Category: Miscellaneous

It’s Been A Long Time

I last posted almost 10 months ago. Since then our new green home was completed, we moved in and oh yeah . . . we had a super duper adorable son. So, it’s not like I’ve been slacking off. But, 2011 will hopefully be a year of renewed blogging about sustainability.

The title of the blog has taken on new meaning given the completion of our home and the arrival of our son. And while Green Rising has always been a metaphor, it’s now more applicable to the realities of my life.

I hope the blog will take on a new focus, with the primary objectives being the discussion of living sustainably and raising a sustainable family. The former will focus on the physical aspects of a life more sustainable, including entries about our green home. The latter will focus on decision making as it relates to the growth and evolution of our family.

I know these objectives are still relatively vauge, but I find them to be more concrete than any others I’ve commited to in the past.

Finally, as part of our move from a loft to a home, my commute has increased from five blocks to five miles. While the distance is still relatively short compared to the average American commute, it is expotentially greater than it used to be. To transport myself to and from work as efficiently as possible, I plan on taking the bus as often as possible. In fact, my February 2010 Metro pass was all ready to be swiped this morning on my first official bus commute but Snowmaggedon 2011 has me working from home. If I live through it, I’ll let you know how it goes!

Here’s to a more sustainable 2011!

The Hartford House

My wife and I are building a new green home in the Tower Grove South neighborhood in the City of St. Louis. Here you’ll find static data on the house, including information on our partners, specs on the home itself, etc . . .

To see chronological posts on the progress on the construction of the house, click here.

Our Last Best Chance

I’m approaching 30,000 words. While I’ve been moving at a much slower pace than I’d like, I’m coming up with a few subplots that will hopefully help my story. Tortoise and the hare, tortoise and the hare.

What some people are calling the last best chance for humanity to save itself from climate change starts today in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s the United Nations conference on climate change and its outcome will determine whether the world’s leading polluters are willing to take enough action to prevent catastrophic damage to the Earth’s air, land and sea. The key word here is “enough”. Everyone is willing to take steps but they are rarely adequate for real change, just press releases.

I’ll be following the developments as closely as I can. I hope you do too.

Twenty Four Thousand Pounds

National Novel Writing Month ends at midnight tonight and I’m at 26,392 words. If you recall, the goal is 50,000. Odds are that someone has written 24,000 words in one day but I can guarantee you that feat will not be reproduced by me. Alas, I have failed. But, the journey will continue. While I may not have met the 50,000 word goal in the 30 day time limit, I will continue until I reach 50,000 and beyond. My objective is to finish this book. It may suck but it will be complete in its suckitude! There’s also a small chance it doesn’t suck, which is my motivation for finishing what I started . . . and hopefully doing it again.

On a side note, a friend of mine who also embarked on this voyage met the 50,000 word goal yesterday. Congrats to the Purple Poet!

On a note that’s next to the side note, I don’t think it’s possible to actually lose weight during the Thanksgiving weekend. I ate fairly well and worked out.  I even went on a hike with my wife and dog on an unseasonably warm November day through a park I visited quite often as a teenager. Perhaps even water is caloric for those four days. Oh well. Back to the gym tonight to mitigant the leftover Indian food I had for lunch. What? Throwing away food is worse than eating off plan.

In other food related news, a coworker’s child decided over the weekend that she was going to become a vegetarian. Go her!

Under Water With Only Five Days Left

Naming these posts is difficult. I’ve just been combining words and phrases for the topics being discussed into something that doesn’t really make sense by itself. This could be “my thing”.

25,000 words down and 25,000 left to go. Hitting the halfway mark felt good, though I wish I did it about ten days ago. There are only five days left and unfortunately one – Thursday – will be worthless to the cause. I followed Vonnegut’s advice and started as close to the end of my story as possible. I fear I may have started too close to the end. There is story left to write but I don’t know what if it will fill another 25,000 words. I would like  at least 50,000 words of plot, only to be polished and dressed with additional words if they’re needed.

My sustainability slap in the face for the day is this statistic:  81.1% of mortgages in Las Vegas are under water, meaning the home securing the mortgage is worth less than the remaining principal balance of the mortgage. Below is a list of the worst 14 markets in the United States.  They are all in either California (6), Florida (5), Nevada (2) or Arizona (1). Take that Sun Belt!

  1. Tampa – St. Petersburg, Fla. – 48.2% 
  2. Brendenton – Sarasota, Fla. – 48.2% 
  3. Bakersfield, Ca. – 50.4% 
  4. Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario, Ca. – 50.4% 
  5. Cape Coral – Fort Meyers, Fla. -60.5% 
  6. Vallejo – Fairfield, Ca. – 61.1% 
  7. Orlando – Kissimmee, Fla – 62.3% 
  8. Reno – Sparks, Nev. 62.4% 
  9. Fort Lucie, Fla – 62.5% 
  10. Phoenix – Mesa, Ariz. 63.5% 
  11. Stockton, Ca. – 66.9% 
  12. Modesto, Ca. 70.4% 
  13. Merced, Ca. 72.2% 
  14. Las Vegas, Nev. 81.1%

The Las Vegas number just boggles the mind, though the percentages in other cities are nearly as bad. I haven’t mapped the California cities but I’m wondering how many are in “foreclosure valley”, an area in southern California that should never been built up and now probably won’t be, at least until we forget about our mistakes. Hopefully one of the things you’re giving thanks for tomorrow is having equity in your home, no matter how teeny tiny the amount.

Ship Me Some Words

My writing is grinding to a near halt. I’m at 22,477 words, which is not that much further than I was last time I checked in. I aim to do some catching up this weekend but I fear that 50,000 word by the end of November is out of the question at this point. Only time will tell if I achieve the goalbut I will not consider my NaNoWriMo experience a failure under any circumstance. I have almost half of a book already written, which is quite amazing in and of itself. I’m not saying it’s any good but still, it’s written. Go me.

The time for buying lots of crap is upon us. I was thinking about the cost of shipping good versus going to the store to buy them. Tell me if this makes sense. Isn’t it more efficient for someone already out making deliveries to add one stop to his route instead of a consumer making a special trip to the store to buy something? I’m thinking that if goods are already being shipped from Point A to points B1, B2, etc . . . what’s wrong with adding Bx to that list? I live in a 100-unit condo building. The UPS guy is there every day. Is it more efficient for him to stop in front of my door in addition to the other dozen or so units he visits or for me to get in my car and drive all the way to Best Buy to get something?

I know I’m not considering the packing and freight implications but the merchandise still has to be shipped to a destination, whether it be a retail chain or a residence. Granted, shipping in bulk to Target is more efficient than individually delivering packages but what’s missing from that equation is that the goods are of no use if they stay in Target. It takes thousands of people in thousands of cars driving and increasing traffic and parking and idling to complete the chain.

We need to make packing more efficient and environmentally friendly, to be sure. But, if we can make delivery vehicles greener then I can see home delivery of goods paralleling public transit. My home would be just another stop on a daily traveled route. This logic holds up more in urban areas than in suburban and rural areas but hopefully you can see my point. Why if I live in a dense area that’s already served by shipping companies would I create more carbon monoxide by firing up my car? And, the more the UPS guy delivers in my building, the higher his “packages per gallon of fuel” becomes.

Quantity Over Quality & Dancing To Keep The Lights On

Twenty one thousand, three hundred and thirty nine words. See how I added more words than necessary? The irony in this writing exercise is to scribe as many words as possible while trying to maintain some semblance of terse writing. Clearly the former has to give to the latter to hit the 50,000 word goal, at least for the first draft.

I read a very interesting story yesterday about a group of people who’ve gotten together to form the Electricfication Coalition. The group recently published a road map to the electrification of the United States, the primary objective of which is to make at least 75% of automobiles run on solely electricity by 2040. Personally, I’d like the target percentage to be higher or the target date to be sooner. Given not everyone will want or be able to convert come the deadline, I would recommend pushing to date up to 2030 or 2035. Let’s do this people.  I’ve downloaded the report and plan to flip through it at least; it’s one hundred and eighty pages (see, I did it again!).

The electricity the automobiles will use to charge batteries will come from somewhere, and part of this task is to make those sources more renewable. No oil, no gas and for mother nature’s sake, no coal. Let’s use the sun and the wind and the waves to power our movement. There’s already technology being tested to make nanotechnology-powered personal battery packs that will recharge just by moving around. Wouldn’t it be great to have our exercise equipment tied to a smart grid such that people could earn money by working out and generating power in surplus of their daily use? There are endless possibilities, the simplest being charging your mobile phone while walking. The mid boggles at the possibilities.

Novel Diet

I crossed 18,300 words on Sunday, and while that’s progress, I’m a good 7,000 words (or 25 pages) off pace. Not good. I made far less progress over the weekend than I had hoped. My plot is developing quite well, which is both good and bad. The first 15,000 or so words was more of a discovery process; the plot was being crafted spontaneously, which was exciting. Now I have an idea as to where it’s going and doubt has set in. I think the story is good, that’s not the problem. The problem is that the story is known, and because of that I feel like I’m writing something everyone else already knows as well. The iterative process of crafting a novel is not the most appealing, but if I can make it through the entire story from start to finish without too much rereading or rewriting, I think the editing process will be much more enjoyable than it seems now.

After eating very poorly this weekend I realized I hadn’t provided an update on The Engine 2 Diet my wife and I committed to a few months ago. The good news is that we’ve incorporated some of the features of the diet into our daily lives. The bad news is that I’ve faltered on the thoroughness of my commitment, and therefor have gained back about half of the weight I lost during the 30-day experiment. We’re going to eat some leftover take out from this past weekend tonight but hop back on the horse starting tomorrow. I need to do this not only to lose weight but also manage my cholesterol. I’ve said this before, and even though it seems inevitable given my genetic disposition to high cholesterol, I really, really, really do not want to take statins. More evidence that some statins don’t work well, and may even cause more harm than good, is being presented today at a medical conference sponsored by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Acres of Garlic

My tummy is full of Thai goodness, though the affiliated garlic hasn’t left my mouth. Oh well, it’s really a problem for other people more than for me. I hit 15,000 words this morning before work. Yeah me, though I’m still behind.  The good folks at NaNoWriMo warned me the second week would be hard and they were not lying.

I received an email today from Acres U.S.A., a magazine dedicated to sustainable agriculture. I’m by no means even conversant in farming but I’m trying to learn more about it, with the intent of growing some of my own food some day and purchasing more sustainable and locally grown food from community support agriculture (CSA) organizations and farmers’ markets. This year’s annual conference is coming up for the group and the focus is “Finding Profit Through Biodiversity”. Suck on that Monsanto! I will not be attending but I’ve perused the conference site and learned a bit about what’s going to be discussed. The conference will be held December 3rd through 5th in St. Paul, MN, so if you’re interested in agriculture and can make it, go already. From the Acres website:

The Acres U.S.A. Conference is the premier event nationwide for commercial-scale sustainable and organic agriculture. Several hundred eco-minded individuals from around the world gather together to tap the knowledge of some of agriculture’s brightest minds.

Also from the site is a list of the main topics that will be discussed:

  • Pastured Pork Production
  • Organic Certification
  • Biodynamic (Demeter) Certification
  • Activism 101
  • Resources for Minnesota Sustainable Farmers
  • Raw Materials Economics
  • Raw Milk Production & Sales
  • Reams-Method Agronomy
  • Understanding Recent Food Safety Legislation

The event sounds like a good time but I have a day job. The irony is that my day job will actually be taking me to the Twin Cities soon after this conference. Oh well. On a side note, Reams-Method Agronomy is almost as innocently dirty as “tea cupping” . . . almost.

Slow Words, Slower Traffic

My writing pace has slowed considerably but I’ve allotted some time this weekend to catch up on my novel. I crossed the 14,000 word mark last night but should really be somewhere north of 20,000. A short work trip earlier this week really skunked it for me. That being said, the novel is progressing better than expected. The plot is coming together and feels neither formulaic nor trite, yet. I need to keep the momentum going though as Thanksgiving and its associated activities will surely lessen my production. 50,000 here I come.

While on my business trip earlier this week to our fair neighbor to the north, Chicago, I made a terrible, terrible mistake. I took a taxi from downtown to Midway airport when trying to get out of town and got every bit of the torture I deserved for not using public transit. To make sure you understand the stupidity of my decision I should also tell you I lived in the Chicago area for five years and know exactly how to use the City’s transit system. The trip took over 45 minutes as well, a good quarter-hour longer than the train would have taken.Traffic was unbelievably bad and I was made car sick by the constant stop and go. If you think I’m exaggerating about getting sick you would be wrong. I posted my mistake on Facebook and within hours was chided by friends and family for the dumbness of my decision but was also provided with stories of people actually having to pull over and vomit during the very same trip.

If anyone in the Chicago area is looking for business ideas I think selling saltine crackers (or something stronger) on the side of the Highway 55 South would net you at least $100,000 a year. If you’d rather not pace up and down a highway, perhaps you’d fancy opening a brake shop. One thing I know is that a tremendous amount of gasoline is burnt unnecessarily when traffic is jammed. This is the brilliance of eletric/gas hybrid technology. While it’s only a bridge to the future of individual transportation, which is pure electric automobiles, it helps reduce the massive waste of fuel and wear and tear on engines caused by idling.