Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I commuted!

...by bicycle to work today and back home again. I am very happy I finally just did it. I had been wanting to start in January, so I guess January 31 counts.

My car gave me an extra push, too. I didn't drive it on Sunday, and Monday morning it wouldn't start. So I had to call AAA to get it jump started. And so it had to go to the mechanic's today.

Last night I bought a local map of the San Gabriel Valley and plotted out the route I would take to work. I figured out what clothes I would need for riding and work, packed my bag, and went to bed after 1:00 a.m.

Up at 5:30 to get dressed and load the bike onto the car. I left the car at the mechanic's and headed off to work around 6:20 a.m. I rode into the parking lot at work at 7:15, unloaded the bike, showered, and was at my desk by 7:45.

I wasn't sure what route I'd take home with the increased traffic in the afternoon, and I wasn't sure if I would be too tired. But by late afternoon I felt OK, so I asked one of my colleagues who lives in the area for some recommendations. One of the barriers is getting across the 10 freeway. The few streets that cross under it are very busy. So the first half of the route home was different from the morning's ride.

There are a few stretches with moderately busy traffic, but much of the route is wide, residential streets. I was rewarded with a beautiful, pink-orangish sky at sunset.

I definitely need to build up speed. Tonight my knees are a little sore but otherwise I'm tired from not enough sleep. Now that I've made one trip, I have ideas for organizing myself better. I need to work on clothes. My headlight functioned well, and I have a flashing rear light. I need some more reflectors on the side of my bag. I wore a reflective vest and armband but would eventually like to replace my black windbreaker jacket with a lighter color.

I learned today not to drink while riding because it is awkward replacing the water bottle. I dropped my water bottle while trying to put it back in the holder, and a bus ran over it. So I had to stop by a grocery store for bottled water because I was at the beginning of the trip. I started pulling over when I needed a drink, and I also recorded my times at various intersections.

Tomorrow I plan to drive the route so I can check the distance.

I hope to write a more organized summary of the steps and inspiration that got me on my bike today.

Now, to bed.

[Update 2/1/06: I drove yesterday's morning bike route this morning to check the distance; it is 11.5 miles.]

Monday, January 30, 2006

For the record

In today's WSJ, the top article (paid subscription required) was about Exxon Mobile's fourth quarter 2005 profits. Net income: $10.71 billion. Revenue: $99.66 billion.
The Exxon result amounted to a profit of about $80,842 per minute during the quarter. It was one of the biggest quarterly profits of any company in history. Though a handful of other companies have posted higher quarterly profits, those were largely through accounting adjustments, while Exxon's result came mainly from operations.
The biggest driver of Exxon's surging profit was high energy prices amid the world's increasing thirst for oil and natural gas. [...] Exxon's profit soared even though the company produced less fossil fuel.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Deserted beach

This is Zuma Beach, Malibu, California, on Saturday, January 14, 2006. It had been raining in the morning, so, although it was a holiday weekend, there were very few people there. It was magical. We were entranced by the sandpipers, especially the young ones. How can those little legs move so quickly?

Thursday, January 19, 2006


To remember:
  • seeing a good friend again after a few years of not being in touch
  • being impressed with her children, her life outside the U. S.
  • having a fun weekend with my parents visiting—one day of high culture (the Getty), high society (driving through the Westside of L. A. and a wedding in Malibu), with a beautiful interlude at a deserted California beach (it had been raining earlier in the day) and one day of ordinary things (church, my dad putting together a collapsed set of shelves for all my knitting projects and "stash" and then washing my car, my mum cleaning a cluttered kitchen counter for me, and a Scrabble game)
  • outfitting my bike for commuting to work (now just need to get brave enough to try using the bike rack on the bus for the first time)
  • continued church responsibilities
  • still feeling that New Year's flush of wanting to organize everything—reading, knitting, finances, correspondence, being a good friend, life plans—and, of course, write about it all here
  • ten wonderful days in Washington between Christmas and New Year's, some of which may be described here but which at least are recorded on paper
  • the Staggerford book series, by Jon Hassler, I've just started reading at the recommendation of a high school teacher I had coffee with while in Washington

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Climate change

This past year I tried out a subscription to The New York Review of Books. I have not done a good job of reading each issue but am saving them to go through at some point.

However, the most recent issue has a cover article by Bill McKibben, "The Coming Meltdown," reviewing two books about global climate change, which I read straight through, twice.

McKibben couldn't state the issue more clearly:
Climate change somehow seems unable to emerge on the world stage for what it really is: the single biggest challenge facing the planet, the equal in every way to the nuclear threat that transfixed us during the past half-century and a threat we haven't even begun to deal with.
The first book reviewed, Thin Ice, by Mark Bowen, examines the work of Lonnie Thompson in ice fields and glaciers in tropical and semitropical regions. The amount of carbon dioxide trapped in ice can be measured and shows that
we have raised the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere far above what it has ever been during even the very long period one can study with ice cores. As such, a brand-new experiment is taking place, one that is out of control.
McKibben is not enthusiastic about the second book he reviews, Dancing at the Dead Sea, by Alanna Mitchell, but he does believe the author asks "an important question [...], 'Are humans a suicidal species?'" McKibben highlights a quote by G. W. Bush included in Mitchell's book regarding the Kyoto agreement on climate change that the U. S. has refused to sign:
I will explain as clearly as I can, today and every other chance I get, that we will not do anything that harms our economy....That's my priority. I'm worried about the economy.
I am struck by the indictment in McKibben's analysis:
It's not as if Bush is alone in this thought. And it does seem to epitomize the danger that the satisfactions of consumer life and business success have become almost sacred while the physical world now turning to chaos before our eyes is taken for granted, and not seen as the reality that must be faced.
In a short essay, "Wilderness," in The Death of Adam, by Marilynne Robinson, happily back in print after the success of her recent novel, Gilead, Robinson also exhorts us to "face reality." She shows how the wilderness has become a dumping ground for toxic waste and then makes a point very close to Mitchell's question:
It has happened over and over again that promised land or holy land by one reckoning is wasteland by another, and we assert the sovereign privilege of destroying what we would go to any lengths to defend. [...] Humankind has no enemy but itself, and it is broken and starved and poisoned and harried very nearly to death. (pp. 248-49)
She points out that the weapons intended to destroy the enemy harmed those who made them and who lived in the wilderness areas they were tested in and where now the waste is kept.

Robinson then ties together the viability of human civilization and the environment.
Into any imaginable future, there must be people to maintain what we have made, for example, nuclear waste storage sites, and there must be human civilizations rich and sophisticated enough to know how this is done and to have the means to do it. [...]

Unless we can reestablish peace and order as values, and learn to see our own well-being in our neighbor's prosperity, we can do nothing at all for the rain forests and koala bears. [...]

What have we done for the whale if we lose the sea? If we lose the sea, how do we mend the atmosphere? What can we rescue out of this accelerating desperation to sell—forests and weapons, even children—and the profound deterioration of community this all indicates? (p. 253)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Clearing out the old

On December 31 I helped my mother clean out last year's growth from the marionberry vines. It is a prickly, tricky task but excellently suited to preparing for new growth in the new year.