MAY 2006

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This Month:

4 Timely humor
5 Think of all the unborn cinnamon rolls
8 The Big Mouth
10 More Zoo Parking
11 The Six Million Seniors Plan
12 Now wait a cotton-picking minute
15 Stomp
18 Omigod, they killed the 4th Amendment! You bastards!
19 Publicist of the Christ
22 Rainy days & Mondays
25 Green Futures in the P-I
31 And he wouldn't let the inspectors in

Special Index:
"Mr_Blog at the Movies"

On the Road to the Academy Awards
"In A World..."
Agatha & the Storm
Must Love Dogs
A Talking Picture
Lisbon Story
Triumph of Love
Der Gropenfuhrer
Posted May 31, 2006
And he wouldn't let the inspectors in

After years of accusations and books sales for tabloid journalists, it seems that Lance Armstrong didn't use banned substances after all.

Lance Armstrong was cleared of taking banned drugs at the 1999 Tour de France by independent investigators who said the World Anti-Doping Agency may be guilty of misconduct in its handling of the case.

"There is no basis for disciplinary action against any rider," Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman said in his 132-page report today...
Armstrong's maiden seven-minute win at the 1999 Tour led to persistent whispers in the French press that he boosted his performances with drugs... [The] probe began after French newspaper L'Equipe in August said six of Armstrong's urine samples from the 1999 race showed traces of the banned hormone erythropoietin.

A tribunal should be convened to examine possible legal and ethical violations by WADA in its treatment of the rider... Source: Bloomberg 5/31/06

Bloomberg also reported that WADA Chief Executive Dick Pound couldn't immediately be reached for comment. But in a Mr_Exclusive Dick Pound insisted to us that Armstrong used drugs, and that they would be found. "We know where they are," said Dick Pound. "They're in the area around the pancreas and thyroid and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Celeb sighting: KOMO 4's Bryan Johnson, at the N. 125th Street Lowe's. Let's hope the powder-blue denim leisure suit isn't the new uniform for TV journalists.

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Posted May 25, 2006
Green Futures in the P-I

Exhibits on display at City Hall, culled from February's design extravaganza, include futuristic water taxis, individual monorail pods and streets that have been turned over to pedestrians and streams as our reliance on cars wanes. Source

A few words on why the Green Futures Team I was part of decided to utilize "individual monorail pods"—Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)—as the public transit option for our Northwest Seattle vision.

Quite simply, the kind of future we were tasked with envisioning does not demand the kind of service now provided by traditional modes of transit. We were creating greener, pedestrian-priority neighborhoods. Each neighborhood would have one or more mixed-use clusters of business, retail and public activities; we saw a future with shorter work weeks and more telecommuting. As a result, we thought that most daily travel needs would be close to home, and could be satisfied by walking and biking (or some other green person-mobile).

In short, the kind of all-at-once capacity provided by buses and streetcars would be far in excess of what people would actually need; moving a big bus or tram to carry a few people at a time is not the most energy-efficient way to provide transit. Yes, residents of, for instance, Wallingford might need to go somewhere else in Seattle—but not every day, and certainly not all at the same time.

The kind of on-demand, elevated, low-profile, small vehicle mass transit provided by our Team's "Light Peoplemover" PRT network just makes more sense given the objective to create a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly urban environment.

I realize there will be certain Trogluddites® who may jump on my case, believing as they do that PRT is, variously, "technically impossible", "The Jetsons", "pie in the sky", or "a right wing conspiracy". Get over yourselves; you know who you are. Green Futures is about a 100 year timeframe. Technology, including transit technology, is going to progress whether you like it or not.

Blarchive: Easy being green
Open Space Seattle 2100

Today's celeb sighting: Annette Bening, shopping bags in hand, looking very pretty but slightly lost, in front of the Fairmont Olympic.

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Posted May 22, 2006
Rainy days & Mondays

Roundup. The first wet commute since last week's Early Summer, and Seattlites again prove how quickly they forget how to drive in the rain. Partial closure of the Fremont Bridge just adds to the entertainment value of the Aurora Avenue Zoo Slowdown.

What the aftermath of the Seattle Monorail Project is proving is that you can have Transit Oriented Development, but skip the transit part.

I thought Seattle Public Schools is closing schools because it has a $20 million deficit to deal with. So why then proceed to promise to put half of the $4.8 million savings "back into" the remaining schools? Is the deficit a huge problem or not?

Kudos (that's right—actual kudos) to Mayor Horizontal for keeping Alaskan Way out of the streets/bridges levy proposed today. What remains to be seen is whether the sidewalks part of the plan is the same one announced last year shortly before the November election. Because that one spoke of more (i.e., additional) sidewalks, albeit not that many. Today's report only says the levy would only pay to "fix... sidewalks."
       Last week's great weather saw a great many young families out for morning and evening strolls in the sidewalkless portions of Greenwood. Watching parents choose between pushing strollers on gravel shoulders and sharing asphalt with speeding cars made me seethe at the longstanding municipal inaction.
       Pedestrians get unpaved shoulders with mud puddles; cars get pavement so they don't damage their delicate tires. When people have trouble driving somewhere, studies are commissioned over a broad area; traffic volumes are measured and expansions planned, paid for from general funds. But when people want a sidewalk, sorry—that's the responsibility of residents on each block, they must beg for permission and grants, and are billed the rest.
       Are we angry yet?

(1400 PDT) It's official: a breakout of how the levy revenue will be spent has been released by the Times. Question: what is the difference among pedestrian corridors, pedestrian improvements, and sidewalks? Color me skeptical, but I want to see the priority list of projects.

Now this is interesting: the Seattle Transportation Infrastructure Inventory. According to this, "sidewalks and walkways" replacement cost is $102,000 per mile (not including drainage). So why has the Mayor in the recent past pegged the cost at $250,000 per block?

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Posted May 19, 2006
Publicist of the Christ

Everyone's favorite loony funda-maniac is back in the news spreading God's love. The Pacific Northwest has joined Dover PA and Hugo Chavez in Pat Robertson's crosshairs (better than Dick Cheney's crosshairs). I'm sure you've heard it all by now, so just a short clip:

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8.
     During Wednesday's broadcast, he added, "there well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest." Source

Pat Robertson—new director of FEMA?

Given the chance a few months ago to explain why he says such outlandish things, Rev. Pat blamed his years and years of experience in improvisational theater: "...the problem is, I ad lib", he told ABC's Good Morning America.

I always remember the exposés of faith healers who claim god tells them the names and afflictions of people in their audiences. But the truth is that they have shills do audience research.

Which I think is what Robertson the Holy Meteorologist is doing: Research. Is it just a coincidence that today sees the release of a University of Washington report on Seattle geologic hazards? Which just so happens to mention "tsunami"?

The study began in 2002. And involves geologists who know something about tsunamis. 2+2=4. Can I be a televangelist too?

The alternative is that god really IS talking to Robertson. Which in my book would mean only one thing: God is out to get the Discovery Institute.

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Posted May 18, 2006
Omigod, they killed the 4th Amendment! You bastards!

Air Force general Hayden

Classroom general Mackey

Just to be very clear ... mmkay ... and believe me, if there's any Amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. Alright? And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. The constitutional standard is 'reasonable'" Gen. Michael Hayden

Also today: Judith Miller says White House source expected al Qaeda attack was coming

"I remember the weekend before July 4, 2001, in particular, because for some reason the people who were worried about Al Qaida believed that was the weekend that there was going to be an attack... But I did manage to have a conversation with a source that weekend. The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up. The incident that had gotten everyone's attention was a conversation between two members of Al Qaida. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the Cole. And one Al Qaida operative was overheard saying to the other, 'Don't worry; we're planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.'"

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Posted May 15, 2006

Jim Copeland's oped in the Sunday P-I fretted about the limited outdoor space for elephants at Woodland Park Zoo. As a former insider, I can tell readers that the amount of utilized pachyderm space is actually less than the official one measly acre.

Plans for a new Indian Rhinoceros exhibit would reduce elephant access to their crescent-shaped outdoor space. As of 2004, when I was last privy to such matters, the Zoo was planning to build a rhino viewing pavilion at the southern end of the crescent; the elephant barn is at the north end. Rhinos and elephants would share the yard, though they would not be in it at the same times. A nice touch would be that the Asian elephants would be able to smell the rhinos, just as they would in the wild, making their days more interesting.

Staff thought this joint-usage plan to be practical because, at least anecdotally, the elephants "never" use the southern end of the yard. Maybe because down there they can't see any people, or maybe because it's furthest from the food.

But the Zoo's elephant education and conservation program—not to mention basic care for the animals—would hardly be aided by limiting their outside-time. If the Zoo is unwilling to relocate the elephants to a sanctuary like those mentioned in the Copeland piece—and they would have to be crazy to do so from standpoints of accreditation, PR and fundraising—there is but one answer.

Expand. Put the Pony Trail upgrade even further into the future. Drop the idea of exhibiting Giant Pandas, an insane money-draining proposition, which includes paying China a million-or-so dollars a year per animal. Take the money and acreage and build satellite elephant yards, connected to the main yard by elephant-sized "migration" corridors.

Of course, expansion will require money, requiring more paying visitors, who will need more places to park their cars...

Blarchives: Everybody loves cute animal photos
First look: New Jaguar Swims
You can't have parking without "park"
More Zoo Parking

Also: Rainy-day zoo for kids to open

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Posted May 12, 2006
Now wait a cotton-picking minute

For those of you following the activism by African American businesses against Sound Transit, for what is described as a lack of light rail contracts for black-owned businesses, there was another protest march yesterday.

Light-rail construction on Beacon Hill was interrupted for more than an hour Thursday when 17 protesters carried banners onto the site, demanding more contracts for black-owned businesses.
     ...the group chanted "No black contracts, no black jobs, no light rail!" and sometimes, "No white rail." A dozen supporters watched from outside a fence.
     It was the latest chapter in a three-year dispute with the regional transit agency. Sound Transit estimates that 5 percent of construction dollars have gone to African-American firms but protesters say one major firm hires relatively few blacks.
     Obayashi's workers turned off their machines for safety. Some offered wisecracks as they waited out the protest.
     "There's too many of you, not enough of us!" a black woman joked to a white co-worker. A white man muttered, "Not only do they not work, we don't work either" because of the protest. One worker joked, "No black rail!"
     Eddie Rye, a coalition leader, said small trucking companies have to settle for "rental" agreements for their services under the big contractors, which he compared to sharecropping. Source

Excuse me? "Wisecracks"? Unlike the 165-foot deep tunnel project, it sounds to me like a pretty tense racial divide lurks barely below the surface.

How far up the Obayashi corporate ladder do such attitudes go?

Blarchive: "What we are doing now... doesn't lend itself to a lot of the businesses, that they have to offer" (1/19)

Something the Deaf taught me. I used to work at an agency that, among other things, serves Deaf and hard of hearing people. One of the things hearing staff were required to do is take a sign language course, and when we weren't learning the American Sign Language alphabet, numbers and name-signs for cities in the area*, the instructor told us interesting facts about the Deaf and their culture.

So imagine my surprise when I heard this quote in an NPR story about protests against Jane Fernandes, the new president of Gallaudet University, the US's leading college for the Deaf:

"Anthony Mowl is one of the student protesters. He speaks through a sign language interpreter:

ANTHONY MOWL: She's an administrator, not a leader. Gallaudet, we made it clear, we don't want an administrator. We want a leader. We want someone who can inspire." Source

"Not Deaf Enough" was how one headline summed up the controversy. It's not that straightforward. For one of the things I learned in sign class is that, in the Deaf community, "leadership" does not equate to power, wealth or influence. Instead, leadership means such things as participation, activism, and becoming educated. Therefore, any Deaf person of any age or social or economic status can be a leader.

I'm not one to tell Mr. Mowl about his own culture, but after reviewing the controversy as well as Fernandes's bio, she sure sounds like a Deaf leader to me. In contrast, her opponents are coming across as dogmatic sensory-purists, insisting on one true path to a superior kind of Deafness.

* e.g., "Bellevue" is pushing up on the end of your nose while making the sign for B; the sign for "Tacoma" is similar to the sign for toilet.

Opposition to new university president
Protests continue
No confidence

Also: Can Discovery Institute promise Eternal Parmesan?

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Posted May 11, 2006
The Six Million Seniors Plan

Dubya is touring again to support his new album, Medicare Part D. The LA Times reports on the spin for this, yet another major federal fuckup:

The Bush administration... says the program is working so well that 86 percent of seniors now have some source of prescription coverage.
      Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced Wednesday that 37 million Medicare beneficiaries out of a total of 43 million now have coverage, with less than a week to go before the [May 15] deadline. Source: LA Times 5/11/2006

This means that the Compassionate Conservative from Texas thinks 6 million senior citizens without prescription coverage is a great success! I wonder how it measures up to catching the bass.

Only 1,500,000 sign-ups per day by Monday to get 100% participation. C'mon seniors, do it for Big Pharma!

"Git yer perscripshuns here, it's a good deal.
Trust me, cuz I'm yer Prezdint. Prezdint! That starts with P,
which rhymes with T, an' that spells Trouble..."

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Posted May 10, 2006

Phinney Ridge neighbors opposed to the planned Woodland Park Zoo garage were back in the news Tuesday, and they have an all-new & improved objection to the four-level, $16.2 million structure. Taking a page from opposition to the Seattle Monorail Project, the opponents are including the financing costs in the garage's price. This magically makes it a $30 million-plus project.

Ya know, if the same logic were applied to the residential real estate market, no one would ever take out a 30-year mortgage on a Phinney Ridge house ever again. You'd have to be crazy to pay $3 million for a Craftsman bungalow.

It's not that including such costs isn't a valid objection. The problem is that the 'reason' behind the Antis' opposition keeps shifting around. An objection is raised, it is addressed, the Antis drop it and trot out a different objection. I hate that.

They objected to potential traffic problems, but were ultimately overruled. They objected the garage would spoil views (wouldn't want to interfere with the gorgeous vista of the Norse Home), but you don't hear that anymore. They objected that the Zoo ought to spend more on exhibits—forgetting that exhibits cost money, which requires more revenue from more visitors. Who will need places to park.

So this latest objection is just another excuse to torpedo the garage. And just remember, the neighbors had little problem with the project when it was going to be on the southern side of the Zoo.

I'll repeat something from an earlier post on this topic: of the two sides in this controversy, each is wrong in some way. But the Zoo is less wrong than the neighbors.

Blarchive: You can't have parking without "park"

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Posted May 8, 2006
The Big Mouth

Bush jokes about best moment

...when the German newspaper Bild asked him to name his best and worst moments as president, Bush gave an offbeat answer about the best moment, while giving a more predictable response about his worst.
      "The most awful moment was September the 11th, 2001," Bush said...
      "I would say the best moment was when I caught a 7 1/2-pound largemouth bass on my lake"... Source: AP, 5/7/2006

Bush went on to say the experience occurred during a food poisoning-induced fever dream. The bass spoke to him in the voice of Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, and told him that not only did Karl Rove leak Valerie Plame's name, but that he's also fingered Cheney to Patrick Fitzgerald.

"I've been Prezdint THIS many years."

Don't turn other cheek. A Cardinal has mistaken the upcoming film "The Da Vinci Code" for a documentary. "Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget," Francis Arinze told Reuters.
      Arinze hinted that Christians should sue, saying "sometimes it is our duty to do something practical... some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others," Arinze said, as though a lawsuit would lessen interest in the "Da Vinci" phenomenon.
      Arinze (1-1, 4.21 ERA) said that he would dedicate his start tonight against the Colorado Rockies (19-13) to "gloria dei and creating awareness about the need for respect for religion as long as it's Catholic." Tonight's game at Busch Stadium opens a nine game homestand for St. Louis (20-12).

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Posted May 5, 2006
Think of all the unborn cinnamon rolls

Prime Minister Bush is doing a heckuva job, laying out the truth to the naysayers about how the economy is finally starting to think about possibly considering pulling out of its long stagnation maybe. Apparently we're going to do it by, naturally, making the tax cuts for the rich permanent. But here's the twist—Bush is going to bet the farm, so to speak, on one particular agricultural product: the humble raisin. I know, it's crazy! But here's the quote as I heard it earlier on the NPR:

"Raisin taxes would hurt small businesses. Raisin taxes would hurt consumers. Raisin taxes would particularly affect working people now that the price of gasoline has gone up."

Maybe he's right. Every day we rely on the raisin—in a myriad of fresh baked goods, as well as your granolas and the ubiquitous Raisin Bran. The raisin touches all our lives, I suppose it's not too farfetched to see that these shriveled grapes are integral to our economy. Pull on a vine, and the whole thing might come crashing down. So good on ya, Mr. Bush! Keep the government off the backs of all dried fruits!

Elva Chung, 1921-2006. I wanted to share an amusing story about my great-aunt, who passed away last week after a lifetime of selfless devotion to family and friends.
      Elva and her husband, George (maker of the world's best turkey stuffing), knew Ray of Ray's Boathouse, back in the old days. When Ray actually had a boathouse. It was presumably from said boathouse that Ray would often take the Chungs fishing out on the Sound.
      On one trip she hooked something big. It was heavy and put up a fight, reeling it in was tough. Until, finally, out of the water came—a massive tentacle. And right behind it, the rest of the octopus. Being a tad squeamish, Elva panicked and, not wanting to be connected in any way to the creature from the deep, threw the rod and reel into the water.
      Said Ray: "That was my good fishing pole!"
      "If you want it, you can go in after it," replied my aunt, whom I will miss tremendously.

Oversized carry-on. Was it only a couple weeks ago that I was saying all those nice things about the bus system (Blarchive, April 19)? So of course it would come back to bite me on the ass this week. For instance, the woman in the Power Suit who sat down next to me on yesterday morning's express bus, carrying her life in a giant piece of luggage. Said luggage she proceeds to slam into my leg. Twice. But the most wonderful example of why I sometimes loathe the bus was last Thursday's Sleepy Drunk Guy who sat next to me at 5 in the afternoon:

  • His percentage of the people sitting on our seat: 50
  • Percentage of our seat he occupied: 60
  • Times he nodded off and dropped his newspaper: 6
  • Times he jerked awake and grabbed my arm to steady himself: 5
  • Times he woke up too late and fell off the seat: 3

    "Greenwood resident Michael McGinn points out that people's favorite neighborhoods were built around streetcar lines, not the automobile," writes the P-I. This idea of a Golden Age of Streetcars pops up every once in a while. Didja know there was an Interurban that went all the way to Everett!? says the occasional old timer. The daily papers have semiregular orgasms over the Pearl Street line in Portland.

    Dan Savage's column last week hammered Ron Sims's proposal for enhanced bus service and stood up for trains. But it seemed more of an excuse for Dan to wash his hair at the people he blames for bungling the Green Line.

    I would like nothing better than to be able to hop on a streetcar and go anywhere in the city, even if it meant a couple of transfers. But just think about what Seattle was like when streetcars were at their zenith. Lines went from downtown to Madison Park, to Phinney, to Wallingford, etc. But at that time those places were the suburbs; the area between town and 'burb was much less populated.

    Now imagine the streetcars popped back into existence. Their average speed would be incredibly low, because they wouldn't just be serving population clusters several miles apart, they would have to serve the in-between neighborhoods that have all been filled-in during the automobile era.

    Of course, transit-oriented villages are supposed to fix the problem—Just live in one of these live/work/shop urban centers, and a rail station comes with it. Ah, but such development stimulates private property values, making such places expensive (see South Lake Union). Plus, it's not like we're going to abandon every neighborhood that isn't served by a streetcar. Don't the in-betweens deserve good transit too (they're helping pay for it)? Or are those our "un-favorite" neighborhoods?

    What would it cost to reach every square mile of Seattle with a rail line? Savage invoked New York City subways and the Chicago El as what we should aspire to. But NYC (255 square miles) averages nine-tenths of a mile of track per square mile, nearly two stations per square mile, and about one rail car for every 1,460 people (I can source these if you're interested). To match that, Seattle would need 70-75 miles of rails, 144 stations and 342 railcars. But the $3 billion Phase I of LINK is only 14 miles of light rail, 13 stations, and only 31 rail cars—or about one per 19,000 people.

    New York has had the advantage of building and maintaining its system over many decades. Realistically, the train system Seattle can afford in our lifetimes will be a SeaTac to U-District (maybe Northgate) rail spine for about $4.5-5.5 billion. The question will be how to get to and from the spine, whether to live your life near train stations, or just keep driving (albeit a hybrid, an electric, or a fuel cell).

    What kind of technology could give us a fast, citywide transit network reaching all neighborhoods? Hmmm. I wonder.

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    Posted May 4, 2006
    Timely humor

    Today's opening joke is courtesy of William Ruckelshaus, human résume and the first head of the EPA, who spoke this morning at the College Club on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the founding of People For Puget Sound:

    "Since leaving the other Washington, I always enjoy speaking into microphones that I can see."

    Do it for the kids. Tim Eyman must have a severe self-loathing streak. What's he done lately that's been "popular" (Cry For Help, The Stranger Slog)? If he wanted to chalk up a win, he'd do something that benefited more people—ending the state's monopoly on liquor sales, for instance. And tax it 0.5% to fund schools. Does anyone really think the world will come to an end if Mr_Blog can buy good vodka at Ballard Market on a Sunday? It's not like Resmuglicans don't buy booze. C'mon Timmy, I dares ya.

    I will start believing gas prices are too high, as soon as I notice a sustained decrease in the number of assholes who joyride through my neighborhood in the middle of the night running over traffic circles. If they can afford gas, why can't they afford mufflers?

    The Secret Service's guest list for the White House is incomplete because the complete one lists all of Jeff Gannon's late night booty calls.

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