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Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

My Centenarian

2010/07/23 1 comment

My Great Grandma, Margaret (Kish) Rauer

My Great Grandma, Margaret (Kish) Rauer

My great-grandmother is 103 years old.

Born on July 10, 1907, Margaret (Kish) Rauer is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants Paul and Margaret (Bognar) Kish. When I studied abroad in Budapest in 2006, one of my most emotional memories was calling Great Grandma to wish her a happy 99th birthday (in Hungarian). She responded fluidly to my stumbling attempts to communicate in her second language. In the past few years, her mind has not kept up with the remarkable health of her centenarian body. But every once in a while, she gifts her family with a momentary nugget of clarity. My parents felt pretty lucky when she started singing to my mother’s piano work last year.

This week, however, she entered Hospice care.

It is difficult for me to fathom what the world will be like when the year comes that I would be 103. Two-thousand eighty-nine. Maybe we will have moved on from personal automobiles powered by fossil fuels. Maybe we will stop fighting wars.  There are four times as many humans on the planet in 2010 as there were in 1907. Can Earth support 24 billion people? Will we be living on Mars? Hopefully there will be large-format touch screens everywhere. And iPhones will have good antennas. And someone will figure out how society can ensure reasonable healthcare costs for all people. And diversity will come standard. We won’t talk about globalization anymore; it will just be part of the fabric. As will a warmer climate, which seems likely.

What is not likely is that I will be around to see 2089. But if I do make it, I hope that I have a helped create a family as loving as the one that Great Grandma started. And I hope I’m still cool enough to sing karaoke with my grandchildren.

I love you, Great Grandma Rauer. Szeretlek, Nagyanya.

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MTB in Lex?

2010/04/28 10 comments
Rest break MTB at Capitol View

My friend Ryan likes MTB, too.

During Now What Lexington, Scott Clark and I discussed the mountain bike situation in Lexington. There is currently only one recognized trail in the city, at Veterans Park. Our friends at OutrageGIS have compiled a very nice map of the park, displaying the nearly 2.5 miles of singletrack. While I am proud that there is at least one trail in our city, it is rather limited in both distance and degree of difficulty. When I lived in Louisville, I was blessed with the ability to ride from my home to the Briar Hill trail (very technical, beautiful area), or take a short drive from work to trails at Cherokee or Seneca parks. Besides Veterans, the next closest trail to Lexington is in Frankfort’s Capitol View park. It is a great trail, but hardly a convenient after-work jaunt.

In our discussion, Scott told me about the great variety of trails he experienced while living in Northern California. After a long day of work, they were a very inviting reason to get out and exercise while enjoying nature. I have heard similar testimonials from friends in Seattle and Boulder, who love where they live because of the ease to go from office to wild trail in under 30 minutes. The only thing that seems to be standing between Lexington and the enjoyment of local MTB trails is our willingness to build. So, I wrote a letter…

Hello Parks and Rec!

I participated in a QOL focus group with Jerry Hancock yesterday, and didn’t get to speak with him before I left. Jerry mentioned the desire to modernize Lexington’s park system, and I was curious if this includes plans to add new Mountain Bike trails?

During the Creative Cities Summit and Now What Lexington, Scott Clark brought to my attention that Lexington has only one MTB trail (Veterans Park), and a short, entry level one at that. I noticed that it is not even designated on your trails list.

While I am excited about the quality of life benefits brought on by the pavement-type Legacy and Town Branch trails, I think that our city would be further enhanced by the addition of at least one new off-road MTB trail. Mountain biking is very popular among the creative class, the type of people our city is seeking to attract. Similar to hikers, mountain bikers crave an intimate experience with nature, and are inclined to preserve and maintain the environments in which they ride. As Central Kentucky seeks new ways to connect citizens and visitors to our region’s natural beauty, I think we would be remiss to move forward without plans for a new MTB trail in Fayette County.

How can I help make this a reality?

-Nick

I am excited for a response from Parks and Rec as to how citizens can help add a new trail and improve the quality of life in Lexington. I think this project will be a good complement to improved nightlife options in downtown, a more appropriate variety of housing near the city’s core, better public transportation, and stronger ties between the city and its three institutions of higher education, especially from the point of view of the creative class.

So, here’s what needs to happen:

  1. Get feedback from Parks and Rec (history of MTB in Lex, market demographics, regulations)
  2. Select a site (preferably close enough to ride from downtown to trailhead, yet with beautiful and challenging terrain)
  3. Learn how to build a trail (any experts here in Lex?)
  4. Invite all our friends to ride

I am neither an expert on trail building nor the most avid mountain biker in Lexington. I’m just a guy who loves every minute I spend on two wheels, and wants to share that joy with others. Will you help me?

==update 5/7/10==

The digging was worth it! Got some excellent news back from LFUCG and Pedal Power. In addition to upgrades to Veterans Park, construction is underway on a new trail in Scott County. Details from LFUCG:

Nick,

Thank you for your interest in mountain biking in Fayette County and Veterans Park.

The MB trails at Veterans developed unofficially over the years and are not designed to recognized safety and sustainability standards. Therefore, we didn’t feel it was prudent to “sanction” their use officially.

However, we currently have a contract with CDP Engineering to re-design the trail(s) and expand them to include 4 levels of difficulty as per national mb standards. We’ve had 2 public meetings which were heavily attended by members of the local chapter of the National Mountain Bike Association.

Using input from the association members and that of general public novice riders who also attended the meetings, we developed the attached plan. We are in the final stages of revision to a couple sections and working toward advertising bids for construction very soon.

We anticipate that current available funds will only cover the initial construction of the trail surface (and we won’t be sure how much until bids come in). We have talked to many local mountain bikers about organizing volunteer work groups to build many of the “events” along the more difficult trails once the trails are in place.

Joining KYMBA would provide a means for you to be updated about all mountain biking activities in the surrounding area. Here is a link to their website http://www.kymba.org

You can also watch this website for information about all types of local biking events, planning, advocacy and volunteer opportunities: http://www.bikelexington.com

I hope this information is helpful. Please don’t hesitate to contact me again if you have questions.

Michelle Kosieniak, RLA
Supt. of Planning & Design
LFUCG Division of Parks and Recreation
469 Parkway Dr., Lexington, KY 40504
…a nationally accredited Parks & Recreation agency
(859) 288-2982 office
(859) 489-9759 cell
(859) 288-2999 fax
michello@lexingtonky.gov

Veterans Park MTB upgrade plan

Veterans Park MTB upgrade plan

And from Pedal Power about MTB Trail Building in Scott County:

Nick, thanks for your interest! The regional chapter of the KY Mountain Bike Association is in the process of buiding an 8-10 mile mtb trail in Scott County outside of Stamping Ground. Different groups are taking responsibility for ensuring different sections get built and Pedal Power has committed to building 2.3 miles of the total trail network with the help of our customers and other volunteers from the community. We will be out working on the trail every Sunday in May (weather permitting) from 10am-2pm. The best bet for keeping up to date is to check our shop’s page on Facebook. There is also a Google group for volunteers with some good information on it that I am sending you an invitation to join if you’d like. It’d be great to see you out one Sunday! Let me know if I missed anything or you have any further questions! -John

Check out Skull Buster trail volunteers, and their work building a new set of MTB trails in Scott County, near Stamping Ground.

Scott Co Skull Buster trail map

Scott Co Skull Buster trail map

My Day Without Shoes

2010/04/09 1 comment

April 8th was One Day Without Shoes, spearheaded by TOMS Shoes to evangelize the plight of children around the world who don’t have shoes. Hitting close to home, Booneville, KY was the site of a TOMS shoe drop. For these kids, lack of shoes means reduced access to education and increased incidence of disease. For me, walking barefoot was an interesting exploration of the most basic form of human transportation.

Events like this are the epitome of social entrepreneurship, combining the support of a worthy cause with a brilliant marketing plan and a sustainable business model. That’s why TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie‘s picture hangs on our Rockstar Wall at Awesome Inc, and why I’ll be highlighting his story in my talk at Saturday’s Appalachian IDEAS conference.

Thanks to “Cool”, avid TOMS fan and member of Team Alpha, I was inspired to spend most of my day barefoot. It was amazing how strange I felt in the beginning, leaving my house without shoes on.  I quickly discovered how painfully uneven the sidewalks are in my neighborhood. Next came the realization of how much slower I was moving compared to my normally hurried pace. I noticed my feet garnering plenty of strange looks as I progressed through campus to meet up with 50 other barefoot marchers. It would have been great to see more people participate in the walk, but it sparked plenty of curiosity from onlookers, who were eager to learn why a pack of young people were traversing UK’s campus with naked feet. After the walk, I continued on to Awesome Inc. At the completion of my 1.3 mile journey, my dogs were tired and slightly blackened. After a few hours of touch screen business development work, I had a hankering for a sandwich. Although weary of potential rejection, I strolled into the nearest sandwich shop, and was delighted to order my favorite #13 sub without a hitch. I’m not sure they even noticed I was barefoot! Sandwich in hand, I set out to find the latest copy of Ace Weekly to read about “Techsington”, which highlighted some of the great things going on for Technology Month in Lexington. Once I finished lunch and discussed user interfaces with some brilliant UK Computer Science seniors, I set out for a half-mile walk to help Shannon, one of the founders of Nextington 4, move some furniture. Following the return trip to Awesome Inc and a shoeless meeting, I finally gave in and put on my sandals for the No Mercy gaming event at Bakers360.

The great thing about this day without shoes is that it still hasn’t ended. When I take a shower tonight to wash the road grime off my feet, I will be thinking about the kids who don’t have that opportunity each day. When I wake up tomorrow and my feet are still sore, I will compare my meager daily trek to the meandering voyage that kids in Ethiopia take across harsh volcanic soil. Will I buy a pair of TOMS Shoes tomorrow? Probably not. But the next time I’m in the market, I will think about how my feet feel right now, and consider whether Sketchers or Asics are doing anything to prevent that feeling for kids around the world.

As an engineer, I was rather curious about the effect of different pathway surfaces on the comfort of my feet. Here’s how Lexington’s surfaces ranked:

  1. Grass: like heaven to sensitive feet
  2. Carpet: not painful, but the uniform texture is uninteresting to my toes
  3. Asphalt: when well-traveled, the smoothing effect of tire rubber accumulation is pleasant
  4. Concrete: predictable when smoothed, providing decent distribution of force
  5. Gravel: about as painful as those sharp edges look
  6. Raised aggregate: deceivingly painful, unpredictable. There’s a reason I seldom walk barefoot on my parent’s driveway.
  7. Steel access grates: stay off

Stats

  • Time barefoot: 12 hrs
  • Distance walked barefoot: 1.3+1+.5=2.8mi
  • Average temperature: 54 deg F
  • Precipitation: 0.34 in
  • Sandwiches purchased from restaurant while barefoot: 1


Why I Hate Cars (Part 1)

2010/04/07 3 comments

My passionate dislike of automobiles and their effect on modern society is poised to become a treatise, hence the “Part 1” annotation in the title. This initial entry was spurred by startling transportation scenarios (one for me and one for a complete stranger friend), that occurred today while I was not riding in a car.

The most dangerous part about cars is how safe they have become.

Dwell on that for a moment before pointing out how obviously counterintuitive this statement is. You might notice a similarity to Parkinson’s Law, which states that Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Similarly, humans push their level of risk to the upper limits of their perceived level of safety. Why is texting while driving a problem? Because the perceived risk is so low. If drivers truly perceived that their risk of an injury crash increases four-fold when using a mobile device, would they continue that activity?

A few statistics for you to enjoy:

  • 4 out of every 5 accidents (80%) are attributed to distracted drivers. In contrast, drunk drivers account for roughly 1 out of 3 (33%) of all accidents nationally.
  • Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated.

Before I digress too far from the reason for this post, I want to discuss the two transportation safety wake-up calls I experienced today.

Those of you who know me know that a bicycle is by far my preferred form of transportation. I have been commuting for the last five years on a pair of $25 10-speed bikes. There is no other form of wheeled transportation that invigorates me and reminds me of my fragility as much as a bicycle. Today, while enjoying a 20-mile jaunt down Old Frankfort Pike, I was reminded just how insignificant I am on a bicycle when compared to a dump truck. I’ve traveled today’s cycling route several times (challenging hills and only 5-miles-to-horsefarm beauty), but just now experienced the difference in industrial traffic on a weekday vs. a weekend. As I was passed a 35mph by the seventh behemoth Mack truck on the pothole-infested, 2-lane, shoulder-less thoroughfare, I began to wonder if the truck drivers would even feel me if we were to collide. I found myself hoping to at least be the princess’s pea. Finally breaking out of the industrial park inside of Lexington’s New Circle Rd, Old Frankfort Pike becomes a 55-mph scenic byway with rolling hills steep enough to conceal oncoming traffic. Although the verdant landscape provides breathtaking views, the stream of near-misses from passing traffic aptly reminds me to breathe. My first close call of the day came when a pickup truck driver approached from the rear as my riding buddy and I were about to crest a hill. Instead of following good driving practice, the driver chose to display a flagrant disregard for the fragility of his own life by swerving into the opposing lane to pass us. Little did he know, a box truck occupied that other lane barely 50 yards downhill. The idiot driver fortunately avoided a collision, but nearly side-swiped my fellow rider in the process. That could easily have been a whole lot worse.

I typically follow S. Upper St. home from work, but today noticed that it was blocked off by a police cruiser. Curious, I took a detour, only to find more blocked roads in the area surrounding the Pedal Power bike shop. As I wound through a maze of alleys to see what had attracted the authorities, I was startled to see a long, solitary skid mark that was punctuated by a motorcycle. Shuddering, my averted glance quickly noticed a nearby sedan with a chopper-sized indentation in the hood, and the truth of the scenario unfolded before me. As I retreated down the alley to reflect and avoid being a nuisance to the rescue personnel, I was beckoned by a man sitting on a bench at nearby Mellow Mushroom. “Get off that bike!” he screamed, somewhat hilariously. Curious, I approached this man, whose name I discovered was Joseph. Out for an evening walk on the warm Spring night, Joseph had been the sole uninvolved witness to the collision, but he was far from unaffected. He shared with me the string of challenges brought on by poor decisions in his personal life, but he was totally shaken up by the accident that he had just witnessed. Weary of the fate of the injured motorcyclist, Joseph urged me to reconsider my mode of transportation, or to at least ride on the sidewalk away from the dangerous cars (even though I shared these stats). As I rode off wearing my neon yellow jacket (thanks, Mom), I turned on the three flashing lights on my bike and thought about how easily a 2000lb automobile could pulverize my sub-200lb pedaled amalgamation of human and steel. Realizing that transportation laws require us to travel on the same roads, I quickly remembered why I don’t like cars. Update: Driver of car was charged with DUI, motorcyclist is Sam Mullins, a friend and UK Engineering Alum.

At some point, I’ll hit on my other reasons for strongly opposing the automobile as the dominant form of human transportation, including:

  • Inadequacies in driver training and certification
  • Social impact
  • Environmental impact
  • Economic impact
  • City planning
  • Exercise and health

Please say a prayer for the motorcyclist who was in the collision mentioned above. It’s entirely possible that sending that last e-mail of the night is the only difference between he and I.

Being Friendly to the Environment

2010/03/23 Leave a comment

Some things don’t make sense:

Organic banana excess labelingOn a shopping trip to Meijer yesterday, I stumbled upon an ironic sight: Why do the “Certified Organic” bananas (left) have more than double the disposable plastic packaging of the chemically-enhanced bananas? Does that really cater to the Green crowd? Labeling aside, I have been impressed with the variety and quality of Meijer’s fresh produce section.

Others are a bit more logical:

Zero Waste discussion at SXSWPanelists from the Zero Waste discussion at SXSWi 2010 congregating around the Austin Convention Center’s innovative refuse bins. Labels: “Recyclable Paper”, “Recyclable Metal/Plastic”, “Landfill“. Sure makes the destination of your waste a bit more clear.

LexTran's new COLT TrolleyLexTran’s new COLT Trolley, servicing Downtown Lexington and the UK Campus area. Oh yeah, rides are FREE. Seems like a good way to attract ridership and reduce downtown parking issues.

UK Solar Car's new garage bannerFinally, just wanted to brag that my friends at the UK Solar Car Team finally installed a permanent banner. Quite an improvement over the electrical tape hack-job I did in a pinch last year. If you want to talk to a group of students who understand energy efficiency and won’t bloat the facts, catch a meeting on a Monday night at 7pm at the DV Terrell Building.

SXSW Download (in brief)

2010/03/18 4 comments

My $500 name tag @DaveMc9ee and @balanon are famous ReWork talk by David Heinemeier Hansson

I’d like to expand on this eventually, but likely it will remain short. We packed a lot into one week in Austin.

I greatly enjoyed SXSWi 2010. No better place to make connections in the tech startup scene, while chatting with touchscreen UI designers, eating Rudy’s BBQ, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and wishing that AplusK would get out of the way so we could extract a nugget of wisdom from Paul Graham.

My favorite sessions

Ok, so I liked most of the sessions I attended. These are the ones for which I took notes worth sharing:

Hung out with some cool people

Closing Thoughts

  • Time to relearn web development. I was so cool writing HTML back in 1996, but the world has come a long way. Some UI/UX design insight will help for touch screen apps, too.
  • Crowdsourcing some answers for this one: What is more valuable: go through a seed combinator program (get paid, network, create) or MBA (pay them, network, learn)?
  • Creativity WILL drive the future. I want to be at the wheel, not just along for the ride.
  • HUGE opportunity to bridge the Digital Divide (see above). It will take simplicity on the far side of complexity.

See you at SXSW 2010!

My Three E’s

2009/10/02 Leave a comment

I am passionate about the 3 E’s (I know, Jack Welch has 4, but that’s an unlucky number in Japan, so I’ll stick with 3).
Engineering
Entrepreneurship
Environment
Each of these have a deeper than surface meaning.
Engineering is all about problem solving. In the popular sense, engineering is about understanding the laws by which the physical world operates and using that knowledge to create structures, devices, chemicals, and software. In a more human sense, it is about learning from our life experiences. It is about rewarding intelligence over laziness. It is about being open-minded, observational, and retaining a life-long thirst for knowledge. It is about knowing that you don’t know everything. It is about believing that facts are more convincing than opinions. It is about knowing your expertise, and trusting others on their expertise.
Entrepreneurship is literally undertaking an endeavor. It is popularly used to describe those who start their own business ventures. It also describes my favorite definition of leader: “Not necessarily he who strives to be first, but he who is first to strive.” Being an entrepreneur is about ignoring antiquated social norms and being your own person. It is about taking a step back, looking at the big picture, and seeing what others are missing. It is about rallying the pimps (ie your coolest friends) and getting them to collaboratively do something awesome. It is about not settling for the old and proven, but venturing out into the uncertain unknown. Entrepreneurship is about sacrificing good now for great later. It is about following the vision of Gordon B Hinckley, who at age 92 stated, “I am no longer a young man filled with energy and vitality. I’m given to meditation and prayer. I would enjoy sitting in a rocker, swallowing prescriptions, listening to soft music, and contemplating the things of the universe. But such activity offers no challenge and makes no contribution. I wish to be up and doing. I wish to face each day with resolution and purpose. I wish to use every waking hour to give encouragement, to bless those whose burdens are heavy, to build faith and strength of testimony. It is the presence of wonderful people which stimulates the adrenaline. It is the look of love in their eyes which gives me energy.”
Environment, in the green movement of the new millennium, is about stepping back from a myopic view of the consequences of human activity on this planet. What one of us does today effects everyone tomorrow. Therefore, environment is about solidarity. It is about never being alone on this journey. Environment is about service and sacrifice. It is about not separating the end and the means. It is about Stephen R. Covey’s “Third Alternatives”. It is about consensus, equality, liberty, unity, and teamwork.
These are deep-rooted beliefs. I will never think it is dumb to be smart. I will always hope you dance, instead of sitting on the sidelines. I will respect the earth and all people who live here.
What is unanswered is this: how will I make progress on all 3 of these when I wake up tomorrow morning?