Month: October 2011

  • A Sad Time for Zipcar

    Just read a great article by Nate Byerley, of "Bike Blender" fame. I didn't realize times were so hard for Zipcar, and I have not seen any of these ads they have been running... but Nate's analysis (of the ad, and of the wider context) is spot on. Go here to enjoy it:

  • Bike-Enabled Entrepreneurs

    When I began Wordsmith Writing Coaches, I knew I had to keep costs to a minimum, and also find a way to keep in shape while doing a lot of writing, editing, teaching, and coaching (the sort of coaching that involves sitting at coffee shops a lot).  If only I had a bicycle that could easily schlep around all my stuff...

    Hey, I do have such a bike! I mated my old Motiv to a Free Radical back in 2001, creating an Xtracycle-- a bicycle with that little sumthin' Xtra that makes a huge difference.  So I drew up plans for canvas "Wordsmith" pannier panels and "Wordsmith" bike stickers and a "Wordsmith" bike flag*, and drew up my business plan around the Xtracycle as my transportation.

    Every time I run into other entrepreneurs who include the bicycle in their business, I get excited. A few months ago, my wife discovered Bicycle Bread Company, a terrific local outfit that operates on a shoestring and several delivery bicycles (and of course a lot of amazing recipes & ingredients).

    Then just the other day as I wheeled my Xtrabike into the street on my way to meet a client, I did a double-take: three men were pulling up to our neighbors' apartments, on bicycles-- outfitted with lights and stereo system, and laden with lawn-care gear!  

    Now these were men after my own heart. And professionally interested in my lawn.  Have I mentioned that I am going to great lengths to re-establish my dead and dog-holed front yard? Well, it's coming along, and it definitely attracted the attention of these fine gentlemen. 

    They asked about my yard, I asked about their bicycles, and good rapport was enjoyed all around.

    So now I can vouch that there are at least three bicycle-based businesses** in the USC area: my own, Ben and Stephen's, and now Martin's!

    Do you know of any other bike-enabled businesses?



    (*I never actually made any of those things, but it was a fun creative design process)

    (**...that is, businesses that don't sell or repair bicycles: tutoring/dissertation coaching, a bakery, and landscape maintenance have nothing to do with bicycles as a core competence. But all of us have found bicycles to be a tool that serves our business well.)

  • Suffering Loss...

    There seem to have been an unusual number of deaths, or anniversaries of deaths, in the past few weeks: my mother Florence died two years ago around this time, a couple of friends' elderly fathers have passed away recently, and now so did Leif Hovelsen.

    Leif was like a beloved uncle to me, a cherished mentor from the Greatest Generation. I wish I could have been with him before he died, or attended his funeral-- we knew the end was coming but even so, the moment of death always seems a surprise when it happens.

    Here is an excellent account of the funeral service from another good friend of Leif's, Steve Dickinson, who represents Leif's Initiatives of Change (IoC) oikos in America. Although he mentions the Diskeruds and my dad, he does not know me personally, nor the oikos of Leif's friends and spiritual family to which I belong (not involved with IoC).  So when he describes the remarkable breadth of Leif's impact-- on so many people, over so many generations and continents-- the reality goes even wider than he knows. And he knows this.

    Leif, we will miss you. May we grow to fill your ski boots.



    Norway, September 29 – October 2, 2011



                It was a great and unforgettable privilege to be at the times of remembrance for our remarkable friend Leif Hovelsen in Oslo last week, and to represent the many of us who loved him in America. Others from outside Norway present were Friedrich and Margaret Schock from Germany, Torsten Hvidt from Denmark, Edward and Elisabeth Peters and Finn Harald and Alison Wetterfors from Sweden. We all stayed at the IofC center at Sophus Lies gate 5. Our hosts were Jens Wilhelmsen, who lives with his wife Klar in an annex apartment, and Jen's cousin Dr. Sturla Johnson, who lives with his wife Viveka in another part of Oslo. Several other team members, including the Wilhelmsen daughters Camilla and Julia, were present at the center at various times.

                Leif's funeral service was held at noon on Friday, September 30th in the large central Lutheran church of Oslo. Access was slightly challenging as some streets were still blocked off following the recent terrorist attack. Damaged government buildings could be seen just a block away. The service was conducted by a retired Lutheran bishop who had gotten to know Leif in the last couple of years. The casket was covered in flowers with other wreaths and sprays surrounding. The church was full and the service lasted 90 minutes with several speakers including an excellent assessment of Leif's work by Norway's Minister of the Environment and Development, Eric Sulheim. The Chairman of the Norwegian chapter of the Helsinki Watch Committee also spoke well. Finally and wonderfully Camilla Nelson spoke as one of several of Leif's God-children, detailing his remarkable care for and generosity towards so many children, in Norway and beyond, through two generations. Camilla concluded by looking up and saying “Leif, now you can ski-jump again, and eat as many marzipan cakes as you wish.” 

                Most of those in the church, including the bishop and the cabinet minister, then repaired to Sophus Lies gate, which is about a 7 minute drive from the center of the city, so that this large baronial house was filled to overflowing – and so into the garden thanks to a warm afternoon sun. Several of us had spent the morning putting out folding chairs and making open-faced sandwiches. In salute to Leif there were also many fabulous cakes.

                Julia then called on several of us to speak. I said that I spoke for many in the United States when I expressed gratitude for Leif's care for and encouragement of us and our families, and our work of IofC in America. I also spoke of Leif's special connection with Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where his father Carl had built the first ski jump in America. I concluded by saying how much I had learned working with him on numerous trips to Russia, and then quoted from five messages that I had received from Russian friends, including Tatiana Yankelevich, the step-daughter of Andrei Sakharov who had won the Nobel Peace prize (with lobbying in Oslo by Leif) in 1975. Her message concluded, “ I will forever hold Leif in my grateful memory.”

                There was a photo of Leif on the front of the order of service showing him wearing an Orthodox cross.  I remember taking this photo, at Leif's request as he was so proud of having this gift which may have come, I think, from the New York based Russian artist Ernst Niezvestny. At the reception I saw this striking young man wearing the cross. He said that Leif had given it to him recently. The young man is Mikkel Diskerud, a rising soccer star who was recently selected to play for the US mens' soccer team as his mother is American. His father, Paul Diskerud, one of the pall-bearers, has done development work in Arizona and is a colleague of Jerry Nelson. I talked at length with Paul and he told me how Leif had encouraged Mikkel from an early age, going to see him play etc. I thought I knew Leif well but I realized that Leif's outreach of love and care went far beyond what I knew. There is much on Google about Mikkel. This quote from him is evidence I think of Leif's good influence. “For me to be a part of the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup, and to be able to honor reconciliation and forgiveness in this way, will probably in time become the dearest memory.”

                A huge thank you to everyone who encouraged me to go to Norway. I can think of no better way to conclude this reporting than with this wonderful poem for Leif written by Steve and which I read out loud at Sophus Lies gate. The concluding lines refer to some of Leif's last words to his old friend Jens.


    Friendship for Leif



    Friendship for Leif, rooted at home, also spans the earth.

    The Flying Norseman’s fame and friends were arrowed in Leif’s birth;

    Deep mother’s love for home and land, and faith, unwavering, strong,

    All filled the fjord that brought to birth a life that sings God’s song.


    Friendships from school, tested by war, above and underground,

    Too late the taste of betrayer’s kiss, warning’s meaning found;

    Death sentence then – is life so short?  But no, it’s not to be,

    For in war’s hell, in his lone cell, Christ’s friendship sets him free.


    And free he flies to Germany, to set the stage anew

    For nation friendship, widening peace, but still life is not through;

    The hearts of empires need to heal, from power’s coils unwound,

    Dissidents needed, East and West, Leif’s friendships now abound.


    Friendship for life, friendship with Leif – his living spiritual breath;

    So naturally, it can only be, it goes on after death.

    His books bequeathed, he has one more – a final gift to give,

    Just strength to say near his dying day, “Now I know I live.”


    Steve Dickinson