Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Sunday, December 25, 2011

You Don't Have to Go Home (But You Can't Stay Here)

Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam has proposed a new rule closing all city parks and open space properties between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. It wouldn't apply to pedestrians or cyclists passing through without stopping, but any hint of delay would open the lollygaggers to citation.

Communications Manager Patrick von Keyserling says this rule is not a response to the Occupy protesters, but rather is meant to protect their safety and health (a rather Orwellian description).

It is also meant to address illegal nighttime activity in dimly lit, sparsely populated areas. It's easier to stop all parks and open space usage at night than to just enforce existing laws.

However, my biggest issue with the proposal isn't its questionable justification. It's the legitimacy of the process being followed.


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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Caution -- Slow Bikes

City staff has proposed several changes to transportation code, some of which affect how crosswalks are regulated. The changes were presented to council on Nov. 15 and the first reading was approved, which means that the changes will be discussed in more detail this Tuesday.

If the changes are approved as presented, drivers will have to stop at a crosswalk if another driver has already stopped to let a pedestrian cross. This is common sense and brings the city's regulations into line with state law.

The changes affecting pedestrians and cyclists are more impactful.

Pedestrians using a crosswalk with an alert system, like the flashing yellow lights found around town, are only allowed to do so after the lights have been activated. Some pedestrians avoid triggering the flashing lights if there is plenty of time to cross and they don't want to inconvenience drivers.

However, I believe this is a reasonable requirement. Making the use of the lights more consistent will help with drivers' expectations. And if there is an accident in which the pedestrian didn't activate the signal, it will help assign responsibility.

The remaining crosswalk changes restrict the speed of bikes in crosswalks.


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Sunday, November 13, 2011

What's the Difference between a Skeptic and a Denier?

To someone with a scientific background, the difference is obvious. A skeptic has an open mind; a denier has a closed mind.

The denier has made up his mind that anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming isn't happening. He rejects any scientific evidence supporting AGW, and blindly accepts any evidence, pseudo-evidence, emotional appeal, or unsupported argument that opposes AGW. Scientifically disproving his argument won't sway him.

The skeptic doesn't believe something just because the establishment says it's so. He needs to personally examine the evidence, and won't believe it until he can prove it for himself.

The skeptic is pro-science, exactly the type of person who moves science forward. The denier is anti-science, but may hide behind the term "skeptic" the same way a creationist hides behind the term "intelligent design."

Dr. Richard Muller is a skeptic. The Berkeley physicist criticized errors he saw in Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" He criticized the scientists involved in the so-called "climategate scandal." He vocally criticized the "hockey stick" graph that climate scientists have used to show the sharp increase in temperature in the past few decades.


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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The case of the missing education funding

My ballot was sitting on my desk, only one blank remaining. I was confused.

Colorado Proposition 103 is supposed to restore cut state education funding by increasing our taxes for the next five years. But I distinctly remember that we passed a constitutional amendment about ten years ago that promised to increase school funding every year.

Either the Legislature has been violating the state constitution by cutting education spending, or someone isn't being quite honest (or possibly both).

Amendment 23 passed with 52.7 percent of the vote in 2000. It promised, among other things, to "(increase) per pupil funding for public schools and total state funding for special purpose education programs by at least the rate of inflation plus one percentage point for the next ten years and by at least the rate of inflation thereafter." And yet, for the past couple of years, education funding has been on the chopping block along with everything else.

I sympathize with the Legislature. Theirs is an impossible task. They are being micromanaged by us citizens with many conflicting goals.


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Boulder Election 2011

Given recent local election coverage, you'd think the only things we're voting on were municipalization and corporate rights. However, Boulder has no fewer than eight ballot issues this year.

Issue 2A allows the city to sell $49,000,000 in bonds for critical infrastructure needs, including maintaining streets, bridges, buildings, and recreation facilities; upgrading software, the main library, and police and fire equipment; and improving transportation connections and streetscapes. It's hard to argue with those priorities. The bonds will be paid back using existing revenue streams. Plus, the work will generate local jobs, helping the local economy.

Issue 2B allows the city to extend and increase the utility occupation tax levied on Xcel's customers to further investigate the feasibility of a municipal power utility. Question 2C authorizes the city council to create a power utility, if it proves it can do so in a cost-effective manner, with rates and reliability comparable to Xcel's and a plan for more renewable energy.

David Miller, in his guest commentary a week ago, rightly pointed out that there are many unanswered questions related to this proposal. We don't know how much it will cost, nor how much additional renewable energy will be feasible. However, we can't know these answers without approving both measures. So, the real question is whether we want to know, or whether we will continue to trust Xcel to work in Boulder's best interest.


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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Patent Reform is Bust for Brainy Boulderites

Last year Boulder was judged the brainiest city by, but lumped in with 20th place Denver in Forbes' list of innovative cities.

Now we're seventh on the Insomnia Log Patent Friendly Cities list. Boulder area residents were issued 834 patents per 100,000 residents from 2006 through 2010, and only six other metro regions did better.

President Obama just signed a patent reform law, the first major overhaul of our patent system in 60 years, and there was hardly a peep from local inventors.

The most debated part of the new law converts the U.S. from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system. Previously, you could get a patent if you could prove that you invented something first, even if someone else beat you to the Patent and Trademark Office. No more.

Supporters, including many of the biggest technology companies, say this will simplify things, eliminating contests over who actually owns an invention. A class of procedures is eliminated from the PTO. This should reduce legal costs, and help reduce the multi-year backlog of patent applications.

Many small inventors are not so thrilled. They fear big companies with teams of lawyers will file applications faster, and earn patents even when they weren't the first to come up with an idea.


Correction: In this essay, I said that, "Under the new law the PTO gets to keep all of its fees, rather than having them siphoned into the general fund." In fact, that provision was deleted during congressional negotiations.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Patent Friendly Cities

These are the top 20 metropolitan areas in the US, based on the number of patents granted to residents per capita. This is based on the first named inventor on patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office from 2006 through 2010.
1San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA2,202
2Corvallis, OR1,586
3Burlington-South Burlington, VT992
4Rochester, MN962
5Boise City-Nampa, ID906
6Bremerton-Silverdale, WA841
7Boulder, CO834
8Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA758
9Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX597
10Ann Arbor, MI591
11Fort Collins-Loveland, CO591
12San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA564
13Rochester, NY496
14Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY463
15Ithaca, NY458
16Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA427
17Raleigh-Cary, NC423
18Trenton-Ewing, NJ423
19Durham-Chapel Hill, NC390
20Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH374

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Still fearful after all these years

Raise your hand if you remember where you were 10 years ago today.

I'll bet almost all of you remember it like yesterday. I sure do. Watching thousands of people murdered on live television is not something you can easily forget.

It was a time of strong emotion: confusion, fear, grief, anger. We mourned together as one country, and we plotted our revenge together.

But it has not been satisfying, nor have we obtained closure. We attacked two countries, but saw mostly quagmire. The economy has never regained its pre-attack strength. The unity after the attack was quickly replaced by the bitterest partisan bickering this country has seen in a long time. Even the taking down of the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, didn't generate more than a momentary sense of satisfaction.

Thirty-two years ago, a President gave a speech in which he talked about our country's malaise. The voters hated him for it, choosing to fire Carter and bring in the optimist Reagan. But today, politicians are competing not to deny the malaise but to pin it on the other guy.

What happened to us 10 years ago? Why can't we get out of this funk? Did we take a bite of the apple, lose our innocence, and get tossed out of the garden? Or are we suffering from PTSD and showing symptoms of depression that just won't disappear?

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

We're going about this thing all wrong

I'm talking, of course, about the economy. It's annoyingly broken, and for some reason just refuses to fix itself.

The tea party gang would have you believe it's as simple as spending less money and reducing the deficit. However, they can't actually believe that will work. Every economist and his brother-in-law tells us that cutting government spending will just send the economy further into the toilet. Economies in the toilet, as we've seen recently, tend to result in larger deficits.

Of course, Obama and the Democrats don't have a much better plan. They're banking on stimulus that's so tepid that Republicans might even vote for it if they hold their noses. Tepid stimulus leads to, you guessed it, tepid recovery.

I have a modest proposal.


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

What, Me Vote?

It always amazes me when elected officials take the fact of their election as a message that people actually agree with them.

OK, it doesn't amaze me, but it still doesn't seem logical. Of course, once you are elected you really can't operate under any other assumption, but that doesn't mean you're not wrong.

In this country, about a third of those eligible to vote are actually politically active enough to vote regularly. There's your base: half of these regular voters. You can count on them as long as you don't do something stupid.

It's the fifth of all adults who vote once in a while that you really need. Convincing them of your position won't convince them to vote for you, nor will that strategy work for your opponent. They don't know much about the issues, nor do they care much about politics. What gets them to the polls is anger.


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