Category Archives: My Life

Google bicycle directions awesome, need help

First of all, I am insanely happy that Google has added bicycling directions to Google Maps. As someone whose bike is their primary mode on transportation anywhere, this will instantly become a regular part of my life.

Upon trying it out, I tested my work commute. The results were almost exactly spot on, which is impressive considering they have not had any time to fine tune things (which they say they will do if you write suggestions using the “report a problem” button in the bottom-right corner). There is no key, but anyone who has looked at a bike map before will instantly recognize the markings (dark line means dedicated bike path, lighter solid line means bike lane, dotted line means either sharrows or a common bike route).

Another thing that is amazing is that you can overlay the bike map on the terrain map. So now you can zoom in to get more up-close geographic data for that one spot where you are worried you might hit a hill…

Knowing that Jackson just barely misses the hill would have saved me a lot of hill climbing a few months ago.

I did notice one area where the map should be changed (I’m sure things like these will come up a lot, as there are a LOT of little details a computer giant could not know without being on the ground riding). The directions suggest riding down Westlake on my commute to work. While I am fine riding on Westlake, I feel like it can be scary and dangerous for a new rider who is not prepared for the trolley tracks on the road south of Denny Way. I wonder what their strategy will be when it comes to streets that are slightly dangerous, such as this one. Should all streets with trolleys but no bike lanes be taken out of the street suggestions?

In this image, the Google Maps bicycle directions suggest taking Westlake Ave, but, as you can see in the picture, the trolley tracks make this stretch of the street dangerous or scary to ride if you are not expecting them.

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ORCA eats my OWL

Sick of scrounging around for three quarters every time I want to ride the bus (and always interested in trying some newfangled thing), I went online and got a free ORCA card (as of Feb. 2010, they cost $5). At first, it seems like ORCA is going to make taking the bus just a little bit easier. But after a few uses, I realized that ORCA is chock full of hidden costs.

No OWL Changes

This is by far the worst and most expensive change. ORCA keeps track of your transfers, so when you get on a second bus within two hours of paying your fare, it will not charge you a second time. This is nice because you don’t end up with tons of little, nearly identical pieces of paper in all your pockets (well, maybe this is a just a problem for me).

However, ORCA does not give you an OWL. If you are paying cash after 8:30 p.m. or so, you are issued a full transfer ticket that is good for the rest of the night AND even the first bus in the morning (if I am reading the first bullet on the back correctly. I’ve never actually made it to a first bus). But when you pay with an ORCA card, it gives you the standard two-hour transfer period. So, basically, every night you go out, it is twice as expensive to use ORCA instead of cash because your card gets charged twice.

UPDATE: OK, it appears that somewhere around 9:30, your ORCA scan does operate as an OWL transfer. On my test runs, it must have been right before 9:30, so my friends got OWL paper transfers, but I have to pay again. So I guess the issue is more about how computers are cold and exact. It’s good to know that it does work, though, so long as you don’t get on right before the computer clicks over…

From Seattle Transit Blog

To do some quick math, if you go out four evenings a week, that’s an extra $28/month, or $336/year, versus paying cash. That’s a ridiculous amount of money for the convenience of just swiping your fare. It seems like this would be an incredibly easy software fix on ORCA’s part, but I think they would probably rather have my $336 instead.

Pay as you leave

Because of the free ride area in downtown Seattle, buses leaving downtown are typically pay-as-you-leave. Paper transfers state that they are good so long as you BOARD the bus before the time shown. If you pay with ORCA, however, it doesn’t matter when you got on. If you scan your card on the way out just 2:01 after you paid the first time, you get charged again. When it’s rush hour, that’s another $2 every time this happens. So there you sit, in traffic on Aurora, contemplating getting off early just so you don’t get charged again.

I am going to start asking for paper transfers when I pay with ORCA to see if any drivers are OK with it. I will report back in a bit with my results.

Cards cost $5

Starting in Feb, 2010, ORCA cards costs $5. They also cost $5 to replace if they are lost, as Erica at Publicola points out. Why they would charge $5 for a card that will make them more money the more people use it, I cannot understand.

I have also read that ORCA deactivates your card if you don’t use it for 30 days, though I have not yet gone that long to test it. In these cases, people had trouble getting their E-Purse money back, which sounds like a huge headache. I was planning on just keeping a little money on the card for cases where I can’t find change, but even that sounds like it might be trouble.

UPDATE: Oran from the Seattle Transit Blog has clarified the 30 days issue in the comments:

The tap within 30 days rule only applies to people who load their card online or over the phone. Due to the way the system works, which is now explained on the (crappy) ORCA website in the FAQ > ORCA Tips. Once you tap your card, the value is transferred to it and stays there forever. I got and put money (in person) on an ORCA card on the first day it came out. I’ve gone months without using it and my money is still there.

If you load your card in person, either at a ticket machine or service office, you don’t have the 30 day issue. So that’s the best way to get a card for infrequent use.

So, basically, ORCA has been a giant letdown and I am not going to use it regularly anymore. It will be there for when I can’t find change, and that’s it. They need to rewrite these rules and give some kind of financial incentive (or at least equal financial incentive to paying cash) if they want the system to take off.

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Trying to make sense of the Colorado 2008 ballot initiatives

Maybe I’m jumping the gun on figuring out these November 2008 Colorado ballot initiatives, but I love amendments and initiatives. It almost feels like a taste of what democracy must feel like.

I found the full texts of the ballot initiatives at the state’s site, but some of them are confusing as hell. When an issue boils down to some kind of republican/democrat bickering, it can be hard to tell. Then I found this kind-of-sort-of “progressive” site called coloradoballot.net that helped me out a lot. It’s not that I agreed with them (in fact, I may have ended up about 50/50), but they did a good job, as far as I can tell, of putting the measures into language and state politics contexts that make sense to me. Their conclusions are definitely pro-business and capitalistic, though.

One big advantage of starting this process early is that I have plenty of time to get feedback from people and adjust my decisions (and endorsements) as need be. So please, help me research these ballot measures. I am not completely informed, but I plan on being so by November 4. Leave a comment if you have any additional information or arguments on any of these issues. I am not set in stone about my answers yet.

Anything in the 40s -NO

These are what I am going to call the conservative douche bag core of initiatives. Here you have:

46: End affirmative action by calling for “equality”. You can tell a conservative douche bag wrote this because they use “sex” instead of “gender” or “gender identity”.

47: End union dues. As much as union dues kind of suck, you can’t make union dues optional. Why would anyone pay them if they didn’t have to? Maybe some union workers believe they have a duty to the whole, but the rest are struggling to buy $6 cauliflower. Enforced dues are important if we do not want to be reminded what happens to workers without a union.

48: Outlaw abortion. Or, even better, make anyone who gets an abortion (and the doctor) murderers. Or better yet, outlaw some forms of birth control in which eggs may be fertilized before being expelled from the body. I don’t really need to explain this one.

49: Do something that makes unions mad. I don’t really get this one yet. I could use some help. It sounds kind of bad, but I don’t really know. Something about reinstating something Bill Owens instated in 2001 that Ritter overturned in 2007. If Owens was for it, it probably sucks, right? Anyone else know anything about this one?

50 – NO

Increase the hours of operation for casinos, allow roulette and craps and increase the maximum allowed bet. Yeah, exactly what we need when the people are about to enter hard economic times. How about, we’ll increase all of this when all casino profits go to feeding and housing people in Colorado. I’d vote yes on that. Though to be fair, the line bet in craps is supposed to be one of the most fair bets in the whole casino, so I hear.

51 – YES

Increase taxes to help developmentally disabled. Here is where coloradoballot.net and I part ways. I don’t really care how developmentally disabled people and organizations get money. If it’s a constitutional amendment (SEE EDIT BELOW), then so be it. They need money. I have a very good friend from Colorado who is facing the harsh realities of low funding for developmentally disabled Coloradans, and she is very excited about this issue. I trust her, and I trust the way the amendment is worded. I am open to suggestion if anyone knows something I don’t. But the fear of other special interest groups trying to get their own amendments on the ballot to increase their funding is not something I fear. I would embrace that. The people could decide what we should pay for. Imagine that!

EDIT: It would appear that Amendment 51 is an amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes, not a constitutional amendment. So not everything that says “amendment” is a constitutional amendment. How interesting/confusing … So basically, I don’t know what the drawback to this amendment is. So, VOTE YES! Thanks for the help, yeson51!.

52 -NO

Increase some mineral and mineral fuel extraction tax to concentrate funds on the I-70 corridor. Well, I don’t really care about I-70, and it seems stupid to tax environment destroyers and then put that money into a project that will make it easier for others to also destroy the environment. Put the money towards public transit and we might have a YES vote. Again, though, I am open to new information and arguments here.

53 -YES

Criminalize actions (or inactions) by executives for law broken by their companies. Hell yes I am voting for this. It is so freaking impossible to get retribution for the wrongdoings of these executives. If you reap the benefits of exploitation, then you will take the punishment when you are found out for it. I don’t care if you were evil and did it on purpose or if you were stupid and had no idea your company was doing it. You are still a criminal. Some are worried this will keep businesses from coming here. Well, if they are coming here to exploit us, then I am very happy to send them somewhere else. This is a statutory amendment, not a constitutional amendment.

54 – YES

Banning contractor companies who receive non-competitive bids from the government from contributing to campaigns, and banning companies who contribute to a ballot issue from receiving contracts related to that issue. I need some help here. While this sounds really good, coloradoballot.net is convinced that this is just a way to keep unions from contributing to Democrats. If so, I don’t really want to help in dumb ass party bickering. So I need some more information on this one, I think.

55 – YES

Requires private employers to have “just cause” to fire a full-time employee. Sounds good to me. What just cause means can be argued out in court later. But too many people get fired for no other reason than employer greed. Want the company to make a little more money? Cut your executives’ salaries, don’t fire the woman with two children at home. coloradoballot.net thinks this will be devastating to businesses because they won’t be able to fire people. But union businesses have these “just cause” clauses and they seem fine. But I am open to new information and arguments, of course.

56 -YES

Requires employers (20 or more employees) to offer health insurance to employees. Honestly, I am a little torn on this one. I think yes because people just need freaking health insurance and I don’t care how they get it. But I am not sure this is a burden the employer needs to take on. After all, will this just keep them from hiring people or giving people raises? I’m not sure it would “decimate entire sectors of the economy here in Colorado“, but it doesn’t seem like a measure that is really going to end up putting more money in employee pockets, either. Does anyone have any ideas on this one?

57 -YES

Companies liable for employee injuries. Awesome. Too many companies get away with way too much. Worker’s Comp. just is not enough many times, especially if the injury is long-lasting or psychological. The courts will define “injury” later. For now, if a company does not want this to affect them, they better not let their employees work in a toxic, dangerous environment. This is a statutory, not constitutional, amendment.

58 -YES

Take money from oil companies and use it to fund higher education. Uh, duh. This is a statutory, not constitutional, amendment.

59 – YES

Remove tax rebate in order to fund pre-K-12 education. This sounds good to me. It’s good, right? Are we OK with leaving future education funding increases up to the state legislature instead of guaranteeing they will grow with inflation?

L – YES

Lower the age requirement to serve in the Colorado General Assembly to 21. Definitely. Hey, maybe I’ll run next campaign …

M and N – YES

Remove obsolete provisions. Sure, why not? These are of little concern.

O – NO

Make it harder for citizens to put a constitutional initiative on the ballot, but easier to put a statutory initiative. I would be for this if I trusted our “elected” officials. But they can’t touch constitutional amendments (in theory), so in a nation where the people have so little power, being able to directly change our state constitution is incredibly important. And, hey, wake up. HAVING THIS MANY BALLOT INITIATIVES IS A GOOD THING!

Like I said earlier, this almost feels like a hint of democracy. Almost.

Please submit comments and I will make sure to keep this article updated as new information arrives. I have  a feeling some YESes may turn to NOs…

To sum up:

46 – NO

47 – NO

48 – NO

49 – NO

50 – NO

51 – YES

52 – NO

53 – YES

54 – YES

55 – YES

56 – YES

57 – YES

58 – YES

59 – YES

L – YES

M – YES

N – YES

O – NO

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Cops illegally raid RNC protesters

If there is a lesson to be learned from these convention protests, it’s that security culture is more important than anyone had previously thought. Infiltration lead to the illegal arrests of many at an Unconventional Denver action August 25, and now infiltration has led to a series of illegal raids and arrests of members of the RNC Welcoming Committee.

“We are making sure that people here to legitimately protest have the right to do that, but people engaging in criminal activity are not going to be able to do that,” said St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman. So Coleman now feels he can define “legitimate” protest? I guarantee these Americans in jail considered their protests pretty fucking legitimate. Free speech does not mean free speech that the mayor thinks is OK.

Here is an excellent submedia.tv video about the raids:

Let’s be clear here. These people have been arrested in suspicion that they might do something illegal. And, of course, they just so happen to be leaders of an organization that is critical of the police and our government. The police are claiming crazy things, like that they were collecting urine to throw on cops. Here in Denver, that sounds awfully familiar. Did they find any urine or feces in Denver?

Of course not!

Police are using the time they have before they allow their prisoners a chance to tell their side of the story to try to win support from the public by painting the protesters as crazy, urine-collecting sociopaths. It’s like kindergarten, except the bullies have guns and pepper spray instead of crayons.

The submedia video above is really great for this exact purpose. It juxtaposes the police misinformation about anarchists with the obvious truth that these are regular people, too. They shower, brush their teeth, have senses of humor, drink coffee. In fact, they are not only human, but many spend their time feeding people FOR FREE through Food Not Bombs. How many cops do that?

A legal observer at the DNC made an interesting observation during a Denver Open Media interview about the August 25 police violence. As these anarchists were running away from the cops’ pepper spray super-soakers, he noticed that all of them made sure to avoid stepping on the flowers in Civic Center Park. Somehow, that image sums up everything.

Bill Johnson of the Rocky Mountain News wrote a column about the police state that could not be more spot on.

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Cop hits a biker and runs in Denver, among other violent, suppressive actions

A cop on a motorcycle, going the wrong way on a one-way street, ran his motorcycle into a couple bikers who were part of a critical mass bike ride through the city. After the collision, which was unquestionably his fault, the cop and his cop friend rode off quickly as angry bikers started yelling irately at him. He did not come back or report the incident.

As far we can tell, nobody got his badge number, a good photo or video of the incident.

This is why people hate cops, and why the world would be so much safer without them (or with incredibly few of them). None of the protests would have been violent if the cops were not there, and all the violence has flowed cop to protester.

I dare you to find any protester doing anything close that to a cop. It has not happened. They do it because they know there will be no retribution. There can’t be. They have the guns, and the batons, and the pepper spray, and the body armor, and the pepper guns, and the tasers. We have words, some clever signs and some bicycles.

Code Pink is bad ass, and their tactics are not intimidation tactics at all. Their stickers (which I have been sporting proudly) say “MAKE OUT NOT WAR”. And while I may be kind of put off that we no longer make love in war’s absence, making out is cool, too. They embarrass police by dressing in lots of pink, and riding innocent bicycles with pink parasols, making their guns and riot gear look ridiculous. And they do everything they can to make sure they are embarrassed for wearing it all. It would appear that this cop solved his embarrassment by clubbing one of them.

Now, he has been pulled off the lines and is under investigation, but that is only because it was caught on camera. That is the only reason whatsoever. This is happening all the time here. I see it everywhere I go. These cops are out of control. They are like a roving gang with free reign to beat up on whoever they want without retribution.

After the motorcycle cop hit the bikers and drove off, another biker yelled, “Someone call the cops!” That’s the point.

The cops also singled out a New York Times freelance photographer and sprayed him with a giant burst of pepper spray even though he was backed against a wall and was holding a camera (obviously not threatening).

courtesy of Rocky Mountain News

courtesy of Rocky Mountain News

courtesy of the Denver Post

courtesy of the Denver Post

I used to think cops were good people with hard jobs that make them a little cranky. That’s understandable. They deal with a lot of tough realities of our society, and that can wear on you. But after this week, I really don’t think they are good people. No good person could stand in that riot gear as this overwhelming violence and intimidation against American citizens takes place. A good person would step out of line and quit (or at least disobey orders and risk punishment).

Right now, this massive police force is just a mercenary army hired by the Democratic party to suppress dissension and keep their big party from getting crashed by concerned citizens. The fact that the Dems have not said anything about the outrageous actions of this police force (which, of course, they voted to fund with $50 million), proves that at best they don’t care, and at worst, they are happy with it.

We truly live in a police state. You are allowed to protest, so long as it is by their rules. And they set the rules. And if you do not obey their rules, they hurt you with overwhelming power. The only reason there have not been massive riots is because the police have intimidated us. They consider that a success. I consider that fascism.

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Cops have violently occupied Denver

courtesy of the Denver Post

courtesy of the Denver Post

Our country truly is a police state. Anyone who says we are free is a liar.

I just moved to Denver three days ago, and knew it would be exciting with the DNC in town and all. But after watching the actions of the $50 million police force against unarmed American dissenters, I am thoroughly convinced that we are not free. Just look at the photo above. And this is from the Denver Post, who have not exactly been supportive of the protesters. But there is no way to hide the fact that these cops are violently subduing dissenting opinions with massive, overwhelming “Shock and Awe” force against American citizens who do not agree with the government and demand change.

And all this force is needed to secure the power of the “good” party. This is our supposedly anti-war party. This is our “hope”. Jesus.

I watched a protester run out of the conflict with the cops screaming and crying, drop to her knees, grasp her face, medics running to help her. If you wear contacts when you get pepper sprayed, the contacts can fuse to your eyes and blind you. Volunteer anarchist medics are the only reason there were not permanent injuries during the clash. The cops brought absolutely no medical help with them. Medical help is not their concern, only violence against the dissenters.

If you choose to ignore what is going on here, then fuck you. People are getting the shit beat out of them fighting for your freedom. Either come to Denver and join the ranks, or do what you can to support them at home.

The amount of money ($100 million, $50 million for each convention) required to maintain a large enough police force to subdue dissenters in this nation is rising quickly. Our “two” party capitalist fascist government is showing a slight sign of weakness. Too bad our capitalist press does not give favorable coverage to anticapitalists getting the shit beat out of them. I wonder if that’s because they make their money off the corrupt system the police are defending…

Denver is under attack. We need back up, however you can give it.

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FOX radio in STL offers me $97 to take a shot of Ashcroft’s backwash

The saga of John Ashcroft’s backwash and I gets weirderer and weirderer.

I was on Allman and Crane on FOX talk radio 97.1 FM in St. Louis around 8 a.m. this morning talking about my efforts to sell the former Atorney General’s backwash on eBay. You can listen online at their site (or if you get frustrated with their buggy flash media player, I’m hosting it as well). I have to say, it was a strange way to wake up.

Allman gave me a really friendly intro, calling me a “mack daddy” at one point and plugging Big Muddy Records, which we of course always appreciate. This was nice, because I wasn’t sure if he was going to just yell at me like Papa Bear O’Reilly likes to do.

That’s so adorable.

But, as I do not listen to conservative FOX radio often, I did not know what to expect from Allman. He was, after all, former St. Louis Archbishop Burke‘s spokesman, and that dude sucked. I also knew that there was no way an anarchist like me was going to find much common ground with a guy who likes people like Ashcroft and Cheney, and who thinks “Guantanamo is a shining example of how great this country is”. Somehow I don’t feel that the Vatican would agree, but who knows? They sometimes like religious wars, too.

But Allman seemed to actually find the backwash funny, and was willing to let me speak my fair share, so I have to at least give him credit for that. That’s more than Papa Bear does.

So, to bury the lede, when we got around to talking about the backwash, he asked me if I would take a shot of John Ashcroft’s backwash out of a GOP shot glass for $97. That’s pretty gross, but I said yes. I’m not sure if that makes me a whore or a capitalist (is there a difference?), but I am confident it was the right choice. He suggested that it might make me smarter, too…

But I am left with some resonating concerns. At one point, Allman said, “Guantanamo is a Holiday Inn compared to the alternative, which would have been just shooting them on the spot. Which we actually could have legally done, but didn’t.” At the time, I couldn’t think of anything to say to that. I was genuinely shocked. That’s one of the most horrible things a person could say. I know he’s a shock jock, so I really hope he does not actually feel that way. I mean, these are people are are talking about. Real life people. No one could actually think such a cruel, lifeless thought, right?

Instead of challenging him, I addressed his assertion that these killings were legal and legitimate by pointing out that not only were they not, but that the wars themselves were neither legal or legitimate. At one point I made reference to an article about the mistreatment of Afghan prisoners (which is part of their huge report on Guantanamo). This point was, of course, not embraced. But this is the dance, I guess. It flows like a scene you’ve already performed 1,000 times.

But I can’t shake the idea that someone would not only condone this treatment of other people, but that they think it would have been OK for the U.S. Army to just shoot them on the spot. Watching people as they listen to the recording, they are always kind of smiling through it until they get to that part, and then the life is just drained from them. It’s like, in all the joking, we have managed to forget the very real consequences and victims we’re talking about. And when you realize that Ashcroft is not just a clown, but a man who made abusive, terrible decisions that have caused so much pain and horror for so many, it becomes hard to just laugh at the idea of taking a shot of the man’s backwash for $97.

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