Celebrating Eco-Progress: Volkswagen

In this installment of Celebrating Eco-Progress, a shout-out to Volkswagen for this massive move toward a sustainable future:

Via Reuters:

German carmaker Volkswagen will boost its planned commitment to renewable energy, investing almost 1 billion euros ($1.44 billion) in the production of environmentally friendly energy over two years, the Financial Times Deutschland reported…

The German business daily said on Friday that the company was looking to buy an interest in at least two offshore windparks in the process…

Late in June, the group’s plant unit Volkswagen Kraftwerk GmbH signed a deal to draw roughly 10 percent of the electricity used in its 12 German manufacturing plants from hydropower generated by Austria’s Verbund starting 2013.

Volkswagen has set a target of reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from its production plants by 40 percent over a period of ten years compared with 2010.

Now, before this is interpreted as purely altruistic, as I wrote back in July, make no mistake about it, this is first and foremost a business decision. With volatility in the oil market not likely to go away, like, ever, and, of course, the fact that there is a finite supply of fossil fuels on the planet, VW is clearly taking steps to plan for an oil-free future.

Smart, and let’s hope they keep making such selfish choices!

Post-Vacation Syndrome…again

As I’ve written several times before — Trapped Under Something Heavy, The Double-Edged Sword of Vacation — coming back from a vacation, even when it’s just a four-day weekend, can unfortunately be a rude awakening.

Hundreds of unread emails, half a dozen voicemails, projects screaming to be attended to, and, this time of the year, with the university where I work preparing to begin it’s Fall Quarter in just a few weeks, each tick and tock of the clock feels like the pounding of a timpani.

So, I might not manage much more here at Fish & Bicycles today than this brief note, with links to my older posts on the subject.

Hopefully, starting tomorrow, I’ll be able to return to my normal blogging frequency.

Thanks for your patience!

The Chief Kicked My Ass

Fearless Son

Ok, true confession:

I didn’t make it to the very top of The Chief.

I don’t have a total fear of heights (I’m fine with flying in airplanes, looking out windows in tall buildings, even looking over a railing at someplace like the Space Needle, for instance), but I do have a tough time when there’s a lot of exposure.

For most of the hike up, you’re climbing a trail through shaded forest. VERY strenuous, but lovely. Towards the very top, however, things open up and there are sections with fixed chains and ladders, and as you get to a certain point you can start to see how high up you are, you (or maybe just me and others like me) lose sense of where the edge is, which drops off suddenly, hundreds and hundreds of feet down to certain death.

Well, I got up the second ladder and some chains and then there was nothing to really grab onto…or so it seemed. I could see the edge to my left and Howe Sound below and in the distance, and I just froze. Nothing my son and wife could tell me about how I was just a couple of hundred feet away from the summit, and how it flattens out and isn’t scary, could de-escalate my fear, fear turned to panic, and I scrambled back down to the tree line, found a nice spot with a view and a lot less exposure, and waited for my family to come down.

My wife and son have been with me before when I’ve been spooked on the trail, and they really thought I’d be fine on The Chief. At the top, there are all kinds of people going up and coming down, people who are not nearly in as good physical condition as me, and they make it just fine.

It’s not really a dangerous place, especially on a dry, sunny day like it was, I knew all of this and could see it right in front of me, no one was slipping on loose dirt and pebbles and falling off the top and then smashed to bits below. Yet, to me, it felt like if I made one wrong move, or even, as crazy at it sounds, if the wind was to suddenly kick up, gravity would grab me and pull me right over the cliff.

I hiked back down disappointed and determined to either: 1. Better avoid hiking in areas with a lot of exposure; or 2. Research various methods for overcoming this kind of fear.

The latter would be my preference, by far. There are a lot of places on this planet that I want to explore before I’m too old to do so. I don’t really have a desire for hardcore mountaineering, but I’d like to get to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite someday, for instance, and dozens of places like that.

My sense is that it will be a matter of finding somewhere nearby where I can spend some time desensitizing myself, taking up entire days creeping out near an edge and sitting there, breathing and meditating perhaps. Mt. Erie in Anacortes comes to mind. I’ll allow all the feelings of imminent danger to rise up, allow myself to continue to think of all the horrible scenarios associated with falling and crashing, but I’ll stay in that place, noticing at the same time, despite the feelings and terrifying thoughts, that I truly am solid and safe.

And maybe, just maybe, if I do this numerous times, I’ll be able to return to The Chief, and this time I’ll kick his granite ass.

Fish & Bicycles: Out of Office

It’s going to be quiet around here at Fish & Bicycles for the next few days, as the family and I are heading north tonight for Beautiful British Columbia!

Two nights and a day of city time in fabulous Vancouver, followed by two days and one night in gorgeous Squamish, home of the magnificent piece of granite you see here to the right, a rock climbing mecca called the Stawamus Chief.

For those of you who don’t know the geography, this involves driving about 25 minutes north from here in Bellingham to the U.S.-Canadian border, havin’ a quick chat with a Canuck border officer about passports and our plans, driving another 45 minutes or so to Vancouver, and then on Saturday morning driving another hour north to Squamish.

As easy as pie!

Internet access will be unpredictable, and at times unavailable, so I might not be able to post anything more than a photo or two.

In the meantime, feel free to browse around Fish & Bicycles in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

I’ll back at this blogging thing before you know it, but if you are REALLY going to miss me, I wouldn’t mind if you left me a comment telling me so. (hint, hint, nudge, nudge)

Eyecatchers: Allan Peters

As anyone who regularly reads Fish & Bicycles knows, I love bicycles.

So, it’s not surprising that the following images, created by Minneapolis, MN graphic designer Allan Peters, caught my eye.

I discovered these at FFFFOUND!, and thanks to a a link to Peters’ blog, I was able to learn about how he created the images. Totally fascinating to a non-designer like myself.

Anyway, I love the cool, retro look of the finished product, how it elicits feelings of nostalgia, reminding me of the earliest 10-speed road bikes as I see them in my memories from the early 1970s.

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Bering Strait Tunnel: An Action Movie Waiting to Happen

I’m sorry, but the first thing I thought of when I read this:

Russia Green Lights $65 Billion Siberia-Alaska Rail and Tunnel to Bridge the Bering Strait!

In what could certainly be one of the boldest infrastructure developments ever announced, the Russian Government has given the go-ahead to build a transcontinental railway linking Siberia with North America. The massive undertaking would traverse the Bering Strait with the world’s longest tunnel – a project twice the length of the Chunnel between England and France.

…was this:

Of course, according to the article, it will take 15 years to build this thing, but you just know, once it’s finished, it’s only a matter of time before some Hollywood action flick producer decides that a high-energy, pyrotechnic chase scene MUST be filmed there.

Or, wait, it could be one of those disaster movies!

I can see it now: A passenger train enters the tunnel from the U.S. side, while a cargo train carrying some kind of highly explosive or toxic material enters from the Russian side. Then, for reasons only a movie like this can explain, the operators of the tunnel have to close off both ends of the tunnel, one train derails, the other train smashes into it, and the survivors of the crash must depend on a former Navy Seal and recovering alcoholic — played by Tom Cruise — to save them.

If someone isn’t already working on the script…

…perhaps I should!