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Politics and being gas poor

In to the Wind

June 14, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

My father told me a long time ago that you can do something right a thousand times, but do it wrong once, and that’s the one by which you’ll be judged.

What he told me might not have been worded exactly that way, but the meaning is there, and has stuck with me for many years. You can have a good life, perform in a stellar fashion, create positive waves in the ocean of life, but fall down once, and that is the metric by which some will judge you, especially those who don’t know you or might have a particular vendetta against you.

In my life, I have tried not to be one to judge, or the one who measures a person’s worth by their shortcomings. I look for the good in everybody, like my mother taught me. To do otherwise, in my opinion, makes you an insignificant little person, in an insignificant little world. Unfortunately, there are insignificant little people, in insignificant little towns, that can have a significant effect upon your life; but, such is life, and we move on. You are from whence you came; warts and all.

From all that I am, and all that I’ve learned, the best strategy in life is to dwell on the positive, and forego the bitterness. There are too many people in this world who are quick to anger, who speak ill of others, gossip and further dissension. The best resolve, in my opinion, is to ignore such insignificant little people and continue to create positive waves.

The dynamic of which I speak is the major reason we have a shortage of good politicians in this country. What capable person would want to subject themselves or their families to the current level of media scrutiny? What dynamic individual doesn’t have a skeleton or two hiding in their closet?

Once a person makes a decision to become a public figure, they are also making the decision to subject themselves and their family to a torrent of media scrutiny. They put their lives under the microscope and hope there are no bumps or incidents in their past the media will seize and turn into a media circus. Remember when Bill Clinton during his first presidential campaign was questioned about his marijuana use? His answer was that he never inhaled. Of course other events during his presidency further tarnished him and he went on to become the second president to be impeached.

Those capable persons who might be the best candidates for public office will not throw their hats in the ring because of the relentless scrutiny. Instead, we are left with dweebs, numskulls, and other quasi-qualified individuals with nothing to hide, and nothing to give.

Since 1972 the Iowa caucuses have been the first major electoral event of the nominating process for US president. On February 6, 2012, the1784 precincts in Iowa will each caucus to pick a candidate for each of the individual 99 county conventions, and ultimately the state convention. I can’t wait to see the cast of dweebs and numskulls foisted on us this election – yawn.

By February, I’m certain most of us, including yours truly will be sick and tired of the negative campaigning and media scrutiny these hopefuls will be party to in hopes of gaining momentum in their party. In case you’ve been living under a rock, it has already begun.

Putting politics aside for a while, there are some other things which have been occupying my mind lately.

Right now there are two Dahon folding bicycles sitting in my living room. The Dahon is the Cadillac of folding bicycles. The idea is that a fully functional bicycle, through clever mechanical means, can be folded into a small package. Two of them can be put into the trunk of a car or in the back seat. You don’t have to modify your car or add a bike rack.

The Dahon will also fit into the overhead luggage rack on an airliner, bus, or train. Various models of the Dahon are popular amongst commuters who combine the bicycle with public transit to make their daily commute easier. My mission is similar but more involved; at least the project is.

Recently, hybrid electric bicycles have been hitting the market.Certain big box stores even have them on display. I have been watching that market very closely and have learned a great deal about the technology and its function. Most of the big box offerings are underpowered, cheap bicycles with inadequate battery life. I’ve decided I can do much better myself.

Like many of you, I am gas poor. A simple trip to town and back costs me over $4.00 in my Jeep at current gas prices. Eventually, my plan is to have most of my transportation needs met by vehicles using renewable energy. I want an electric car whose batteries are recharged by either solar or wind power. In the meantime, I am building a pair of hybrid electric bicycles using these Dahons.

A hybrid electric bicycle maintains the existing drive train; pedals and gearing still work. The electric power is an assist to human power. With it, you can extend your range, and climb hills with a mechanical advantage and arrive at your destination without all the sweat and grime usually associated with a bicycle trek. You can assist the electric motor by pedaling, or not, and let the motor do all or most of the work.

The technology is not all that complicated. Recently, brushless electric motors have been developed which can be mounted into the hub of a wheel. The wheel itself provides the forward momentum. Add a battery, a controller and a throttle, and you have a viable hybrid vehicle.

The battery is the trickiest and most expensive part. The standard lead acid batteries like you would find in most passenger cars, motorcycles or your riding mower are just too heavy. Because of innovations in electric vehicles in general, the hybrid electric bicycle also benefits. The newest battery technology, called LiFePo4 (lithium iron phosphate) provide more capacity at a given voltage, while weighing about one third as much as the lead acid batteries.

Once I get all the pieces and parts assembled, I plan on using one of these bikes as often as possible to supplant my transportation needs. Stay tuned!

Until next time—

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In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.

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