The ultimate commuter vehicle

Fuji Sanibel bicycle

I recently took the plunge and bought my first new bicycle since eighth grade.

Electric.

Though many consider electric bicycles “cheating” (when they zip past regular bikes on a trail), I had many reasons for venturing into this new category of cycles.

  1. In October-ish, my office is moving from 7.2 miles one-way to 11.4 miles one-way. The difference in my regular bicycling commute will be roughly another 40 minutes out of my day. A commute on this bike is close to the time of driving. And with the typically bad traffic along the new route, the electric bike might actually be faster!
  2. Every time I ride the electric bike rather than drive, I’m preventing a significant amount of pollution. (I plan to ride as many days as I can.)
  3. It’s still exercise… the motor won’t go unless you are pedaling. (It’s a “pedal assist” bike.) Even though it doesn’t provide as much exercise as a commute on my road bike, I am still getting way more exercise than I would be behind the wheel of my small automobile.
  4. It’s a lot cheaper to charge the battery than pay for gas (once you factor out the cost of the bike).
  5. Upkeep expenses will be undoubtedly less than for any of our cars.
  6. It can only go 20 miles per hour, so it’s pretty safe.
  7. 50% of the bikes sold in Belgium are electric (source). They must know something.
  8. Ironically, the frame color is very similar to that of my road bike, which I had custom painted a million years ago.
  9. It was a super good deal, via Performance Bicycles — like less than half of what most electric bikes go for.
  10. It’s fun.
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Life is short

best cat ever

This morning, our beloved kitty went to “the happy hunting grounds,” as my dad used to call heaven for cats and dogs.

Floof was the best cat ever.

So as I write this with tears in my eyes, I share with you these few little things:

  1. Be thankful for those around you. I am very thankful for the eleven brief years we had with Floof.
  2. Show love to those around you, because you don’t know how long they will be part of your life.
  3. Don’t take your own life — you will leave lots of pain behind for those who survive.

If you want to make a donation to the pet rescue organization where we found Floof, the Denver Dumb Friends League is a worthy group. Or give to the pet rescue organization in the town of your choice. Thanks.

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Abundance

a Victrola collection from an open house home tour

We love open houses. Visiting a home that’s for sale reveals a lot about the people selling the home. Their lives are on display for guests to see.

Some homes are time capsules — nothing has been changed for twenty years or more. Other homes have been cleaned up and fitted with the latest accessories and appliances so they could be in almost any community of the same demographic in another part of America.


Our latest open house visit was to an immaculate farmhouse that was never a real farmhouse. The owners recreated a country home in the heart of suburbia. The matron of the home had impeccable taste — every room was perfect.

The Victrola room seemed a little excessive to me. Though the collection was small, each of these music players was not functional in the face of today’s entertainment landscape.

But that wasn’t the point. The owners most likely enjoyed the beauty of their hand-crafted machines and the era they represented.


Then I had to reflect on my own collections. Many would say that I have too many small toy cars or pairs of headphones. But at least I don’t have a room dedicated to any collection — like the Victrola museum.

Collecting things can be fun or reach a compulsive addiction level.

Collections are a good way to enjoy human creativity through variety and also experience the spectrum of form and function.

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Be real

building facades during contruction

It’s easy to put up a front.

It’s harder to bare your soul.

We like to appear competent, knowledgeable, accepting, loving and kind (or most of us do). And we are those things, to some degree or another.

But we can’t be everything that everyone needs.

There’s a spectrum between hiding our weaknesses to revealing inappropriate levels of personal frailties. We must learn when and where to reveal our true selves.

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. I don’t have any deep secrets to reveal to whoever can read this. But one-on-one, I’ll be trying to stretch my boundaries by going deeper.

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We need help — some of the time

car exhausts from 3 different cars

Some praise the idea of increased rules. Others tout the benefits of self-regulation.

I argue for somewhere in the middle.

I am old enough to remember cities before the era of car emissions laws… a brown layer of thick haze covered the skyline on most days.

Today, new passenger vehicles are 98–99% cleaner in what comes out of tailpipes compared to vehicles from the 1960s (source). That change would not have happened without government regulation.

At the other end of the spectrum lies the ridiculous state of health care in the USA. Because of government regulations (and also private litigation), it takes months to pay a single doctor’s bill. And it’s nearly impossible to find out the real cost of a simple procedure because of added complications from the insurance industry.

Why does government involvement in one area yield good results in one area and bad results in another? I’m not sure.

One end of the spectrum says groups have no wisdom. The other end says the individual has no wisdom.

Both are incorrect. Groups and individuals have wisdom — some of the time. And some individuals have no wisdom, just as some groups have no wisdom.

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Feeling guilty on a Saturday

No one else was home.

That meant I could stream the crazy music I enjoy, at volume, without bothering anyone.

And then I started to feel guilty.

Not about the music I was listening to…  but about the luxury of being able to listen to music in a house with no shared walls.

I remembered living in Kenya — when I felt guilty about having a microwave oven, knowing that it represented about ten times the average monthly wage of many around me.

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The tip of the iceberg

my family - part

We know so little about the people around us.

Even though I live with my wife and daughter, I realized that I know so little about their day-to-day lives.

Rachel is a junior in high school. I am not sitting in class with her, listening to teachers talk about math concepts that I have forgotten a long time ago. I am not in the school cafeteria during her 15-minute lunch with friends. I’m not in her Bible study when her girlfriends open up about life struggles.

Heather works in an office about 5 minutes from me. But I’ve only visited her office once. I hear tales of the joys and challenges that each day brings, but I’m not in the room when she discusses the latest design challenge of the big project that she’s tackling. I’m not at the chili cookoff with her colleagues.

My two sons, Jay and Ben, have rich and full lives too. And so does everyone I work with, hang out with and know from the past chapters of life.


My challenge to myself is to ask those around me a question that will uncover something I don’t know already. (And there’s a lot.)

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Injured

crashing on the street

A few weeks ago, I took a tumble off my bike. The road repair crews had put caution tape between the cones along one of the roads on my way to work — that wasn’t there the week before. I didn’t see the tape until I was too close. I slammed my brakes and went head-over-heels.

A guardian angel lady saw me tumble and quickly pulled over. She crammed my bicycle into the back seat and took me home, in spite of how I was such a bloody mess.

Through a miracle, I was able to get my teeth fixed that morning at a nearby dentist. Through another miracle, my dental insurance covered the vast majority of this unplanned expense.

Good as new!

Not quite. My face was a melange of scars for the next week. The aches and pains still live on — for a little while, at least.

That incident reminded me that nearly anything can happen to us. And that we’re fragile.

People all around us are injured. We may not see their scars. But we should treat them with love and care, just like that guardian angel lady treated me.

We never know if someone in our daily lives is about to break. The stress of life might be more than they can handle.

A little love and care can go a long way toward their healing. And we’ll feel better for having made a difference in their life.

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Older and wiser? Or just different?

This is a guest post by my brother, Bill Merrill. Thanks, Bill!

I thought this was appropriate as we all approach the start of a new year.


There is a common pair of related expressions that “youth is wasted on the young” and “with age comes wisdom.” I’ve had occasion to reflect on these and other ideas about aging as I’ve hit a milestone year. It’s fun to compare how I looked at things as a younger man versus the current “me.”

Younger Me: I’m hungry! I think I’ll get a pizza!
Current Me: I’m hungry. I’d love to get a pizza, but calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium…I’ll grab some baby carrots instead. Ugh.

Younger Me: Look at that slow driver up there! He’s obviously not in a hurry to get anywhere. He’s delaying my busy schedule! He must be at least 80 years old!
Current Me: Look at that “kid” driver darting in and out of traffic. How reckless! Would it hurt him to just slow down a little? Safer, too. (But I still go right at the speed limit vs. 10 mph under. I’m not that old yet!)

Younger Me: Frank Sinatra? Who would ever want to listen to that boring old guy singing? I’m putting on Led Zep instead!
Current Me: Mmm, listen to the nuance in Sinatra’s voice as he cradles the lyrics to “Angel Eyes,” and the string arrangements by Nelson Riddle are marvelous. How delightful! (But I still like Led Zep, and some contemporary music.)

Younger Me (settling down to read a book): Well, I see that Isaac Asimov has a new non-fiction book out on exploring the Moon. I think I’ll stick to the action in his science fiction novels.
Current Me: Wow! That nonfiction book Asimov wrote in the ‘70s on the Solar System was accessible and fascinating! Next up, the latest historical nonfiction by Eric Larson (although I still like a good SF novel from time to time…)

These changes in perspective are examples of how my attitudes towards various aspects of life have shifted as I have gotten older. I generally don’t look at the past with regrets, but instead, enjoy moments of nostalgia. I don’t see much point in saying, “if I knew then what I know now…” (aside from some investment advice), but I do wish I my younger self could have “stopped and smelled the roses” more often! (Ha! There’s another old saying that was more profound than it seemed!)

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Forgiveness

It happened during my college years. We were great friends, and then our relationship ended because of a situation I did not create.

Only this week, I realized I had not forgiven him.

Since that forgiveness, I have not experienced a huge weight being lifted.

That change in my heart did not change our relationship. (I can’t reach him. He’s not on Facebook nor LinkedIn. I even spent some time on one of those pay-to-see-someone’s-profile sites and couldn’t find him.)

But at least I’ve made peace with my own heart over what happened.

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