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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Little Foxes on the Hillside

Of course, click on any photo to see a larger version.

No, they're not made out of ticky tacky, and they don't all look the same.

Mama fox set up her den in an irrigation culvert, and the pair of kits can be seen frolicking in our yard.

I wish I had a webcam to put out there. They don't let you get too close to take a great picture, but you can see them pretty well in these photos.

I only hope the kits are old enough to move out when irrigation season starts in a few weeks.

Here are some other baby pictures from our yard from a couple years ago.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

They Say It's Your Earth Day

I was going to write about Earth Day a few days ago, but got distracted when the earth decided to take things into its own hands.

I noticed that lots of companies are really focusing on cashing in on the green thing. Earth Day sales were very popular this year.

So which of the following do you think is a joke:
  • A super market chain offered free reusable shopping bags if you bought a case of single-serving bottled water
  • Another company is holding an Earth Day drawing in which the prize is a (hybrid) SUV and an all-expense-paid airline trip to Yellowstone National Park
  • For this Earth Day, an appliance store is having a special on side-by-side refrigerators
The answer, of course, is that they are all jokes, but they are all true.

You've got to have a sense of humor if you want to survive in this world. Unfortunately, the joke is on all of us.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Earth, Wind, and Fire

I was going to write about Earth Day, but I think I'll save that for another time. Today I saw a good example of what happens when the Earth decides to take its own day when it wants.

I was glad I went for my long bike ride yesterday, because today was quite a bit windier, and not predicted to be as warm. A good day for a long trail run. I hadn't done one of my favorites, Flagstaff Mountain, since last summer, and I figured with the 80 degree weather most of the snow and ice on the trail will have melted by now.

Boulder is such a great place to run. From my house, it is about 0.75 miles to the trails in the foothills, and you can go as long and as far as you want on trails, without ever being far from town. The first climb, Dakota Ridge, is the steepest, and then descends through Sanitas Valley. Then the very steep climb up to Red Rocks park, and the treacherous descent down into Settlers Park. A quick jaunt on the bike path under the highway and through Eben G. Fine Park. Then, a sneaky route through what seems like an alley to View Point Trail, which runs into the Flagstaff Summit Trail (which, of course, goes to the summit).

The route is up and down the whole way, much of it pretty steep. My average pace for the whole thing (up and down) is probably that of a brisk walk. It was a beautiful day, and there were tons of people on the trials and in the parks.

I had made my way down from the summit and was back on View Point Trail. Yes, it deserves the name. The top is at what's called Panorama Point, and along the way you get a good view of Boulder. Maybe two-thirds of the way down you get a good view across Boulder Canyon, where I had started the climb a while earlier. As I got to that point, a couple of people had stopped to look across at the view. I looked at them to say hi, then glanced at what had their attention.

Just on the other side of the canyon, there was a huge plume of smoke. I scanned the landscape and tried to figure out exactly where it was. Could this be anything but a forest fire? Let's see, there's Red Rocks, just above the smoke, and that's Boulder Creek. It appeared to be coming from the steep, rocky area just above Settlers Park. Where I had just been an hour or so earlier. The west wind was blowing the fire down towards town.

As I continued down the trail, I watched the fire. Sometimes I could see the flames. I hadn't noticed anybody smoking among all the hikers I'd seen, but that seemed a likely explanation. It also appeared that the fire was east of the Red Rocks Trail, which would put it in an area that is popular for transients to camp in.

I got down to the canyon floor, and I noticed many people in the park watching the fire and taking pictures. (I usually don't bring my camera when I run, so I don't have any.) I crossed under the highway, and right at the foot of Settlers Park there was a yellow police line taped across the path. I stopped to look at the fire and chat with a couple of other people stopped there.

One college-aged woman was standing on the path with her cell phone. She pointed to her house just up the hill, and said she didn't know what to do. She hadn't yet been told to evacuate, but it seemed likely. Her car was blocked in, and her friends were unable to get through to her house. Meanwhile she had lots of homework to do and had not yet packed. Fortunately, her house was west of the flames, and the winds were blowing from the west.

Another fellow said he lived nearby, and that he would probably be blamed because he was a smoker. Then, quickly and defensively, he added that he always put out his cigarette in his hand and his mouth and then carried it with him, showing me the burn marks in his hand to prove it. I didn't want to look.

My inconvenience? I merely had to run about a half mile out of my way to get around the roadblock. However, I have never seen traffic like this in this this part of Boulder ever before. Fire and police officials were trying to keep the area clear, but a mass of cars, bikes, and people descended on the several block area just below the fire.

The latest update, as of when I write this: The blaze is 100% contained. It has burned an acre or two, and no homes were evacuated, although about 1400 homes in west Boulder were warned. The fire is assumed to be human caused, as there was no lightning or other likely cause.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

City of Boulder Mandates Emissions

I was idly perusing the Boulder Municipal Code the other day, when I discovered that I am the worst kind of scofflaw.

Yes, in a city where bikes are revered above cars, where the citizens voted to tax themselves for carbon emissions, where the city government provides dirt cheap bus passes to many of its citizens, and where the people glorify organic food, it turns out that I am breaking the law by not driving my car enough.

According to section 7-6-20:
  1. No vehicle shall be parked upon any street for more than seventy-two hours without being moved or for the principal purpose of storage for more than seventy-two hours.
  2. Proof that the vehicle's odometer shows movement of no more than two-tenths of a mile during a period of at least seventy-two hours shall constitute prima facie evidence of violation of this section.
Ok, ignore the fact that item (a) doesn't make sense, and item (b) seems to outlaw not driving your car at least 0.3 miles every three days (who writes these things!?). At a minimum, this law says that I can't leave my car parked on the street for more than three days in a row.

I'm fairly certain that the setbacks required by the city planning department would not allow a two-car garage to be built on our property. That means that one of the two cars in our family has to be parked on the street.

So, every time I bike to a meeting, every time I walk to the rec center, every time I take the bus downtown, every time I telecommute, I am compounding my crime. The penalty for this crime is a fine of $15. And the worst part is that there is a new infraction every two hours after the first one.

So let's see. If I leave my car parked for four days, the fines could be as high as $195. The last time I drove my car was last Tuesday, so I'm up to about $750 already. Over the winter when they don't plow our street and it turns into a skating rink, I've been known to leave my car for six weeks at a time. That adds up to a maximum fine of $7,575. Just because I'd rather crash walking than driving.

So, what are my choices? We could sell the second car, since gosh we could probably live with just one. Of course, it does happen reasonably often that we both need to drive somewhere. Or, I could put the car in a commercial garage ... and then walk or bike to the garage when I need to use the car. I could just give the city my credit card number, and tell them to fine away.

I guess my favorite idea is to picture myself as a modern-day Thoreau. I'm holed up in the city jail because of the parking fines that are piling high, and of course I refuse to pay them on principle. While in jail, I'd write a book about the simple life I live in Boulder in pure harmony with naturopaths, adventure racers, and tree huggers. And so would I build my credentials as the great American blogger and tax resister.

So, come and get me, Boulder parking enforcement office Rita. I have everything I need already packed, and it all fits very nicely into a single soapbox.

They do have wireless Internet access in the jail, don't they?

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Boulder Tries to Slip Under the Radar

The City of Boulder is the target of ridicule again, but this time it's probably deserved (although not necessarily for the reason that people think). It seems that the city has been "parking" a photo radar van in a no parking zone, in order to catch speeders. When someone pointed out the lack of logic in that, the city simply mounted a sign under the no parking and tow-away zone ones that said "Police vehicles excepted".

Now, I have nothing against photo radar -- when it is correctly implemented. But, for several reasons, the city's program is not well implemented, and may even be illegal. It literally stinks.

If you want to get a feeling for this specific location and whether it is appropriate for photo radar, check it out on Google maps. Turn on satellite view and zoom in, or better yet, check out the street view. The van parks right under the tree on the east side of the street.

3860 N. Broadway, Boulder CO

Look at some of the issues:
  • When it was pointed out that the van was parked illegally, the response of some at the city was that the van wasn't parked, because the engine was always idling and someone was always on board. And besides, this is a critical area for stopping speeders, because of the merging traffic lanes and the bike lane. Well, I'm sure I speak for many other cyclists on this; I ride past that location often, and I'd rather have the speeders than the lung full of accumulated, stale gasoline fumes. If parking the van in a no parking zone is an issue, then leaving it idling for hours, which would be a violation of municipal ordinances if I did it, isn't any better. Plus, it is clearly contrary to the city's Climate Smart program.
  • This section of North Broadway is no parking for a reason. The traffic lanes and the bike lane leave the van no room to park except by squeezing onto the gravel landscaping. Just 50 yards past the speed trap, the two north-bound lanes merge into one. So, parking there is adding a hazard to a tricky spot. Certainly, cars should have planned the merge before then, but sometimes, especially when traffic is heavy, it just doesn't work out, and you have to speed up or slow down to merge safely. I point out the following from Colorado's traffic code, which basically says that it is legal to speed if doing so is required to avoid an accident:
The conduct of a driver of a vehicle which would otherwise constitute a violation of this section [speed regulations] is justifiable and not unlawful when ... It is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur by reason of a situation occasioned or developed through no conduct of said driver and which is of sufficient gravity that, according to ordinary standards of intelligence and morality, the desirability and urgency of avoiding the injury clearly outweigh the desirability of avoiding the consequences sought to be prevented by this section.
  • Back in 2002, a number of folks were very upset by Boulder and other cities using (and some say abusing) photo radar. A law was passed by the state legislature that limited how cities could use this technique. For example, the law requires a temporary sign posted at least 300 feet before the radar. As I stated earlier, I live nearby and go by there often, and I have never seen such a sign. If I were contesting a ticket at that location, this would be my first line of defense.
  • According to the same law, photo radar can only be used in a school zone, adjacent to a park, or in a residential neighborhood with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less. This clearly isn't a park or school zone, so the city is obviously calling North Broadway (which I would call a boulevard) a residential neighborhood. On the east side of the street is a large apartment complex, behind a high sound barrier/fence. There are houses on the west side of the street, also behind a fence, but those houses are set back quite a bit, with access and addresses on Orange Pl and Oakdale Pl. This is clearly not a residential neighborhood as you or I would view it. Photo radar is definitely not protecting kids playing and loose dogs and quiet enjoyment of suburban households.
  • Oh, and while the speed limit on that stretch of road is 35 MPH, in just a quarter mile it is raised to 40 MPH.
No doubt the city's attorneys studied the state law and found the one location on North Broadway where they thought they could get away with photo radar. However, at a minimum, I don't think they are playing within the intent of the law.

I call on the City of Boulder to follow state law, and use photo radar appropriately, with adequate signage, in true residential neighborhoods, and in a climate smart manner.

New sign!

Note the newly-added exception to the No Parking sign. Interestingly enough, the similar signs 50 yards on either side do not have the same exception.

Street scene from a quiet neighborhood

See where the radar van has to squeeze in between the sidewalk and the bike lane.

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