On the Wellesley Trails Again

The nail that ended my ride!

The nail that ended my ride!

Today I went for another bike ride on the Wellesley Trails, only this time it didn’t go so well.  I got through about 5.5 miles on the Aqueduct Trail, then to the Fuller Brook Trail.  They are doing a lot of work on that trail.  When I got to the Senior High/Hunnewell Field Area, I took a turn onto a closed trail.  Then I ran over the nail in the image to the right.

I didn’t realize it right away.  The trail is partially closed, but there’s no warning when you approach the closure.  I got to a gate, then turned around, just as a couple of runners came down the same path, so I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know about the closure.

When I started riding again, I heard a clanking as my wheels turned.  I stopped and this was sticking out of my back tire.  I pulled it out but the tire was already flat .

So my ride became a walk back home, but fortunately it was only about 2 miles.  Here’s a gallery.

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Global Warming and Electricity Bills

chapte21It seems like shops, restaurants, schools and libraries and other public places are increasingly leaving the lights on after dark.  I don’t mean a few lights so as to deter thieves or vandalism, but I mean literally every light in the place.  Why is this?

When I was growing up our we got scolded for leaving the lights on in rooms because electricity costs money and dad, wasn’t made of it.  As I got older and started paying my own bills, I knew exactly what he meant.  I was quite young when the oil crisis hit, but I remember it well.  I remember being told to conserve our resources because they were finite, expensive and because we did not want to be beholden to foreign powers.

The same period also saw the rise of the environmental movement.  Most electricity was produced by generators that polluted the air of our cities, and the meltdowns.  Accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl provided that even “clean” nuclear energy was dangerous.  So I have always turned off all anything that uses electricity that was not in use in order to economize, and because it was better for the environment.

Some of those reasons were overstated, but have they all evaporated?  Has electricity become that cheep?  Or is it that new light bulbs and appliances are so much more efficient that it doesn’t matter if they’re left on?  Seriously, I’m wondering.  Because when I see every light left on in a place like a library or school where people should know better, I have to wonder.



The Steel Wheels Coming to Town

If you are fortunate enough to live in or near Marlinton in Pocahontas County, WV, make your way to the Opera House this Saturday, November 12 to see The Steel Wheels in concert at 7:30 pm.  I’ll be there!  I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while now, but this is the first chance I’m getting to see them live.  I can’t wait.  I learned about them from Bicycle Times magazine’s June 2010 issue which reported on their  pedal-powered, seven night, concert tour.  They strapped their instruments and merchandise to their bikes and headed from town to town, covering nearly 300 miles.  This wasn’t some stunt, followed by a support vehicle in case they got tired and needed a lift; this was a genuine concert tour on bicycles.  In fact, they did another this year.  As I read I learned that they were based in Harrisonburg, VA, a place I knew well having gone to James Madison University for my first two years of college.

Those two things alone were reason enough reason to like these guys.  They hail from Virginia, and they tour by bicycle.  (Not always, of course.  They have a national following, and a bicycle tour across the entire country is impractical, at best.)

They were praiseworthy, but were they any good?  Now I had yet to check out the music.

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Car-Free Week! By Choice?

Image: Vincent Fung via StreetsBlog Network

It’s now the second day of Car-Free Week!  I used the car today for one appointment it is impossible to get to any other way.  I have another like that on Wednesday, but for the rest of the week, barring terrible weather, I can get everywhere on my bike or by mass transit.

Car-Free Week is an expansion of World Car-Free Day, celebrated on September 22, which began in in Europe in the 1990s. Now communities all around the world are offering incentives to encourage people to walk, bike, use public transportation or carpool this week.  You may just discover it’s easier and more pleasant than you thought.  Personally, I like getting  my exercise during my commute when I bike.  If I take mass transit, I can actually do a bit of reading or even some work.  Driving is, at best, an opportunity to think and maybe make a couple calls.  It’s also generally cheaper.

Here’s some links about Car-Free Week in general and here in Massachusetts. There may be specific activities in your city, so do a local search in your area, as well.
World Carefree Network
Massachusetts Car-Free Week – Commute car-free in MA and earn prizes at this site.
Car-Free Days blog
European Mobility Week
Strive Not to Drive

Budget Cuts and the National Community

Discover history at our National Parks

When I was growing up we traveled often as a family for vacations and weekends. We had a camper and took it to all kinds of interesting places, frequently our nation’s national parks and historic monuments. I remember fascinated by the history I learned visiting the birthplace of George Washington, the Yorktown Battlefield and National Cemetery, the battlefields of Gettysburg, the birthplace of Booker T. Washington, the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial and so many others. Frequent visits to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Smoky Mountains awakened my fascination with the natural wonders of the world, and the visitor centers, trails or markers were as good as any classroom. I was an inquisitive boy, so I took home the free brochures maps and field guides from these places to study more, and begged my parents, more often than not successfully, to buy me the books in the gift shops that I could read at home.

I learned a lot about our nation’s history and the natural world this way, it seems like as much as I did in school. I don’t remember being taught about Booker T. Washington before college. That’s not to say I wasn’t, but I don’t remember it like I do the visit to his birthplace. We must have learned about Thomas Jefferson, but I don’t remember that, either and my virtual obsession with him sprang out of a family visit to Monticello. While visiting the Smoky Mountains I was first exposed the the tragedy of the Native Americans and the horrors of incidents like the Trail of Tears. Most of these parks had not entry fee, paid for entirely with tax dollars. That meant that we could and would, explore something on on a whim. If it was a rainy day and we had planned to do something outside, we could tour a historic mansion, instead. In addition to the National Parks and Historic Places, there was a whole other network of state parks and sites operated by non-profits that were also free.

More recently an increasing percentage of these sites have imposed an entry fee. People want low taxes, budgets are small, and government at all levels from local to national is practicing austerity. Fee for service became a model for a lot of what government does in the 1980s, and it has been that way since. It makes sense on a certain level. Why should those of who never have any intention of visiting one of these sites pay for their upkeep and for providing services there? In fact, these properties are part of our national heritage. We, as a people, have decided that these places are an important part of our history and they need to be preserved. They are monuments that need to be visible to our fellow citizens and the world to remind us of our common heritage and who we are as a people. The White House has offered to cut $105 million from the budget of the National Park Service, and the Republican’s want more.

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Virginia’s Attorney General and the Universities

Colleges and Universities in the State

The University of Virginia said Monday that it would continue to fight state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II‘s efforts to obtain documents related to a climate scientist’s work, just hours after Cuccinelli reissued a civil subpoena for the papers.

The new Civil Investigative Demand revives a contentious fight between Cuccinelli (R), a vocal global warming skeptic, and Virginia’s flagship university over documents related to the research of Michael Mann, who worked at the university from 1999 to 2005. A judge blocked Cuccinelli’s first bid to obtain the documents.

Mann, whose research concluded that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming, works at Penn State University.

Cuccinelli has been trying to force the public university, technically a client of his office, to turn over documents related to Mann’s work since April. Cuccinelli has said he wants to see the documents to determine whether Mann committed fraud as he sought public dollars for his work.  — The Washington Post, October 5, 2010

Checking Facts on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster

The April 20 explosion that started oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico has prompted a slew of claims and counterclaims about the disaster. What caused it, how it’s being handled, the history of drilling accidents in the area – all are subjects ripe for false or misleading statements by politicians and others.

We keep track so you don’t have to. Some of the lowlights so far, in no particular order.
* Some Republicans falsely claimed Obama was slowing the cleanup by not waiving the Jones Act, which actually doesn’t apply to the cleanup operations.
* Obama said he issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf. Not quite. Much drilling continues.
* A Republican governor keeps saying the spill is the first big blowout in the Gulf, failing to note a 1979 disaster that continued for 10 months, and numerous smaller blowouts.
* A DNC ad claimed that a GOP lawmaker spoke for his party when he said BP deserves an apology. But that apology had already been rejected by other leading Republicans.

There are plenty more where those came from. See our “Analysis” section for a roundup of the oil-spill whoppers we’ve encountered.

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Using the BP Crisis for Political Gain

The Daily Show holds them accountable again.  Did you catch this segment last night? Say something one day, contradict yourself another and, in general, the media lets them get away with it. Not the Daily Show. Yay Jon!

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Day 62 – The Strife Aquatic
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

So politicians flip-flop according to the political breeze from one day to another. No big surprise. But Joe Barton’s assertion that the administration should apologize for “shaking down” BP was only the most shocking moment in a charade during this completely absurd hearing.
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Putting the Call for Energy Independence in Context

Jon Stewart talks about Nixon and an energy-independent future

When it come to current events, the most informative hour on television is the slot occupied NewsHour on PBS. This is a full hour devoted to the news that is nearly commercial free. It is an excellent news broadcast, but for a generation used to infotainment, that can seem rather dry.

The second most informative hour is, arguably, the hour occupied by The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. People shake their heads with a “tsk, tsk” when they are told that many in the younger generation get most of their news from The Daily Show, and it is a problem if this is the only source, but I daresay that an analysis of the content in the flagship news broadcasts on any network and that on The Daily Show would reveal that on many nights as much or more of the Daily Show is devoted to serious, important, timely topics than is the network news, particularly on those days when the guest is not an entertainer. Certainly the Daily show often provides more context, albeit through humor.
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