Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Future Lies Before Me

This Sunday, Howard and a bunch of new cycling friends (Club Hypoxia: "Oxygen or Altitude, Pick One") will climb Lookout Mountain above Golden, Colorado. It's a 5-mile 1,460-foot climb to the Buffalo Bill Museum & lookout.

We'll start in Wheat Ridge, climb gradually to Golden, climb a little less gradually past Colorado School of Mines, then begin climbing not gradually at all after that.

Actually, it's an average 5 1/2% grade up those last five miles, so it'll hurt, but it'll be the good kind of hurt. Click on the Gmaps Pedometer image above to see it really big.

DAM right

And just so we don't forget why Howard started this blog in the first place...

Here's a photo taken 10 days ago of the expansion to the Denver Art Museum, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. That's Mrs. Howard in front admiring the remarkably dramatic forms and mass of the titanium-skinned addition housing the more modern and contemporary collections of the art museum.

The outside is stunning, dynamic, and exciting to see and walk around. Even if it looks like it was plopped down on the site by a UFO. The inside? Not so successful. Displays and circulation space are quirky and uncomfortable. The lighting is very good, however.

Still, Howard's a fan of such boldness. He just won't be emulating it in his own work. He's more a fan of the Denver Public Library expansion, visible at right, designed by post-modern architect Michael Graves.

We have a family tradition that the birthday boy or girl gets to select where we go and eat on their special day. Mrs. Howard says that we'll all be going to the DAM expansion every year on her birthday for the rest of eternity.

For dinner, Cheesecake Factory. Yum.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Just Keep Fighting

Had an interesting experience today. 20-25 mph winds outta the north all day, low 40F temps, and I almost gave up on riding. But at 3 pm I screwed up my courage, and decided to ride into the wind as far as I could stand, knowing the return trip would be fun, fun, fun.

Every half-mile along this exposed and somewhat county-type road, I would approach another intersection and think that this one might be where I turn her about. But no. Just kept on fighting.

Then I approached a 300-yard 3% grade -- halfway to my usual turn-around point -- still with wind blasting directly in my face. I decided that I would climb it and turn around at the top. But then I saw a rider in my mirror, and although I was going 12.5 mph, pretty good for the conditions, he was catching up with me. I couldn't believe it. That didn't happen to me but two or three times last year. So I cranked 'er up to 14.5 mph... but he still kept gaining on me.

Halfway up the hill, when I thought he was going to blow past me, he instead parked in my slipstream and drafted behind me the final 150 yards uphill. At the top, he pulled up next to me, smiled and thanked me for the pull, then turned right at the intersection. Wow, that was kinda neat, I thought.

He was wearing full team kit and wasn't very big (while I am the opposite -- FredGear and a behemoth) so I must have presented a huge and irresistable wind shadow to him -- worth the extra effort to catch up with. After another half-mile past the point where he turned, I was still riding into the wind and I realized I had forgotten all about turning around. So I decided to keep on fighting the rest of the way, another five miles, to the final 10% grades and Bingham Hill -- my usual turn-around point for a 22-mile round-trip ride.

And yes, the return trip was fun, fun, fun. Top speed... 44.0 mph! Yippee!!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Make No Small Plans, Part III

On December 30th, Howard posted his goals for 2007. Things change, and in this case for the better.

He added two new goals, removed two goals, tweaked two goals, and is on track to meet or exceed two previous goals. After amendments, Howard's goals for 2007 should now read:
  • 10,000 miles of cycling (Howard's at 1,113 miles; at this date last year - 740).
  • Ride Mickelson Trail in South Dakota with The Machine in early May.
  • Run the 10K Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day, May 28th. Howard is signed up.
  • Lose those final 13 pounds by June 1st. Currently down 8 pounds with 5 to go!
  • Ride the Rockies with best girl, June 17-23. Lottery's announced March 16th.
  • Triple Bypass, July 14th. 120 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing. One long day.
  • Attend second son's wedding on July 21st!
  • RAGBRAI with best girl, Lance Armstrong, and Team Sunshine, July 22-28.
  • Colorado Cyclist Copper Triangle Ride on August 4th.
  • Self-supported tour with best girl, Eugene, OR/first son is hub, mid August.
  • Horsetooth Double-Dip in late August.
  • Buffalo Bicycle Classic century ride, September 9th.
  • El Tour de Tucson, November 17th.
  • Design two new custom houses, one of which is currently under contract.
If Howard can accomplish all 14 of these excellent goals, he'll be the master of his domain. If he can manage even ten of them, it'll still be an incredible year.

Make no small plans!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Anatomy of a Simple Dam Loop

Yesterday I wrote that I would be heading for the foothills today, and that's exactly what I did. Wheeze!

Since I rode so far yesterday, I needed to take a bit of a break today. But I didn't. My normal foothills route takes me up to Horsetooth Reservoir, over three dams, downhill past a fourth dam while flying at over 50 mph, then down into Bellvue, over Bingham Hill, and back home along my favorite 10-mile road. Lots of climbing and a total of over 25 miles.

But rather than take that on today, I chose to ride up and over the first dam -- Spring Canyon Dam -- and then turn back to town before crossing the second dam -- Dixon Canyon Dam. This route is Googlemapped below, beginning at the bottom of the map. Mile mark #2 is where Spring Canyon Dam is located.

Using my inclinometer, I determined that the switchback between Mile Marker #1 and #2 is a steady 6% climb. Then after crossing over the dam, the road turns upwards at a 16% grade for a hundred yards before leveling out at about 8% for another half-mile.

Following the crest of the hill and a fun straight descent for about 3/4s of a mile -- I hit 40 mph today -- the road then turns sharply right then loops left while dropping at an ungodly 18% grade. Unfortunately, because of the turns and lack of visibility, speeds have to be moderated and brakes have to be sacrificed.

We're supposed to get two to three inches of snow tomorrow (Saturday) morning, so even though I didn't feel too much like riding today, I still managed to put in 15 1/2 miles for the day, bringing my week up to 200 miles -- which also puts me over 1,000 miles for the year!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another Long Bike Ride

Howard rode a metric century on his touring bike today. A metric century is a ride equal to or greater than 100 kilometers, which is about 62 miles. Howard's ride was 65 miles. Here's the intersection of Taft Hill Road and Owl Canyon Road, although this far north of town -- 10 miles -- they go by County Road numbers 19 & 70, not the names. Don't care. Taft Hill and Owl Canyon it is. See the pretty snow-covered mountains? Yes, we are in Colorado, though Howard was seeking horizontal distance rather than vertical distance with today's ride. Tomorrow he heads for the foothills.

Another typical Colorado sight -- cows, horses, electric fences, scraggly cottonwood trees, and metal barns. These cows didn't appear to be alarmed by Howard's presence. The farther from town, the more alarmed cows become at the sight of a cyclist. Especially of Howard.

This is the Rawhide Power Plant about 20 miles north of town. Burns "clean" Wyoming coal. We're speaking in relative terms, of course. When Howard reached Rawhide, he realized that he had been riding with a 10 mph tailwind. He thought he was just particularly strong and virile that morning. For the afternoon return ride, directly into the wind, Howard didn't feel quite so strong. Or virile.

At the 50-mile mark, Howard was zooming down a hill at 38 mph -- three miles an hour over the speed limit -- when he saw a County Sheriff parked at the entrance to a trailer park at the bottom of the hill. Howard glanced at his speedometer but didn't touch his brakes. Instead he gave the Sheriff a smile and a wave. In return, the Sheriff went on his loudspeaker and said in a deadpan voice, "38 miles per hour. Don't tempt me." Howard watched in his rear-view mirror to see if the Sheriff was going to come after him. He didn't. Howard wondered what the neighbors thought to hear someone on a bullhorn say, "Don't tempt me." 30 seconds later, a car went zooming past Howard, followed by the Sheriff with lights flashing in hot pursuit. Howard broke the law and got away with it!

Here's a photo at the confluence of the Poudre River Trail (to the right) and Spring Creek Trail (beyond). The actual Poudre River and Spring Creek conflue about 200 yards to the left of this photo, but Howard likes to refer to this intersection as the confluence since he's all about the cycling. Note all the unmelted snow remaining from the blizzards of December -- two months ago. Lots of melting has occurred. More still to come. If global warming is to be believed.

Finally, here's an elevation chart of the route that Howard rode (click on it to make it much bigger). It has one redeeming characteristic: The second half of the ride was downhill. That's the part of the ride that was into the wind. Love it when it works out like that since it happens so rarely.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Save the World? Here's A Clue...

From Orion Magazine, comes a remarkable allegorical essay titled Fahrenheit 59 by Audrey Shulman:

Yesterday afternoon, my six-year-old son practiced swimming with me. Delighted with the water and my attention, Corey stayed in for forty minutes. Despite the water’s chill, I knew if I took his temperature it would be close to 98.6° Fahrenheit. For an hour afterward he ran through the humid July heat, playing tag with his cousins, his hair damp with sweat. Still, a reading would have shown his body to be within a degree or two of 98.6.

This stability is a product of homeostasis. A holy word for biologists, homeostasis refers to an organism’s ability to maintain its ideal temperature and chemistry... Such homeostatic regulation depends on a mechanism known as negative feedback: a response that maintains a system’s balance...

It turns out that our bodies’ homeostasis can provide an analogy with which to understand the complexities of climate change—and the human response to it. Over geological time, the biosphere uses negative feedbacks in a way that maintains a stable global average temperature. When the Earth’s oceans heat up past a certain point, for example, hurricanes (which thrive only on warm water) increase their intensity, leaving a trail of stirred-up nutrients. The food creates a massive bloom of phytoplankton, which suck in enough of the greenhouse gas CO2 to start cooling the global climate.

Conversely, when temperatures fall too low, vast quantities of methane are released into the atmosphere, possibly in part because ice sheets build up, lowering sea levels and exposing coastal methane hydrates. As a greenhouse gas twenty times more powerful than CO2, the methane warms the biosphere quickly.
Did you see it? Phytoplankton as an effective means of reducing CO2? (You can read more on phytoplankton and their role in gobbling up CO2 at this nifty article by Scientific American.) Also, notice the mention that while CO2 is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, methane is 20 times more insidious?

While Schulman talks about negative feedback early on as the Earth's means of passively regulating sustainable temperatures, the essay then discusses positive feedbacks which actively and aggressively do the same thing. If the planet ever went into positive feedback mode, we wouldn't like it one bit.

Read the entire essay here.

Preventing the release of billions of tons of methane into the air due to the warming of permafrost must be a top priority. Otherwise, our planet could develop a self-protective fever in an attempt to fight its infection. And then it might not be our planet anymore.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wealth, Fame, Al Gore!

Wanna be rich, save the planet, and meet Al Gore at the same time?

Then start thinking hard and click here.

British tycoon Richard Branson has offered a $25 million reward to the first scientist who can figure out a way to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The Details:
According to this story at Yahoo, to win you "will have to come up with a way of removing one billion metric tons of carbon gases a year from the atmosphere for 10 years -- with $5 million of the prize being paid at the start and the remaining $20 million at the end." The prize money is not supposed to pay to impliment the solution, just to reward the originator of the winning concept. Al Gore will be on the jury evaluating proposals.

Howard's Simpleton Solution: The average American car pumps out a fuzz less than one pound of carbon dioxide each and every mile it's driven. (The math may sound funny, but trust me on this. Don't make me get all physics-y on ya.) A billion metric tons converted to pounds looks like this -- 2,200,000,000,000 pounds. The math was more than my calculator could handle, but if slightly more than half of the 300 million Americans in this country gave up driving their personal smog monsters for ever and ever in favor of public transport, large-scale carpooling, bicycles, and walking -- and we're using the 2006 average for miles driven by individual Americans of 13,657 -- then we would cease emitting 2.2 trillion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. This wouldn't remove existing CO2 from the air, but it would prevent any new accumulations, right? Probably not, but let's not quibble, at least not today. Would this qualify for Branson's award? Probably not. And would those 170 million Americans do this for their cut of $5 million up front and $25 million in 10 years? [Smirk.] Probably not.

Another Basic Idea, That Turns Out To Not Be So Basic: The average human exhales a bit less than two pounds of CO2 each and every day. While Howard would never touch the idea of reducing human population, he will suggest that the idea of genetically engineering a super-CO2-sucking tree, bush, or algae bloom is kind of interesting. Why? Because we would need about 3 billion of those trees or bushes or algae blooms that could absorb two pounds of carbon dioxide a day. Is two pounds of CO2 a lot for a tree? Currently, the average tree absorbs 48 pounds of CO2 in a year. It takes 14 1/2 mature trees to absorb the same amount of CO2 a single human exhales. So if we're gonna reach that 2.2-trillion-pounds-of-CO2 prize level, we'd have to plant 46 billion new regular-type trees and then wait for them to grow. However, if our genetic engineers could increase the absorption rate of average trees by, say... 46,000-fold, we'd only need a million mature super-CO2-sucking trees. A million. Probably not gonna happen that way either.

In other words, keep thinking.

By the way: Here's a terrific tutorial on carbon sequestration. This sentence is particularly provocative: "
A test in 2002 in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica suggests that between 10,000 and 100,000 carbon atoms are sunk for each iron atom added to the water." Read more to figure out the context...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Three Cycling Amigos

Okay, this is gonna sound strange and self-indulgent, but only because it is. Hang on tight.

Howard has mentioned on these pages before that he's a member (on double-secret probation) at, which is a great site for bicyclists to track their mileage throughout the year, compare themselves to 19,000 other cyclists doing same, to get to know each other a bit in the forums, and occasionally to meet.

Three of the more eccentric and obnoxious personalities at BikeJournal are Pansy Palmetto, Sioux Geonz, and your very own Howard.

Now try following this: Sioux, who lives in Illinois, is in San Francisco for the weekend for some sort of convention. Pansy lives in a nearby city. So Pansy and Sioux decide to meet, which they do. And while doing lunch, they notice that they are on Howard Street. So they ask a passerby to take their photo, which she does. But while the photo is taken, they both take a bite of fudge. Fudge? You see, BikeJournal had a Shoot Cupid Challenge to ride at least 400 outdoor miles by Valentine's Day, which all three of us successfully did. The prize? Yup, fudge. Hence, the photo.

But then Howard got all smart-assed and photoshopped his own photo into the San Francisco street scene. So now from left to right you see Pansy, Sioux... and Howard.

Like I said -- strange and self-indulgent. But also fun. AND sweet.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Great Green Idea

Every new idea comes with built-in opposition. But the most brilliant new ideas anticipate and address the inevitable criticisms. An Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times is one such brilliant idea. Actually, it's two ideas, the first of which isn't so new -- a carbon tax. But the second half of the idea is the brilliant part -- use all this new tax money to create market-based "energy savings accounts" for individual tax payers which could energize reinvestment in green technologies and non-polluting energy sources.

You can and should read the entire op-ed at this link. Otherwise, you can check out the highlights and more of my reaction below... makes sense to adopt a tax on carbon emissions now. The trick is to design a "global cooling tax" that a majority of Americans will want to pay. We propose a tax that will hit energy hogs hardest. But under our scheme, whether you use a little or a lot, you would be able to invest your tax dollars directly in clean technologies that would lower your energy bills.

Americans consume 300 billion gallons of gasoline a year, and staggering quantities of coal and natural gas. What can we do to stop drastic climate change while we wait for viable alternative sources of energy? Plenty — if we are willing to pay and make our investments work for us.

We can reduce carbon emissions by installing scrubbers on power plants, switching to hybrid and then plug-in hybrid cars, planting trees and building wind farms and the most energy-efficient buildings on the planet. By many estimates, a tax of about 27 cents for each gallon of fuel consumed and $30 per ton of carbon dioxide from electricity generated would be enough to an economy in which pollution is essentially rewarded to one that rewards clean technologies. This amounts to about $180 billion a year, less than 1% of the $17-trillion U.S. economy.

Our carbon tax proposal is based on the principle that every consumer of fossil-fuel energy should have to pay the price of getting rid of the carbon generated by burning it...

The average American would pay roughly $555 a year for all of the carbon used in his gasoline, electricity and home heating.

But instead of going to the Treasury, the tax money would be credited into individual "energy savings accounts." Each taxpayer could decide how best to spend it to reduce carbon emissions, to benefit himself and the planet. You could use your $555 toward installing solar panels on your roof, cutting your electricity bill to zero. Or you could direct your tax money to a charity that plants fast-growing trees at the equator, or to a private company that would suck up the carbon in the atmosphere and sequester it under the ocean floor. You could pool your "cooling tax" money with your neighbors and build a windmill to supply your town with electricity or a plant to supply you with a non-carbon alternative to gasoline.

Any plan that produces energy without emitting carbon, or gets rid of carbon already in the atmosphere, would qualify. Companies would compete for your business, and more would surely develop to serve the burgeoning clean-energy market...
I think this is a remarkable idea because it not only seeks to create a negative incentive for continued carbon use, but it uses the proceeds to create positive market-based incentives to encourage necessary small-scale changes that would make a huge difference. It offers something for both sides of the political spectrum. However, I doubt the Republicans could ever sign on because they have painted themselves into an ideological corner such that they could NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES accept new taxes or acknowledge global climate change.


We Are Lessened

Molly Ivins wrote these words that were published as part of Creators Syndicate three weeks ago. Now she's gone, taken from us by breast cancer at age 62:
This country is being torn apart by an evil and unnecessary war, and it has to be stopped NOW.

This war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our will. Polls consistently show that less than 30 percent of the people want to maintain current troop levels. It is obscene and wrong for the president to go against the people in this fashion. And it's doubly wrong for him to send 20,000 more soldiers into this hellhole, as he reportedly will announce next week.

What happened to the nation that never tortured? The nation that wasn't supposed to start wars of choice? The nation that respected human rights and life? A nation that from the beginning was against tyranny? Where have we gone? How did we let these people take us there? How did we let them fool us?

It's a monstrous idea to put people in prison and keep them there. Since 1215, civil authorities have been obligated to tell people with what they are charged if they're arrested. This administration has done away with rights first enshrined in the Magna Carta nearly 800 years ago, and we've let them do it.
Go to this link and read the rest. And then send up a thank you prayer to Molly for speaking her mind during these past years when it has been so difficult to find any voice crying out in the wilderness for circumspection, foresight, and simple human decency.