Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bike Lanes

Okay, so I have been wondering how to blog about this and not sound like an ungrateful jerk. How to broach the subject...

It just so happens that the majority of my route to work now has bike lanes. I am talking about Howard Street. I have kind of an overall ambivalent take on bike lanes. I don't like being corralled into an area where I have to worry about people opening their car doors. Also, I don't like the idea that now I am no longer part of regular traffic - I am relegated to a kind of super sidewalk.

On the other hand, bike lanes are a visible sign that a community gives a shit about bicycling. The bike lanes on Howard are nice in that they actually take you a great distance, unlike the ones on 29th or Cascade. I believe, too, that bike lanes will get a large part of the population feeling that it is OK, maybe even safe, to ride on the street (in a bike lane). I was hopeful that these lanes would get a lot of cyclists off the sidewalks too. I think the jury is still out on that one.

I have to say, I have seen more people commuting on bikes now that there are lanes. So, I think I am good with bike lanes and sharrows and all the other bike infrastructure, after I do the calculus. Thanks to everybody who made these lanes a reality. Like so many recent good things in Spokane, these came about only with a big tide change in the city council and the mayor's office.

So my attitude toward bike lanes is not what I am feeling kind of sheepish talking about. There are two items which have left me feeling a little perplexed.

Item One. I was riding my bike to work one morning, proceeding up Howard. At the intersection with Boone there were about 10 people with walky-talkies. At least three total intersections were barricaded with multiple personnel guarding each intersection. Of course, I rode through. As I did, I worried that maybe the president was coming to town and I was now being targeted by the secret service. After work the next morning, there was the striping for the new bike lanes. Some of this striping has since been removed.

Then a week later, there were even more people - a lot of people doing the same thing between Riverfront Park and Boone on Howard. This time, I was told by one of the legions to ride on the sidewalk, so as to avoid messing up the striping. So, I did. I still feel like I need to go to confession.

All to say, the overkill of people working on Howard for the striping seemed bizarre. Now, I know that there are (as D. Rumsfeld would say) things I know that I don't know. I am often on the receiving end of the question: "Why do two big fire trucks and an ambulance show up for medical emergencies?" It's a pretty simple answer when you are in the know, but perplexing when you are not. So I was thinking maybe I am just ignorant about the whole striping process. Yet, I couldn't help myself from wondering, in a fine conspiracy moment, if maybe the anti-bicycle forces actually made this project more expensive, more inconvenient and more of a visual spectacle than it needed to be, in order to negatively sway public opinion. I decided that was ridiculous.

Then one day I rode my bike downtown on Howard - no bike lanes yet. The next day - POOF - bike lanes. WTF? How did they do this part so fast, with all the parking spaces and traffic to contend with? So there's item number one.

Item Two. The shape of the bicyclist's head on the reflective road painting seems familiar to me. What are THEY trying to say about bicyclists?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dr. Smith still at large...

Engine Three responded this morning to a call at a place I had previously blogged about. Here's what happened.

Here's the place:

Here's the previous post.

Had to divert my ride this morning because of all the police tape.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spokesman-Review article on bicycling and walking...

This morning, there was a good article about biking and walking in the paper. It talked about the benefits of exercise built into one's daily life. In other words, walking and biking instead of driving.

The paper lately has had some very "duh" stories. Polls show that the east side of the state is more conservative and northern Idaho seems to vote more Republican than the rest of Idaho, that kind of thing. I kind of lumped this exercise story in there with those, but then I read the comments after the story - it seems like all the commenters are anti-exercise and anti-cycling. Check it out!

I have been pretty busy lately with union work and other writing projects. I have a big blog post percolating. In the meantime, check out this salad made from stuff in our garden!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Coast to Coast - It rocks.

When I first started working at my station, about eight years ago, my officer was Chuck Mauro. If you know Chuck, you know that he is a great guy. One night when we stumbled to the engine for a call, Chuck was mumbling about something he was listening to on the radio. He explained that every night he listened to Coast to Coast whether at home or at the station. Chuck would often comment that it was a seamless transition between the station alarm going off for a guy who is complaining about being pestered by werewolves while Chuck was listening to a "vampire" disclose his dating tips, stories about a bottomless hole near Yakima or a wheelchair-bound sasquatch hunter on Coast to Coast. In other words, when we weren't putting out fires or going on heart attacks in the middle of the night, it seemed like we were dealing with a lot of the same issues Coast to Coast dealt with.

I always like that the host, George Noory, is very kind to his guests and really lets them tell their stories - and they are great stories. I think that as firefighter/EMTs/Paramedics, when we do our job well, we do the same thing. George Noory would probably be a good fireman. The same could be said for Art Bell, the guy who started it all.

For a few years I have subscribed to the Coast to Coast podcast. It costs $50 a year and is totally worth it. I never listen to music on long bike rides, just podcasts and this is a favorite. Last night, we had eight runs between midnight and 5 am. In the 15 minutes between calls, I was treated to this on Coast to Coast:

Here is the Coast to Coast website. You can listen to some stuff, look at some pictures, or subscribe to the podcast.

The Atlantic did a nice story on George Noory too.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Bold, Innovative Campaign Pledge!

This is very interesting. Let me get this straight. If you are elected, you will provide more jobs and get rid of taxes!??!?!! Wow!!!! That is really something. I bet you are taking a lot of flak for this unpopular platform.

I have to confide, I like candy. Will you give me free candy too? Maybe you can "trim the fat," and "fill the pot holes" while you're at it.

Sheeesh. Really?

Saturday, September 04, 2010


A great ride to work yesterday. Noticed they were getting ready to stripe bike lanes from Mission to Boone. About 10 workers manning the street blockades. An unbelievable fuss for the little bit of work. I still like the way Mother Nature did it a couple of winters ago:

Had a busy night last night. Lots of fires going on and medical calls. Strangely enough, we had some apparati respond to the working fire on S Riverton by driving right past our station at 2 am or so this morning. Couldn't really figure that one out, as we didn't go on it at all. I suppose the dispatch computer (HAL 2000) knows what it is doing. Still, one after the other the calls kept coming in, and I threw in the towel at 5:30 and stayed up and did a report and made some potato pancakes out of the mashed potatoes we had yesterday. Got two down my gullet when off we went on another fire. Needless to say, it was a sleepy ride home this morning on new bike lanes. A nice surprise was that I could cross Howard at Second, this after a couple of weeks of detouring progressively to the east.

Later, Sarah and I walked down to watch a band at Pig Out. Lazer Wolf did a very nice job.

I like looking at all the people eating at Pig Out. I think there would be a really neat photo essay in that. However, we hardly ever eat there. Sitting on the ground, next to a garbage can shoveling food in as fast as possible has never been that enticing. So, we walked up to the Flour Mill and ate at Queen of Sheba, the Ethiopian Restaurant. I had met the owner months ago on a call at Clinker Daggers before her restaurant opened, and it's taken us this long to eat there. AWESOME FOOD! Great vegetarian and meaty things. I took this picture after we started eating. I should have done one before. It was a thing of beauty.

On the way home, leftovers in hand, we walked past the old YMCA Building and Sarah stated how much she was going to miss the beauty of the building. She was kidding.

One thing we thought about was how, no matter what the final outcome (I marginally think they are doing the right thing by removing it), most people will probably get on with their lives and forget about the whole controversy, and only see what remains.

I have to admit, every time I walk by the American Pavilion, with its crappy rides and its crumbling potential, I think of Steve Corker and how he fought so hard to prevent the Pacific Science Center from opening a museum there (on their dime) and thumbed his nose at the money, education and opportunity it would have brought to Riverfront Park. He thought losing the carny reject rides would be a blow to the community. Also, I remember Councilman Corker saying that nobody would travel to Spokane to visit a science center. I think he later regretted his stance and that his speechmaking was responsible for stopping the science center. Ooops. But, I bet hardly anybody else but Sarah and I remember that. Right?

On that note (sleep-deprived) I wonder if the city sought to charge every adult an extra dollar a day to improve the city, how many people would miss that dollar? There would be a lambasting in the media. Talk radio would go through the non-gardened roof. The majority would say they couldn't afford it and would vote against it. But if somehow it happened, if it snuck through, how many people would even notice the 1.5 lattes they were no longer "affording" each week? If all that money went to make Spokane better, they might notice that and so would businesses and investors. Maybe.

I am not advocating this. Mine is a fairly ridiculous idea. I am just saying sometimes our politicians should realize that whatever decision they make, it will probably not be remembered by the small (unnoticeable?) effect it has on our pocket book today but by the larger effect it has on the future of our city and our kids - providing the decision is not a colossal waste of money. Hardly anyone remembers the debates, the action or the political fallout, they just see what is in front of their face today, a glimpse of the future and what is right or wrong with it.

My favorite conversation:

"My property taxes doubled this year!"
"Really? How much were you paying before and how much are you paying now?"
And you know the person is thinking that they just have a feeling, or someone told them, that their taxes doubled but they can't say that. All they can honestly say is, "I don't know."

All to say, I get real preachy and goofy when I am tired. I make funny typing mistakes too.

On a religious note... I don't know when this happened, but God isn't so gaga about us any longer, at least according to these Pig Out messianic minstrels:

"Where is the love?" I ask. "Hey, maybe he's just not that into you. I mean he cares for you, but, maybe you're moving too fast."

Do I seem desperate? Needy?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

IPod Mini Dies So New IPods May Spring Forth...

Right before the Apple Press Conference yesterday, this happened to my IPod Mini of five or so years. I hope Steve Jobs is happy.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Cooked these up for dinner the other night. All from the garden. I am really liking the new raised beds. It's a lot easier to see the food. Also, morning slug patrol has been a quicker task. The salsify has been hit pretty hard by the little bastards.

When I am picking slugs out of the garden, my thoughts turn to the recent incarnation of the Dune series, written by George Herbert's son. In these, the Tleilaxu have bred a hybrid of a pig and a slug called a "slig." Delicious! Also, they are used to dispose of discarded characters, kind of like how Bricktop used pigs in Snatch.

I would raise sligs if the city and reality allowed it.