Nov 29, 2008
For those that don't know about Mr. Michael, it's worth your time to follow the link. Mike and his wife Benita operate a not-for-profit company (in their spare time, I might add) that salvages cast-off bicycles, fixes them up, and basically gives them away to anyone that wants one. They tell their story better than I could, so here it is. Here's another article from TwinCities.Com that gives a feel for how they do things.
They operate a used bike and parts shop on Prior Ave. in St. Paul (on the same block as the first office of Natural Resource Group, interestingly) that is open only a few hours per week because they both work full time. Proceeds from the shop go to cover the cost of the bike donation business. They are supplemented when possible by volunteers to help get the bikes back on the road. I forget the exact number, but I think Mike told me that they have place something like 480 bikes with people this year alone.
This was my first time helping out with a Bike Blitz, so I had no idea what to expect. It was pretty much what I expected - Saturday morning bluegrass on the radio, plenty of coffee and a cluttered but comfortable shop. They have a couple of repair stands, a truing stand and plenty of tools and parts at hand, and the company was great. We seemed to have plenty of volunteers, including a few Bike Lovers and one very qualified bike mechanic. We were also offered plenty of food - tasty vegetarian soup, nachos, veggies, and homemade apple pie, which was delicious.
The Bike Blitz effort goes to fulfill wish lists for people that are hoping for a bike but maybe can't afford one. I ended up working on a bunch of 20-inch BMX bikes for the most part, as well as a snazzy pink princess bike or two. We were able, in the time I was there, to get through their entire holiday order, which felt good. As I was packing up a few other volunteers came to help out, so I am sure they will be able to work ahead. It helped that all of the volunteers were pretty knowledgeable about things, so it was an efficient operation.
All in all, this was a great thing to do with a Saturday, and I plan to head back for another Bike Blitz in the future. They need to have a few more of these because I got a peek in one of the storage buildings and it's pretty much full to the roof with bikes waiting to be repaired.
I had heard about Palin's Turkey Massacre interview on the news and seen a reference to it on Andrew Halcro's blog, but until I came across the You Tube feed on Mello Velo, I had not seen this. This should be incorporated into every media training program out there as an example of what not to do...
If you are distracted by the guy feeding the turkeys into the woodchipper, here is a little bit of what she actually said in her interview:"Plans just include gettin' through the budget process that were going through right now. Building the state's budget based on the price of oil that has plummeted so greatly and reigning in the growth of government and plans like that, that have to do with governing this state and building this team that is continually being built to provide good services to Alaskans, so in my role as governor that's what my plans are all around."
I guess I don't have any questions after hearing that explanation.
Nov 27, 2008
We kicked the day off with a Walk to End Hunger (not a Walk For Hunger, like a lot of people were saying) at the Mall of America early this morning. We were "walk-ons" and did not get sponsors before hand, but we made a contribution at the sign-in table, got a free bottled water and a cheap tee-shirt, and did a few laps around the MOA. Live music was provided as well.
The most interesting site at the MOA was Bernhard Eisel's Giant, which was hanging in the window of the Columbia store.
Followed that up with the first Spinervals workout of the off-season to make room for the turkey. The Spinervals series is good but like any time on a trainer, it can get dull. I was very pleased that I was able to stay on the bike for the full 80 minutes. I think it builds mental toughness as well as aerobic base.
Nov 22, 2008
The Bike Lover's held a swap meet on Sunday at Solomon's Porch, a Christian church on 46th Street just west of I-35W in South MPLS. I packed up a Rubbermaid tote full of cast-off parts and headed over there about 12:00 to try and get rid of the old junk and score some new junk. As the picture above indicates, basically, as someone arrived, they were swarmed and the good stuff carted off in short order, leaving the misfit parts for the late-comers.
It's been another tough week for economic news and I am starting to see the effects close to home. I am sensing some increased uncertainty in capital projects, seeing a lot of houses on the market and store fronts for rent, and neither of us are feeling like a big Christmas is in order this year.
President-elect Obama is now proposing his own economic stimulus package. The NY Times ran an article on it here and a video of his short speech is available on You Tube (click window above to view).
I like the sounds of this program better than the previous bail-outs. Obama is talking about a two year program to repair infrastructure, modernizing schools and move us toward renewable energy. This seems a lot more pragmatic than pouring money into banks or cutting loans to out-of-touch auto manufacturers. Sort of a modern New Deal.
I will be curious to see if he is able to pull this off and how effective this is.
Nov 16, 2008
We are having our next blitz on Saturday, November 29 between 10 AM and 6 PM and again on Sunday the 30th from noon to 4 PM. The focus of this blitz will be to prepare bicycles for Holiday Wishes recipients. If we complete all of those, then we will work on some kid-size bicycles to make available to people who don’t qualify for one of the charity programs but still are looking for gifts for their kids. We will offer our usual array of food and drink for the volunteers, so please consider coming to the shop and fixing some bicycles. If you are not a bicycle mechanic but want to help, come anyway because we have some work available that does not involve fixing bicycles.
We have lots of great used parts to sell. In fact, we have just as much, if not more, than the basement over at One on One, so if you didn’t find what you were looking for in Geno’s stash, come over and check out ours. All funds received from the sales of our parts, accessories, and the bike art goes to offset expenses of the shop. Check us out, we are affordable and the money helps the needy get bicycles.
I am not very familiar with Mr. Michael but I am planning to donate some time to help them out. He and his wife run the shop, selling use parts and bikes to cover their primary mission, which is giving away bicycles to needy people. They get the bikes at recycle events and accept donations as well. Contact information is available on their website (link above). I bet this will be pretty fun, and I am curious to learn more about Mr. Michael and his bicycle ministry, and to lend a hand as well.
I am coming to understand that the trick to this is to develop a career that pays the bills and does not suck the life out of you so you have the time and energy to devote to whatever the hell you think matters most. Sometimes easier said than done, but always worth striving for. The real hard work, and the most important part of this, I think, is figuring out what matters to you personally and then managing your life to pursue this. Don't get me wrong on this point - I get tremendous satisfaction from my job and take great pride in some of the projects that I have helped bring to reality, but without the other part of the equation, it's pretty easy to get out of balance quickly.
Nov 15, 2008
November is a tough month in MN. The leaves are down and the weather is typically partly to mostly lousy, but today was pretty good. Sunny and cool, but good clouds and a good sunset. The Beaver Moon is now in decline, but I got some good views of the waning Beaver on the drive back tonight. The Trip Planner email from Northwest/Delta promises me temps of 6 degrees in Anchorage, so I will probably end up appreciating November in MN by this time next week.
Despite the generally flat topography, the relentless wind and the agricultural land use of this part of the state, I have come to like southern Minnesota. The towns are all interesting, if a little run down, and there are good place names, like Good Thunder, Olivia, and Rapidan. There's also some quirk (Keister and Amboy, for instance). I have seen some of the best thunder storms and sunsets of my life at my in-laws as well. The landscapes, with open fields, wind breaks and old farm buildings, can be quite beautiful. Some day I am going to try a black and white photography project down there.
Nov 13, 2008
It's been a week of tough news on many fronts, from personal to national.
- The bridge was doomed from the start because some of the gusset plates that were used when it was built were undersized and not up to the job of holding up the bridge.
- Corrosion, lack of maintenance and the general decline of our society were not the primary cause of the collapse - it was "design error" (nevermind about inspection and repair error, please).
- Additional lanes and barriers were added to the bridge after its construction and nobody apparently checked whether or not it could hold the increased load, I guess.
- An engineering company that inspected the bridge before the most recent repairs noted strain in the bridge but that seems to be about it.
- The resurfacing crews that were working the day the bridge collapsed had put about 280 tons of equipment on the bridge very near the weak gusset plates at about 3:00 (2.5 hours or so before it collapsed).
Nov 11, 2008
Nov 10, 2008
Nov 9, 2008
We also spied a pair of hooded mergansers on the little pond the model boat racers use during the summer.
Nov 5, 2008
I discovered a website tonight that has bicycle themed clip art available. Here is a sample for your viewing pleasure.
Nov 2, 2008
Nov 1, 2008
I spent a little time this afternoon "laying in" wood for winter. That's an expression I used to hear out east but people don't seem to use much in Minnesota. Like any self respecting urban dweller, I got a load of organic, free-range wood that was humanely harvested in a sustainable manner by sensitive, thoughtful people who care about the earth. This year I bought 1/3 of a cord. Last year I made the mistake of getting 1/2 cord and we had to stash it all over the place, but it did last all winter. This will probably not quite make it through the winter, but that's okay.