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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Issue Drivers' Licenses Based on Emotional Age

Car/bike confrontations have been on many minds lately, including mine, along with articles and letters in the all the local papers. Not unusual for this time of year. Many folks (drivers) are angry at cyclists for taking up their space on the road.

Just this afternoon, I was riding on a Boulder street. I was in the bike lane, approaching a major intersection, and saw the light change to green. There were three cars in front of me, and all of them had their right-hand turn signals flashing. To avoid any question about whether they would have to wait for me to pass on the right, I pulled out into the lane where they could see me in their mirrors, and waved them on.

As a cyclist, when I pull into the traffic lane, I always pull well into the lane, so that there is no temptation for any driver behind me to pass when it is not safe. I moved to the left-hand side of the lane, and as the three cars moved through the bike lane to turn, I went by them on the left.

As I was moving back to the right side of the road, a guy in a large pickup truck roared by me, leaned over to his open passenger window, and angrily yelled at me, "Hey, stay to the right!"

Now, clearly I was riding legally, safely, courteously, and defensively. I had not caused the driver behind me a single second of delay -- in fact, I had probably reduced his delay by removing any possibility of confrontation between myself and the turning cars. In my mind I imagined that my taunter hates cyclists, but is lately worked up even more than usual by the likes of Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. The sheriff, as a law officer, has made it ok to blame the cyclist, to assume the cyclist is always doing something wrong, and to take it upon yourself to correct the matter.

Vigilante justice never solves the problem. In fact it turns the enforcer into the criminal. In Boulder there is a "fighting words" ordinance, which states, "No person shall insult, taunt, or challenge another in a manner likely to provoke a disorderly response." Just as clearly as I was not violating any law in this incident, Mr. Pickup Truck was clearly using fighting words, and had he been charged and convicted he could have been given a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to ninety days. My only penalty would have been having to show up in court to testify against him, which I would have done willingly and via bicycle just to rub it in.

That is, had I been quicker on getting the license plate number off that pickup. Oh, well, at least I can vent here.

Here is some general advice for both drivers and cyclists. Don't get it into your head that you can or should enforce the law yourself, because you can't. If you see someone doing something that you think is wrong, you need to put yourself in their shoes first. If you can't see what they're seeing, if you don't know why a cyclist would be riding where that person is, well, then you need to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. There is probably a good reason that you just don't know. And there's a pretty good chance that the cyclist knows the laws that apply to cyclists better than you, as a driver, do.

I guarantee this. Your road rage will not make the situation better. Throwing insults or worse at cyclists (or at drivers if you are a cyclist) will not change their behavior in any way that you would see as a benefit. Rather, it will encourage them to be more obnoxious just to spite you. And there's nothing worse than having someone spite in your face while you're enjoying a nice drive or bike ride.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Shocked the Sheriff

It always heats up this time of year, and I'm not talking about the weather or global warming. I mean the bike haters are out in their cars and the car haters are out on their bikes. Boulder, although a cycling mecca, is no exception.

The current controversy is just north of Boulder, over the Larimer County line. A popular ride from Boulder takes you over the county line to Carter Lake. Or, if you're ambitious, you can keep going up to Fort Collins or Estes Park.

Recently, a couple of Boulder riders got stopped by a Larimer County deputy for riding two abreast. According to one of them:
The deputy was hostile and first asked us if we knew the laws for cycling. Then he asked if we were from Boulder County. He asked us why we are riding in Larimer County when there are plenty of roads in Boulder County. He ran our ID’s and then told us we had the choice to turn around and go back to Boulder or get a citation if we continued to ride in Larimer County. He stated several times that he does not appreciate people from Boulder choosing to ride in Larimer.
However, this is not just a case of a sheriff's deputy with a bad attitude. It starts at the top. Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden has a history of making nasty remarks about Boulder (which he refers to as "the imbecilic borough of Boulder"), which in his opinion is a poster community for the wrong side of the guns, God, and gay debate.

Alderden's response to the charges about the overzealous deputy? The Boulder cyclists, as usual, are copping an attitude. He jokes that his deputies get bonus points for ticketing Boulderites, and that the deputy in question has already won a toaster oven and has almost earned a fishing rod and reel. Does he get to be insulting and then get away with it because he says it's a joke, even though you know he means every word of it?

At issue is the sheriff's interpretation of state law, which allows riding two abreast when it doesn't impede traffic. Clearly, his interpretation is that riding two abreast always impedes traffic, and the state legislature obviously wrote this law just to tease the cyclists.

While out harassing Boulder cyclists who cross the county line, the sheriff is unfortunately paying little attention to the bigger threat of automobile drivers who break the law and threaten the safety of cyclists and others, by passing too close, by crossing the solid yellow line when passing, by hurling insults and objects at cyclists, etc.

Now I do not condone breaking the law by anybody. Some cyclists give the rest of us a bad name when they act illegally and don't share the road. But there are plenty of drivers with exactly the same problem, who give drivers an equally bad name. And Sheriff Alderden is opening himself up to charges of selective enforcement by targeting Boulder cyclists while ignoring the actions of local drivers.

Now for the capper. The sheriff says that many cyclists have taken to not carrying ID, with the implication that this is to avoid taking responsibility for traffic violations. I often don't carry ID when cycling, but it has more to do with lack of pockets and the likelihood of anything you carry getting sweaty. In any case, there is no law that says you have to carry ID. But according to the big, bad sheriff, "When issuing a citation for a violation, if we can’t verify the identification of the cyclist, they WILL be taken to jail pending identification and their bicycles impounded."

That's right. For the non-crime of not carrying ID, you will be thrown in jail and your bike taken away. Both of these actions are so obviously a violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure that you have to ask yourself how a law officer can even suggest them. And, no, he wasn't joking this time.

Here's what the good sheriff has done. He's pissed off lots of cyclists, who are no doubt going to spend even more time cycling on his turf. He's riled up lots of drivers, and shown that it's OK even for an elected law officer to harass and insult people based on their residence and sporting activities. So, rather than calming the situation down, as would be appropriate in his position, he has made it worse.

What should we be doing? Well, whether on bicycles, car, trucks, or motorcycles, we should be using the roads safely and legally, and respecting the rights of others to do the same. Remember, cyclists have as much right to use the road as any driver. We are not there to annoy you or slow you down. If a cyclist is not as far right as you think he or she should be, realize that you don't see what they see. There is very likely a hazard you can't see (such as broken glass thoughtfully provided by another driver) causing them to ride further in the roadway. If you come upon a group of cyclists, and you want to pass, no need to honk or yell. They know you're there. Give them a moment to return to single file, or wait a bit until it's safe to pass legally. Remember, if you break the law to pass them, you're no better than they are. And if you're on a bike, you know the rules. Every time you violate the rules, some driver who's not smart enough to know even basic statistics will generalize your actions to prove that all cyclists break the law all the time.

If you ever break traffic laws (and who among us doesn't), then you are being greatly hypocritical when you get indignant about some other class of road users who may also break the law. So, get over it and take a chill pill. Then maybe go out for a nice relaxing bike ride.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kit vs. Doe

These pictures were taken this morning at breakfast, through the glass kitchen door, when one of the kits came right up on the deck to investigate. There was a bit of rain water in the basket, and it was getting a drink as well.

As long as I'm inside with the door closed, it's as if I don't exist, and it will come right up to me. But if I were to open the door it would be gone in an instant.

It's really been quite entertaining here lately. The two kits, when they are out, are quite playful, jumping, chasing, and generally acting like kids. Sometimes mom joins in, or she leads them to and from our neighbor's yard to play. Sometimes there is a second adult as well.

Late yesterday afternoon, I looked out the window and saw about five does grazing in our front yard. Not too unusual, but one of them was very close to the irrigation pipe that the foxes are using as their den, and she was acting a bit curious. I looked more closely, and I saw a tiny face poking out of the end of the pipe. No mama fox anywhere in sight.

I was surprised that they would interact at all. Deer are too big to be fox prey. But they were clearly both interested. Eventually, the doe walked on by into our neighbor's driveway. The kit ventured out of the hiding place, and the other does started moving in closer.

Most of the rest of the does walked by. As the last one approached the den, the kit and the doe both turned to watch something at the street. A family with a dog was walking by. Once it was gone, the doe moved in to check out the kit. She put her nose right up to it, and when she touched it, the startled fox turned and dove in one move back into its hiding place.

That was it for the fox part of the entertainment. The does moved back into our yard, where the dandelions are obviously tastier.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pander to the People Right On

Last week we went to hear a band called The Panderers. They were pretty good, and between songs the band members would tell us how great our town, club, neighborhood, audience members, etc., were. Kind of funny.

However, it's not so funny when the people we elect do the same thing. I was reminded of this when I saw John McCain's latest health care "reform" proposal. It was as if the band had given everyone in the audience free t-shirts or CDs or drinks, and funded it through a mandatory ticket surcharge at the door.

Here's how McCain's plan would work. Somehow, without raising taxes, he is going to give everybody $2,500 (or $5,000 per family) to buy health insurance. I imagine this is going straight into our deficit, which means, of course, that it is coming out of my eventual Social Security and Medicare payments. That's it. Oh, yeah, he wants to "promote" lots of other feel-good stuff, like insurance for people with preexisting conditions, healthy lifestyles, convenience, and competition. Where's the meat?

Kind of like the recent stimulus package, which similarly took from our future financial stability to help people who can't control their spending to pay down their credit cards.

Or kind of like the proposals being floated around to have a "gas tax holiday" for the summer, encouraging people to drive even more while not fixing crumbling bridges.

Does this stuff actually work? Meaning, of course, are people more likely to vote for a politician who writes them checks, even though they must know that the money is coming out of the government's ability to provide some other service that the recipient is likely to continue to expect? It's sad, but I have no doubt that it does.

Maybe if the band had handed out free t-shirts to the audience members, and built the cost into the price of the CD we were expected to go out and buy because we appreciated the free t-shirt so much. That would be pandering like a pro.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Combatting Illiteracy

Every place has its loose cannon, and Colorado is no exception. Ours is Douglas Bruce, who was appointed late last year by his party (the Republicans) to fill a vacant seat in the State Legislature. However, I'm sure there are now many Republicans who regret making that mistake.

Bruce's theatrics have been going on for years. He is the author of the so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), which has single-handedly done more to cripple the state government than anything else. His goofiness in the State Legislature started even before he was sworn in. He delayed his swearing in ceremony a few days past the opening session just so he could exploit a loophole in Colorado's term limit law and get the opportunity to run for one extra term. Then, he applied for per diem expenses for the days prior to his delayed swearing in! (He later introduced a bill to eliminate per diem payments.) Since then, he was censured by the legislature for kicking a photographer who was taking his picture during a session. He was the sole member of the legislature to vote against honoring our veterans and military, and lost his post in the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee as a result. He's come out against many aspects of his party's agenda, including a pine beetle mitigation fund and specialty license plates. And the list goes on.

It had been a while since we'd heard from Bruce, so it was reassuring to find out about this recent controversy. In his arguments against a bill that would have allowed additional agricultural guest workers from Mexico, Bruce famously said, "I don't think we need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in Colorado."

Of course, his microphone was figuratively turned off, but he has continued to defend his remarks (as have his supporters.) It seems that he checked the dictionary definitions of "illiterate" and "peasant", and didn't see what all the fuss was about, since the migrant workers clearly fit the definitions of both.

Well, Mr. Bruce clearly has problems with the English language himself. The word "illiterate" refers to someone who can't read or write. What evidence does he have that the migrant works fit that description? According to my research, 91% of all Mexicans are literate, and there is no reason to believe that the agricultural workers he refers to are any different.

Bruce is having a hard time why people are offended by his words. Well, according to the Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, "illiterate is pejorative when used to describe people who can read and write, but not to a level acceptable to the speaker." Yes, the word is commonly used as an insult by people who think they know more than someone else. You can't use a word that is a common insult and then feign surprise when people get upset.

Similarly, the word "peasant" is a mask for something else here. Its true definition is family laborers who work on a small plot land they lease from a landlord. Again, the word is often used as an insult by people who feel superior to poor farmers.

In fact, you'd think that Bruce would have a better understanding of the word "peasant", as he himself is a landlord. He has been cited on several occasions for poorly maintaining his rental properties. Oh, and by the way, he recently refused to recuse himself and voted against a bill that would crack down on landlords like himself. Pretty cool, huh?

Wait, there's more. Just a couple days ago, Bruce was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint at the legislature and ordered to stay away from the accusing woman.

Class clown, maybe. But somehow I don't see Bruce maintaining his seat much longer. He's up for reelection this year, and facing stiff competition for the Republican nomination from Iraq war veteran Mark Waller. I predict the headlines from the state capital are not going to last much past the next general election.

Labels: , , , , ,