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Friday, July 29, 2005
The most obese school kids have twice as many oppportunities to buy junk food on their walk home from school as the least obese kids.

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Finally, the open source community has released a vector graphics program. Inkscape is an incredible, free vector drawing program similar to Adobe Illustrator. I never had a good reason to spend the money on Illustrator, so it's been frustrating not to be able to experiment with a free, open source program. That all changed with the release of Inkscape version 0.42. Now, if I can only figure out how to draw bezier curves...

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Thursday, July 28, 2005
 Used Book Market 
In my spare time I hope to read a recent article in the New York Times about the used book market.

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 Living in Tysons Corner 
Today's Post contains an article about the people who live in Tysons Corner. Most people think that they are brave people, living in a congested area in which it's difficult to walk or bike. Many people who live there drive to nearby destinations, but there are many sidewalks and biking conditions are actually very good.

If the development envisioned by the current owners of many of the properties in the area have their way, Tysons will soon hold many more people than today and some think it will be transformed into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, urban area. It's got a long way to go, primarily because the distances between commercial and retail areas are large, with spacious parking lots surrounding most buildings.

Yesterday a couple of us took a bike tour of the area. As you can see from the photo, it's surprisingly green and relatively deserted at around 10 a.m. Most people think we're crazy for trying to ride in Tysons, but most of them don't really know the area. Their image is of huge shopping malls surrounded by crowded main arterials like Route 7 and Route 123. We had a lovely ride. I've posted a set of photographs from the ride along with a map of our route.

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 Denver Bike Rack 
While passing through Denver on the way to Breckenridge we were able to check out the Cherry Creek Bike Rack, a bike station located in a mixed use urban area. It is a bike storage and repair facility. Rental bikes are a popular service as is the free bicycle parking. The organization Transportation Solutions worked with a redevelopment firm to develop the servcie. They also obtained Federal funding. Transportation Solutions is a transportation demand management organization that was set up to encourage alternative transportation options for employees working in the Cherry Creek area. Perhaps one day we'll be enlightened enough in this area to implement a similar solution.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Back from a short trip to Breckenridge, CO. The town is little like Disneyland, with cute little shops in little gingerbread storefronts. We never did get a chance to stroll around while the shops were open; we heard that we probably couldn't afford anything anyway. We spent most of our times on the excellent paved trail that leads to the nearby town of Fresno and on to Dillon. We returned by Swan Mountain Road that provided great views of Fresno just before the long descent into town and back to the trail.

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Monday, July 18, 2005
 George finally wins a Tour de France stage 
It was so exciting to watch George Hincapie finally win a stage of the Tour. Not only was it his first Tour win, it came on the most difficult mountain stage. After all these years of pacing Lance throughout the month of July, he deserved to add this win to his already impressive collection.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005
 Homes as Hummers 
Today's post contains a good article by Robert J. Samuelson entitled Homes as Hummers. He discusses the boom in large houses, comparing them to large SUVs, especially as they related to energy consumption. As I've said many times in the past, much of our suburban sprawl is being directly financed by the U.S. government in the form of mortgage deductions:
In 2005, about 80 percent of the estimated $200 billion of federal housing subsidies consists of tax breaks (mainly deductions for mortgage interest payments and preferential treatment for profits on home sales), reports an Urban Institute study. These tax breaks go heavily to upscale Americans, who are thereby encouraged to buy bigger homes. Federal housing benefits average $8,268 for those with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000, estimates the study; by contrast, they're only $365 for those with incomes of $40,000 to $50,000. It's nutty for government to subsidize bigger homes for the well-to-do.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005
 Jonathan Safran Foer 
The Writing Life is an occasional feature in the Sunday Post. In the Sunday, July 3 Book World, the column is by and about Jonathan Safran Foer. As a child, instead of an allowance he was given a book store credit card. As can be expected, it had interesting consequences.

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 Garbage Land 
We produce a lot of garbage, in this country and around the world. In the 60's, worrying about garbage and how it was treated was a popular topic for conservation-minded folk. It seems that we've stopped worrying about it or even discussing it, and we continue to generate huge quantities. In the Sunday Washington Post Book World, Jabari Asim reviewed Elizabeth Royte's GARBAGE LAND: On the Secret Trail of Trash. Royte presents some interesting statistics:
...in 2003 every American generated 1.31 tons of garbage. Where did it all go? Less than 27 percent was recycled or composted; 7.7 percent was incinerated; and 65.6 percent was "buried in a hole in the ground.
One of the most important comments she makes relates to how garbage, and most pollution, is treated in our economic system. I recall in a land economics class the term "negative externalities" that was applied to the harm done by industry to the environment. I was puzzled by the concept and asked the professor why these obvious negative consequences were basically ignored. I don't remember his answer, but he seemed to indicate that since it was so difficult to quantify and put a value on these negative effects, they were not included in any economic calculations.
She leaves us with a foreboding premise that even the cynics she has encountered along the trail of trash may grudgingly agree with: "If we don't wake up and make the connection between our economy and the environment (which provides the resources to make all our stuff), the planet will eventually do it for us. And it won't be pretty.
Some of us still worry about trash. We don't use plastic bags, we use paper grocery bags placed in a hard plastic trash can. Most of what we toss is biodegradable. The rest is recycled: plastic bags, all clean paper, plastic bottles, metal, glass. We're the exception, but at least we can sleep a little better at night knowing that we're part of the solution, not the problem. Self-righteous maybe, but when it comes to preserving the environment, I'll always take self-righteous over cynical any day.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005
 38 miles per hour average 
For some people, going 38 mph on a bike is the maximum speed they will ever reach. It's usually on a long downhill and it feels incredibly fast. That's the average speed of Team Discovery during their record-setting time in today's team time trial. Lance is now in yellow once again, with George Hincapie in second. However, it was sad to see David Zabriskie struggling to finish the last 1.5 km after his major crash, having touched the wheel of the bike in front of him. He is now in 9th place, 1:26 behind Lance.

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Friday, July 01, 2005
 Bike Virginia 
We're back from a week riding in southern Virginia on the annual Bike Virginia tour. It was a great ride, very hot with lots of hills. I've put together some notes and will post them when I get a chance. Also, I swear that we had nothing to do with the governor's mishap, although we do know the person whose bike was being ridden at the time. He rode during one day of the tour and managed to break two bones in his right hand. Hope he has a speedy recovery.

I may need to set up the computer in front of the tv so that I can work while watching the Tour de France that will be covered live every morning on OLN TV.

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