Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Ipod...

Music has been speaking to me lately. I have been listening to Michael Buble, Ray Lamontagne, Coldplay, Switchfoot, David Bazan, Iron & Wine, and Sufjan Stevens a lot. Josh introduced me to Sufjan Stevens a few years ago. I came across this video recently and can't stop watching it. First, I really enjoy the song itself, and watching the video is an easy way to hear the song. Second, I actually really like the video itself. Sufjan can be quirky at times with his costumes, but I really like the setting of the barn, the banjo, and even the straw hat. Below are the lyrics.

For The Widows In Paradise; For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti
I have called you children, I have called you son.
What is there to answer if I'm the only one?
Morning comes in Paradise, morning comes in light.
Still I must obey, still I must invite.
If there's anything to say, if there's anything to do,
If there's any other way, I'll do anything for you.

I was dressed embarrassment.
I was dressed in wine.
If you had a part of me, will you take you're time?
Even if I come back, even if I die
Is there some idea to replace my life?
Like a father to impress;
Like a mother's mourning dress,
If you ever make a mess, I'll do anything for you

I have called you preacher; I have called you son.
If you have a father or if you haven't one,
I'll do anything for you. I did everything for you

Monday, January 28, 2008

Finding the Right Bike for Your Commute: Philadelphia Edition

Wess over at Gathering in Light always has some great stuff to share. It ranges from the practical to the philosophical, and it's great that you never know what you're going to get.

A few months back he wrote a post entitled "Finding the Right Bike for Your Commute." While I already had a bike for my commute, I used the information at the lower half of the post to develop my strategy for commuting to school. I rode to school a few times in the fall but the humidity made it a very bad experience. This winter I tried to take the old Trek 1000 out for a spin but the lack of air in the tires (and lack of pump to solve the problem) hindered me again. I have reverted to walking to school due to the Chapman family "One Car per Household Policy" but that can take more time out of my day than I would like.

This weekend I went to the local bike shop, picked up a $30 floor pump and decided I'm ready for another crack at it.

I'll go ahead an repost the key points that Wess suggested in the original post, and then add some Philadelphia essentials.

Here are a couple quick tips once you’ve got a working bike.

1. Get some good lights! One front headlight and one rear one (mine attaches to my bag). They should be able to flash, which makes you more noticeable and reduces battery wear. Also I bought lights that use AA’s so I can use rechargeable batteries with my lights and cut down on waste and cost.

2. Get a helmet. You really really need to wear a helmet. As a bike commuter you do not ride on the sidewalk (because it’s more dangerous and slower), you ride with the rest of traffic and you have to be prepared for the worst. Protect your noggin.

3. Get a U-lock. Any other lock will get your bike stolen. Trust me I know from experience.

4. Get a bag to carry your clothes in. Since I ride to work/school virtually everyday and my ride is strenuous enough that I actually work up a bit of sweat I bring a change of clothes. It’s good to get some kind of bag to carry stuff in but doesn’t weigh a lot and won’t hurt your neck or back. That means you should consider getting, a pannier (a side-saddle bag), a messenger bag (mine’s a Timbuktu I found on clearance for much less), or a light backpack.

Tip for taking clothes to school/work: I take my jeans, flip flops, an undershirt, shirt, deodorant and even underwear to school on monday. I wear shorts and a cutoff T-shirt, and my clip-less shoes on the ride and change once I get there. I leave my shoes, jeans, and deodorant in my small cubby during the week, which cuts down on the weight I have to carry everyday. I take the rest home with me to get washed.

5. Find a friend to ride with. You’re always a little safer, and will have more fun if you ride with someone else. I am fortunate to live with a friend who often rides with me to work and back. If you can locate somebody like that you’ll enjoy the ride more - that is unless you cherish the solitude, which can also be nice.

6. This morning I learned the hard way: wear a hat and gloves. Even though you think you may work up a sweat, it is crucial in "chilly Philly" that hand protection and ear/head warmth are used. Luckily I only ride a few miles to school or else I would have been in worse shape.

7. Be aware and get aggressive. There are no bike lanes or drivers who know how to be curteous to bicyclists out here. In Oregon, where I'm from, there is a bike lane on almost any road, and if there isn't then drivers will (typically) take precautions when driving near bicyclists. A professor of mine even said that he classifies riding a bicycle on the roads in Philadelphia an "extreme sport." It also doesn't help that the roads are extra narrow in this part of the country to begin with.

So, that is my Philly Edition of the essentials to commuting by bicycle. Thanks Wess.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Muhammad Yunus

I saw Muhammad Yunus speak at the Philadelphia Free Library today.

Mr. Yunus is the father of micro-finance, or micro-lending. He started the Grameen Bank, a bank wholly devoted to lending to the poor. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and is one of the reason why I am wanting to go into the field of economic development. I even mentioned him in my entrance essay to Eastern.

For me he is inspirational because he saw a problem, used creative means to solve it, and didn't allow the "conventions" of the world to tell him it wouldn't work. His model of micro-lending has spread like wildfire and because of it we now have institutions like Kiva which specialize in this type of lending as well.

Today Mr. Yunus spoke for about an hour on the topic of his new book. The main theme that I took away from his presentation was the idea of what he calls Social Business. He criticizes current business practices for seeking to maximize profits, and sees the limits that charity and non-profit organizations have, and therefore believes there is a large gap between those two arenas for a third way. Social Business.

He suggests people should go into for profit business with the full intention to solve a social issue, but not simply conduct charity work. If you reinvest all profit and continue to allow that social mission to drive the organization he truly believes poverty will be fought at a more rapid rate.

I'll admit... I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker. I have never been in this field to go into business and make profits, but I can see the value in using the business world to affect change in the lives of the poor. The Grameen Bank is a perfect example.

I hope to blog more the next few days as I reflect on Mr. Yunus' speech.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I just had to...

Thanks to this post by Amy, I had to at least see what my album would be.

So here it is...

Wilderness, Not in Civilization
by Up Holland High School

To do this one yourself follow these instructions.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Insurance rant...

We got a large bill from the hospital care Melissa received in October. I called to inquire about financial assistance. They informed me that we can't get assistance since we are insured. Given our very low income level, had we not been insurance, they would have covered 100% of the costs, but since we do have insurance we have to pay a large amount of money, along with our large monthly insurance premium.

And people try to convince me that the American insurance system isn't screwed up. I disagree.

I'm moving to England...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A room with a view...

It snowed two nights ago. It was great. This was the view from my desk as I worked on some homework. The snow melted the next day, but it was great while it lasted.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quakers have Missions?

We started classes yesterday. I'll save a description of this semester's until later this week.

We have a few new students this semester. Both of them have taken courses in an extension program that Eastern runs in a few other countries.

One of the students has lived in Nepal for quite some time. As we struck up a conversation on a break he asked where my family had been missionaries to (I mentioned it in my introduction before break). I told him and said that we were sent by the Friends Church. He looked at my with a puzzled face and said "Quakers have missions?"

One semester in Philly and I'm still clarifying. I don't think it will ever end.

p.s. it's trying to snow.