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May 26, 2006

agua pour favor

I thought I had spring fever: a new job, new weather, and meeting lots of new people... perhaps I do but I seem to have narrowed my focus a bit. I have fallen for water. My feet seem to be endlessly soaking it up, I can't leave the house with out finding myself stranded in a rain shower. Thank goodness I have a million pairs of shoes.

This is not an unfortunate thing. The weather has been warm and the water welcome. Tonight, as I was biking through the misty streets, feeling the drip off of trees and up from the pavement, I noticed that the air was heavy not just with moisture, but with smells. It was too late in the evening for the car exhaust to be up, instead I was greeted with the scent of spring - of leaves budding, fresh green pushing up through moist earth, flowers blooming and sending their pollen willy nilly.

So often I cite the need to be grounded - get my head out of the clouds. Yet now is obviously the time to swim, upstream or downstream doesn't matter, the important thing is getting in. What does water symbolize? Fluidity? Flexibility? It could also be strength and perseverance.

Now if only I could find the time take a shower inside, my life might be complete.

May 24, 2006

Scooter Girl Musings

If it weren't for my memories of India - riding around behind my beloved host sister - I would never have gotten a scooter. I loved the wind in my hair, the fact that we never went super fast, the independence of it combined with the mobility. We would weave in between cars and Diya would put down her feet and walk the scooter if she had to in order to get forward between those tight spaces.

Now that I have one of my own, my appreciation is even greater, but I am just as happy to leave the crowded chaos of Bangalore behind as I learn to drive. In the U.S. cars stay in their lanes and this is fine by me. Even after riding a bicycle for more years than I can count, scooter maneuvering is a steep and costly learning curve.

First of all, I notice that balance and steering is a lot different. Scooters weigh more than bicycles so are much more susceptible to the sway in the seat. I rarely move my upper body at all, instead swing my butt this way and that and make all kinds of graceful swerves. It is kind of like the opposite effect of those punching dummies. Using your arms is only for really tight steering. Speaking of which - when I first started riding all corners were wide and slow. It has been interesting watching how I gradually expand my comfort zone and am able to easily decrease the dimensions while increasing the speed of turns. I just hope that my attempts never exceed my ability in this area.

Another thing that takes me by surprise is how much wind is a bitch. Perhaps motorcycle riding is easier, but on a day with ten mile an hour gusts, I have to fight to keep that thing straight. I notice if the wind is at my back I can get up to 45 with out even blinking but if I am biking into the wind I feel nervous at 30. I can see why people compare bikes to horses - throw in the effect of the elements and it really does feel like riding a beast of some sort.

So far, knock on wood; I have been fortunate with people seeing me. I am not sure if this is because as a regular bicycle rider I am always prepared for them not to see me, or because I have a bright red scooter with the dorkiest helmet that ever was. I swear people in cars are giggling at me all the time, but perhaps that is just my ego talking.

The cut off, depending on the humidity, seems to be about seventy degrees. Any colder than that and the wind-chill requires a windbreaker unless I want to arrive at my destination a shivering block of ice. Any warmer than that and I don't even need long sleeves. When dealing with wind there is no in between. Long sleeves don't matter - the only thing that helps is a windbreaker. This does mean that when it is 68 degrees and I am stuck at a stop light I will start sweating but that is the price to pay.

Riding in the rain is difficult and shouldn't be done. Aside from the slippery road and the fact that other drivers are dealing with their own visibility issue, going thirty miles an hour with rain hitting your face and keeping an eye on the road is pretty much impossible. So far every time I have done it I felt quite suicidal.

To my great joy, smells carry over just as well when going thirty as they do when going fifteen on a bicycle. True, I can't enjoy the sights as much (but that has already caused me enough trouble while cycling) but this spring I am delighted to report and abundant crop of lilacs flowering in the city. This also means I am sucking exhaust pipe fumes often too but... well at least I don't smoke.

Although this mode of transportation is undoubtedly quicker than cycling anywhere (though it only shaves five minutes off my three-mile work commute) I suspect it is slower than driving. This is pure suspicion of course because yours truly never actually drives anywhere, so how would I know? Also, my lack of going on the highway probably doesn't save me time either (except during rush hour). To be fair, as my comfort level increases, my speed does as well.

Interestingly enough, as of yet, I feel no need to push myself. Just by riding this thing I seem to be improving. So far I ride about 80 miles a week. Now I can swerve, stop faster, adjust my mirrors, change lanes easier and remember to turn off my turn signal, all of which I was unable to do two short weeks ago.

Sadly, no matter what I do, my butt seems to go numb after about ten minutes of riding. Perhaps it is just this model, but this would not do for long distance rides.

Despite the long distance rule, having a scooter enables me to travel to all kinds of exotic places like St Paul and the suburbs. I have only started this exploration and hope to post any interesting finds I stumble upon.

May 11, 2006

Living Green

Last week there was an event where vendors and service providers get together to brag about how green their products and processes are. As the recycler and a sponsor for the event we had our first post-event meeting today I fell in love our mission all over again - realizing how radical it is.

Over and over we keep saying how we can prevent waste - it isn't inevitable. This challenges our current society to the core. Could you go a day without throwing something away? Try it? Our consumption is all container based. Even if I eat organic and buy locally the chances are I have a yogurt tub, a butter wrapper, a toilet paper roll, a price sticker, piece of gum, candy wrapper... the list of throw-aways goes on but I am not trying to convince you to live off of bulk products and home cooked food. I am just pointing out how difficult it is to go through an entire day with out throwing something away, in the garbage, and how most people don't find this odd or strange. We don't throw away money but isn't throwing away containers and other items that cost time, energy, and cash to make the same thing?

So at the "green" event we were trying to at least go without making waste for two days - sort of like a fast. It sounds easy enough but we couldn't do it. Despite the preparation, helping vendors secure recyclable and compostable supplies, speaking to all the contributors to the contributors of the event we still ended up throwing out around four-percent of our waste (the other ninety-six percent was recyclable). Four percent may not seem like a lot but when I looked at all three hundred pounds in the dumpster I couldn't help but think 'maybe next year', with a sigh.

However, after the meeting I wasn't depressed - I was inspired - because I realized that zero waste for this one event isn't the goal, it is just one step. By making this event a zero waste (or as close as we can possibly get), by putting those hundred or so venders on a no-garbage fast for two days, we are making at least a few people realize how inherent, yet unnecessary, garbage is in our society. Yeah, there were three hundred pounds of garbage at the end of the day, but there were also several dozen vendors and over ten thousand people who for two days were able to recycle ninety-six percent of the waste. These people were able to speak with several very enthusiastic passionate waste-reduction geeks about where recycling is now, where it is going, and what are the alternatives. The goal is to share our mission with interested participants. I can't speak for everyone else but they sure got this participant.

May 09, 2006


Leaving the Co-op and working with recycling is a huge life style change. The new job is irresistible but the change that comes with it gives me pause. Not only am I leaving a business that I know backwards and forwards and jumping into the barely known but not working at a grocery store a half a mile from my house will change my life in ways I can only imagine.

For the past two years I have been severely spoiled - able to walk to work and never had worry about food.

Not working on a grocery store however is freaking me out - I am going to have to plan my meals! How do people do this? Currently I can even skip breakfast and grab a yogurt and muffin at the store. There is an un-ending variety of lunch options and if I forget my wallet I can usually survive on free bread and fruit. On the other hand, there won't be chocolate paraded in front of me on a daily basis either.

I will have to start creating grocery lists and doing weekly shopping - during rush hour! My new schedule is like most people's, which means that convenient shopping times will coincide with everyone else's.

Then there is the discount. Grocery doesn't worry me - the discount is negligible but the supplements and body care items will seem out of range now. I am curious if this means I will just purchase less of them (and save money) or find I can't live with out them and fork over the dough. Meanwhile I am stockpiling an obscene amount of these products.

My tendency during these changes is to hoard - I just hope I am doing it wisely. I still have unused supplements and HBC products from the last time this sort of change happened. Damn that "save the best for last" mentality.

My new gig is three miles away - not an unbearable distance. I have even happily habited three miles from work previously. However, I will miss the morning walks enough that should I ever get timely I will consider the occasional walk to my new job (yes, I know this could take up to an hour). I plan on biking most of the time and it will be interesting to see if the six-mile daily ride will change my physique.

I will also have meetings and events in St Paul to attend. The bulk of these are not in the winter so I purchased a scooter to shorten travel time. I have started praying for a mild winter - just joking. Should it become necessary there is car-sharing and/or the occasional taxi. I could get a car if I need to but that is a lifestyle change I will only consider as a last resort.

Having a scooter on the other hand - and weekends off - are changes I look forward to exploring and taking advantage of thoroughly.

May 07, 2006

Reduce, Re-use...

Quaking at the knees, I am leaving my comfortable well-known world of natural food for garbage - scratch that - not garbage, but rather recycling. This weekend began the transition into a new position at a recycling company aimed at showing waste is preventable, not inevitable.

I have always had a bit of the environmental fanatic in me. It will be super difficult to rein it in now. To ease my transition have been absorbing "Paper or Plastic: Searching for solutions to an overpackaged world." Between this book and all my coworkers fill my head with, I hope to have an outlet here so as not to chase away the few remaining friends I have. Thus with pride, I start a recycling subject line, in which to pour my enthusiastic learning.

This need not be a solitary journey - already friends are asking me waste related questions and the answers I don't know I will be happy to look up - please post any questions or thoughts you have on this subject as they come up.

No info tonight though. After a jam-packed weekend I have to catch up on some sleep.

May 03, 2006

Daily Dose

As noted earlier, I am a Daily Show Junkie. This has as much to do with my crush on Jon Stewart as my appreciation of his perspective on current events. For that reason I can't get into the Colbert report, though I laughed my way through his speech at the Correspondents dinner.

For actual news, I usually browse the locally produced (but not owned) daily paper, weekly alternative (owned by mass media), and a few locally owned and produced neighborhood papers. Occasionally I find time to catch up on Salon.com, the New York Times, and a dozen other rags of various repute. I am a dedicated fan of CounterSpin as well.

I was psyched when we first got Air America and listened to it a bit but couldn't stand the AM static. Plus I realized that the banter on the radio could easily be found among my peers and roommates. No seriously, I think it could. The value of such banter is to toss ideas back and forth until you get one that sticks in your head and makes you laugh.

For instance, a lengthy conversation with an old friend from my traveling days commented (to paraphrase)
America is going through menopause now! It is time we accepted the fact that we aren't making babies any more. Can't we step aside gracefully!

On a similar vain some one recently commented - we can't liberate a nation - they have to do it themselves. If the Japanese came over and sent the British out before we had a chance to develop our own revolution we wouldn't be thankful.

And my own latest epiphany has been how naively optimistic the President's religious-right are; they thought Iraq would be quick war. They think if we only teach abstinence in schools kids will not have sex. They believe that by making drugs illegal people won't do them. Ha! I grew up among hippies who everyone called idealistic and simple minded. I have to say, my parents' counter-culture generation were realists compared to folks running the country now.