Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cruzbike Quest

Last Saturday I learned about what may be my new lust-after bike.  It's called Quest and made by recumbent manufacturer Cruzbike.  There are a lot of neat things about it. It is competing against other small foldable recumbent bikes, like Flite made by Toxy, and it actually folds to a smaller size than that bike.  (Though admittedly, there are a lot of variables that go into that measurement.)  But the best thing is the lower pedal height available on the 20 inch model, that is the one I would get.  I am still enamored with the Optibike, as well as Rans' Crank Forward bikes, and the Tour Easy, but this one wins for curb appeal, at least until conceptual bikes like Gary Hale's Glider or Jeremy Garnet's direct drive recumbent (but with a narrower q-factor) are developed or become more widely available.  Perhaps a combination of an Optibike and Quest is in order.  See a video of the Quest in action.  I'll be honest, this eye candy just looks like it would be fun to ride with the rear rack, and added fenders, and clipless pedals. (Update 1/28/10: see my conversation with the bike's designer.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

how to implement goals

When it comes to achieving goals, it has been long recognized that simply having goals isn't enough, though it is a start. One way of trying to make goals a reality is expressed with the acronym SMART. According to this approach goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Trackable (but you'll find other substitutions for these words as well). I have tried to use this with some of my clients, with mixed results.

I recently came across another method that appears to hold more promise for reaching goals, through the formation of implementation intentions. In short, one makes predecisions of the format: if situation X is encountered, then I will perform behavior Y.  (To this one can add "even if..." and/or "so that I can [goal]" to the end of the sequence.)  This all goes back to self-regulation and the T.O.T.E. model of feedback loops, where an implementation intention defines the "operate" portion of that sequence.  The wonderful thing about implementation intentions is that conscious intent is not needed and goal directed action can become virtually automatic. Since behavioral cues are now in the environment; thinking or reminding oneself about the goal is no longer the primary stimulus for action. It is especially useful for resisting temptations and, by extension, may also be used for impulse control as well. Studies have shown that this is an effective strategy for performing tasks such as math homework, and it can even help six-year olds to not procrastinate. Temptation-inhibiting implementation intentions are not immune to self-deception however, so this approach isn't by any means a panacea.

Here's an example:
Primary Goal: Maintain personal health, and employee and academic performance.
Secondary Goal: Improve my digital media and language skills.
Implementation Intentions (taking only primary goals into account right now):
If dishes have been in the sink for more than three days, then I will do them. If it is six o'clock at night, then I will do my math homework for one hour. If I have documentation to finish, then I will do that at work. If I want to read a construction book, or use the Internet, then I will, provided there are no dishes, math, or documentation remaining to be done and it is earlier than eight at night.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cabin fever Takedown: It never had a chance

Winter time in the Tanana Valley is cold, dry, and dark (but McKelvey Valley beats it on all three counts). Organisms here must either leave or adapt when the conditions become increasingly harsh. This adaptation can be both biological and behavioral. Humans tend to simply transform their immediate environment to suit their needs, spending nearly the entire winter in enclosed buildings, where an "African savanna" environment is artificially sustained. This is in contrast to warmer locations, such as Cappadocia where people have lived in places such as Uçhisar Hill and Castle, which is a large block of sedimentary rock sitting on a hill with rooms and stairways carved into it. (Uçhisar Castle puts Gaudi to shame, and Gaudi is peerless.) Sustaining emotional/psychological health in a harsh environment is also a concern. An indoor aquatic garden can relieve cabin fever. This winter around Christmas time I had unintentionally bred Buenos Aires tetras, and three lucky fry are now half an inch long and thriving in a separate tank. This is not a common event, in fact I think it puts me in a whole other class of fish expertise. (Still, though, it is more common than keeping a walking sea pig.)

Another way to relieve cabin fever is to do more outdoor activities. This summer I plan to build a few small outbuildings: a woodshed, a greenhouse, and a sauna. A sauna is a lot of fun in winter, its just a wood box with a stove. A greenhouse can allow an aquatic gardening hobby to explode in the summer, produce an abundance of fresh vegetables for the kitchen, and provide a platform for experimenting with photovoltaic power. A woodshed will keep my wheeled steeds ready for a ride at a moments notice, provide much needed outdoor storage to keep the property looking tidy, and allow me to test the appearance of shou-sugi-ban (焼杉板). After learning a few things about construction, I feel these projects (or at least one of them) lie within my means and ability to complete this summer. For a basic foundation, I will use flat solid concrete blocks and/or triangular concrete pier blocks with flat or slotted tops (to accept a beam or post). Some of these have anchor bolts and metal brackets already set. This should be sufficient on well drained soil that does not expand when freezing. A trip to the local hardware and lumber store is definitely planned! I'll need a good reference book, like Joseph Truini's “Build Like a Pro: Building a Shed”. I know that these aspirations depend upon my personal health, and my employee and academic performance, and that they should be balanced with improving my digital media and language skills. It's a reachable goal that requires my full conscientious effort.

Architectural flair is essentially unnecessary.  Here are two pictures, one from pg. 46 of Shelter by Lloyd Kahn and the other from pg. 172 of Low-cost pole building construction by Doug Merrilees, Ralph Wolfe, and Evelyn V. Loveday.  The first describes how to build a shed floor, the other is a basic shed.  This is primary reference material for the building projects.  With glazing in place of wood siding, I have a greenhouse.  With wood siding and a stove, I have a sauna.  With just wood siding, I have a shed.  One basic format, three different buildings.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Hindsight turned into Foresight:
Imagine meeting your future self.
What advice would he/she have to say to you?
What advice would he/she not say to you?
Listen closely, now is your opportunity.   
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, so why not turn it into foresight?