Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ignorance of Earth Hour is No Excuse

Absolute and utter bullshit it is. Much of the world participated in Earth Hour on Saturday night by turning their lights off between the hour of 8 and 9 p.m., and yet the country that consumes 24% of all energy and 25% of all the electricity produced on the planet, the United States, nearly completely missed the boat.

Why? Because the American media nearly completely missed the boat. Clueless and/or...... well, let's just say clueless for now.

I'm guessing the participation levels varied in each city of the country and world depending on whether the local, regional, and national media mentioned the event beforehand. Here in Fort Collins, Colorado? Nada. Not a peep.

BalticTiger and I heard about it through alternative media (i.e. Internet) over a week in advance, marked it on our calendar, and then received emails about it from friends and family who also heard about it through the Internet. But our local paper, The Coloradoan? Nothing. Silence. Ignorance.

If we weren't so proactively connected to what's going on in the world, we would have missed it too.

However, we didn't miss it. We completely turned off the house's power at the circuit breakers for the hour, lit a candle in the front window, and went for a long walk around the neighborhood. What did we see? Lots and lots of brightly illuminated homes. However, we counted 14 houses that were completely dark... and without a For Sale or For Rent sign in front. In only one totally darkened house could we see a candle lit inside. We walked past four or five hundred houses during the hour.

Pathetic. But I'm not criticizing the people and their lack of participation, because Fort Collins is the kind of city that would have gladly participated in something so interesting and symbolic as Earth Hour. No, Fort Collins didn't know about it. Because The Coloradoan didn't tell them. We knew that many of our neighbors would have joined in, had they known about it. But they obviously hadn't heard. In the days leading up to Earth Hour, I mentioned it to dozens of folks and it was news to every one of them. Every single one.

So why did I use the word "bullshit" up top? Because splashed all over the cover of SUNDAY'S Coloradoan is a story headlined, after the freakin' fact, "Cities throughout world mark Earth Hour". Throughout the world. Just not so much in this country. Because hardly anyone knew about it.

NOW they tell us?!

And that is bullshit. I'll be canceling my subscription. Newspapers are struggling because people are getting their news from other sources. I wonder why!

Anatomy of an Hypoxian Metric Century

Howard and BalticTiger got the jump on the rest of Club Hypoxia with a morning ride of 24 miles:

Then we joined the rest. But first... no Hypoxian ride can settle in properly until someone gets a flat tire. It was Deadhead's turn:

The eight of us got pulled over and asked by this fine officer to not do something we weren't doing. We smiled, thanked him, and all of us went on with our great day:

Popeye, Deadhead, pedalpusher, BikePrincess, & A.J. at the top of Carter Lake Dam:

SuperNana, Howard, & BalticTiger at the top of Carter Lake Dam:

Howard liked this house a lot because he designs this kind of stuff. So he took a photo so he could remember it and copy it someday:

Barbed wire & some other fine stuff:

A fence climbing a hill:

The light was perfect today. To prove it, here's a lovely rock formation perfectly lit:

A video of BalticTiger, A.J., and pedalpusher riding the top of Carter Lake:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Only An 'R' Rating from the MPAA?

Trust me, you don't want to hear about the sequel coming out in a couple months...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everyone Always Talks About a Brokered Convention, but Nobody Ever Does Anything About It

It's silly season in presidential politics alright, but at least someone is asking the question:

Is Al Gore the answer?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Our House is Worth A Lot More Than That!

Whenever we invite people to our home, I confess to feeling a bit self-conscious -- not because I designed the house, but because I didn't. Although people are nice enough not to say anything, I can't help but wonder if they were a bit curious to see what kind of house an architect lives in, and then disappointed to actually see our house. The house is basic and small and plain on the outside, though it's pretty nice on the inside with white oak floors throughout the first floor, decent trim and woodwork, and nice spaces. We have paintings by BalticTiger all over the walls and a lot of great Mission-Style furniture which boosts the ambiance.

But we don't own the house, we rent.

We used to own an impressive house with million-dollar views, but we sold it 2 1/2 years ago when I saw the housing crunch coming. Also, we wanted to live IN town during our son's high school years. We sold the impressive house for our asking price back when houses were still selling for asking price.

Nowadays, with so few buyers on the market and so many houses for sale, the only houses selling are those with particularly desirable amenities such as great neighborhoods, those in a particular price range (usually $200-$230K) where the demand is still strong, or those that have drastically lowered prices due to excessive "motivation".

Some people just can't sell their homes at a loss, even if they have no other options. They stubbornly keep the asking price high, believing that "the right buyer" is just around the corner. In the meantime, those who DO lower their prices inadvertently lower the neighborhood "comps" for the others.

We all know about comparables, right? Those recent selling prices of houses similar to the one being appraised that are used to create the appraisal? As comps drop down in coming months, banks and lenders will be dropping the qualifying loan amounts offered for properties because they simply won't appraise for the old higher prices anymore. The effect on appraisals of reduced sale prices, which become tomorrow's comps is a slow process, but it's a sure one. For what it's worth, residential real estate prices are expected by many to drop nationwide between 20% and 30% in coming years. All that equity that people used to own on paper and borrow money against? Gone. Perhaps forever.

BalticTiger and I have been waiting 2 1/2 years for prices to come down, and they already have by about 10%, but we're expecting even more. It's been a slow and stubborn process.

We can wait. Our son has one more year before he graduates high school.

An article in the NYTimes talks about the psychological aspects of selling ones home in a lousy seller's market, and the stubbornness that can hinder any sale. It's always an eye-opener when the media "gets it".

It's Not a Springsteen Story, But It'll Have to Do

I have three John Denver stories to tell, but first this...

Okay, here we go:

1. Back in the 70s, when gas was scarce and lines at the stations were long, a story came out in the Denver media that John Denver, who owned a house in Aspen I believe, had purchased, buried, and filled a notably large gas tank on his mountain property. Odd? Yes. Particularly the suggestion that John Denver, the environmentalist, might be harboring some survivalist tendencies... tendencies I've been edging more and more towards in the past 20 years. That John Denver had done this was treated in the media as a cause for scorn and ridicule, though I personally found it merely curious and odd.

2. When in high school, I liked John Denver. Okay, I know I just blew all credibility with you there, but I have to admit it for the sake of this story. A squirrelly girl in poetry class had a huge crush on me while I had a huge crush on the future Mrs. Howard. [Guess who won the Howard lottery?] One day we had an assignment to bring some music to class that we considered poetry, and the squirrelly girl brought John Denver because she knew I liked him. When I reacted with disdain at her choice, she got
very upset and accused me of being disagreeable just to push her away. I denied it, but realized she had my number all right -- that's exactly what I was doing. John Denver helped me realize something about human behavior that day. [My choice of music? Jackson Browne's Saturate Before Using album.]

3. In 1996-97, I worked with an architect friend for a developer in the Littleton Tech Center in a very large airplane hanger at Centennial Airport. Stored within this airport hanger, besides our offices, were two kit-built airplanes owned by... yup, John Denver.

He didn't live in Colorado anymore however. He now lived in California. But I was told he came out to Colorado occasionally to fly his way cool airplanes. They were both very tiny and one of them had an unusual wing arrangement -- a canard wing just in front of the cockpit. Matter of fact, here is a photo of the plane, designed by Burt Rutan and built from Rutan's plans, though with one crucial modification.

I worked with my friend in that hanger for a year, and always hoped that someday I would meet John Denver, out in Colorado to fly his cool planes. But no.

Then one Monday morning, the plane with the canard wing wasn't there anymore. An employee of John Denver's, I was told, had taken the plane that weekend and flown it to California.

Less than two weeks later, October 12, 1997, John Denver died while flying that airplane. It was thought that he lost control of the plane when he ran out of fuel and reached around behind the seat to flip a fuel tank lever, and pushed the right rudder pedal too much, putting the plane into a fatal dive. The fuel tank had been relocated from Rutan's original design, necessitating the awkward maneuver to operate the lever.

His death hit me hard -- and still does -- because he was such a contagiously happy person and... yes, a good songwriter and singer.

Why the stories? Because I came across the YouTube video of John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High, his greatest and sappiest hit -- though not my favorite -- and decided to come clean about my love of his music as a teenager.

So there you go -- my trio of John Denver stories. Now let me have it.

Note: This post was edited to remove an extraneous -- and perhaps dubious -- assertion: That John Denver was thought to be a Republican in the early 70's, at the time of the oil embargo.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Check Out the Flag

Somewhere in China, this gleaming white new/old building is laying in wait, unoccupied as of this posting.

A cycling friend, who lives in mainland China a good portion of each year, came across this unusual building and decided it was noteworthy. He was right.

We all know how pasta and gunpowder and paper and all sorts of essential doodads of modern life were invented in China. However, the architectural aesthetics of the Far East seem to have remained in the Far East. Too bad, actually.

After seeing all the modern architecture being imported into China as fast as architects can design and builders can build, it's now obvious that the flow of cultural artifacts and functional/economically viable aspects of 20th/21st-century architectural stylings (i.e. glass monoliths with funky geometries and all the air conditioning they can afford) have now been embraced the world over. Too bad, actually.

Except that this Neo-proto-quasi-institutional building is unnerving -- a Classic Greek Revival building inspired by Washington D.C., and the Parthenon, and the La Torre de Pisa (the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but without the lean) -- TIMES TWO even! -- and the Egyptian obelisks with the transparent Ieoh Ming Pei touch, and a bunch of large, white, presumably concrete... soccer balls? Click on the photo and see it mucho larger.

This is bizarre and unnerving and so SO unusual that this architect's head exploded. And that's not a bad thing at all.

Irrational Exuberance For Me

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Goofin' wit da gang

What do kids do with their free time? They play video games, of course. For those who tolerate the outdoors, sometimes they'll play basketball with friends. Our son Gogan does all of these things. But we typically oblivious parents recently learned that he also makes videos (he doesn't freely offer up this kind of information).

Here's a recent YouTube submission he called "Drive-by Minivan". He's the tall one with the light shirt...

When we found out that he was making videos, BalticTiger had the presence of mind to ask if he posted them to YouTube. Yes, was the answer. Again, he wouldn't have offered up this tidbit of important information unless queried directly...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Going to get worse before...

Hey, here's something you don't ever see on CNBC or Fox:


No, of course this isn't an "honest" depiction of Life In America right now. But it IS an accurate vignette from a small demographic that will grow larger in coming months.

And you won't see it on CNBC or Fox THEN either!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Saturdays Don't Come Much Better

Howard and BalticTiger had a splendiferous day of bicycling with friends on Saturday.

Our day started out with typical Colorado Splendor:

We rode past an old fort:

We saw some beautiful putting greens... er... browns:

We said hello to some old friends:

We posed:

We admired the frozen waterfalls:

We took one or two breaks (at most!):

We mocked the cameraman:

We followed where the road led us:

We descended:

We stopped to admire (and adorn) the indigenous architecture:

We found a SAG wagon to use during ReUnion08:

We climbed to an overlook near Horsetooth Rock (see the formation?):

We posed (again):

And we admired local rock formations:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Kinfolk said, "Jed, move away from there." But this one didn't.

I'm ashamed of myself. I can't help but admire this assemblage of aluminum living at its very best. They even have a kidney-shaped ceeement pond in the front yard, fer chrissake! Four levels of fine ten-foot-wide paradise nestled into the forest's edge come complete with a wind turbine and a sunroom. Whoda thunk Bubba could be so Green?! One question: Are all those stairs code compliant?

By the way, this photo was sent by our real estate agent, who's been trying for two years to find us the perfect lot on which to build our dreamhome. As usual, click on the photo to see and appreciate it full-size.