Monday, December 24, 2007

She's Going to Frame Her Speeding Ticket

A woman in Scottsdale, Arizona -- Grace Picket -- was recently clocked going 68 mph in a 45 mph zone... on her bike!

“Our house is pretty far up in the hills”, said Picket. “I like to bomb down the big hills to try and keep my average speed up. They just caught me near the bottom of the hill and there was no way I could slow down enough not to get caught”.

Read more about Amazing Grace at

Apparently, as is typical for most cyclists, she didn't have her driver's license with her at the time. So the police officer took her (and her bike) down to the station where she awaited her husband bringing the license.

Howard's ridden down very steep and straight hills before, and even with a slight tailwind, could only get 'er up to 60.6 mph. So 68 sounds a bit challenging and scary even to me!

Way to go Grace!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

USA Cycling Collegiate Nationals Come to Fort Collins

This just in from the Colorado State University Cycling Team and Cycling News:

Fort Collins wins bid to host US Collegiate Nationals

The 2008 and 2009 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships will head to Fort Collins, Colorado, where they will be hosted by Colorado State University. Approximately 500 collegiate races are expected to vie for 18 national road titles from May 9-11, 2008.

The event will kick off with a team time trial in nearby Buckeye, just north of Fort Collins. On day two a road race will be contested on a circuit between Horsetooth Reservoir and Masonville before a final day's downtown criterium. The Colorado State Rams were recently named USA Cycling Collegiate Club of the Year.

Friday, May 9: Team time trial
Saturday, May 10: Road race
Sunday, May 11: Criterium

Also, the local newspaper,
The Coloradoan, quotes the planners explaining why they decided to modify the popular local route of the Colorado Cycling Festival held in June, which included a Rist Canyon climb and descent (18% grades at 9,000' altitude):

While cyclists from, say, Florida, are as fit an any from Fort Collins, they just aren't used to riding down hills, Taylor said.

USA Cycling was "worried it was too challenging for people who had never ridden up a mountain, let alone down one," he said. "In Florida, their idea of a hill is an overpass."

Oh, but they have nasty winds to contend with, right Floridians? :-D

Congratulations Rams, the 2007 Collegiate Cycling Team of the Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Can Electric Cars Be Far Behind?

One common question that homeowners ask their architects -- or should ask their architects -- when considering unconventional HVAC systems or energy-generating systems is, "what's the payback period?"

For example, radiant floor heating systems typically offer efficiencies, not to mention comfort amenities, that are well worth considering, though the higher up-front costs can take four to eight years to "pay back" via energy savings from those efficiencies.

Solar and wind energy generation systems typically take one to five years before the added costs of those systems (versus simply plugging into "the grid") are recouped.

Not anymore!

A company, Nanosolar, is the first company to figure out from existing technology how to manufacture Thin-Film-on-Foil solar "rolls" -- not panels -- that cost 30 cents per watt to manufacture. The first rolls will sell at $0.99 per watt. This "Third Wave" solar technology is a huge improvement over previous solar technologies that cost $3 per watt to manufacture. The bottom line here is that up-front (manufacture) costs of solar power can now be cheaper than the most efficient, i.e. cheapest, energies going 'til now -- coal and natural gas power plants! And with far fewer carbon emissions in fabrication and zero emissions in power generation!

The payback period for anyone installing Nanosolar's system? At 30 cents per watt, less than one month. At $0.99 per watt, more like three months! After system costs are paid off in month-by-month savings over what you would have been paid to your electric company, the cost of solar-powered electricity becomes essentially free. Compared to system and infrastructure costs of wind, coal, nuclear, and natural gas energy production delivered by "the grid", free is better.

Nanosolar's manufacturing plant in San Jose, CA, is up and rolling -- literally, as the sheets of solar film are rolled up as they come off the line. The company's headquarters is in Palo Alto, CA, of course. They are expecting to manufacture energy-producing foil in 2008 to produce 430 megawatts -- more than all the other solar energy producers combined!

Read more here about their manufacturing breakthrough.

BTW, combined with the latest exciting tenfold developments in storage capacity of Lithium-Ion batteries out of Stanford, this is good news for the burgeoning electric car industry. Why? Because lots of new electric cars on the road would require lots of batteries to store lots of new electric energy production.

Howard's connecting the dots of a viable, sustainable future.

Update: Grist has given Nanosolar's breakthroughs some press.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Merrill Lynch Mascot on Horizon

Looks like Merrill Lynch, represented in advertising by a bull mascot, is now bearish on real estate. Here are portions of the executive summary from their Economic Commentary, released Tuesday, Dec. 19:
Both the near-term and longer-run outlooks for the housing market remain clouded in what is a severe downturn in starts, sales and prices that has become national in scope. As we saw in the November housing starts data, the builders are now frantically cutting production.
But with the sales backdrop still softening, they may have to slice their construction plans by another 30% before we hit bottom on a cyclical basis. And, that bottom could be as long as a year away. Beyond that, weak demographic fundamentals point to years of sluggish real estate activity, particularly in terms of the “price”. The looming dominance of the “move down” buyer suggests that home values will continue to soften long after the building industry mops up the current excess supply. In fact, real estate pricing in general can be expected to be in the doldrums through 2012...

...Here is what we really “do not get”. There are still economists out there talking about how the housing recession is still local and not regionally broad based. We have no idea who their data vendors are. In our view, this clearly goes down as the most national real estate downturn since the 1930s.
Wow! That's nothing here that this architect didn't already know or believe. Just that I never expected anyone from the ERSF (Everything's Rosy Spin Factory) to admit it with quite this level of honesty! Bravo to you, Merrill Lynch author (BTW, how's your resume lookin'?)

Aside: What is a "data vendor" that Merrill Lynch makes reference to? Someone with internet service, a calculator, and an agenda? The real estate industry? Someone within the Bush Administration? Just asking.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

That's Just Crazy Talk

I have a bicycling friend named Mozam. He has a blog at this link. He's a great guy. I know because I met him and rode with him last April in Las Vegas. Yes, he lives and works and bikes in Vegas. When it's not so hot. The biking part I mean.

Anyway, he decided to aim for 8,000 miles on his bike this year, partly I suspect, because I did it last year. When he was considering it, I encouraged him and explained a bit about what is required to ride 8,000 miles in a year (about 154 miles a week, every week. And don't forget to take a rest day too!)

And he did it! (Congrats buddy!)

So what is he now thinking? He's thinking he might try shooting for 10,000 miles in 2008... same as Howard did this year (actually as of this posting, I'm still 200 and some miles away from 10K, but don't you worry 'bout me.) Mozam discussed this new goal on his blog and this is how I responded:
Sir Mozam,

Do as I say and not as I do.

I did 8,000 miles last year and 10,000 miles this year. The 10K goal was a mistake (although I will love bragging about it forever and ever!) Too much time away from work, even though I'm self-employed and didn't have that bigga workload. I rode 13 centuries and a triple-metric (186 miles). I don't regret those a bit. But that need to do 32 miles a day 6 days a week (with one rest day every week) was a bit daunting at times!
Nope, next year I'm going back to 8,000 miles. Nice big fat doable number, if you ask me.

You were asking me, right? :-D

At least one century every month, a bunch of brevets -- 200K, 300K, 400K... 600K? Plus, the HooDoo 500 in September and all my other favorite rides like Triple Bypass and Horsetooth Double Dip and Bicycle Tour of Colorado and el Tour de Tucson.

Yeah, without all that 32-miles-a-day-no-matter-what pressure, 8,000 miles is just about right.
For me anyway.

Go ahead and shoot for 10K so YOU can brag about it like me (I RODE 10,000 MILES THIS YEAR, SUCKER!!!) But you'll be back to 8,000 miles the following year. Just you watch...
Whatever you choose to do, Mozam, I know you'll do it with gusto!

Update: Mozam decided to chase 8,800 miles this year -- an increase over 2007 of 10%. Wise move well executed, dude. Me? I'm going for 7,926 miles in 2008 which is the exact diameter of the Earth across the equator (well, exact to within the nearest mile.)

Heating the Home with Plastic

"Nearly 12 percent of Americans say they will need to borrow money to pay winter heating bills; 9 percent will need to use credit cards to be able to afford their heating bills."


Why Is Healthy so Hard?

We've all heard it: "Eat smart if you want to lose weight and be healthy!"

But what if the cost of eating smart is out of reach for most people? That possibility may be truer than you know.

New research shows that the cost of eating healthy foods -- those higher in nutrients and lower in fats, sugars, and processed carbs -- has increased by 20% in the past two years. What about the cost of calorie-dense foods? No increase.
In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Washington focused on the cost of eating foods that are rich in nutrients, and low in calories, like fresh vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meats. That's the stuff we're told we have to eat if we are going to shed a few pounds and remain healthy.

But when the researchers checked prices at numerous stores around the Seattle area, they found that the good, healthy foods had soared in price over a two-year period, jumping by nearly 20 percent compared to a 5 percent increase in the overall food price inflation. And during that same period, high-calorie foods had remained about the same price, and in some cases had actually dropped.

So who is shopping at farmer's markets, Whole Foods, or retailers with healthy food selections?

"It takes three things," [Adam] Drewnowsky [director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington] said. "Education, money and time. If you have all three, you're home free. If you have two out of three, you can manage. But if you have only one out of the three, or zero of the three, you are pretty much screwed. And a lot of low-income people have zero out of three."

Obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed in the past 15 years because highly-processed/high-calorie/low-nutrient foods have become the cheapest and easiest foods available. With government subsidies favoring these food products, things will surely get worse before they get better.

Howard's advice: Either earn more and shop smarter or eat mega-nachos and go ride a bike. What the heck -- ride a bike no matter what!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Club Hypothermia Gets Black & Blue

Okay, since I started posting Ice Bike videos to the Big Blog of Slipperiness, here's another one from a ride that six members of Club Hypoxia... er... Club Hypothermia did on Sunday:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

STP Bicycle Classic Flood Relief

One of my favorite cycling bloggers, Gene Bisbee, writes that the Cascade Bicycle Club has started a flood relief fund to help the Seattle-to-Portland bike-route cities of Centralia and Chehalis following devastating floods that swept through Lewis County last week.

The Group Health Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic is an annual and epic two-day ride through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Unfortunately, flood damage along the route could top $1 billion i
n the wake of the flooding.

Gene has promised to send $5 to the relief fund for each blogger who mentions the STP and flood relief. Done. Now go check out Gene's post here. His blog is

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Can A Blog Post a Sequel? You Betcha!

Today's Ice Bike ride was a bit chillier -- 19°F! Everything was coated with ice. Did Howard care? Nope. Did he pay the price? You decide.

It's now time for...

Ice Bike: The Sequel!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ice Bike Season is Back!

After confiscating my hybrid bike from my father-in-law last night, and with a couple new inches of snow on the ground, I eagerly installed the Innova 700x35 studded tires on the hybrid this afternoon.

All bundled up, off I went. Oops. Forget to adjust the seat. Father-in-law had it set all the way down. Okay, now I'm ready. Oops.
Why are the handlebars crooked? How could he ride the bike with crooked handlebars? Oh well. Okay, now it's time to go.

Ah yes, listen to those studs bite. Holy smokes, the city already cleared off the bike trails?! There is still some snow and ice here and there, so the studded tires are still useful.

Nearly 13 miles later, no slip-splats -- heck, no slips at all -- and the fingers and toes were fine because I never really got my speed up.

How did I ever ride this 40-pound bike 65 miles uphill all the way to Laramie a year-and-a-half ago, I wondered.

And those platform pedals? Yuck! And the darned front derailleur iced up and left me stuck in the big gear... which was okay because I'm a big gear kinda guy.

Only saw two kids out on their little MTBs and two joggers. Just me and the icy tundra!

I love my Ice Bike! Here's a video...

Chin whiskers, you may ask? My three sons and I have a little whisker-growing challenge.
We stopped shaving Thanksgiving morning and won't shave again until Christmas Eve, at which point all the women in our lives will judge Howard to be the winner.

Howard & Ice Bike, December 7, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Looking for a Post-Peak-Oil Business Paradigm?

Here is a brilliant idea for a small business in the new era. I would love to see it flourish, and since I didn't invent it, I have no hesitations about sharing it with you: Backyard Farmer-for-Hire.

The idea is this: One or more horticultural types (you know -- green thumbs), with knowledge, and experience in backyard organic gardening hire themselves out to home-owners who would like a garden in their backyard, but for one reason or another, the home-owners don't have the time or where-with-all to do it themselves.

The farmers-for-hire prepare the garden, plant whichever vegetables, fruits, and/or herbs are desired by the home-owner, and then they visit the garden once a week to inspect, weed, till, and harvest the garden, leaving a basket of goodies on the back porch after each visit during growing season. And of course the farmers-for-hire charge for the service, while the goodies are free. Okay, they're not free, but at least they're organic and locally produced!

As a matter of fact, two women in Portland, Oregon--Donna and Robyn--are already doing it. Their business is named Your Backyard Farmer, and after two seasons is a huge success with over 40 clients!

Here's a recent write-up about it at Orion Magazine, Food Less Traveled by Edward C. Wolf.

This is a perfect idea for our times, as well as for a time in the not-so-distant future when ever-increasing distribution costs inevitably change everything about how America produces, eats, travels, and lives.

My prediction: Within two years, every city and town in America will have these businesses offering this great service. Will you or your brother, sister, or spouse be the first one in your town to get started?