Saturday, January 09, 2010

Author Archive

500 million smooth landings last decade

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

It’s remarkable that a Northwest Airlines flight was subject to a high-profile Christmas attack; eight years to the day, that shoe-bomber Richard Reid bumbled a similar airline assault. Equally noteworthy is the international media scrutiny placed on the uncommon events; while meanwhile few news outlets report on the over 500 million airline flights that took place in the last ten years, without confrontation of any sort.

The years I worked in the airline industry before 9-11, made it clear that our security system was largely a charade, requiring vast improvements. For one thing, I would have felt more secure back then, knowing our security agents were earning more than six bucks an hour. It’s great that our dedicated screeners now earn something more approaching a living wage; however, I never dreamed we would become compliant to authoritarian rules of such a large ballooning boondoggle agency. Besides being required to obediently kick off our shoes, we’re now sometimes subject to fishing expeditions that have absolutely nothing to do with transportation security. Currently at some airports, innocent flyers are even forced to pass through high-resolution X-Ray scanners, which clearly violate child pornography laws!

Although the TSA has manufactured over 1 million “terrorists” for our state-of fear watch-lists, air travel remains a safer mode of transportation then most long highway journeys. It’s too bad that while we’re being hyped and barked at by talking heads all along the terrorism watchtower, about these extremely rare violent air-incidences, that we aren’t able to divert some of these massive funds for some simple down-to-earth homeland security measures, such as upgrading some of Idaho’s terribly dangerous high speed rural roads into safer divided highways.

Is TV transforming our dreams and lives?

Monday, December 28th, 2009

How powerful is television?

(From Slate Magazine) “Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of three.“ I’m not an expert on autism, but recently I took a refresher psychology class at the College of Southern Idaho. When we arrived at the chapter on dreams, something reminded me of the textbook from my previous psyche class three decades ago. Back then, a statement claimed that 95 percent of us Americans dream in black and white. That study was from the early ’60s, an era when we watched more than 90 percent of TV shows through black and white sets. The textbook from my recent CSI class, posited precisely the opposite: that 95 percent of us now dream in living color! What was there to explain for this grand shift? Is there a correlation between the tones of Americans dreams and the types of TVs they own? This made me wonder: Is television high-definition hypnotism, a force so powerful that not only does it connect as a crucial cause of autism when used as a primary babysitter but also that its programming transforms our dream colors?

Anagram of the week

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

"Obama for change" -> "Afghan race boom"

Smarter than smart-grid?

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Suddenly, we are under a push to switch over to “smart-grid” power metering. On the surface, this technology holds vast potential: It could inspire many of us to conserve precious energy; and some Idaho communitees are already doing this. However, we would be to wise to ensure that these smart systems are highly-hacker resistant, before wider-scale implementation. For instance, imagine an enemy, breaking into the grid to shut down the full configuration, and potentially causing long-term damage to power lines, substations and home electrical systems. This is not far fetched, as nefarious hackers have already infected various financial institutions, global security systems and millions of personal computers. Smart-grid meters are equally susceptible to these types of online attacks.

As we use them more broadly, smart-grid power systems will likely edge up higher on the list of hacker targets. As this happens, leading members of our Idaho Public Utilities Commission would do well, to take their oversight roles seriously on this important issue. It would be refreshing to hear our utility commissioners require Idaho Power to pass a wide array of ongoing security tests, before granting statewide approval.

Otherwise, our too-clever-by-half, super-reliance on technology, might reveal that the wisest owls in Idaho are those who thrive, way up yonder in the piney-wood, in smart-looking cabins, simply chopping firewood and carrying water, utterly off the wavering grid.

Unveiled gyroscopes of balance

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

I have a friend who enjoys adventuring into the great outdoors in pursuit of collecting rocks and gems. Some of her finds, she turns into jewelry, which fits well on her, when she dons it at her waitress job. We’ve talked about how sunlight after hard rains creates optimum field conditions for finding obsidian and crystals, as they sometimes stand out like tiny stars.

One early morning, after sharing a raindrop of synchronicity with her, I asked her about her own meaningful coincidences. She responded; that recently, after showing off a homemade jasper necklace to some inquisitive customers; she told them on a whim, that if she ever has a son, she would love to name him “Jasper.” Within the hour a young lad of about seven, entered the diner with his family, and introduced himself as Jasper!

Soon after, she mentioned another significant twist of fate. In this case, while moving some items into her new home, she came upon an old notebook, which had leafed open to a page featuring the word “gyroscope” scribbled in her own ancient handwriting. As she pondered why she had written this singular word on the yellowed sheet, a song came over the radio, with the male singer’s voice synchronously crooning, “gyroscope.”

Next, my friend told me that she had been staying up, until three in morning for several days, in intense preparation to get her move finished, before school restarts. According to her schedule, it looks like when school starts, she’ll need to be, either studying or working, almost every waking moment, leaving no time for her earthly rock hunting pursuits.

This sounded stressful and I spent some time contemplating my friend’s dilemma. An hour or two later, I re-entered the cafeteria with an interpretation of her gyroscope synchronicity. I mentioned that gyroscopes are used for keeping balance and that if two gyroscopes were mysteriously spinning for her at the same time, than maybe the universe was prompting her to become better balanced and get a little more sleep, so she doesn’t crash. I explained how gyroscopes are used in Segways to help keep them upright. This reminded her that a Segway brushed by her closely during our local Wagon Days festival, only days before; though she was unaware it contained a hidden gyroscope.

As Segways are seldom seen in our valley, it made the three-point gyroscope synchronicity feel as precious as her jasper necklace and we agreed that Synchronicity rocks as much as a field of shining gem-stars.

Galena Cell Tower debate took on mythical qualities

Friday, September 4th, 2009

This debate stood for much more than a mere cell tower. The story attracted mythic qualities. Some of the healthiest dialogue came from spokespersons both for and against the tower, who occasionally contradicted themselves in papers and in public meetings. Some saw Idaho Tower as Atlas; not shrugging in her epic efforts; while others perceived her as Medusa and didn’t dare look reason in the face, knowing it would crush their conceptually confused logic into Billy’s Bridge gravel.

A friend, who participated closely in the public hearings, remarked:

"Much opinion was allowed full reign, fueled by rancor and emotion, and absolute dismissal of facts and information.

The Galena example is almost comical b/c the situation is so whacked. Local staff has dismissed voluminous handbooks, manuals, regulations and laws that instruct permitting of telecommunication infrastructure, and are hanging onto a thread of language that is discretionary, and also could be validly seen as violating its own forest plan."

Suddenly, the Forest Service Supervisor selected a path for redesignation, with the secret motive of making the tower impossible. Moreover, she used Labyrinthal language, which only the most adept of Minotaur attorney’s could follow without strings. Meanwhile, Homeland Security prepared to shift Atlas onto his own back with an improved plan to foil us all by paying two Princess Bride government factions to sword-fight it out. Citizen angst against the tower sometimes stemmed from dissatisfaction’s within, which the fuming ones projected, by gnashing their dragon’s teeth to channel harsh sound bites onto the tower. Anti-cell tower Victorians will discuss this result for decades.

In the meantime, astute Idaho historians should include this legendary chapter in state history textbooks, so that our grandchildren may gain clearer perspectives than we have.

To harmonize Idaho history books, our Transportation Department should install a historical sign at Galena’s overlook, to commemorate the epic battle of the defeated tower. To appease earth-muffins and water sprites, they should mount it smack-dab next to the new Galena landline phone, to soak up less sacred SNRA space.

Military war training results in crashes back home

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Trauma in the wrong lane? A question for mental health awareness week.

I recently read in the war blogs about soldiers returning from overseas who have had a bit of an adjustment on our highways. Apparently, in battle zones, any vehicle in motion is perceived as threat and it’s hard to get over this.

Military troops are trained to swerve over into the other lane as they travel underneath bridges in conflict zones. In this way, they are more likely to avoid something bad dropped onto their vehicles when they come out of the other side of the tunnel in an unanticipated lane.

Evidently, from what I gather from our armed forces blogs, this survival routine has been brought back to the states, resulting in several crashes and/or narrow escapes in L.A. area tunnels. I wonder if any of the professionals out there in our Idaho mental health community have heard about this unfortunate phenomenon.

In strong support of Ketchum

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The first year I moved here, there was an incident on Main Street, involving two women in a fender bender. Instead of rushing out of their cars to blame each other, they both emerged to apologize profusely and peacefully. They each made sure the other person was alright, and then gave each other sweet bear hugs. They then agreed that they should get together soon, because it had been too long since they had seen each other.

This remarkable event defined for me what the essence is of everything good about Ketchum, and perhaps for what is great about many small western towns. People who care about each other, more than they do for their worldly possessions.

Therefore, it grates at me, when I hear intermittent comments that disparage the town and townspeople of Ketchum (and the WR Valley). Some will say, “I have no desire to visit Ketchum, or any of the people up there.” That’s too bad, because if you take a closer look; this pedestrian-friendly town offers much for young and old, rich and poor, sick and well.

Like most Idaho towns, Ketchum has changed over the years. Yet it retains many high-quality aspects of a hardy western town. When it comes to weather, Ketchum is in the top ten percentile of sunniest towns. The people here are equally sunny and there is ample reason for this. A river runs through it, offering opportunities for enjoyable fishing and water sports. We have a popular YMCA. On summer Tuesdays, a vibrant farmers-market attracts vendors and customers from throughout South Idaho. After that, live-music performers play freely til twilight in the Forest Service Park.

For the spiritual, Ketchum has more than a handful of sacred places to worship. When someone becomes severely ill or is in a crash, our community often bonds together, helping with fundraisers.

Wagon Days brings a festive weekend of olden-times coming alive; as craftspeople, blacksmiths and storytellers demonstrate their trades and speak their lore. Wagon Days also features North America’s largest non-motorized parade.

Ketchum’s Community Library has an extensive regional history section, with helpful staff and an oral history program. The library also hosts frequent lectures and enlightening events, featuring respected authors and adventurers from near and far.

Ketchum has dozens of fine restaurants. We have movie theaters, nine ( and growing) outdoor parks, live stage and Tom Sawyer-like swimming holes. Free newspapers, magazines, maps and Wifi are widely abundant. We also have a water park, bringing boundless glee to splashing kids. On the edge of town, Sun Valley Company is installing a Gondola for thrilling Bald Mt. rides.

This list of what good things our fine town (and valley) has to offer is much longer than this, but I hope for now this gives some hesitation to those who are quick to sneer at lively Ketchum.

I sometimes wonder if some of Ketchum’s harsh critics have even spent much time here.


After Hailey’s candlelight vigil march, last month for Bowe Bergdahl, the Hailey Soldier captured in Afghanistan, I sat with some friends, one of whom described an image she thought best captured Hailey’s essence.

One of the men attending the vigil had left his work-tools in the open on the back of his truck, parked in front of Zaney’s, where the event began. He had drawn a large sign, asking passerby to leave his tools alone, because he was standing for Bowe. And the aura of respectfulness that evening, permeated the atmosphere so thick, that nobody dared tamper with his tools.

Then we agreed that we all look forward to the day when Bowe can return to this pleasant valley, where his friends and family can give him strong bear hugs.

Suggestions for the new Sun Valley airport

Friday, August 21st, 2009

…Only a handful of airports in the nation offer free parking and Twin Falls is one. Offering free parking at the proposed Sun Valley Airport would offset expenditures for travelers who complain about the extra drive, and help to compete with Twin.

No-cost parking would also help jump-start the popularity of the new airport and encourage air travel, which lately has been inundated by higher fuel and security costs.

Another thing airport planners should consider is a heated indoor deicing structure, for aircraft to taxi through, minutes before flying off.

The designers could plan such a state-of-the-art facility with environmentally friendly drains; for collecting the used deicing fluid; and perhaps for recycling it later.

Another possible approach for removing dangerous ice from aircraft is with modernized microwave systems. Having a heated hanger for either of these options would lessen the amount of deicing fluid and / or microwaves required.

In summer, the deicing booth could double as a profitable car wash. The airport authority could advertise this airplane ‘car wash’ and remind pilots who spiff up their wings here, that they are also helping to offset the cost of free parking, thus popularizing modern Idaho airport travel.

Triple Breakdown Synchronicity

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
Gene’s, early 60’s rock-hauling truck ‘Merlin’

Triple Breakdown Synchronicity

Back in cold February, I was chugging up Highway 75; when suddenly right before Ohio Gulch, the rig started behaving badly. Turns out it was the transmission, and even though a mechanic-friend had recently gone over it with a fine-toothed comb, it was shot.

That cost some big bucks; and then, only a few weeks later, the truck started misbehaving again, at that exact same spot. As locals know, Ohio Gulch is the turnoff for the dump transfer, and just north is where the State sometimes sets up weigh stations. It’s also essentially the last good place to pull over safely; if you’re heading north with a big rig in the area, and it breaks down.

The second breakdown was caused by a fuel pump problem. I thought it was strange and yet a little fortunate that the truck decided to break down at the same safe pullover spot twice. Then I remembered; fifteen years ago, I was driving a rig full of rocks for a stonemason, and that truck broke down at the same spot. I had loaded Gene’s truck to the brim, with four and ¼ tons of river rock. As we approached Ohio Gulch, his truck started thumping loudly from the right rear. I pulled over and soon saw that the wheel had actually rolled out from its base, while the lug nuts whizzed off like bullets into the wild-west sage. Although the tire and rim had shot off, it had miraculously wedged into a corner of the truck, keeping the masonry rocks from spilling out.

As I hitchhiked to the East Fork jobsite, passing over Greenhorn Bridge, I became thankful that the truck had not decided to shuck off its rocks, back to the river there. I wasn’t looking for that type of legend on my resume.

And while we did laugh later, Gene told me, when he saw me walking the last leg of Hyndman, two hours late and with no truck, he thought, “This can’t be good.”

It’s funny; every time I drive past that Hyndman Creek house with a friend and see those river rocks shining so intact, I feel compelled to pull over, point at the stones and tell this story.

And it makes me curious to hear about other people’s experiences of breaking down at same spots.

Early morning teardrop

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

On a recent morning, while assembling some furniture with a colleague, I inserted an old unmarked music tape for background accompaniment. As we found Gordon Lightfoot crooning at us from the truck tailgate, I noticed a slight shift in the atmosphere. Looking up, I spied a thousand feet above, some; red, white and blue cloud wisps, leading a dark storm front. I felt a certain freedom, gazing skyward, and it crossed my mind that doing so is a special privilege, reserved for fools, children and shaman.

Suddenly in the midst of our busy workstation, a singular raindrop landed right between us, while Gordon sang a stanza from Early Morning Rain. The raindrop actually flew equilaterally between the tape deck and us, precisely as it played the ‘rain’ refrain.

Excitedly, I pointed out how this was a synchronicity, but my workmate’s reaction was mute. This saddened me slightly, and shortly, I tried to diagram the special coincidence. However, it was clear that he was not interested in hearing me babble on about raindrop synchronicities or signal graces.

Later on, I thought that maybe he was right; this was not a synchronicity at all, but rather a wistful teardrop from the cherub leading the storm front, sad by his blindness toward meaningful coincidences.

It could be though, that my friend secretly believes in synchronicity. And as Gordon Lightfoot might contemplate: For some folks it’s easier to ‘jump a jet plane’ than it is to scratch beneath the freight train surface of their personal beliefs.


Lyrics for Gordon Lightfoot’s (1963) Early Morning Rain:

In the early morning rain
With a dollar in my hand
With an achin in my heart
And my pockets full of sand
Im a long way from home
And I miss my loved ones so
In the early morning rain
With no place to go
Out on runway number nine
Big seven-o-seven set to go
But Im stuck here in the grass
Where the cold wind blows
Now the liquor tasted good
And the women all were fast
Well there she goes my friend
Well shes rollin down at last

Hear the mighty engines roar
See the silver bird

on high
Shes away and westward bound
Far above the clouds shell fly
Where the mornin rain dont fall
And the sun always shines
Shell be flyin oer my home
In about three hours time

This old airports got me down
Its no earthly good to me
cause Im stuck here on the ground
As cold and drunk as I can be
You cant jump a jet plane
Like you can a freight train
So Id best be on my way
In the early morning rain
You cant jump a jet plane
Like you can a freight train
So Id best be on my way
In the early morning rain

Distressed animals discovering human help

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

After reading a satire piece Saturday about how Tweety-bird hired an attorney to sue Twitter, I noticed The Idaho Statesman posted a staff report featuring a bewildered parrot waiting at the Idaho Humane Society. In Did Tweet do the twick?, they say, “It was impossible to ignore a Friday morning tweet from the Idaho Humane Society: "Missing a parrot? Stray parrot waits in our humane enforcement office. He won’t talk."

Remarkably, the humane Twitter report help redirect the lost parrot to its Zoo Boise home.

As the ‘impossible to ignore’ quote stuck in my craw, it reminded me of a recent story about a sick loggerhead sea turtle that swam to the hospital doorstep of the ‘only place in the world, licensed solely to treat turtles.’ In that Florida case, the 73 lb. under-the-weather reptile somehow knew precisely where to go, to seek help.

In another case, in February, the Toledo Blade reported a deer that walked into a PetSmart with a wounded hind leg, from behind two trash bins outside the store:

“The animal, found in a pool of bloody snow, proceeded to jump and run into the just-opened door leading into the building’s stockroom. Once inside, the female deer lay down on the floor as blood dripped from her left hind leg, recalled store Manager Trudi Urie.

Staff moved quickly to seal the entrance to the shopping area. "The last thing we wanted was a bloody deer running through," she said.

Ms. Urie figured that the appropriate thing would be to call an animal control officer. But with none nearby, employees called Rossford police. They also beckoned Dr. Cuesta, who works in the veterinary clinic inside PetSmart. Yesterday Dr. Cuesta recounted how after examining the doe and finding it in good health aside from the leg, he told officers he could treat it right there on the stockroom floor, so it could return to the wild.

The leg needed serious work. Dr. Cuesta said it had two or three deep cuts and that bone was showing through the fur. He said he could not determine what caused the injury.

Observers said that despite the injury and unfamiliar surroundings, the deer maintained a surprising degree of calm.

Clinic assistants held down the animal and placed a white towel over its head so it wouldn’t be spooked.

Dr. Cuesta placed a numbing agent on the wounds and began administering an electrolyte fluid under the deer’s skin.

The veterinarian closed the wounds with dissolvable stitches.

Before finishing their work the team gave pain medicine and an antibiotic to prevent infection.

Finally, everyone stepped away and began to motion the deer out the door.

"We took off the towel from her eyes and slowly she got to her feet," Dr. Cuesta said. "She stood frozen for a few seconds, but after that she ran out of the store."

There’s no answer yet for what may have first attracted the deer to the PetSmart building.

While it’s said that animals can smell fear, what is less known is whether they can sniff out good will and free medical care.

"Of all the places to run into, a pet store that has vets in it," marveled Ms. Urie, adding with a laugh: "If it would have went into a Bass Pro, it would have been a different story."

Though stitched up and medicated, the deer wasn’t back in the woods quite yet. Dr. Cuesta recalled how there was no small amount of distress among his staff when the doe ignored an open field and instead darted across an intersection.

The deer stopped for a moment in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant. It wandered for a few seconds, and then dashed into a field and out of view.”

Right as I was prepared to post this, I discovered another synchronistic article from the Vancouver Sun’s Nicholas Read:

Mother duck’s ‘bird brain’ saves ducklings

She grabs police officer by pant leg to lead him to her brood trapped under grate

Don’t mention "bird brains" to Ray Petersen, because after what happened this week, he won’t hear a word of it. Petersen, a community police officer for Granville Downtown South, was walking in the 1500-block Granville Street (directly under the Granville Bridge) Wednesday morning when a duck came up and grabbed him by the pant leg. Then it started waddling around him and quacking. "I thought it was a bit goofy, so I shoved it away," Petersen said in an interview. But the duck, a female (he thinks it was a mallard), wasn’t about to give up that easily. Making sure she still had Petersen’s eye, she waddled up the road about 20 metres and lay on a storm sewer grate. Petersen watched and thought nothing of it. "But when I started walking again, she did the same thing. She ran around and grabbed me again." It became obvious to him then that something was up. So when she waddled off to the sewer grate a second time, Petersen decided to follow. "I went up to where the duck was lying and saw eight little babies in the water below. They had fallen down between the grates." So Petersen took action. He phoned police Sergeant Randy Kellens, who arrived at the scene and, in turn, got in touch with two more constables. "When they came down, the duck ran around them as well, quacking. Then she lay down on the grate," Petersen said. While Kellens looked over into the grate, the duck sat on the curb and watched. Then the two constables, John Schilling and Allison Hill, marshaled a tow truck that lifted the grate out of position, allowing the eight ducklings to be rescued one by one with a vegetable strainer. "While we were doing this, the mother duck just lay there and watched," Petersen says. Once the ducklings were safe, however, she set about marching them down to False Creek, where they jumped into the water. Kellens followed them to make sure they were all right, but elected to remain on shore. The experience has changed Petersen’s mind about ducks. He thinks they’re a lot smarter than he used to. And while he never ate duck before, he says he wouldn’t dream of it now.

These stories make me curious about how many more incidents there are of animals mysteriously finding their way to human helpers and healers. If you know of any, I would certainly be interested to hear about what impossible to ignore stories you have to tweet.

Bridge over muddy waters

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Seeing how treacherous the Big Wood looks lately reminds me of an incident five years ago; before they smashed Ski View Lodge into smithereens…

That year, it was another wet spring and one late afternoon, there was a tap at my shack door. It was Rapping Tim[i] and he brandished a large chainsaw. Tim was a skilled jack-of-all-trades and he needed some assistance. The wooden bridge he helped construct twenty years before, was taking a beating from dozens of logs stuck and bobbing beneath. With Trail Creek running furiously, it was clear this logjam would soon become worse.

Tim asked if I could ‘spot’ him, and as he wheeled back his chain cord, I noticed his sneakers were without tread. Then as he stood close to me over the bowed and slippery bridge, to speak over the raging creek, I smelled whisky on his breath; and I’m sure of that, because I had rum on mine at the time.

Tim courageously cut into the logjam. After several minutes, he eventually freed several. I was amazed to see him operate the chainsaw skillfully, with the running blade mostly submerged. This reminded me of underwater chainsaws invented out of necessity.

Tim faced downstream as he meticulously sliced away at a fallen Tamarack. Meanwhile the upstream started providing weighty backlogs, to press precariously against the old bridge. I envisioned that at any moment a large cottonwood could come cruising downstream, catapult up off the stuck logs and knock Tim into the muddy water.

Maybe that’s why he wanted me to stand there. I was to warn him of flying logs. I wasn’t doing anything else besides standing there on the slippery slope. Perhaps he wanted me there as moral support, or maybe I was to perform a miracle rescue, while simultaneously speed-dialing 911, as Tim slipped in Trail Creek’s cold drink.

Despite Tim’s epic efforts, that year, eventually enough logs battered into the bridge braces to swipe it away. Looking back at it now, I think Tim just wanted me there as an eyewitness for that memorable experience. He took a lot of pride in that legendary footbridge and wanted it to last. I miss it as much as I miss the sunny days of our tumbledown shack. And often when I pass though that area, I glance down to where it used to cross Trail Creek and then pine a little for old Ketchum days.

[i] Not his real name.

Sun and wind are best for us

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

It’s disconcerting to read Rep. Mike Simpson touting the most dangerous element under the sun (Idaho Statesman, May 31) as the best green option in the energy debate. Mr. Simpson says, “France learned long ago that nuclear energy is safe, abundant and cheap.”

While it is true that France uses over 80 percent nuclear power for electricity, there is a big brouhaha going on over there, about some enormous problems this has brought. For instance, where do you think the elite French are trying to lay their insidiously deadly toxins to rest for millennia? Why it’s being shoveled into poor peoples backyards, of course. Much like the Three Mile Island skeleton core transported to radiate here in meager Idaho’s National Lab.

While he claims, nuclear energy is safe; perhaps Mr. Simpson does not realize that a uranium leak last summer in one of France’s nuclear plants, led to a fishing, swimming and well-water drinking ban in two Vaucluse rivers. How would he feel if we found ourselves forced to forgo recreational boating, fishing and simple splish-splashing in our Snake?

At the conclusion of Rep. Simpson’s argument he asks, “Who wants their grandmother’s kidney dialysis machine to rely on wind energy on a calm day or solar energy when the sun is not shining?” This is preposterous fear mongering. Naturally, concerned relatives would want reliable backup generators available for such important concerns. And, currently some inspired scientists are developing innovative products that run off both solar and wind power, and only need charged every four days.

Instead of greenwashing Grandma with putrid plutonium promises, perhaps the wise sage would rather see us funding her grandchildren’s colleges with more research and development departments to augment what safe, abundant and inexpensive sun and wind can generate for us, and the lifesaving machines we rely upon.

Idling thoughts

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Someone approached me recently with a concern of cars idling in Ketchum. Her distress was this:

“Hi there, came across your email on the SVO blog. I am not a blogger, but did join the site. Am new to Wood River Valley. since you seem big into blogging, has anyone blogged about how bizarre and disturbing it is that so many people leave their cars running at the curb while they go about their business in Ketchum. I wrote a LTE in the Express about this… but wonder if it can / ought to be blogged about. Thoughts?

And on that subject, why do so many people drive in Ketchum? It’s so unnecessary! - KT”

I replied, "Welcome to the valley. I think that’s an interesting subject you bring up, and could work well for a SVO discussion.”

A few random thoughts:

In recent years, local authorities have posted several dozen no-idling signs in well-thought out places around the valley. Hailey has a lot of these, as do most schools. I wonder though, how local law enforcement works with this. Has anybody been ticketed or warned for idling their vehicle in one of these zones? What about Prius owners? Maybe the accepted wisdom is that the signs, along with a healthy dose of passerby’s scornful-looks, should be enough to do the trick. (Sometimes finger-pointers utilize Miscellany 2 in the Express classifieds in similar technique)

It sounds like you’re focusing on cases, where people actually leave their cars running, unattended. That’s definitely worse and I have heard of somebody ticketed for this. Frequent naïve attitudes about how crime is practically non-existent here don’t help either. A few years ago, somebody stole a Ketchum man’s car on April Fools Day. Although he had left his keys in the car, he presumed that his friends had played a practical joke, until that afternoon, when he realized it really was stolen.

It would be interesting to get a mechanic’s opinion on idling cars and at what point you should turn your engine off for brief stops. In some cases there could be reasonable explanations as to why the vehicle is idling. Other times, it baffles me when I see someone running their engine, while blocking a gas pump they aren’t even using. When I used to operate a cab, the company liked us to keep the engines running in wintertime. I’ve seen the same thing with the City of Ketchum, snow removal machinery – sometimes they run the engines for an hour or two, without actually operating the machinery, but to keep them warm and at ready stand-by. Probably a wise choice, when we’re facing harsh single-digit weather conditions.

As far as parking goes, some people allow themselves to become spoiled here. I’m not immune to this either. Where I grew up in a larger city, if I discovered a parking spot within ten blocks of the movie theatre, I felt like I had scored big. Here when you have to walk five blocks it seems like a long slog, until I remember…

Perhaps we could design a poll to complement the blogpost.

Something like:

Q: What’s your favorite idling car excuse?

1. I didn’t want to lose the spot at where my music was playing.

2. I couldn’t find a palm tree to park under and my baby was in the back, so I needed to keep the air-conditioner running.

3. Need to keep beer fresh and cool.

4. Practicing Heyoka methodology.

5. High altitudes amplify my natural stupidity.

6. Etc.

I wonder how people would feel about idling, if cars ran off solar / water and emitted no pollution. Some idle observers might immediately lose interest in the subject, as they tend to focus more on arguing than truly seeking solutions. Some would probably argue don’t forget about the noise they create; but personally, I would like to welcome the sound of idling cars operating effectively off small amounts of water as something to harmonize with; something good enough to whet the environmental curiosity of even the saltiest of Ketchum’s rough-idling dogs.

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