Sunday, September 30, 2012

Style Points...

...awarded for use of the apostrophe in the name and the frowny face in the "O".  No points, however, for substantive argument.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spokane River Cleanup

Steph and I signed up to help. We applied to work in the area on the north bank just west of the Sandifur Bridge, but were reassigned to the east side of Latah Creek opposite of High Bridge Park.

 Bright orange was a common color this year.

 The infantry will form up here and wait until after the artillery barrage...oh, wait...we're picking up garbage, right?

 I found a water heater in Latah Creek. Tom├ís and I managed to move it up to where it could be hefted onto a truck.

Snapshots From This Week

Kathy and I went to a local casino to have dinner with some friends at the buffet. I am not one to ask for discounts at an eatery but Kathy is. She asked if they offered a senior citizen discount.

"Yes," the young lady behind the register happily replied, "We have a senior discount for anyone 55 and older."

"Hank, show her your ID."

The young lady takes one look at me and says, "Oh, you don't need to show any ID."


* * * * * * * 

There's a small coffee/sandwich shop downtown where I occasionally order a sandwich in the morning and pick it up at the end of my run during lunch. I try to catch their attention when I'm outside the shop so I don't offend any of the patrons by entering the place all sweaty and smelly. A young lady working there knows that and uttered the most appropriate malapropism.

"I try to keep an eye out for you but you always disappear out of nowhere."

Unfortunately that never works when there's yard work to be done.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Being Bike Friendly

Or not. There's a fitness place downtown that has a small bike rack that has room for two bikes at the most. I often see bikes locked up to the rail and the parking meters since there's no room at the rack. In other bike rack news, I did not notice this until recently, but the bike rack that was outside of the federal courthouse is no longer there. People have to lock up at the parking meters instead. Must be a trending thing.

Children Of The Sun Trail

This morning I rode the trail from Farwell Elementary to Freya and then, as per Jason's recommendation, crossed Market to Regal. (There were a couple constructioneers on the Parksmith bridge but they did not begrudge my passing through. They even returned my "Good morning.") I followed Regal to Illinois and then took Perry to the Centennial Trail at Mission Park. I arrived downtown after 50 minutes of pedaling. I'm happy with that. Overall that route is pretty quiet with Illinois and Perry being the only places I had much traffic to deal with. One more route to choose from when I have time for an extra workout before or after work.

Why You Hate Cyclists

An excellent article with that subject line can be found over on Slate. An excerpt:

Though most Americans don’t ride bikes, bikers are less likely to stereotype drivers because most of us also drive. The “otherness” of cyclists makes them stand out, and that helps drivers cement their negative conclusions. This is also why sentiments like “taxi drivers are awful” and “Jersey drivers are terrible” are common, but you don’t often hear someone say “all drivers suck.” People don’t like lumping themselves into whatever group they are making negative conclusions about, so we subconsciously seek out a distinguishing characteristic first.

Every time another bicyclist pulls some dickish stunt, the affect heuristic kicks in to reinforce the preconceived biases. The same isn’t true in reverse: The conviction that bicyclists are erratically moving hazards is not diminished by the repeated observance of safe and respectful riding. Facts and logical arguments that do not conform to the emotional conclusion are discounted or disregarded. But we’re not doomed to our initial prejudices: Once a person becomes aware of her biases, she is more able to engage rational thought processes to overcome the affect heuristic and dispel her inaccurate conclusions. So, study those stats bike haters!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Statewide Bike/Pedestrian Count

So today was the first (and main) day for the bike and pedestrian counts at various intersections in a number of cities. During my commute in this morning, I saw a hi-viz jacket at the intersection of Post and Buckeye so I swung by to be counted and say hello. It was Gary, a very nice guy, retired boilermaker, and as you can tell from the photo, a cyclist.

Gary marking down cyclist number four.

I had the afternoon shift at Rowen and Addison. I'm glad I wasn't counting cars. That would've been overwhelming. After an hour the guy living in the corner house came out to see me. He said he didn't appreciate me hanging around on his property and he was concerned about criminal activity. I was on the sidewalk, but instead of getting in a pissing contest I explained what I was doing and asked if I could stay there for another hour. He was cool with that. I wonder what kind of heinous criminal activity he expected out of a gray-haired man wearing a bike jersey and shorts.

This fellow showed off his double trailer set up. He carries his camping and fishing gear in the front trailer and the dog in the back. 

Of the 23 cyclists I counted, 12 were not wearing helmets. Ten blew through the four-way stop like they owned the intersection. 

This guy came ripping down the road but was hardly pedaling. Once he was close enough, I saw and heard why. He's motorized. That's a sweet looking bike.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Words Of Wisdom - Mostly

"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation." - John F. Kennedy

"Think about every problem, every challenge, we face. The solution to each starts with education." - George H. W. Bush  

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in. That everyone may receive at least a moderate education appears to be an objective of vital importance." - Abraham Lincoln  

"The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize." - Franklin D. Roosevelt  

"To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education." - Thomas Jefferson  

"There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder." - Ronald Reagan  

“When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous." - Mitt Romney

Sunday, September 23, 2012

First Race Of The Season

Just like last year we had a touch of rain early in the morning before the race at Riverside State Park. But not enough to keep the dust down. It looked like a pretty good turnout for all the races. The new men's masters 60+ group had seven racers. Lots of kids participated in the junior's race. And the Cat 4 men's race had a crowded start.

Michael Emde threw something different on the course this year. The tires between the barriers made the run through more fun and interesting. 

Of course, there's always at least one rider who apparently never learned how to dismount a bike. Amazingly, he bunny hopped both barriers and the tires on every lap.

Fans high-fiving Stephanie for getting that last lap in. Nobody wants to get taken out by the race leader, right?

My race was great for the first half of the first lap until I hit a bump and heard a loud noise. I thought my rear tire popped but it turned out my fat butt knocked the saddle askew.

The next four and one-half laps were very uncomfortable at times. Having the forward part of that saddle hammering my underside forced me to stand on the pedals for the bumpy parts of the course, which was a lot of the course.

Glen was there showing off a stable of fine bicycles. There were a lot of Elephants on the course today.

John was serving up omelettes which turned out to be delicious after a race. So delicious that I had three of them. And he threw in a beer, too. Thank you very much! I took a bunch of photos of the races today. John took some more while I was on the course. 

And now to rest after a fun-filled day. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

They Have 'Em In Pints? I'm Getting One!

Trying to be the smart shopper I was comparing the per unit price of the various brands of olive oil. I thought it was funny that all the bottles were metric with the English measures added on and the per unit price was stated in pints. It might be confusing for people to use liters.
I have it on good authority from Mr Conrad, my fifth grade teacher, that we're switching to the metric system by 1975.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Elbow Room

Recent construction on Hwy 2 and Hawthorne resulted in some welcome changes for bike commuters like me. The edge of the pedestrian islands were pushed back. I've never mentioned the poor design before but it was something I noticed almost every day I rode to work.

The red arrows are pointing to where the edges of the islands used to be and the purple lines show the gain in road surface. The southbound approach still leaves a little to be desired but at least cyclists now have a little more room and are not pushed completely into the traffic lane. This isn't bad if the light is red and you're starting off at the same time as traffic. But if the light is green, be careful if you have 45mph+ traffic coming from behind.

Northbound wasn't much of a problem and now it's luxuriously roomy compared to before.

 Northbound on Hwy 2.

Southbound on Hwy 2.

Being Good Consumers

This morning a ton of people were lined up outside the Apple store for the iPhone 5.


The Early Bird Crosses The Bridge

Yesterday morning I took the Children of the Sun Trail to work. Well, part of the way. You need a really early start to get to the bridge that crosses Parksmith before the construction workers are working on it. So I detoured onto Market until I hit Freya, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

The two roundabouts--one for southbound traffic coming off the NSC and the other for northbound NSC traffic--on Freya are pretty neat but there are some drivers who think they can squeeze by a bicycle in those narrow approaches so be sure to take the lane. 

I did find that morning traffic on Freya between Francis and Wellesley combined with the road conditions makes for a sucky ride.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

He's Looking Down His Nose At You

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,” Romney said, according to the Mother Jones transcript. “That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what … These are people who pay no income tax.”

Let's have a look at who pays federal income taxes.

The lowest quintile consists of people who make less that $16,812 a year. The second quintile is marked at $33,542. The middle quintile tops out at $59,485. The median income is $50,054. Real wages have decreased and income disparity has increased. Meanwhile, 46.2 million Americans live in poverty.

The irony here is that Republicans can claim credit for the increase in tax credits that benefit so many low-income families and yet instead choose to look disdainfully upon those recipients as self-proclaimed victims standing around with outstretched hands waiting for the government to give them entitlements.

As we can see, it is possible to be so far out of touch that you can't even fake being able to relate to the majority of the population you seek to be president of.

Someday, Spokane. Someday

The City of Brotherly Love has learned that increasing the number of cyclists reduces the number of vehicle-cyclist accidents and deaths.

John Randolph, a retired architect and builder who has been biking on the streets of Philadelphia since his days at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s, said bike riding here has gotten appreciably safer.  

The increase in cyclists "has changed the consciousness of motorists," he said. "Bicyclists are paid much more attention to now. They're not just an unusual occurrence any more."  

"Obviously, the bike lanes make it safer . . . biking east and west through Center City is much more pleasant and safe than it used to be."  

[Alex] Doty, of the bicycle coalition, predicted that the increase in bikers and in biking safety may attract a new breed of riders to Philadelphia streets.  

"We can attract more women, more of the 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds, and that's the tipping point that makes biking fully accepted.  

"And that's when Philadelphia can turn into something like the Amsterdam of the U.S."

Philadelphia has 220 miles of bike lanes and plans to increase that to 300 miles. New York City has more than 280 miles of bike lanes. Portland, Oregon has over 300 miles of bike lanes. 

Isn't She Lovely?

High school kids love to goof for their school pictures. I hope Steph becomes president some day so everyone will get to see her creative, goofy side.

Bicycle And Pedestrian Documentation Project

It's time of year again to count cyclists and pedestrians to help determine usage and plan ahead. Only three more spots in Spokane need to be covered. You hang out at an intersection for two hours and make tick marks showing the direction each pedestrian and cyclist is going. If you want to get counted, come through the intersection of Addison and Rowan next Tuesday afternoon.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Day At The Races

Today was the first of the Kids Bike Races Series and it was held at Shadle Park. Michael Emde of Emde Sports said I should check it out so I brought my still and video cameras. This is great free event for kids 12 and under and it's happening again two weeks from today at Mirabeau Park Meadows.

 The boys may think they rule...

...but the girls were bringing their A game.

The two girls in the crash were not hurt. They got back on and finished the race after we untangled their bikes.


The exhaust pipes keep getting bigger and louder.

An Artificial Precipice About To Do Real Damage

The federal budget is making the news again and now it's about the inevitable path a dysfunctional Congress will follow as a result of Budget Control Act 0f 2011. Remember the super committee that was supposed to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1,500,000,000,000 over the period of fiscal years 2012 to 2021? The plan was not approved by the committee. But the Budget Control Act also contained a provision that presumably would have motivated our legislators to agree on a budget. Sequestration, as it's called, results in automatic cuts across the board for all federal agencies. It's a devastating scenario that our legislators claim they don't want to see happen all the while riding on the bus that's heading for a cliff of the occupants own making.

If you can identify wasteful government spending, you can responsibly target it. But if you arbitrarily cut government spending across the board, you irresponsibly create turmoil. It's like deciding someone must lose 10 pounds by a certain date, and if they don't, then they will have their right leg cut off at the knee to meet the weight loss requirement. They may weigh less, but are they better off for it now?

Although Jan 2, 2013, is when sequestration takes effect, the turmoil and uncertainty has already started. Government agencies are responsibly planning ahead for sequestration. With an automatic budget reduction coming up, they have to because all of the government functions and services we rely on will be affected.

For example, in a letter to 45 Illinois bar associations, Chief Judge James Holderman, Northern District of Illinois, is asking for feedback on his proposal to close the court every Wednesday from January through September of 2013. Sequestration will affect all 95 US District Courts in this manner. What would you do if you knew you would lose personnel and funds but keep the same, if not increasing, workload? This affects funds for paying juries, providing federal defenders, supervising offenders, and the timely prosecution and administration of criminal and civil cases.

Now apply that to getting a passport, border control, disease prevention, law enforcement, criminal investigations, disaster response and relief, consumer protection, and more. Chopping each agency off at one knee may fulfill the reduction requirement, but what good is the agency after that?

Again, this is a disaster of our legislators own making. The unwavering anti-tax stance by the House Republicans continues. The Bush tax cuts, the greatest contributor to our country's deficit, are set to expire this December and they don't want that to happen. Our legislators built the cliff and they drive the bus that's headed over it.

Enjoy the ride.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Children Of The Sun Trail

After taking care of a couple of errands while out on my bike, I decided to check the trail to see how the changes were progressing. 

I started at the southern end located on Freya across the street from the URM distribution center. There's a parking lot for the trailhead. Notice there is a bike lane on Freya, which continues on Freya all the way to where it meets Market.

Heading out on the trail proper you cross the new bridge that gets you over Lincoln Road.

After crossing the bridge you curve back towards Freya. Again, there's the bike lane on Freya.

When you reach Gerlach, you can see there's no traffic control for the trail users. I'm hoping this is a temporary situation. Without a stop sign, it would be too easy for someone to roll out into traffic. The bike lane on the road is almost a safer place to be at this point.

Here's the view of Gerlach and Freya from the north.

This corner is where Freya and Fairview intersect. An issue I have with this part of the trail is that it's a 90-degree turn. It's not that big of a deal if you're coming from the south because you have to work a little to hit this corner at a high speed.

But coming from the north is a different story. You're coming into this turn after a 1/4 to 1/2-mile downhill run. If you coast you will be going too fast for this corner and there's insufficient warning. The trail does narrow but the primary hazard is the turn.

Crossing Fairview, you have stop signs in both directions and warning signs for drivers. They could use those on Gerlach, too. The Road Closed sign is there for a reason and, of course, I had to see for myself.

Heading north, you still have a couple of these trenches waiting to be finished. Other than that, the pathway is completed.

But the bridge crossing the new Parksmith NSC interchange is not quite finished. The wheel tracks on the new asphalt tell me it's passable, which I know because I went over the last time I came through, but today there were people working on it. I walked over to the new interchange and rode to the Parksmith trail entrance/exit.

There is plenty of shoulder on Parksmith, which is a good sign for bikes although the roads it connects to, Market and Hawthorne, are less than ideal for cycling. I got back on the trail and headed north.

As I mentioned before, it's great the trail connects the Mead and Shady Slope areas to Farwell Elementary and Northwood Middle schools. I'm going to check with the schools to see if it's made a difference in the number of kids who walk or ride. Notice the downhill warning sign on this section that goes to Farwell. And there's a stop sign where it meets the road.

There's a long downhill bringing you to Wandermere Road. Watch your speed. If you're going too fast and you don't stop, you won't be able to turn without swerving into the traffic lane. You also want to slow down if you plan to continue on to the Wandermere shopping area. That's a hard left onto a much narrower pathway.

The end of the trail leaves something to be desired. You're dumped onto a sidewalk on Farwell where it intersects with Hwy 395. 

It's a shame they couldn't curl it into the parking lot instead. It's like an end of a trail you can't get to until you hit the end of the trail. The current design doesn't lend itself to beginning here.

Once the Parksmith interchange bridge is complete I'll add this to my list of longer commute routes. Starting near Northwood Middle School, I can be traffic free until Freya, back in traffic until I hit Upriver Drive, and then have bike lane and Centennial Trail to downtown. That's pretty tolerable in my book.

A Note At Costco

Warren, in case you missed this note, A. and the others have already been to Costco and are on their way back to Canada.

Wake Up Call - Round 1

I woke up at 3:00 am yesterday morning as I do every once in a while. And once I'm awake, that's it. I'm up for the day. Around 4:30 I noticed that Kathy wasn't up for work yet. I went up and checked her alarm and it was set for 5:00 am. I thought she said she was getting up at 4:00. But she's a big girl and knows how to set the alarm so she must have had a reason for setting it for 5:00.

About 5:20 she came rushing downstairs all in a frenzy because she had set her alarm for 5:00 instead of 4:00. I told her I checked her clock and was wondering why it was set for 5:00.

This morning at 6:26 am, I am, amazingly, still asleep.

Kathy: (shaking me) "Hank, shouldn't you get up. You're going to be late for work."

Me: "It's Saturday."

Kathy: "Oh, sorry."

Wait. Was that a payback?

Iron Bridge

The bridge looks complete. Shrubberies have been planted and a crew was hydroseeding a bare area when I went by yesterday after work. Looks like all that's left is the grand opening. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Marriage And The Good Of Society

Marriage and the Good of Society is the title of the latest anti-Referendum 74 missive posted on the Washington State Catholic Conference site. It leads off with an interesting premise.

This public policy debate is due in part to historic patterns of injustice toward persons with same-sex attraction. Thus, for many, the desire to redefine marriage has its origins in compassion for friends and family members who have experienced bias, unjust discrimination and personal rejection for their sexual orientation.  As pastors and the bishops of Washington State, we are sensitive to this suffering and reaffirm our commitment to protect and defend the dignity of every human person.  We also affirm the Church’s consistent teaching that marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman.

In other words, those with same-sex attraction have suffered. Washington state pastors and bishops are sensitive to this suffering. But they also want it to continue. The reason? Because the purpose of marriage is procreation.

Marriage is the foundational unit of  human society, because it exists for the good of husband and wife and the strengthening of their unique,  permanent, and faithful bond of love.  In addition, because human sexuality orders the transmission of  human life through man and woman, children “are part of the glory of marriage,” as St. Augustine wrote many centuries ago. Marriage is founded on sexual difference and ordered toward the fulfillment of  husband and wife and the procreation and rearing of children. This basic understanding of marriage and  family is “built in” to the very nature of man and woman. 

Like I mentioned before, to describe marriage as a foundational unit of human society denies the stability of our society when the marriage failure rate is 50%. But the key here is the focus on having children. This position not only excludes same-sex marriage, but those who never marry, single parents, and married couples who either cannot or choose not to have children. Are they not part of society's foundation? Must society only rely on the 50% of marriages that succeed?

Approval of Referendum 74 would subordinate the union of children with their mother and  father to a legal entitlement for adults. By separating marriage from procreation and the responsibility of  men and women to raise children that result from their sexual union, the new marriage law would  abandon the state’s principal interest in this time-honored institution.

Again, trying to establish the singular relationship between marriage and having children. The state's principal interest is presumably the opposite-sex marriage resulting in children as a foundational unit. I have yet to hear that claim from Washington State. Nor have I seen the state follow up on marriages. "Are you having children? Why not?"

Faithful, monogamous marriages between one man and one woman will cease to be the legally-established social standard for uniting children with their parents, even though social science has established that children do best when raised in homes with married  mothers and fathers.

Opposite-sex marriages resulting in children will not be affected in any way. The approval of Referendum 74 will not suddenly cause Catholics across Washington state to abandon their opposite-sex marriages, call off their engagements, or break it off with their steadies. And a sly reference to a debunked study is disingenuous of the bishops.

Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become  legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique value of  children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers. No institution or individual could propose  that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of  discrimination.

How ironic that the Catholic church wants to legally discriminate against same-sex marriage because it's afraid it's passage will result in a legal discrimination of those who promote opposite-sex marriage. Such logic is like saying outlawing slavery caused people the loss of freedom to own slaves. If Referendum 74 passes, the church may legally continue to refuse to acknowledge, conduct, or bless same-sex marriages just as it does for other marriages.

Our support for traditional marriage is not born of bias or intolerance toward anyone. Instead, our purpose is  to support the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in order to promote  the common good. We therefore urge Catholic people to uphold our consistent teaching on marriage for  the good of the Church, society, spouses and their children. Finally, we reject the redefinition of  marriage as a “civil contract between two persons.”

They may not intend to be intolerant, but the result is that they are being so. The church has always drawn a line between marriage in the church and a civil marriage. You can be legally married by the state or another religion and yet not be considered married by the Catholic church. The church can continue to do so for same-sex couples. Referendum 74 will have no effect on that.

The church fears that same-sex marriage will weaken society and is blind to the fact that society's reaction to their fight against same-sex marriage shows just how strong it is. Society is recognizing that it strengthens itself by including same-sex couples and granting them the same rights as opposite-sex couples. And the church is free to distance itself from the society it claims will falter if same-sex marriage becomes the law--with liberty and justice for all.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Riverpoint Academy

This year the Mead School District opened a new high school called Riverpoint Academy. It's a STEM school that includes the arts and it's been in the making for over two years now. We were excited when we first heard about it last February. After attending the open house, Stephanie decided she wanted to go there. Attendance was opened only for juniors this year and limited to seventy-five students from Mead and Mount Spokane High Schools. If more than 75 students applied then they said they would have a lottery. They didn't draw names so I guess the numbers worked out okay.

Today was the grand opening for the school, attended by Governor Gregoire, Spokane Mayor Condon,  Mead school district leaders and teachers, local business leaders, and us parents. Lots of speechifying and well-deserved words of praise from all the speakers for everyone involved in making Riverpoint Academy happen.


The last speaker was Dean Allen, Board President of Washington STEM and CEO of McKinstry. I enjoyed his frank talk of having a company with so many STEM jobs that has no problem finding employees but with the problem is that they're not necessarily from Washington State. Much of what he and the school district speakers talked about was partnering schools with businesses so the students would be more prepared for college and able to take on a career in a STEM-related field.

Then came the part that surprised me--asking for donations. One local Mead mom and dad who have a successful biomed-related business announced they were donating $25,000 for the third year in a row. Dan Butler, Mead School District Deputy Superintendent, and one of the key players in making Riverpoint Academy happen announced he was donating $5,000.

Back when we first talked to Dan and the Riverpoint Academy staff, I asked about funding for the school. I was assured the Mead School District had "enough funding to sustain this for the next five years". (bolding mine) But after seeing all the iPads with wireless and cellular service issued to each student--they contain the textbooks--and a mess of MacBooks on a cart, I have to wonder what "this" means. It's commendable for a person to give $5,000 to a cause he is personally and professionally vested in, but since he's in a position to know what funding the school needs, for me it begs the question--does the school need that $5,000 in order to function?

I'm also a little uneasy about businesses contributing money to a public school. Call me cynical, but in this day and age I see too many businesses/people giving money and expecting something in return.

I think this school is a great opportunity for Steph and the other 70+ students. So far she has had days where it was fun and energetic and days where she was swamped with homework. And she has yet to start her online German course and her EWU-taught math class. This will be an interesting year.