Saturday, May 30, 2009

Observations From The Road

Pittsburgh - I've been here since Thursday, on a week-long swing that will have me here until Monday visiting Leslie and the girls, then to Massachusetts to visit with the current and future care providers of my brother-in-law Michael, along with others who have a vested interest in his care. My goal is to make sure that things go smoothly, that good communication continues to occur, and that his needs continue to be addressed competently and compassionately.

It was rainy the first couple of days, but today was sunny but still cool. The rain here brings all kinds of plant life into abundance, including those that awakened my previously historic seasonal allergies. A fair amount of sneezing, but nothing that can't be managed with tissues and Benadryl so far.

As we made our way through this evening, Leslie and I went to a concert at the municipal building across the street from her house. The artist was a Christian musician from Ohio, Jay Michael. He has a small following and markets himself like many budding talents, through MySpace and YouTube. I see him going further.

Now that the disappointment from the Penguins' Game 1 loss to the Dead Wings is starting to abate, I'd like to try to get caught up on some other issues of interest.

When I picked up my rental car at the airport, the Pittsburgh news was buzzing with the selection of the city as the host for the next G-20 Summit in September. I called my friend Steve, who supervises at the county 9-1-1 center here, and asked if he had his vacation request in already.

As much as the selection is highly justified given Pittsburgh's history of an industrial center that cleaned itself up decades before there was a cohesive environmental movement, I hope that the daunting logistics, security, and emergency preparedness efforts can be organized in time. I'd love to be here to see some of it, even if it means the closest I'll get is Troy Hill with a pair of binoculars and a police scanner. The effect of the expansive security cordon on the day-to-day life of the city will be interesting as well.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruling that a fetus who died as the result of maternal injuries in a crash following a police pursuit is not a "person" brought outcry from several fronts around the Grand Junction area, including one that the ruling was "the practice of law, but not justice".
I'll reiterate what I've said before; true justice for the individual involved will come from a hand much mightier than any judge, district attorney, or venom-spitting TV host (see Nancy Grace).

I also saw some breaking news posts about Valley Investments (a little bit of Madoff right here in GJ), increasing suicides in Mesa County (to go along with the boom and bust of rampant consumerism and the volatile energy sector), and some NTSB recommendations about planning for tour bus operators in the wake of a bad crash near Mexican Hat, Utah a year or so ago (how about some rural emergency health care contingency planning?). I may have more to say later as more details come to light. In the meantime, my lady deserves my attention.

Have a good rest of your weekend.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Night of the Nebulous NebuAd

Several online reports last week heralded the formal demise of NebuAd, the behavioral web advertising company sued by several individuals last year after the nature of NebuAd's technology, and the privacy concerns associated with it, became public knowledge.

I followed this last year primarily because Grand Junction Internet Service Provider Bresnan Communications was one of the companies that contracted with NebuAd to test its behavioral advertising technology in certain markets.

Bresnan and Mesa County rural telephone provider CenturyTel were sued, along with other ISPs, by several users who claimed that their privacy rights had been violated by the Deep Packet Inspection technology employed by NebuAd to determine the web use patterns of subscribers, and embed website advertising in response to those trends.

According to web reports, all of the involved ISPs have petitioned to be removed from the suit, citing their innocence to the nefarious methods used by NebuAd to obtain user surfing data.
Another source reports that the status of that lawsuit "remains unresolved".

Yet while many outlets reported that NebuAd was shutting down as a U.S. company, the ubiquitous nature of the Internet brought reports from across the pond that NebuAd is apparently re-emerging in the U.K. as something called InsightReady.

I asked Bresnan V.P. of Public Affairs Shawn Beqaj via e-mail about the status of their relationship with NebuAd, in light of the revelation that it may be emerging from seeming death as a new company, albeit operating outside the US.
Mr. Beqaj replied:

"I think it is important to note that when Bresnan performed the limited test of the NebuAd platform in one market, we strictly adhered to the existing FTC rules whereby we notified all of our customers involved in that test and gave them a choice of opting in or out of the trial. With Congressional scrutiny however, the environment in which we began that trial changed and Bresnan quickly suspended the test. At that time we clearly stated that we would not continue addressable advertising trials with any of our High Speed Internet customers or any vendor until the new public vetting of this sector was complete and clear rules were agreed upon by the policymakers and agencies involved. This issue continues to exist in the public discourse on Capitol Hill and we stand by our statement to not engage in any further activity until it is resolved. "
My concerns about NebuAd revolved primarily around the local angle, especially as a Bresnan customer. Mr. Beqaj's prompt and comprehensive reply, combined with the effect of the public outcry and subsequent congressional involvement, seems to have put the saga of NebuAd to bed, at least for Americans.

However, I feel bad for those British subjects who are becoming increasingly intruded upon by a surveillance society. To quote one of the British websites dedicated to web privacy issues:
"This will come as no surprise to most as we certainly expected NebuAd to rebrand and relaunch in an attempt to shed their tarnished reputation - but what is a concern is that it is very clear the UK has become a safe haven for corporations with a desire to prey on people’s personal and private data."
You really have to admire the dedication of experts like Robb Topolski, who first exposed the activities of NebuAd for Public Knowledge and the Free Press Action Center, and others who work and sweat the details in order to keep the Internet unencumbered from intrusive governments, corporate media, and others who would seek to curtail or exploit the free exchange of ideas and information.

Have a good week ahead.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Last year I splurged and bought the DVD set of the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. Watching it periodically this year has not disappointed. Burns' trademark style of using historical photographs and footage, interspersed with subject matter experts and many voices to lend personality to the written word, is just as powerful as it was when it first hit PBS. I thought on this Memorial Day I would share one of the most poignant moments of this or any other documentary film.

We tend to think of Memorial Day in terms of the casualties of the conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries. This simple letter from a soldier to his wife, from the cusp of a battlefield that could have been your neighbor's pasture, is as powerful a statement of commitment and loss as could be found anywhere, and is as timely and thought-provoking as it was when it was penned, nearly 150 years ago.

Remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom.


video

Good Weekend Writing

Aviation and baseball are two subjects that attract more than just a passing interest with me. Over this holiday weekend, as many rites of summer begin to make themselves known to us again, I thought I would call attention to two excellent pieces of journalism. One calls attention to history, while another details the potential loss of an avocation for thousands of Americans.

Gary Harmon of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel has been reporting periodically in recent weeks on a new security directive from the Transportation Security Administration that threatens the practice of, and commerce surrounding, general aviation.

Yesterday, Mr. Harmon got most of Page One and then some to detail not only the frustration of private pilots, airport operators and trade associations, but also to illustrate the manner in which the TSA has tried to hide behind vague rhetoric and confidentiality laws to conceal details of most of the changes being made.

Pressure from trade groups and members of congress has yielded a commitment from TSA to revise certain portions of the directive, but they still won't share those revisions with the general aviation community. The Sentinel's editorial board has also weighed in, asking TSA to exercise some common sense and transparency in dealing with a community and industry that could be gradually eroded away by this directive, which is slated to go into effect on June 1.

Combined with a sidebar about a local private pilot and his vintage flying machine, accompanied by magnificent photography from Gretel Daugherty, the piece displayed some of the best talent that we have in local media. Gary looks like he's found a niche issue to sink his teeth into, and his considerable journalistic skill has been showcased because of it.
Now if only we could do something about that column...


Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest individual achievements in baseball history, even if all it got the player involved was a loss in the record books.

On May 26, 1959, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched 12 perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves, retiring 36 batters in a row before an error and a hit gave him a 1-0 loss in 13 innings.

In an excellent example of leveraging online content with the printed word, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a package of stories in Sunday's edition that detailed what has been called A Perfect Loss. This multimedia presentation provides links to photographs, the P-G's original coverage of the game, and other content that not only illustrates the magnitude of the feat, but the effect it had on the game and the man who did it.

For me, reading about the game lent new meaning to the term "run support". It also made me think about the evolution of the game today in comparison to its historic past. Today we have starters, middle relievers, late relievers, and closers. A complete game win is a notable feat, a no-hitter significant, a perfect game remarkable. It's doubtful that you will see anything approaching Haddix' achievement ever again.

Yet looking at the achievements of those who played the game 40 or 50 years ago (or longer), the almost romantic allure of some of those players seems to easily overshadow the over-specialization, the performance enhancements, and the over-reliance on minutiae over instinct that has impacted the game in many ways.

It was a good read and an excellent history lesson, even if it also served as a reminder that I'll be turning 50 next year.

Speaking of baseball, there's a lot of interest in Grand Junction currently, and not just because it's JUCO week. Our Mesa State Mavericks are in the NCAA Division II College World Series for the first time, and as of now are still in the winner's bracket. They play later today. A link to an interactive bracket and other information is here.

I hope that your weekend was a safe and enjoyable one. Being involved in public safety, this translates to hoping that you or your loved ones were not involved or associated with some of the injuries sustained in our area through violence, carelessness, or reckless recreation.

It's travel time later this week. Talk to you then.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spiders on Caffeine..

or, Pear Park Pig-Palooza Points to Patchwork Problem.
(Apologies to Rocky and Bullwinkle)

Yesterday was an interesting last day of school if you are a student or parent at Pear Park Elementary, which is about 3 miles southeast of Downtown Grand Junction, in an area that has been busy with development under the Persigo Agreement of 1998.

As the Daily Sentinel reports today, the activities of a farmer who lives adjacent to the school created quite a ruckus among school administrators and students. Seems that the farmer hired someone to slaughter and butcher some pigs, and this happened in plain view of Kindergarten students waiting to go home. The butcher's use of a firearm to do his job brought multiple law enforcement officers and put the school in lockdown for a short time.

Quoting the Sentinel, "Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies and Grand Junction police flooded the area at the same time a host of activities were happening outdoors and inside the school, including an end-of-semester awards assembly."

It's both understandable and desirable that the report of a gun being fired near a school would bring officers from several jurisdictions into the area, but there's a deeper reason for this.

The school is in the City of Grand Junction, while the house next door, where the shots were fired into the pigs, is not.

The map at the top of this post shows Pear Park Elementary and the surrounding area. Those parcels in color are in the city limits. Check out D 1/2 Road, which runs across the top of the map. How would you like to try to figure out who has jurisdiction of an accident on that section of the road?

A closer inspection of the map shows the
locations of both the school and the farm, and also illustrates the jurisdictional challenges and haphazard nature of city growth that has occurred in the area of the school.

The Persigo Agreement basically says that if you want to develop a piece of land in unincorporated Mesa County, it must be annexed into the City of Grand Junction if it falls within the boundaries of the 201 Sewer District, which is served by the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant on the west side of town.

But even further than the obvious challenges of the imaginary lines we draw around ourselves is the cultural and social diversity (some would say 'divide') that the current occupants of this area, and the lifestyles they represent, brought forth in their approach to the incident and the conduct of their daily activities. Some snippets from Paul Shockley's entertaining piece illustrate this well:
“They said a farmer was doing something to the animals but didn’t really specify … just a bit a weird,” said Amanda Ransier, who showed up to watch her son, Joseph, 7, pick up awards."

"The farmer in question, Keith Scott of 430 30 1/4 Road, said the actual shooter was a man he’d hired to process the pigs for meat. He said the shooting happens “three or four” times each year. “Just an unfortunate coincidence, I guess,” Scott said of the timing of the kill."

"Administrators at Pear Park Elementary were not entertained. “A lot of the kids are sad,” (Principal Cheri) Taylor said."
It sounds to me like the classic dichotomy between agriculture and sprawl, played out in one neighborhood on a May afternoon. The farmer seemed nonplussed by it all. It's as if he was saying, "I was here first, and this is what I do to make my livelihood and feed my family. Deal with it."

And he would have a point.

While law enforcement tries to figure out if a crime was committed, I would hope that our City Council looks at this and tries to learn from it. I would also hope that some of their questions that come up run along these lines:
  • How many officers from how many agencies got tied up on this?
  • Do we really need two separate agencies to patrol this mess, or is some sharing and consolidation in order, to optimize service delivery and organizational efficiency for our taxpayers?
  • Is this really any way to grow a community?

I found another example of what all of this screwy nonsense reminds me of. I remembered how
well-organized and structurally sound a typical spider's web is, and what happened to that web when scientists exposed spiders to common legal and illegal stimulants or depressants.

Those scientists found out that the most disorganized effort was made when the spider was exposed to caffeine.

Perhaps the manner of growth as arranged by the Persigo Agreement is the web that is being spun, and the attachment of annexation to development, without regard for how it affects the efficient application of services or the character of a community, is the caffeine.

City Council, it's way past time to take a serious look at this process, because it is killing parts of our community.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

DBD: Conservative "Repackaging"?

Grand Junction blogger Gene Kinsey has linked a couple of comics to the sidebar of his blog. One is the popular and on-the-mark funny Dilbert. The other is Day By Day, which has been published online since 2002.

'DBD' appears to be the chronicle of the lives of several urban professionals, most of whom have a decidedly conservative point of view. I spent about half an hour flipping through the strip's archives, and it seems that DBD's creator, Chris Muir, has a pretty good bead on the conservative talking points of the day.

Not all people feel that way, and that's certainly to be expected. Some of the talking points are extrapolated pretty well for just three panels, and the strip itself, while drawn in a less exacting fashion than others, certainly has a way of grabbing your attention, if the editions from today and yesterday are any indication:


OK, I'll admit it, this caught my attention, while at the same time validating my suspicion that the strip (literally and figuratively here) isn't published in any mainstream newspapers.


Well, if you're going to go about bringing back interest in the conservative movement, here's certainly a novel way of trying to accomplish that. I'm not sure this is what Michael Steele had in mind when he said yesterday that the Republican Renaissance is underway. I'm also not sure that this website will get through the firewall at Dr. Dobson's fortress of solitude in Colorado Springs...

I'm suspecting that Gene Kinsey did have this strip in mind when he wrote yesterday that "Happiness is being old, male, and Republican". Gene, you old horn dog, you...

Oh, by the way, just click on the 'strips' above if you want a larger version.

I would love to have a comic widget or two, but there is no such animal yet for some of my favorites, Luann and Doonesbury among others. I'll keep an eye out.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Road from Commencement

My son, my mother and I traveled to Denver on Sunday, spent the night, then did a little shopping and some evaluating of a training program before returning last evening.


View Larger Map

We took an unconventional route to Denver that took about 6 1/2 hours to complete, with stops in Montrose and Salida. My mother had never been past Montrose on Highway 50, so I thought that the scenery of Blue Mesa (especially the Dillon Pinnacles), Monarch Pass, and the high plains of Park County would be an interesting and welcome respite from the "usual" views afforded when traveling I-70. I like Salida (a lot), and so did she, especially Riverside Park with the Arkansas moving rafters and kayakers swiftly by.

On these long road trips, I am grateful for the variety offered by satellite radio. We were checking the various news channels trying to see if any of them were airing President Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame, and while we could not find one that was airing the complete speech we found plenty of excerpts, including when he was interrupted by hecklers.

As it happens, upon returning home and checking my usual news links, I ran across a commencement address that may have been largely overlooked by the MSM, but was an incredibly moving and thoughtful speech, not by a politician, learned scholar, but by an entertainer.

John Legend's address to this year's graduates of his alma mater, Penn, contained some truly inspirational passages. While also touching upon current events, he challenged the Class of '09 to pursue truth. A simple and profound goal, many might say, but when you contemplate the last several years it's easy to see why a reminder is sometimes necessary. Here's a sample:

Too often we become apathetic. We see the lies, we see the obfuscation, the deception. But we fail to point it out.

We're afraid to rain on the parade. Afraid to rock the boat. Afraid to pursue the truth.

While your education here at Penn does not require that you are a spokesperson for any particular cause, you now have the resources and skills, the privilege and yes, hopefully, the passion, to pursue the truth. To be witnesses of today and for tomorrow. To speak truth to power. And to speak the truth on behalf of the powerless.

Sometimes there isn't a single answer. But there is always the truth.

Now, I don't assume that the word "truth" is commonly found. Like its bedfellows of "democracy" and "justice," I believe it is quite rare to find.

It is born through process. It is gained through questioning. It is found in listening.

The speech is about 13 minutes long, and is well worth reading and listening to. You can do both by clicking here.

Part of our trip to Denver was dedicated to going to the Apple Store and picking out a computer for Evan's graduation present. I told him that I saved the money to get him this so he would have the necessary tools to properly embark on his post-secondary education, and neither these important years nor the material tools he has to help navigate them should be squandered on things that do not enrich his life.

Like the graduates of Notre Dame and Penn, I hope he gets the message.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Disturbing Silence from the Watchdogs

I was chuckling yesterday over the Daily Sentinel's lament about the purported silence of the ACLU on a piece of legislation in Hawaii, of all places. As it turns out, there was no silence, as a reader pointed out that the ACLU of Hawaii had issued a press release on the bill last week.

Then I found something similar that made me stop laughing.

If you think that I'm just going to go on about how great the ACLU is, and gets a bum rap from a lot of clueless people....well, not this time. There is a disturbing silence from the venerable guardian of the First Amendment, as well as others, regarding a piece of federal legislation that seems to me to embody the old adage about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.

The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act (H.R. 1966) is a rather short little bill, introduced by California Rep. Linda Sanchez, and co-sponsored by 14 other members of Congress.

The bill is named in memory of the 13-year old Missouri teenager who killed herself after significant online abuse by instant messaging and a MySpace page in a fictitious name. The mother of a former friend was charged at the federal level, and convicted of several misdemeanors related to computer fraud.

The meat of the bill is basically one paragraph:
‘Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.'
In other words, a lot of local bloggers could conceivably be prosecuted for online criticism of someone that causes "substantial emotional distress". To channel Ralph D'Andrea, that's crap.

The civil liberties implications of this are significant, and have generated quite a bit of traction in the blogosphere. However, the vast majority of those blogs leveling comment appear to come from a right wing point of view; perhaps this is a byproduct of the largely liberal conglomeration of House members who have lined up behind this legislative travesty.

I support several groups that focus on free speech and civil liberties issues, among them the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). These groups are all well represented in the sidebar of this blog, and all display considerable expertise in the area of protecting individual liberties, whether it be online, in public protest, or in our colleges and universities.

FIRE has been the only one of these three groups with a perceived stake in the issue to come out with position and reporting of any kind on the bill, or its' potential fallout.

Extensive searches of the ACLU and EFF websites show no analysis or action alerts on H.R. 1966. EFF posted some general comment last year on the constitutional viability of anti-cyberbullying legislation, but nothing specific to this bill. Why?

The silence on this issue is deafening from these champions of individual rights.

The most comprehensive MSM coverage of the issue comes, from all places, Fox News. They leveraged noted lawyer and blogger Eugene Volokh to comment on the legislation for what it is; not viable when exposed to the rarefied light of the First Amendment.

Could it be that the push from the Democratic left to enact such a flawed piece of legislation is causing ACLU and EFF to remain quietly on the sidelines, to appease a small bloc of legislators who could be counted on to support other pet projects?

Where is the remainder of the mainstream media regarding this? Where was the Sentinel when the perfect niche issue came to light for a conservative-leaning editorial board with significant disdain for the ACLU?

For me, the answer lines up this way; bad law is bad law, regardless of which side of the aisle or political spectrum it originates from. HR1966 is bad law. It needs to die a quick death in the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Sanchez is feeling the pressure, and tried in vain to defend her bill in a recent Huffington Post Op-Ed. This was swiftly countered with a very common sense and comprehensive assessment by MSNBC's Helena A.S. Popkin. When you invoke something like Columbine, and worse yet get it wrong, you know you're grabbing at straws.

As a paying member of both the ACLU and EFF, I expect an organizational position on HR1966 to be researched, developed, and published in short order. What appears to be some selective application of their respective mission statements needs to stop.

Have a good rest of your weekend.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do the Math - 53 Weeks Later


Here we are again at the intersection of 1st Street and Grand Avenue in Downtown Grand Junction. The Riverside Parkway has reduced some of the traffic load from the intersection, but it's still, in my opinion, the best location for a roundabout in GJ where there isn't one.

As in the past, I like to take a picture of the intersection not for the traffic, but for the two convenience stores and gas stations on either corner. Here's what I'm getting at:

While the overall situation is certainly better than it was a year ago, the question remains about the seemingly inexplicable discrepancy between two similar businesses, who appear on the surface to be selling fuel from the same oil company.

Why, then, does the business on the left feel they can sell regular gas for a quarter more than the business on the right? How is it that premium grade at the station on the right is less costly than regular at the station on the left?

I would love to be able to ask the appropriate management representatives these questions, and may get the chance to. I thought I would give our excellent professional media at the local level a shot at it first, though.

Looking forward to some more local reporting on this issue. Thanks!

Graduation 2009

The Daily Sentinel - Christopher Tomlinson

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

- Lao Tse


Evan -

"What a long, strange trip it's been" - and for you, it's only begun to get interesting.

You've had to grow the last few yea
rs under less than ideal circumstances. While your choices for taking steps through this life are not the ones I would take, they are uniquely yours, and set you on a path that I hope will be a fruitful and happy one for you.

Your mother is proud of you today, and loves you like no one else - as do I.

Good job
.

Stay close, no matter how divergent our paths become.

Much Love,


Dad

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fire, Flood and Communication

Today's Sentinel story about the flooding and electrical condition inside Mesa State's Tomlinson Library had me scratching my head more than usual this morning.

In what could have been a tragic repeat of the Thanksgiving 2007 incident at Grand Junction High School, flooding caused by a fire sprinkler that popped when a bearing overheated in the Library's generator room put quite a bit of water in the first floor of the facility.

After reading that this situation went undiscovered until employees arrived to open up on Sunday morning, I immediately wondered why the sprinkler water flow, and subsequent alarm activation, went unnoticed until somebody showed up at the building.

In my experience, these types of alarms would normally generate a signal at a monitoring center, who would then notify the Fire Department, along with the owner's representative and/or site maintenance. At the least, there is usually some type of external signaling device, such as a bell (powered by the water flow) ringing to indicate that the sprinkler system has been activated. These capabilities are typical of buildings that are protected in accordance with local building and fire codes.

I decided to seek clarification and additional information, and found a willing and informative source in Mike Page, the Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Grand Junction Fire Department. He enlightened me with the following information:
  • Mesa State, like other State-owned institutions, is exempt from much of the local fire codes, but does "work closely" with local authorities to assure that their buildings are well protected.
  • A single sprinkler head can dispense as much as 25 gallons of water per minute, which is a significant amount over any period of time.
  • New commercial construction that is built to meet current fire code typically requires the building's fire alarm system to be monitored by an outside service. This includes any building that is sprinkler-protected.
After speaking with Mike, I contacted Kristi Pollard, Mesa State's Development Director and acting public affairs person today. I asked about the seeming lack of alarm monitoring, and why the Library's alarm would not be monitored, especially in the context of yesterday's incident.
Ms. Pollard replied with the following:
"Mesa State College does not currently have an automated system that will contact the fire department. However, during the summer MSC will be undertaking a controlled maintenance system project that will be updating all of MSC's aging monitoring systems with state-of-the-art systems that will all be linked together on the college's fiber network."
I then confirmed with Ms. Pollard that the new project would provide for 24-hour monitoring of these alarm systems. She stated "that's correct". Ms. Pollard also added that the Library was slated to re-open today.

While this is all good news, it is long overdue, and there still isn't any guarantee that a monitored alarm condition would result in immediate notification of public safety resources. A call to the maintenance person on campus (or maybe even on call) could conceivably be considered as sufficient. The need for immediate fire response will hopefully be made very clear by the GJFD when the time comes, with this incident as a benchmark.

This all could have been much worse, and needs to be a continued reminder to facilities operated by our varying levels of government that in the response and mitigation areas it's best to play by the rules established by the locals.


Saw the new Star Trek movie tonight with Evan, my brother Dave and his wife Lan. Pretty darned good, a little melodramatic and contrived in parts, but worth a second sit-through.

This was a healthy diversion from being glued to the TV watching the Penguins lose in overtime to the Capitals (arrrgh), extending what has been a war of a playoff series to a decisive Game 7. I think the phones will be shut off on Wednesday night.

Graduation day is tomorrow. A lot of emotion coming from many corners, locally and otherwise, and this corner is no exception. More to say in words and pictures tomorrow. Time to get some sleep.

Have a good week.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Weekend

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers I know. Considering that this is also graduation week, that's quite a lot who I have known for a long time, from the time our children first walked into Kindergarten, onto the soccer field, or into their first meeting of Cub Scouts.

I'm fortunate to still have my mother, and she's come out to celebrate her only grandson's graduation. My brother and his wife will be joining us later this morning. We are going to treat my mother to a nice dinner and a glimpse of some of the unique scenery our area has to offer.

Evan has to work this Mother's Day, and although I wish he could join us I also have to let him assume this responsibility as his own, do what he can, deal with both the pleasantries and the drudgery of the working world, and let him learn his way. Despite the significant challenges of losing his mother, he's turned out to be a resourceful, resilient, and articulate young man, who I daresay is better prepared for some of this world's more difficult realities than perhaps some of his peers.

He's trying to get into Mesa State for the fall, and has a plan mapped out as far as what he wants to study. I have the means to help him out initially, but depending on how his plans and dreams shake out he may end up paying for some of his college education. That's not a bad thing in my mind; I think that he will learn and be ready for whatever gets thrown at him, or adapt quickly.
In a world like ours today, that ability is invaluable.

There are pink tulips and purple irises adorning my girlfriend Leslie's house today, and while she says she enjoys the flowers there is a reminder of the physical distance between us that the sentiment behind the flowers must somehow compensate for. I'm a better person with her close by. I miss you, baby.

It's been a busy weekend with relatives coming in from out of town and having to work on Saturday, but with the cool evening breezes tempering the heat of the mid-spring day, and the sound of good music wafting into the neighborhood from the festival downtown, I'm feeling pretty good about the days ahead, but a little empty as well for those who are not with us.
To absent friends...

To add to the quiet satisfaction is the triumph of the Penguins again last evening. One more win and they're halfway to the Stanley Cup. The first time they won it was in 1991, when two other things happened that I thought would not in my lifetime; that I would own a house, and have a child.

Despite the loss and disappointment over the last few years, I can truly say that I am blessed by the love of my family, including those who are far away. Thanks to all the moms out there; one way or another, we couldn't have got here without you.

Enjoy the day and the week ahead.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Remembering Tammy - Part 2


In the spring of 2006, about 4 months before I started this blog, my late wife Jan was fighting the lung cancer that would eventually take her from us about a year later. She wanted to spend part of the summer at our condominium on Cape Cod, but was fretting about the myriad issues surrounding air travel, especially with metal rods in her spine and a boxful of medications.

While thinking about the logistics of this, I arrived at the conclusion that this trip could be much more for Jan. With that in mind, I worked out a plan to drive the distance, taking our time to get there as much as possible, along a route that would allow us to spend time with as many of Jan's relatives and friends as we could.

While on the way we got to see parts of the country we had never seen before, and people that we had not seen face to face for many, many years. The trip remains a good memory during a tough time. I wrote about it at length in the Yahoo group that chronicles Jan's illness.

Tammy Martin and her family didn't have the opportunity to travel together this way. I've written about Tammy before, roughly a year ago when she lost her battle with ovarian and colon cancer.

Circumstance and the progression of her illness prevented a trip for Tammy, her husband Burke, and their two children from happening.

Today, Burke and the remainder of Tammy's family began an effort to see to it that adults facing a serious illness have the opportunity to travel or share special experiences with their families. The Tammy D. Martin Trips, Dreams, and Memories Foundation held the kick-off of their initiative, along with a tree dedication in Tammy's memory, today at Hawthorne Park. This coincided with what would have been Tammy's 39th birthday.

I stopped down and spoke with Burke, Tammy's mother, and two sisters. All seemed buoyed by the reception so far from the community at large, which included plenty of media attention, in particular a very nice story in yesterday's Sentinel.

Hopefully this will translate into a healthy beginning for the foundation, and the ability for them to fund trips of this nature for families in need.

My check is already in the mail. If there is space within your heart and your finances to help a local charitable effort with an identified need get off the ground, please consider it. I will keep a banner at the bottom of this blog page until the end of the month, to serve as a reminder and as a measure of support.

Thanks.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Stitch in the Patchwork

Congratulations to Bill Pitts and Tom Kenyon, who along with incumbents Teresa Coons and Bonnie Beckstein were sworn in earlier today as members of Grand Junction City Council.
Your commitment to public service is admirable, and you've got a big job with just about as big a target on your collective backs.

Best of luck to all of you. I will continue to try my best to keep my comments respectful and directed at issues, not personalities.

One item on Council's agenda this evening relates to annexation. I continue to have significant concerns about the manner in which the City/County annexation "machine", driven by the Persigo Agreement of 1998 and seemingly unstoppable even in the face of challenging economics and reduced revenues, continues to add territory to the city limits.

However, tonight's action may actually shed a ray of the light of common sense onto this process, while at the same time continuing to illustrate the egregious nature of the manner the city has grown under the Persigo Agreement. Council will vote tonight on the annexation of six separate pieces of right-of-way along North Avenue (see partial illustration above), which comprise the remaining sections of one of the City's prime commercial and commuter corridors.

The good news; The entire length of North Avenue, from First Street to the I-70 Business Loop just west of 30 Road, will be in the city limits. For public safety, this simplifies things quite a bit, especially as they relate to traffic enforcement and accident investigation along North Avenue.

The not-so-good news is that the practical effects of these quirky annexations are somewhat embellished by this latest move, at least until the City gets around to annexing the remaining properties along North Avenue, east of 29 Road, that remain outside its' boundaries today.
The following illustrates this rather well:

Tonight's annexation (it's a foregone conclusion, and that's part of the problem) will include those parts of North Avenue highlighted in blue, thus unifying North as part of the city in both directions. Notice, however, all of the properties in white, which are not part of the City. There is still potential for confusion and miscommunication with incidents and criminal activity that begin in one jurisdiction and cascade over into another.

For example, if a vehicle traveling north on Morning Glory Lane is rear-ended by another vehicle, then pushed into the intersection of North Avenue and struck by a second vehicle, then it's quite possible that the Colorado State Patrol will be handling the first accident and the GJPD the second one. Lovely, huh?

An even more interesting example of this is the annexed property along 29 1/4 Rd, highlighted in red. Note the line drawn down the middle of 29 1/4 Rd, connecting this property to the right of way of North Ave. that will be annexed tonight. That line appears to illustrate that the City has taken only the west side right-of-way on 29 1/4 Rd., in order to connect the annexation to the remainder of the annexed properties and rights-of-way in the area.

What this likely means from a practical standpoint is:
  • If an incident happens at the annexed properties, the GJPD will handle it.
  • If an incident happens on the west side of 29 1/4 Rd., the GJPD will handle it. If it happens on the east side, the MCSO (or CSP, if it's an accident) will handle it.
  • If it happens at any other property in this illustration, the MCSO or CSP will handle it.
If you're confused, it's OK; you're not alone. Think of the 9-1-1 call taker trying to obtain this information, and assess jurisdiction, in an emergency situation. This may be followed by the dispatch of multiple agencies to sort it out and eventually determine the correct jurisdiction. How does this speak to the efficient management of limited public safety resources? Does this really have to happen this way?

One can only hope that with a new Council comes new questions, and the eventual re-visitation of the annexation process. In the meantime, I will continue to watch these developments.

Best of luck to our two new Council members as they try to navigate this quagmire in search of a more responsible way of growing our City.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Brought to You by the Letter 'S'

Happy May. I started this month not feeling all that great. Things are better on that front, and while progressing through yesterday and today I wound up finding out several things worth mentioning, all beginning with the letter S.

Senioritis

Friday was my son's last full day in a high school classroom. I had to bring him a form that he had forgotten at home, and it reminded me of his first day of Kindergarten, when he didn't have a snack. Another boy shared his snack with Evan; they remain friends to this day. I asked Evan what today had in common with his first day of school, and he immediately knew.

He picked up his yearbook from school today, and at first glace it looks immensely interesting. I have a picture of him with his backpack, ready to go to school for the first time. Contrast that with today, and it's amazing what the years do, and how fast they go by.

Samantha Stiles

I read Samantha Stiles' column in Friday's Sentinel over a sandwich at the First and Grand Subway. I thought her ruminations about traveling to Denver on the Amtrak were entertaining. Trains could be a big deal again in this country. There's lots of potential there; I need to go back east again soon, and would love to do part of it on the train if I have time.

Unfortunately, Sam is another talented young journalist who is taking leave of Grand Junction in search of greener or more familiar pastures. She is headed back to Austin, Texas. While this leads to the question of why she left Austin in the first place (it's a great city), this continues a disturbing trend of young journalistic talent leaving our area, including Mike Saccone, Marjorie Asturias, and now Sam.

While we as local media consumers are used to this in the broadcast arena, and may not be completely unexpected given the current nature of the newspaper business, it is nonetheless a cause for concern. I'm sure that our local editors are cognizant of this, and will hopefully continue to try to recruit energetic, talented journalists even through hard times.

Best wishes to you, Sam, for continued success and/or happiness wherever life takes you.

Smashburger

While I was at Subway yesterday I noticed work being done in the storefront next door, previously occupied by a pizza place and a barbecue joint. The new signage indicates that Grand Junction is about to get its first Smashburger franchise.

If that is still the case (their website doesn't list a GJ location slated to open soon), then this will be something to look forward to. Smashburger is a Denver-based chain of restaurants that showcases high-quality beef "smashed" on the grill to seal in the juices. Their menu embellishes this with fresh toppings, several kinds of cheese, and even a fried egg if you wish.

Evan and I dined at one of these places in Denver this past March. An extraordinary meal, quickly prepared, with the option to have a beer if you want. It's a little pricey, but I have the feeling that this location will draw enough business to make it worth the while of the franchisee.
Let's hope they get it finished and open soon. Yum...

Sheryl Williams

I was saddened to read about the death of Sheryl Williams in a motorcycle accident near Delta on Wednesday evening. Sheryl was a skilled, dedicated nurse who worked for Rocky Mountain Health Plans Home Health when my wife was ill.

Along with many other dedicated caregivers, Sheryl's diligence and skill helped Jan to deal with both the discomforts of her illness and the more difficult side effects of her treatment. Sheryl helped to improve her quality of life, despite the seriousness of her illness.

I'm sure that many patients and other families have benefited from Sheryl's compassion and expertise, most recently at the St. Mary's Regional Cancer Center. My condolences go out to Sheryl's family and co-workers.


I'm off to the graveyard shift for the bulk of the upcoming week. Evan is working afternoons and evenings at City Market, so up until graduation week we will be passing ships in the night.

Hopefully there will be plenty of chances to tell him how proud I am of him, to follow his dreams and don't be afraid, and to cherish every moment of every day.

Enjoy your Saturday.