It’s time to call it what it is… #rudigate

If you read through this and have any sense of history, you can’t wonder why we are even bothering with the whole quid-pro-quo debacle. At this point, if the President knew anything of this, he has to go.

Why Giuliani Singled Out 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs to Help Dig Up Dirt

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/25/us/giuliani-ukraine-oligarchs.html

What would Gil Scott-Heron say?

And there are those who swear they’ve seen King Donald (who? who?)
King Donald
(who?)
King Donald
(who?)
King Donald
(who?)
King Donald
(who?)
King Donald
King Donald
King Donald
King Donald (Yeah!)
Beneath that cesspool-Rudigate.
Applause

Four more years,
Four more years,
Four more years,
Four more years of THAT

Bicyclists for people – Let’s be neighbors

bw eric budd letterEric Budd has an excellent letter in Boulder Weekly in response to an earlier Op-Ed by Gary Wockner.

I never read Garys op-ed, but Erics response makes great reading. It eschews the accusatory, selfish language often found in driver vs cyclist exchanges, and focuses on the positive aspects of cycling in a community, much of which you’d never know unless you had cycled. Among other things, Eric says:

Whether it’s riding bikes downtown for happy hour, to the grocery store or to go on a hike, putting people close to the places and services they need makes biking a great choice.

Biking, by implication for most people has distance limitations, earlier in his response, Eric says when discussing the surge in biking fatalities:

The safety of people on bikes is the highest priority. Given the steady rise of death and serious injury across the country to people biking and walking, Boulder and most American communities are not doing enough to make people safe. Increases in vehicle size, distracted driving and the number of miles driven all contribute to a dangerous environment for anyone not in a car.

This is why I argue my home town, Louisville CO should focus more on non-car residents, than catering increasingly to the demands of drivers for more roads, more quick right-on-red lanes, and parking garages.

Cyclists, pedestrians, and people on personal electric vehicles including ebikes and scooters having visited one location in the neighborhood, are not simply going to leave and travel 10-miles to the next. They’ll stay local. They generate more income for a town. Eric makes the point when he says:

Lastly, people and community are the bond that makes bicycle-friendly cities amazing. Not a week goes by when I don’t see several of my friends around Boulder while on bike. Whether stopping to chat or riding together to our destinations, community is what makes biking so great. That many of my friends live a short distance away by bike is such a pleasure.

If only car and truck drivers would see cyclists, and personal electric vehicles, and even public transport in a positive light, and treat the users with respect and make their safety priority #1 – then more people would adopt this for transport leaving fewer cars on the road and more parking spaces available.

Music Matters

I’m messing about in between other projects with two new websites, after all it’s not that having five already plus twitter, instagram and livejournal is enough, right? Neither are really active yet, one just needs a final kick and some config work, news4tri.com will take over from my livejournal as a source to post triathlon commentary.

The second, ctproduced.com will be my music website. The goal being to post as much information as I can about every album and CD I own that was produced by the legendary producer, Creed Taylor.  That currently numbers some 230 albums, allowing for duplicates.

The basic layout will be a simple picture per release, which when selected would take the user to a more detailed page about the release. Each page would include pictures, some form of audio sample, links to youtube tracks, information pulled from discogs etc.

In playing around, I’ve been posting links on instagram and twitter under my “Vinyl to digital:” meme.

I’m looking for feedback. Does a single graphic with some basic information seem interesting enough? What additional detail would be useful on that first page? If you click on the image below, it will take you to an instagram post. The idea being the same sort of post for detail about the album, only more commentary, more detail, and hopefully if I can get the samples and licenses right, more audio tracks.

Slide1

Leave a comment below, send email to the usually address, let me know what you think, ideas you have.

Leadership Matters

It doesn’t matter what you do, or where you go, there is no doubt that leadership matters. Big company, small company, local government, national government, even religion isn’t immune to bad leadership.

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#BREXIT for me, is a case in point. Leadership on both sides has been severely lacking, irrespective of which side you are on. For the Conservative Government, starting with David Cameron, followed by Teresa May, and now bottom feeding with Boris Johnson, there has been someone in the job, but there hasn’t been a leader.

As Johnson is finding out, being a leader is very different from wanting to be a leader, and getting to be a leader. The same can be said to be true of President Trump. Many would say he is leading, but while he tweets, the actual organization of government and the to a point, the country, lacks any real direction and leadership. Controversy after controversy, sacking after sacking, leading with a failure to follow through and communicate in more than 140-characters.

As [Boris] Johnson is finding out, being a leader is very different from wanting to be a leader, and getting to be a leader

So, it was refreshing to hear former Denver Bronco Ryan Harris being interviewed on Colorado Matters by Ryan Warner. Harris, a Super Bowl winner with the Broncos, has a storied football career, and has obviously been exposed at various times to good and bad leadership.

Harris is as good as any Harvard Business school lecture at highlighting not just what leadership is, but also why leadership is important. It doesn’t matter where you are in an organization, what you need in your first 45-days, is confidence that you are doing the right thing. If you don’t get it, that can take a long time to recover, and for some it never happens.

Listen to Harris to about the experience of winning:

We see this all the time in the tech industry with first release teams that don’t have great leadership, everyone pulls together to get the first release out of the door, but after that, people leave, the team becomes fragmented and disjointed. The 2nd release doesn’t meet the market needs and the decline has set in.

It’s often said that football is a metaphor for life, the way Harris explains it, it is certainly a great guide to leadership. And yeah, the Broncos lost against the Oakland Raiders, but remember, leadership is knowing how to handle failure.

Hear the full 12-minute interview, here, its well worth the time! If you do listen, rather than think about Football, or even sports, listen as Harris talks about your management and leadership, whatever business you are in.

People not Parking – What Next for Louisville?

I wrote an in Op-Ed in the Colorado Hometown weekly back in December 2018. On August 21st, CHW printed a follow-up. The website for the Hometown Weekly seems to have stopped updating back in April, so I’ve reproduced it here.

It is, I think, very germain to the November Louisville CO election. There are 3x councillors and a new mayor up for election. I attended the City consultation on the Transportation Master Plan, and there are little to no improvements under discussion for Main St.

Louisville can change and still be historic

If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same, except they won’t.

Back in January this year, the Louisville City Council got the feedback it asked for from the Louisville Revitalization Commission (LRC) on a design and cost for a multi-story parking garage in the heart of downtown. Citizens showed up ‘en masse’ and rejected the concept. The city council agreed not to proceed, everyone was relieved.

Except that’s not what the council actually did. The city council agreed that “this council” would direct staff not to spend any more time working on a parking garage at “that site”, the site being the surface parking lot next to Sweet Cow.

Since then the LRC has had a number of resignations; in November the city will elect a new mayor and two new Councillors. So “this council” will no longer exist, and LRC with a host of new members will be pushing to deliver economic sustainability for downtown Louisville.

Add into the mix that the former ConocoPhillips’ (StorageTec) Campus is finally getting developed over 12-years and based on Daily Camera reporting will create “a new, mixed-use neighborhood featuring a 500,000-square-foot campus designed for a corporate headquarters — which reportedly already has an interested tenant — as well as a 1,500-unit senior living facility, and more than 3.4 million square feet designated for office, retail and hotel space.” and in the words of the developer “connect seamlessly with Historic Downtown Louisville”.

If nothing changes, the parking garage will be back somewhere, sometime soon. There is another way.

Louisville downtown/old town is a small compact area. It is served by much of the town from within 2-miles. The ConocoPhillips campus is less than 3-miles away. The challenge for Louisville is how to continue to enhance downtown while avoiding an $11+ million parking garage and strangling downtown with cars. If the garage was used to its full capacity, that would be hundreds of additional cars per day in downtown at least. Before we go any further, I’m not anti-car, we own two, neither of them is electric or hybrid. I’m pro people, pro a compact, safe, walk-able downtown. We often ride bikes and occasionally walk to downtown from a mile or so away.

We can make that the default for the majority of residents, leaving the parking spaces to those who have no choice. We do though need to go further. The core of downtown doesn’t need to be pedestrianized, but pedestrians do need to be prioritized. If I’m at Sweet Cow, and want to get to the History museum, I shouldn’t need to even think about driving. Once I get back in my car, I’m not limited to going somewhere else locally, I can go to Boulder, Broomfield, Westminster, even Denver. Continually enabling cars doesn’t provide economic viability, it provides traffic and congestion.

I should be able to cross diagonally at intersections, I should be able to cross mid-block, I shouldn’t have to fear cars won’t see me. Instead of shoehorning bike racks in on valuable sidewalk space, we should be dedicating a parking space on every block for bike and micro-mobility parking. We shouldn’t wait for electric scooters, bikes and whatever else to get mysteriously dumped in downtown Louisville and become a problem. We should be embracing and designing for it now as a solution.

Vehicles coming to downtown should be exactly that, coming to downtown. Not driving through it. The Louisville History Museum in their Summer 2019 newsletter revealed that “nearly 10,000 vehicles pass through the Pine and Main intersection each day”. If those vehicles were coming to downtown we’d already have an economically viable downtown. The majority are not. Stand on the corner by Moxie Bread Co in the evening, or on an art walk or street faire night, and try to get to Huckleberry Restaurant and Bakery. You shouldn’t have to wait for traffic to stop twice, to stair with trepidation into the windshield of cars wondering if the drivers see you. Vehicle speeds in the downtown core should be restricted to 10MPH and enforced. People coming to downtown won’t mind the 10MPH speed limit, after all they are less than 1/2 a mile from their destination.

On August 22, the City starts rolling out it’s Transportation Master Plan or TMP. The TMP will be used to prioritize investment over maybe the next 5-10 years. We should ensure that the investment goes into connecting people, not cars, to downtown. Everyone who lives within a 1.5-2-mile radius should know it’s quicker, easier and safer to get downtown without a car than it is with.

Louisville, it doesn’t have to stay the same to stay historic.

Medical billing still broken

Back in June I was doing a major project in the yard and rolled up half the professionally laid astroturf. It’s a major job and weighs a ton… A couple of days later I stepped on the rolled astroturf and an 8-inch turf nail went through my shoe and into my right foot. It went in pretty deep, not just a surface cut.

After cleaning up, covering the hole I realized I needed a tetanus shot. It was already 6:30pm, I called a couple of local urgent care offices and checked their prices. Both said the shot cost $40. I decided to head to the Boulder Community Urgent Care in Superior.

Having filled in my details on a tablet, I was called in and shown to a cubicle. A few minutes later a nurse/doctor practitioner came in, asked a few questions, cleaned the wound and agreed to the shot, having also explained I’d need to take a specific antibiotic that they’d supply the first dose of as my pharmacy would be closed at 7pm. We also agreed that as I was paying cash, an X-Ray wouldn’t be done, but if I had pain in a few days to comeback.

A few minutes later, I was done. I had to checkout and the front desk said that the bill was $192.40 – I was speechless. I asked for a line item/detailed statement and was told they couldn’t provide one then, but I could call the billing dept. later and get one. I paid by credit card and left with a credit card receipt.

BCH Bill for the actual tetanus shotImagine my surprise when a few weeks later when I got the bill from BCH. Yes, that’s right, the bill was for the administration of the tetanus shot. You have to be kidding?

I’d paid $192.40 and that didn’t even include the tetanus shot for $40, discounted by $6 for “cash”. I waited a couple of days and called the BCH Billing dept. I had a productive “how can this be accurate calls” and the woman I spoke with, after a few minutes, agreed to waive the $34 fee.

This though embodies everything that is wrong with the American healthcare business. You can’t get an accurate price up front; they then nickle and dime you for every small part of the process; when you checkout you get a final amount, but you can’t see how that is made up; you pay by credit card and leave, and then weeks later you receive an additional, unexpected bill. That’s if you are lucky.

What to do about China?

The Presidents tariffs continue to be a source of frustration and confusion. Who pays them, where the money goes and if they are even likely to solve the problem Trump thinks they will.

Meanwhile the boycotts on Huawei grow, ultimately threatening to split the technology world in two, everything that works in China and its allies, and technology that works everywhere else.

The software bro’s seem to think that won’t happen, or if it does it’s no biggie, since all the software they use is US based. Apart from the arrogance, it’s also completely ignorant.

Not only do the non-US aligned tech countries have their own software and operating systems, and massive customer base, we can’t make hardware without them.

With the upcoming 2020 Presidential elections, I wonder how many of the candidates understand how this would work, and what global bifurcation of the technology world would mean for the US?

I got my first idea from the ever excellent, Colorado Matters daily radio broadcast with Ryan Warner. Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper had given a foreign policy speech in Chicago, and Warner got him on the phone to discuss what he’d said. I’ve extracted the last few words from Hickenlooper on China. It’s a 1:47 sound clip included below.

In the clip Hickenlooper says:

right now China is making massive investments in South America, Africa, and large parts of Asia, they are making loans for infrastructure and various ports, and if the loans don’t get repaid, the Chinese end up owning that shipping port or that railroad station.

Long term, twenty, forty years, that will put American businesses, and the jobs of our children and grandchildren at risk

This is a big part of the story, except, China has doing this that I’ve known about since 1995. Add to this their investments in futures contracts and rare minerals and you have the perfect storm. I posted a response to twitter on this back in September(below). The NY Times had a good write-up on the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. It shows the scale and scope of the Chinese project around the world, all industries. Meanwhile, the US President refuses to work with the Democrats on infrastructure.

While we might be able to build an iPhone for around $3,000 given US prices, we might even be able to manufacture the components, like cameras, GPS, accelerometers. We won’t be able to do any of that without the raw materials that goes into the components in phones, tablets, motherboards, computer, alexa smartspeakers, and pretty much everything else that drives(2) modern lives, including cars, scooters, trains and planes.

The shoe is off the foot, it’s just a question of when it drops. This was, frankly, bloody obvious. Because the Chinese Government doesn’t have to participate in the media circus western democracy has become, they don’t have to make promises they either don’t want to, or won’t keep, they’ve been able to focus on the long game(1).

I don’t know who will be next US President, but he or she has a big job on their hands, and it’s not a short term one.

  1. More generally, any strategy with a long-term goal of gaining the upper-hand. Often used to describe politicians trying to outwit opponents.
  2. Yes, pun intended.

UPDATE: 5-29: Minor edits.

White Lies – podcast to follow Serial?

I have listened to the first two episodes of the new “White Lies” podcast, and have no qualms about claiming it is the next big podcast for me.

The podcast covers the death of James Reeb, a white Unitarian minister living in Boston. Reeb heard of the call by Martin Luther King Jr. for clergy across the country to come to Selma, after the day, hundreds of African Americans had gathered in Selma to march to the state capital and demand the right to vote and been brutally pushed back from the  Edmund Pettus Bridge by Alabama state troopers .
That day, Reeb bought a plane ticket, read his daughters a bedtime story and his wife drove him to the airport. They would never see him alive again. The story of Reeb is what this podcast is about. More accurately it is about who killed him and the lies that sprung up to protect the people that did it.
The NPR White Lies website makes great use of modern browser technology to lay out what happened, the story so far has used the best journalism and storytelling that NPR has. Take a look at the website, here is to the rest of the podcast being as good as the first two episodes. And no, as of today, May 24th 2019, you can’t binge listen.

 

Rural Hospitals Redux

The Takeaway yesterday had a good segment on rural hospitals, basically continuing to “cry wolf” about their affordability.

One of the participants in the discussion is, Dr John Waits, who with his colleagues and staff at Centreville Clinic Staff, are doing their best to help their community afford their healthcare.

Dr Waits struggles valiantly in the discussion to avoid using the terms profit and subsidy. This is a mistake in my opinion, while you can talk about healthcare efficiencies, people need to hear that large hospital groups are for profit, yes even the not-for-profit ones. People need to understand that rural hospitals are not affordable without subsidy. Equally, urban communities need to understand that without rural communities, we have an entirely different set of problems.

Save Our Hospital
Photo (c) Daily Yonder

Subsidy isn’t a bad word, nor is tax that ultimately is used to pay for it. You can either levy tax at a state level or at the federal level, preferably on big hospital groups and medical providers revenue(not profit). You can then use that tax money to subsidise rural healthcare. Or you can use general federal taxation, and use the additional money to fund a medicaid hospitals in rural community cities.

Struggling along with no real honesty, and without confronting the elephant in the room, will just mean more rural hospitals closing, leading the to further decline of rural communities and the increased pressure on cities.

Read my earlier post “Can America Afford It’s Rural Communities?

Transit Indicators – BNSF, School Buses

When I look at the state of US transit, especially public transport, the two biggest indicators of the failure of US transit are BNSF and School buses.

Why BNSF?

The Burlington North Santa Fe Railway Corp. was the dominant rail company when I lived in Texas, and here in Colorado. Without a detail look into their tracks, trains, and business model, my summary is, they run massive trains, often over thousands of miles of single track lines. The tracks often run right through the middle of cities, the track commands significant space either side of the track.

This isn’t their state of the art crossing, but it’s pretty typical. This crossing was just north of the Dell campus in Round Rock Texas. The train crossing is average, appears to be pulling a lot of cars that contain, well, err,  cars! An epically long train, over 100 cars and 4 engines.

If, as in many towns, you want to add commuter rail, either alongside the existing line, or on the existing tracks, BNSF both take forever to evaluate the capacity; then charge absolute top-dollar for either access or for land acquisition. This report, on a commuter rail line that voted on in 2004, likely not finished until 2042. BNSF can’t even give an estimate as for the timeline.

While some people don’t mind the train horns being blasted 24hrs per day, many do. The old fashion crossings, seen in the video above, are universally disliked. They are not the optimal safety design, people do stupid things. Also, the train are required under federal legislation to use their horns. In Austin, it has been 10-years and there are still not quiet zones through the key residential areas or downtown. Up the road in Boulder, same story. Hugely expensive. long delays. Construction supposed to start this month, finally.

School Buses?

School Bus in rear view mirrorWe live 3-miles from our daughters elementary school, a mile of which is pretty much uphill. We also cross the BNSF railroad track, and a CO state highway to get there. One thing you notice, a lot, are the school buses. Almost every day around 7:45 a.m.  an RTD public transpory bus is in front of us. Occasionally, we sat are sat behind the bus, while we wait at the BNSF crossing.

I wondered, why don’t more kids take the public buses to school? The bus we sit sit behind, goes right past the middle school, so that will be an option, especially since we have a stop less than 150yds from the house. But why don’t more kids?

I don’t know if school buses/busing was chicken or egg, but I do know the few other countries depend on specialist school buses, like the US does. Of course, busing in the US has a tortuous past. When I was attending High School in the UK, we exclusively used public transport. My bus was the 322. At peak times it was a double decker bus, and for the rest of the day, a single level bus.

Each year, school buses provide an estimated 10 billion student trips in the United States. Every school day, 475,000 school buses transport 25 million children to and from schools and school-related activities.

Looking at the public bus routes through Louisville, while the buses travel through build up areas. With the middle school being the exception, it’s on Main St. the buses don’t go anywhere near elementary schools. Centaurus High School is well situated, and adjacent to a number of bus routes. Yet, students, by and large, take private school buses.

If we are to address climate change, we need to think about transit in a meaningful way, increased train service, electric where possible, and rethinking busing, converting it to public transport and electric vehicles is essential. Imagine if we could use public buses for the majority of those 10 billion student trips, what other transit options would open up?