Sunday, January 31, 2010


Welcome (almost) to February!

This being the last day of January it seems appropriate to welcome the month of February. Welcome! In our area we have set a record for the warmest January on record and those records go back into the late 1800s, so this is a pretty long standing thing. Our weather guessers are saying they expect February to be warmer and dryer than January was, but it normally is so I'm not sure if it will be quite a bit better than usual or what. I have noticed more hours of daylight and that I like. It will also do well for our home heating bills, although I guess what is good for us here is not so good for others in different parts of the country. Last year we had a very cold, snowy winter while the East Coast was enjoying balmy weather. This year it seems to have flip-flopped. I don't know what next year will bring but I'll vote for another El Nino year like this one, although it didn't get started until about the end of November.

February is also a month with some important birthdays for our family. It starts out with Pat's younger brother on the 4th, then Pat's on the 22nd and my brother's on the 24th. Pat and T have a fun thing of trying to outdo each other with wacky birthday cards but Pat is a little behind since if she goes too far overboard it will catch up as T's BD is first and he has almost three weeks to find an appropriate card. The 22nd also used to be the birthday of George Washington, our country's first President. Pat told her school mates the reason they got a holiday on the 22nd was to celebrate her birthday. We also used to get Abraham Lincoln's birthday off on the 12th. I guess Congress decided it was too much to allow the People to have two holidays in one month. Or there was a lot of pressure from government employees who wanted three day weekends but thought they couldn't get two of them in a month, so they canceled both birthdays and we now just celebrate an office workers holiday on the 3rd Monday. We haven't canceled or moved Pat's birthday- it will still happen on the 22nd.

I've had a few questions about how Huggy is doing. She is fine although we are still having cat wars between our three cats. Huggy and Peewee, the youngest one, have almost made it a game. Molly is still the queen of the house and she tries to just ignore both of the others although they sometimes do get her involved. There are times when they will all three be in the same room and just quietly ignore each other. That is about the best we seem to be able to have happen.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010


Okay, I give up!

The spammers really seem to be out in force, so I've implemented comment approval on all comments left on my blog posts. You will be able to post a comment but it will not show up until I've approved and allowed it. I also do get an email with the post included in the email and that comes out right away after the comment has been left, so I will know right away when there is something to look at. That makes it a bit harder for me but still easy for those who legitimately comment while letting me keep those foreign language things, etc. off the blog. I'll try that in the hope that it will still work without driving people away and be easier for you than having to enter those graphic letters before it will let you comment.

I'll see how this works for awhile.



An El Nino year

I had heard early last fall that we were expecting to have an El Nino year weather wise this year, although it wasn't expected to start until after Thanksgiving, near the end of November. I guess it has arrived although we have also been wetter than usual and El Nino usually brings us warmer, dryer weather than normal. I guess it depends on where you look. Here in the lowlands of Western Washington State along the northern part of Puget Sound, we have had twice the amount of precipitation that we would normally have in the first part of a year. We have the Olympic Mountain range to the west of us and the snowpack there is above normal. To the east of us is the Cascade Mountain range and the snowpack there is below normal. Here is a photo of the hill to the east of my home that was taken about New Years Day 2008 (Jan 1st) and it shows the snow that was on that hill at that time:
Snow pics 01
Last year we had a lot of snow and this hill had visible snow on it from early in December until probably late February. This year there have been a couple of mornings when there was a dusting of snow up there but nothing that stuck around very long and right now it is totally bare clear up to the top.

While we have been seeing record cold and snow levels in much of the eastern part of the country, we have been warmer (and strangely, wetter) than normal. There were a couple of days this past week when our high temp hit 60 or over and even the overnight lows were all above 50. I know this affect is from El Nino out on the Pacific Ocean and I guess that is what is causing the excess' of winter back east. Our biggest problems right now with it are coming from saturated ground on slopes that are sliding down in mudslides. Friday the US-2 highway just west of one of our favorite little towns to visit, Leavenworth, WA, was closed when a large boulder came crashing down onto the roadway. I've seen photos of it on the TV news- about 25 feet long, 20 feet wide and 15 feet high. It totally covered both lanes of the roadway and caused a crater that is 3 to 5 feet deep under it. There are cracks in the road surface that extend up to 100 feet away from the rock. This is a main east/west corridor across our state and it is closed for a week or so until it can be repaired.

Other roads around our area have been closed due to mudslides & flooding and some will not open for awhile because they are worried about trying to clear them until the rainfall slows down. As I said earlier, this year's El Nino has been a bit different. Too bad we can't just direct the jet stream to deliver the clouds and rainfall to where it is needed! And just leave the cold weather up north.

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Monday, January 11, 2010


The eMoto Velocity 2.0 electric bicycle

When I started to learn about electric bicycles (ebikes) I of course went looking through Google for those terms. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to learn that China is the main ebike place in the world nor that Europe is pretty heavily into them, too. The bike that I ended up buying is built in England by a company there named Urban Mover who also builds electric scooters and, believe it or not, electric skate boards! Click on this link to go to their web site to see some pretty interesting video clips and, for the brave (or foolish,) to learn where you can buy a 20mph self powered skate board. I won't list any of the bike specs here as they can be seen online if you are interested enough to go looking.

I do have some photos:
My eBike 03
This first one is my bike with our Prius in the background. The two are about the same color! This bike comes equipped with things that often cost extra on others, like fenders (important in a wet climate like mine,) a rack on the back to carry items on, a generator powered headlight and taillight and even a bell to ring when you come up behind someone on a trail to warn them that you are there. It also has a built in locking system to secure it to a pole, bike rack, or whatever when you have ridden someplace like Starbucks and will be away from it awhile.

My eBike 02
Here is a closer view of the rear wheel area. The battery is in the container locked to the vertical frame post. It is a Panasonic brand 37 volt lithium ion battery and fairly expensive so there is a good reason to lock it to the bike. It can be charged there or unlocked and then carried inside with the rider to hook up to the charger. A full charge from empty takes 3 - 4 hours but 1 hour will bring it up to about 80%. The lock is the unit above to the left side of the wheel and the bike rack is obvious on top of the fender. The electric motor is a brushless 250 watt unit that is built into the hub so it is essentially maintenance free.

My eBike 04
A closer view of the battery. This bike weighs only 47 pounds, even with the battery attached. Many ebikes I looked at were more like 60 pounds. The difference doesn't sound like a lot but if the battery runs down and you have to pedal it home that extra weight can seem like a lot. The button to the right side under the handle is the on/off switch and I find that my heel tends to hit it while riding and can turn it off. I really notice the difference in pedaling effort when that happens! The strip to the left of the switch is the indicator lights showing how much juice is in the battery.

My eBike 05
This 3/4 rear view better shows the 7-speed derailleur gear system- the pedal it part of the bike. There is a single sprocket on the front with the pedals, so there are 7 speeds available. That front sprocket has a system built into it that senses how hard the rider is pushing on the pedals and tells the computer how much power to feed to the motor. It provides more help while you are riding up a hill than it does on level ground. The locking system shows up better from this side and the rear brake is below it. The hub on the front wheel contains the small generator that powers the lights.

My first ride after bringing it home was just a couple of miles- over to Starbucks and back. On the second day I headed out and rode probably farther than I should have as I was a bit sore when I got back. I rode on some bike/walking trails the city maintains that I was aware of but hadn't much used before and they are nice. There are places on them where you have to cross fairly busy streets but it is nice to be able to go a few miles without having anything other than other bikes and pedestrians to worry about. I live up on the hill above Mt. Vernon and this trail took me almost down to the river, so coming home was mostly uphill. The motor system worked very well. By combining it with the pedal gearing I was able to ride while staying in a seated position up those hills. In the biking condition that I am in right now I would have been off of it and walking pushing it up some of the steeper hills without that electric assist.

Diane asked if you can ride it under electric power only if you get tired. My bike doesn't have a hand throttle although there is a dealer installed option to add one but you must first check local laws. In some places they would call that a moped and it would have be licensed as a moped and not treated as a bicycle. No riding on bike trails, parking on the sidewalk, etc. That version also uses battery power a lot faster. With mine you have to be rotating the pedals in order to get power assist but it doesn't require a lot of pressure before the motor comes on. It is hard to describe.

I like this bike!

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Sunday, January 10, 2010


My new bike is here!

I have decided to change my green and white Honda Metropolitan II moped into an electric bicycle. The ebike will get even better mileage and also give me some exercise while riding it. I did a lot of looking on the Internet at ebikes and found there is an amazing range of them out there. Apparently in most of the rest of the world they are pretty commonplace, especially in China where most of them are built. There is also a big price range from the cheapest to the most expensive, although it does look like you are getting more for your money with the higher priced units, at least for the most part.

There are two basic types and not are legal in all locations, at least if you want to retain the classification of it being a bicycle. The types are those that are controlled with a throttle, usually a twist grip on the handle bars, or those controlled by the rider pedaling. Some jurisdictions call the throttle controlled units mopeds and require licensing and treatment as a motorcycle. The pedal controlled units are an electric assist to the rider's pedaling- no pedaling, no electric power applied to the motor.

I had pretty much settled on one of two bikes and they represented both types. I finally decided on the pedal operated type for a couple of reasons. I want to get exercise and feel that I'll get more of that with this type and the range they will go on a charge is farther since there is some human power involved, too. My bike is a eMoto Velocity 2.0 that was made in England by the Urban Mover company and is imported here by eMoto of Kent, Washington. I bought it through Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) in Bellingham, WA. It arrived in their store last Wednesday and they called me yesterday about 13:30 saying that it was ready to pick up. I went right up there.

My eBike 00
I wasn't sure that it would fit inside the Prius and it just does. This picture shows it in the Prius, with the back seats folded down.

My eBike 01
This is a little closer view of the bike in the car. The thingy on the floor near it is a part of the lock system that is built into the bike.

I'll post more about it in another post as this one is getting about long enough with these two photos. I have more photos of it and can talk about my first (and now my second) rides. It is fun!

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Problems with bad comments

Is anyone else but me having problems with junk type comments being posted on your blogs? I have the system set to require my approval on comments put onto posts that are older than what I have it set for and that is working pretty well but still more active than I think it used to be. Today I told it "No" on a couple of comments on an old post that were all in an Asian language and there was a fairly innocent looking one from Anonymous left on my current one that I really didn't think was from a real reader so I deleted it. I'd rather not have to turn on the thingy where those leaving comments have to type the graphic letters in order to leave a comment as I really think it makes it harder to comment, thus cutting down on the number of them that do get left, but I sure can see why people get pushed into doing that!

I have changed both Pat and my desktop computers to run on Windows 7 and I'll say that I really like the new operating system. It seems to be faster and easier to use than any of the previous editions. On both of our conversions I had to do a complete install of 7 rather than just an upgrade so it was a bit more complicated than an upgrade but like a friend said, it gives the computer a good cleaning out of some of that old stuff that is rarely or never used. Now I have to get our laptops done. So far it looks like most of the programs we use regularly will run under 7 although one of Pat's may not. It is a card making program that dates back to 2002 so being that it is as old as dinosaurs it is probably due to upgrade it, too.

My new bike is due to arrive at REI in Bellingham by tomorrow. Maybe I'll be riding it by this weekend. See how much of an optimist I am?

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