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City of Sarah Palin Valley

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I thought this photo snapped with a friend’s iPhone was worth sharing.

Make of it what you will.

A Hotbed for Cold Electricity

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While the worlds stands aghast at massive oil spills in the Gulf, or the political football about where to bury left over atomic waste, Spokane has become a harbor for a handful of independent, non-funded technical researchers who are on a quest to revolutionize the way the world generates power. These fringe physicists and electrical engineers defy the laws of thermodynamics, and are working with humble means to discover a new technology that they believe will supply more energy than their inventions would consume.

This search for an endless fountain of “free energy” has become a lifetime calling for many in our area, and they have slowly evolved their own community of interest. Just a few weeks ago Coeur d’Alene was home to the first world free energy conference of its kind. Outside this network of support they receive no assistance whatsoever from academic or government organizations. This is not surprising, given that the law of Conservation of Energy is the solid bedrock for classical physics and chemistry. Despite opposition from every establishment, they trudge on in search of a system that would represent an age-changing event.

But why would so many of the country’s cold electricity researchers congregate in the Inland Northwest? They all agree, to the best of their knowledge, that there is no other place on the planet where so many authors, bloggers and active experimenters are engaged in this heretical subject. Is it something about our regional culture? Something in the ether, perhaps? Either way, for the sake of the planet, one can only hope they might stumble across that new Holy Grail after all.

Social Desegregation – Mixing it up in our high school cafeterias

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Growing up on the North Side I went to Mead – “Spokane’s preppiest high school” (with Ferris coming in a close second). To make a typical story short this environment rubbed me the wrong way so I spent half my time at M.E.A.D. Alternative just across the street.

Alternative schools are often unfairly stigmatized in the larger Spokane community. Upon announcing my departure from Mead I was informed that I was “making a political, social and academic mistake.” Many wrongfully assume that Alternatives are programs of last resort. Negative stereotypes include that students fit the following categories: teen parents, juvenile delinquents, kids with violence/anger issues, substance abusers, or students that are just plain lazy.

Whether this sentiment persists out of a sense of self-congratulatory superiority or plain old ignorance we’ll never know, but I propose a simple solution to significantly shake things up:

What would happen if the entire student body of M.E.A.D. Alternative walked across the street one day to join their mainstream peers in the cafeteria for lunch? This is not as trivial of an act as you might first think. The social divide between these groups can feel like a gaping chasm at times, and there is reason to expect mainstream admins would make excuses to oppose the event if it were ever actually suggested.

The sight of thirty or so misfit young people marching into “the Mall” to mingle with old friends and intentionally make new ones would be quite the spectacle. I predict there’d be a moment of shock as mainstreamers wondered “What is going on here? Who are THEY?” This would quickly dissipate as the alternative students dispersed around the room to say hello.

It would take a lot of guts on behalf of M.E.A.D. kids to assert themselves in this way and I suspect many would not feel comfortable doing so. But what an effective approach it could be! Who wouldn’t want to

Authors: Jenny from Articlehack.com

Alice in White Park

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Maybe I’m exposing my own ignorance here, but what on earth is this White Park that shows up in Google maps? Clearly “Gloven Field” is incorrect (it is supposed to be Glover Field) but White Park is news to me.

Spanning much of the land that is slated for eventual development by Greenstone, we wonder if the above area would be more appropriately labeled White Parking Lot.

I wonder what documents the Google team draws upon when they create these maps? Was there a White Park on the books somewhere back in our City’s history? Not apparently. Searching for White Park Spokane results in a bunch of directions to Aubrey L. White Park up by the Little Spokane.

Can’t Count on the County

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The Spokane County Commissioners are at it again. To raise awareness about the Earth Day celebration on Saturday, the planning committee wrote a proclamation for the county. Most proclamations are a feel-good affair but this year organizers decided to write a call to action for climate change. Here is the original document:

Spokane County recognizes the natural environment as the foundation of a healthy community, society and sustainable economy.

Under growth management, this county works with environmentalists, community groups, businesses and individuals to protect the land, air, water, and wildlife and maintain sustainable development in this region in order to safeguard the environment while enriching quality of life for all county residents and future generations.

Global warming is a reality and we must act to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and develop a robust clean energy economy based on alternative energy and fuel.

In its role as a government entity, Spokane County will demonstrate corporate citizenship and public leadership in ways that are supportive of global warming adaptation and mitigation by employing critical policies on land use, public transit provision, environmental management and economic development directed towards stimulating fuel and technology markets with low carbon impact in mind. Spokane County provides tools, resources and incentives designed to inspire residents to reduce their carbon footprints, live green and make every day Earth Day.

As individual residents we can take action in our daily lives to combat global warming by making energy-conscious choices such as using renewable sources of energy, making our homes more energy efficient, avoiding pesticides and herbicides, choosing to use alternative sources of fuel and transportation and educating future generations about these practices.

The county’s participation in this fortieth Earth Day provides all Spokane County residents the opportunity to learn how to take these actions and much more.

Now, therefore, we the Board of County Commissioners of Spokane County, Washington do hereby proclaim Saturday, April 23, 2011 EARTH DAY in this vibrant county.  We encourage all residents to join us in celebrating the earth, learning how we can take action to prevent the adverse effects of global warming, protect our healthy natural environment and continue to build a thriving community of residents empowered for environmental protection.

But when County Commissioners read the proclamation, any mention of global warming was gone and the document was significantly softer:

Yeah, yeah, yeah: The Spokane County Commissioners have an anti-science agenda. The public largely understands that climate change is a problem; they largely accept the science.  On climate change, the Spokane County Commissioners have traditionally been a mess – a familiar mess, stuck between their increasingly loopy base and less than 50 percent of the American mainstream. But here, in Spokane County, their base is full of flat-earthers that don’t believe the scientific consensus.

Don’t tell that to Earth Day Spokane. Just like the successful “Taking It To The Streets” block party last year on Main Ave between Division and Browne Streets, one hundred organizations  are participating, representing that environmental change begins with personal responsibility, leading by example, and becoming involved in the decision making process. There will be live music from 11 a.m.-midnight, street performers, good local food, children’s activities, organization tabling, spoken word, information gathering, eye-opening experiences, speeches and the 2 p.m. Procession of Species parade.

RSVP on Facebook to Earth Day Spokane

Dark Side of the Sun

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Spokane is a city full of khaki, blue and gray. When people deck themselves out in black around here it is often meant to signify something. To some it is anti-social and threatening. To others it is a sign that someone isn’t bound by confining social norms and is more likely to accept you for who you are.

Next time I’m riding around without my backpack I’ll just follow suit and clasp my U-Lock around my neck. Problem solved!

How Bikes Will Help Save Our Economy

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Tonight Spokane participated in the worldwide Ride of Silence honoring those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. Earlier today, I got my bike back after repairs after I was hit by a car. I shook the entire way on my first ride since the collision.

There’s no shoulder on Sprague Avenue where I was riding, but cars revved their engines passing me: universal driver-to-cyclist code for “getthef—outofmylane!” So maybe today is a good day to talk about why we should prioritize bicycle safety in Spokane, even in a recession, as an investment in our city’s economic wellbeing.

In a low-income city where many don’t have access to a reliable car, increasing bicyclist safety is necessary to our economic success — but bike infrastructure costs money, so bicycle advocates must make a sound economic argument for how we’re asking to spend taxpayer money during a time when those taxpayers are tight on money themselves.

To do so, our community should be quantifying the return we get from our investment in bike infrastructure like we do for motor vehicle infrastructure, then making smart choices about how to maximize that return. Unemployment is at 10.5% – our citizens are primarily concerned about economic growth to create jobs. A successful case for investing in bike lanes will address how bicycle infrastructure can aid in our city’s economic recovery.

Fiscal conservatives are most likely to support taxes when they’re a measurable investment in the economic health of our community. With regard to transportation infrastructure, many fiscal conservatives don’t buy the “you’ve gotta spend tax money to make money” adage unless it’s for motor vehicle infrastructure. I agree that functional, safe and efficient roads are essential to economic activity, but the case for transportation infrastructure shouldn’t be limited to serving motor vehicles.

For the same reasons we have to spend money on roads for cars, we have to spend money on bike infrastructure. We increase individuals’ ability to be employed — then spend the money they earn — by supporting bicycle transportation. It’s as easy as copy-and-pasting the argument made for freeway projects: If we can’t get goods and people to the same place at the same time, we don’t have an economy.

Take the argument made by Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) for the North-South Corridor project in Spokane:

“Maneuvering up and down Division Street while dodging trucks won’t be an issue anymore – for anyone. The North Spokane Corridor gives freight mobility an easier, faster route for truck loads traveling north to south, or south to north. Getting to Interstate 90 will now be much easier, and much safer.

Constructing the corridor creates jobs, which pay money, which circulates throughout the community. The workers pay for housing, utilities, food, vehicles, household furnishings, apparel, medical services, and so on. Many of those purchases are taxed, which helps our city budget. The corridor will also open the opportunity for businesses to open up along the route, thus helping grow the East Spokane and Hillyard District.”

GSI makes the argument for moving consumers and freight — and, equally importantly, the economic need for those very consumers to be employed. I’m not so sold on the idea that work projects will revive our economy, but we should to consider how mobility impacts employ-ability.

If you can’t get to work, you can’t work. In Spokane, the cost of a car trumps convenience for a lot of people — our median household income 7.25% below the national average and 16.9% below the Washington State average. Especially for low-income people who already face significant barriers to employment, lack of transportation can be a deal breaker. If “dependable transportation” doesn’t appear on a job application (and it often does), the requirement is implicit.

The same argument goes for consumption. If it’s harder to get places, you go to fewer places and buy fewer things — or only go to a few places to buy things. This is particularly problematic for businesses who exist on cars-only corridors like Division and Hamilton, and for places hard to access by bus.

Sure, biking isn’t ideal for everyone, but it’s a quicker and cheaper option than a car or even the bus for many people — for example, people who live and work within city limits. It’s great for people who work Downtown and can’t afford to park a car downtown for eight hours a day. It’s great for people who zip between appointments in and around Downtown. It’s great for people who have a car but ride a bike to work for the exercise when convenient. And by “great” I don’t just mean “super, super fun,” I mean cheap, convenient and thus, good for our economy.

Notice that I said “supporting bicycle transportation,” not “striping bike lanes.” That’s because it’s not bike lanes that increase cyclists’ safety, it’s the number of cyclists on the road. The more of us there are, the safer we all are. More people will bike when they feel safer on the road. The solution to that chicken-and-egg situation is to take action that makes people feel safer, so that we actually become safer. Sometimes that does mean paving a bike lane, but we’ve got to get past the idea that this is bike lane wars.

Many contentious bike lane debates can be solved with shared lane markings, or sharrows. They work in places where bike lanes don’t, like in urban areas where streets are too narrow to include a bike lane. The cost of many bike infrastructure projects, like sharrows or bike lanes, can be significantly reduced by adding those features as part of road improvement projects.

Education, like offering bike safety workshops, and accessibility, through programs like earn-a-bike programs or helmet subsidies, can be achieved in partnership with bike shops and non-profits at a super low cost to taxpayers.

However we decide to spend our taxpayer dollars on making bicycling more accessible to Spokane residents, we should regard it as an investment in our economic future.

Why Fagan Cares About Bikini Baristas

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City Councilman Mike Fagan is up in arms over bikini baristas. Bikini baristas are up in arms over Fagan’s newest proposal. The Councilman representing the 1st City Council District (U-District all the way up to Hillyard) wants to require a minimum clothing regulation or move to zoned “adult business” areas. There’s really no right way to feel about this. So many things about lingerie and bikini espresso stands repulse me — they defame the good name of espresso everywhere, objectify and over sexualize often very young women.

Most people understand that the word “Objectification” is a bad thing, but it’s deeper than that, it’s more than just a word. Our culture has made the female form a source of fascination, a white whale of sexual desire, which creates businesses like strip clubs, bikini barista stands and a whole lot of trouble. “Objectification”, is true to the definition of the word, it takes human beings and reframes worth from intellectual contributions, kindness, humor, love and transforms it in to sexual worth. Objects can’t be hurt, because they are inanimate, but when you turn women into objects, it makes things like cat calls, sexual harassment and even sexual violence more justified in the mind of aggressors and general d-bags.

Bikini barista stands may seem fun or even funny, but are fundamentally damaging to our community. Places like bikini barista stands are not really to blame; they’re merely capitalizing on the built culture surrounding women and women’s bodies. Read: it’s all our fault.

The toxicity of bikini barista stands aside, Councilman Fagan’s proposal is still plain wrong.

First, allowing middle-aged white dudes to tell women what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, is exactly what we talk about when we talk about gender inequality. Mike Fagan is, perhaps unwittingly, attempting to institute policies that are directly interfering with the independence and free will of women. And sir, we have enough of that patriarchal bullshit with out the help of our city government. Even more concerning is that Councilman Fagan is a self-proclaimed libertarian, meaning with every other concern, he is supportive of free market ideals and supports little governmental intervention. Except when it has to do with dictating the values of other people. Unequivocally proving he is attempting to institute a policy that is inherently sexist– on purpose.

Second, it is not the place of city government to decide the value system of it’s constituency. But to support the vital services the city provides. In the Spokesman-Review article on the bikini barista cover-up proposal, City Council President was quoted with the perspective of a strong leader, “Who decides what Spokane values are? I didn’t get elected to legislate values. …We should be talking about economic development, the creation of the budget and police accountability…”

The thing about sexism is that we have a choice. Our culture isn’t hardwired to be oppressive. We have the option to reframe the way we talk about sex, the way we talk about our bodies and the way we evaluate the inherit value of humans. We have the power.

We also have the power to buy good coffee from people that wear clothes.4

For Som: Grief.

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I am taking a walk with someone today whom I have only begun to know. He’s saying something about “my twin brother and I…”

“–Wait. You have a twin brother?”

“Did. He died, oh, about three years ago.”

“…”

I fumble through the awkward what-do-you-say’s in my head and settle on, “How is that for you?” Only because my time was up and I had to say something.

“Honestly, it hasn’t been awful. I reached acceptance really early.”

“Oh.” I don’t have a response for that because nobody has ever answered with anything other than: “Awful. Devastating. Catastrophic.”

I do the panic thing and start rambling on about my own experiences with grief because what the fuck else is there to do. He says he felt guilt about not doing grief right until a friend told him however he’s doing it is doing it right.

SomWe get back, he takes off and I open my laptop to Facebook.

“We’ve lost Som Jordan,” posts someone.

“What do you mean, lost?” says someone else.

Nobody is talking about cause of death, which means it’s suicide. I know that already but I pretend I don’t know and ask around just hoping it’s something else.

The paper later reports that Isamu “Som” Jordan, a huge influence in Spokane’s music and journalism scene, was found in his home this morning. Cause of death: apparent suicide.

There is this prevailing struggle with how did he possibly not see the glow around him that everybody else saw. Everybody’s posting this music video he made with Flying Spiders. The only text they include is the song’s title: “Spokane’s Finest.”

I know nothing about anything about this situation. I do know it’s not coincidence that those people we think are invincible, brilliant, miles above us — our icons — also often suffer very deeply. Searching for truth does not turn up unicorns and rainbows.

Now that that’s said, I want to talk about grief, and that you should do it however you want.

You don’t have to cry to care. You can go to a vigil or not go to a vigil. Nobody gets to tell you you didn’t know him well enough to grieve or that you’re not grieving sufficiently or right.

Today, as I grieve the loss of a friend, a lot of grief from past losses tumbles onto me as well. It all feels very messy and maybe someone would tell me I was missing the point.

When people pry about the details, some may say they’re missing the point. Maybe they are. Or maybe they have questions because they care. Because suicide is not a thing we talk about much, and it’s confusing and it hurts and maybe they feel like answers will make it hurt less. (Spoiler: It will very likely make it hurt more.)

When people spit out platitudes on the internet, some may say they’re missing the point. When they do, or they don’t, organize a benefit concert. When they speculate. When they try to talk about suicide in general or death in general or grief in general. When they do or don’t cry.

This is the messy that we’re challenged to navigate with grace: simultaneously grieving and giving others the space to do their own version of that. There are a lot of us because Som had a generous spirit. Let that be a good thing.

A Parking Lot in Park’s Clothing

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Every day I ride my bike past the sea of parking out in front of the INB. What little hope I had for development, sparked by those misleading “hotel property” signs last summer, was trounced when a friend explained that all the construction was for another surface lot. The nail in the coffin for my enthusiasm came when they demolished The Blvd. and chopped down its lone majestic willow tree. Like a digital mirage, the two can still be seen standing in Google street view to this day:

The swanky new parking comes with a price tag to match. At the peak of the Lion King frenzy, the lot appeared to be only 2/3 full at a going rate of $10 per spot. A blurb in the DSP’s Street Talk newsletter pointed me towards the master plan that was written for the Public Facilities District expansion.

Parking with Style
The new lot features sheltered, automated parking pay stations, new classic style light poles with wrought iron details on Main, 115 new trees, and solar powered lighting. Not bad for a parking lot!

While nobody can deny that the new lot is a vast improvement on the asphalt desert that preceded it, I have to wonder if this move effectively delays breaking ground on a planned multi-level structure. The Vision 20/20 plan fails to explain the rationale behind the timing of the current upgrade, stating only that the new lot will be around for about 10 years before Phase Two.

Downtown with a portion of current surface parking highlighted.

It was painfully ironic how Vision 20/20 carries on about the cultural and authentic place-seeking inclinations of Gen Y (see pages 24-25) only to result in the wrecking ball for one of their favorite local venues. They note a perceived disconnect between the convention center and the emerging East End, and then eliminate the nearest feature of that sought-after urban fabric.

In good faith I assume there are solid answers to all of these questions, and the plan suggests several exciting elements that will greatly enhance the downtown landscape if they are pursued. But what should the role of the public be in such a planning process? I was surprised to see that citizens were not listed as stakeholders, and only one public input meeting was cited in the report. The results of that meeting were not outlined, and so after 97 pages it is unclear how the proposal incorporates the perspective of local consumers.

We should use the assets we have, such as our visually appealing and unique historic buildings, to invest in permanent businesses and living spaces. Unnecessary parking lots flatline the heartbeat of downtown, no matter how they are used, and send the wrong message about the vision and direction we want for our city.

-Crystal Gartner

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