Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama Rally, Day In Photos

In line at about 2:30 in the afternoon, the line already stretches many blocks down the road. We're about 150 feet from the main doors though. Lawn chairs and conversation a must, the kids can run around and play and thank god it's not raining!

The doors open at 6:30 and we got good seats in the first tier up from the floor. The Pit will be packed tonight!

Mac Court, aka "The Pit" is one of the loudest basketball venues on earth. I think it was louder this night! Mackenzie really really wanted to see Barack Obama speak, even though he had to wear ear plugs and put his hands over his ears during the loudest bits...

An all-women's a capella choir rehearses in the basement before taking the stage (they were awesome!)
The Pit is packed! To the rafters. At capacity of 9,000 + 3,000 that couldn't get in at the door. That's about 10% of our town's population, turning out to see Obama

The Man himself. Well worth the 7+ hour wait. As dynamic as he is on TV or video, he's 10 times that in person. Can't he just be president now??? Here's where I wish I had a better distance lens, though.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Empire Has No Clothes - A Peace Rally in Pictures

Sunday's Peace Rally to mark the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War. You can visit my Flickr site for better resolution images.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Absolutely Brilliant Cycling Awareness Ad

This is well worth taking a moment to check out:

Definitely food for thought, and raising awareness of this issue is a great thing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Word of the Day: Ciclovia

Ciclovia is a Spanish term that literally means "bike path" but has come to be used to denote events (either one-time or recurring) where city streets are closed to all but non-vehicular traffic. Walkers, cyclists, unicyclists, wheelchairs, skateboards, rollerskates, etc. are allowed during these times, but cars are not. Bogata, Columbia has one of the biggest and longest-running events (over 25 years) with 2 million people attending (30% of citizens) on Sundays on over 70 miles of carfree streets!

Very few US cities have such events. Some, like Portland Oregon have one-day events like the Portland Bridge Pedal. El Paso, Texas is one of the few U.S. cities that have held a regular weekly event. But this week in our town, a group of people is getting together to organize such an event here. I'm hoping to be able to attend the organizational meeting (yes, in all my spare time, hah!) It's such a great idea, and the street here in town that they're thinking about holding it on is one of the worst in our city for cycling. Almost every route through town here has at least one good cycling option except for this one street. It has no bike lane, bad pavement, and lots of businesses whose driveways intersect the already-heavily-used sidewalks. So there's no real place for cyclists to go. A cyclovia-type event would not only be great for the whole city, but would also draw attention to the need for safe cycling routes on this street.

In any case, as a word junkie I just like the word "ciclovia" - it calls up in my mind the words "cycle" (of course) but also the Latin word for road, and the current usage of via as "by way of" or "by the means of". It also brings to mind the French word "vie" for "life".

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

It All Adds Up

365 Day 360: Home
Not too long ago, we started looking over our energy bills for the past year. One year ago, we had a renter in our basement apartment (a 650 sq foot "mother-in-law" unit). This has been our first opportunity to compare our current energy bills from those of the same season when we had the apartment rented. What we discovered was pretty darn interesting. Our utility bill is half of what it was when we had our renter living downstairs. Yep, four people in a 1670 sq foot house upstairs use about the same amount of energy as one person in the apartment downstairs. I've always been a mite suspicious of those carbon footprint calculators on the web (although I think they're a great tool for raising awareness), because they typically make assumptions about our energy use based on our house and number of people living here. This is the first time I've had solid proof that energy-efficient everyday living practices can make a huge difference in how much energy we use.

The things we do are pretty simple - our house gets great natural light during the day, so we don't use interior lighting in daylight hours. At night, we turn off lights as soon as we leave a room. We turn off and/or unplug appliances that we aren't using. We try to use energy wisely (like making an entire pot of tea instead of once cup at a time). We hang clothes out to dry instead of using the clothes dryer, and open the dishwasher before it enters the drying cycle. Our clothes washer is an efficient front-loader that does a ton of laundry in one batch. We conserve water in other ways, like turning the shower on halfway instead of on full, and we set our thermostat to 58 in the winter (using a heat pump) and don't use air conditioning in the summer. Probably our biggest energy drain is our chest freezer, but that gives us the ability to buy local organic pastured meats, and store all of the berries and other fruits and veggies we grow and glean during the summer.

None of these things are particularly difficult or odious. We don't really feel deprived. We aren't living in left-field, or god forbid not showering to save water. Patchouli never enters our house and none of us particularly likes granola. But the little things do add up. Every year we try to add a few more of them to our pile of little sustainability stones. This last year we bought honeycomb blinds for many of the windows, especially the ones that get a lot of sun in the summer. Next year we'll try to add some more to the other windows. We're hoping that a homemade solar hot water heater is in the works for us sometime soon. We implemented the garage clothes-drying racks this winter which drastically reduced the amount we use the clothes dryer in this wet season. We changed out even more bulbs to CFLs. Incidentally, all of the light in the photo at the top of this post comes from two flourescents that are our main indoor lighting. We've changed them only once since we moved in eight years ago, now that's what I call efficient!

I'm excited to learn that all of our little efforts add up. I have friends, both on-line and in real life who are living the ultimate energy efficient lifestyles in off-the-grid or Net Zero homes. Right now, that's not in the cards for us, but it's great to know that making these smaller efforts can have a huge impact on our energy usage, and thus on our carbon footprint and overall environmental impact. I like to think that if regular ol' folks knew what a difference they could make (a family of four using less energy than one person!), they might be inspired to implement a few more changes themselves.