Habitat for Humanity ReStore

ReStore in Wallingford

This morning, I took a bus out to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Wallingford, Connecticut. These are donation centers that accept furniture, building materials, and household appliances, which are refurnished and resold. Proceeds from sales at the ReStore are then used to fund local housing projects.

I had the chance to meet some great workers and volunteers at the ReStore. Ruth introduced me to the ReStore’s operations and put me to work measuring, moving and cleaning. Corinna, an au pair from Germany and a fellow volunteer, shared some interesting travel stories with me. Emmy told me about her fulfilling volunteer experiences working with Habitat and introduced me to Bill, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Greater New Haven. This was a great chance for me to learn more about the affordable housing cause and the local efforts being made to finance and support it.

If you have unwanted or unneeded furniture, de-clutter your home by making  a donation. This is a great way to promote environmental sustainability and the affordable housing issue at the same time! Look for a ReStore near you here.



Snow Day

Today, hidden in the cluster of academic and spam emails I receive every day, was an email from B&B. I finally get to order the bike that will accompany me across America! Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to 23% of my fundraising goal. I’m truly amazed by the generosity and support I have received from friends, mentors, and donors.

Ironically, as soon as the prospect of finally training outdoors crossed my mind, it began snowing. If it wasn’t so beautiful, I would be less forgiving. Looks like I will be on the stationary bike just a little bit longer.

Buy Happiness

Michael Norton’s  talk on the purchasability of happiness was one of the first TED talks I ever watched. If you can’t spare 10 minutes to watch the video below, I will do my best to summarize his presentation on the relationship between money and happiness.

According to Norton, and against the old adage, you can buy happiness. Surprisingly, the method of utilizing that money to achieve  happiness  is simple, and does not include the bizarre idea of “retail therapy”. His points are as follows:

1. Spending money on other people yields greater returns than spending on yourself.

2. Level of happiness does not depend on the amount of money that is spent on someone else.

3. Reason for spending money on others does not make a significant difference.

In other words, give what you can, for whatever reason you desire. Donate to benefit the affordable housing problem, or donate to support my dream of biking across America. Whatever the reason, give.

The study cited in the TED talk claims that, across countries, people who give money to charity report higher levels of happiness. Of course, this correlation should not be confused with a causal relationship. It is possible (and makes sense) that happier people are more likely to donate more to charity. Or maybe these people have discovered the secret, and are engaged in a positive loop of happiness and philanthropy.

The existence of “selfish altruism” has also been pinpointed by natural science. Helping others makes us feel good. Psychologists have proved this. Neuroscientists have located the part of the brain linked with happiness resulting from altruistic acts, and it’s a primitive part. We are actually hardwired for altruism. It kept us alive during the ice ages, and will continue to keep our societies running.

So, do what you know is instinctively right. Donate, and discover that  happiness is not so elusive after all.

If you’re not one to do things based on intuition and natural tendency, I encourage you to test Michael Norton’s thesis empirically, and make your own conclusions.

Either way, I readily offer you this opportunity to buy happiness. What do you have to lose?

Take My Things

Today, I put this up on Facebook. I thought I would extend it to my small but awesome WordPress audience as well. I’m giving away most of my worldly possessions. Maybe, just maybe, you could consider a $5 donation?

Hi everyone! I want to get rid of a bunch of stuff, in exchange for a donation to Bike and Build (needs to be reasonable–give what you can give, or fairly assess the value of the items you take). All donations go to B&B, a non-profit organization that supports the affordable housing issue. Come check out some useful (and not so useful) things, and help me support disadvantaged, deserving families across the United States. If you’re not in New Haven, I can ship reasonably-sized items to you (ie not suitcase or printer).

Some items include:
Green Hunter Rainboots (Size 8M)
Tote bags
Aqua-colored Birkenstocks (Size 39)
Dooney and Bourke wristlet
Michael Kors sandals (Size 8 )
Vera Bradley large duffel
UO shoulder bag
Digital alarm clock
HP Printer
Small and large bookshelves
Desk lamp (no bulb)
Gucci wallet
iPad 1, full of ebooks
Oscar Schmidt Ukulele
Tory Burch wristlet

Come by 12-5 PM Sunday, January 12.
Trumbull F51.
Cash/CC/Paypal donations accepted.

Update: $281 to affordable housing!

2014 To-Do’s

Because, let’s be real, New Years Resolutions are a joke.

Bike to Long Beach and back (80 miles)

Bike to Hartford and back (85 miles)

Bike across CT (100 miles)

Write and send at least one postcard or letter every week.

Actually go to shows at the Yale Rep.

Fundraise at least $4500 for B&B.

Volunteer/Work with HH New Haven.


Get a job (preferably in Austin, London, Beijing, or Seoul).

Bike across the country from Providence to Half Moon Bay. Work with 13 affordable housing organizations.

Learn how to Scuba Dive, get PADI Open Water Certification.

Learn how to use a camcorder and edit videos.

Learn Cyrillic.

Be frugal. Save up for a RTW ticket.