old in wet shoes :) ) Still, it was a really pleasant walk, as it was warm but there was a really nice wind blowing.

So far the experiment is going really well. I can see myself doing almost completely without a car in spring, summer, and fall - the exception being when the kids need schlepping, but they're getting used to riding their bikes to most places in town (the older ones at any rate). Winter, however, is another matter. It's so bitter in winter around here, I'm not sure I could deal. Merrill is solidly in the band between 6 and 8 degrees on the map. That's mean temp, not lows. Frostbite is not my friend. Still, if snowmobilers can do it... wonder if I need snow tires...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Week without driving, day 1

Oh, I picked a lovely day to start my attempt at a week without driving a car.

Today I went and picked up our CSA at 1:30 - in the middle of that. It's about a four mile round trip, all easy biking except for the stupid hill up to Walmart. I had my nice rain jacket on - its breathable and has pit zips, which were very welcome. The pants weren't breathable, so that wasn't quite as cool.

I bungeed the old box to the back rack on my bike, and on the return trip did the same with the new box (and man, what a haul this week, snap beans, salad mix, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, summer squash, fava beans, basil, swiss chard). The bungees worked well, much better than with the milk crate on the test run to get a 50lb bag of cat litter (yeah, no. Bad bad bad.)

So, here's to one day down, and six to go!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Architectural musings

OK, I'm not an architect and I never will be; it's a discipline that I totally respect and feel that practitioners of rarely get enough respect for.

That being said, I do muse on the what the architecture of our "someday" house will be. I love living in the castle in the middle of Merrill, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming of a green paradise.

Things that I'd love: I really like Buckminster Fuller dome houses. They look really cool. But they aren't the best for saving and using water, and I'd def like to be able to build permaculture landscaping around the house. I also like earth block houses, but I do wonder about the thermal properties in winter. Straw bale houses are awesome, but difficult to hang pictures in. Whatever we do, green & sustainable with good insulation is best.

As for the roof, I think it might be cool if there was a way to shade it with a light, white, perhaps retractable material in summer, but have it dark for warming purposes in winter. Something like kevlar or cuban fiber (in a non-transparent version) sail cloth, hanging well over the house, to provide shade in the summer (providing shade for big south-facing windows for passive heating in the winter too), and a black roof in the winter. Not sure about where to put the solar panels...

If only we lived in a more temperate climate, I've always wanted an open design home with a river running through it. Literally, I would want a river flowing through the living room of my ideal house. I know it'll never happen, but it would be cool.

The thing that I want more than anything is for my living room to resemble a James Bond villain's lair - Dr. No, jungle lair in Moonraker, and the Man with the Golden Gun's hideout being good examples. The beauty of these set designs (two of them Ken Adam classics) is the combination of natural features -- rock, driftwood, jungle, water etc -- with 1950's futuristic architecture and antique furniture (admittedly, some of this is interior design, not architecture, still). Love it.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Worst use of the American Flag in a design

In honor of the upcoming Independence Day, I present to you what is in my opinion the single worst use of the American Flag in any design, ever. Also might win for worst attempt at jingoistic patriotism ever. Seriously, if you're trying to honor the flag, why would you want your armpits sweating all over it? (and if you're trying to do the opposite, wouldn't flag boxers make more sense?)

Bono, you're a jerk.