Friday, June 28, 2013

A Threefer in Santa Fe.....

I drove to Albuquerque today to do some shopping not available here. Between getting to Santa Fe and leaving, three people tried to kill me. None had a high capacity magazine or even a firearm. All three had the means at their disposal to do serious harm.

First there was the lovely young lady in the Mitsubishi SUV who, I surmise from her posture (looking down to where one would hold a smart phone) thought her text message was so important that she could, without warning, use any or all of the three southbound lanes on US 84/285 while heading, at a speed significantly less than the posted limit, towards the NM 599 offramp. I thought she was changing lanes and started to pass, only to find out she was just drifting along while composing what was undoubtedly something very important. I had to avoid being hit from the side and meanwhile, watched as she careened repeatedly between the three lanes. After a minute or two of this, I pulled over and called 911 after shooting this photo.

"Don't mind me. 
I'm busy multitasking."
 Then, while driving south on NM 599 through the Airport Road intersection, an oncoming eighteen wheeler simply turned left in front of me. Times like this I like the AWD WRX with those Michelin Pilot Sport tires. Slaloming around eighteen wheelers isn't supposed to be fun but it sure can be more fun than simply plowing into one.

And finally, to make it a three-fer, I pulled up to a red light by Los Golondrinas and looked in the rear view mirror to see a 4-Runner smoking its tires to stop behind me. I laid on the horn and drove into the intersection to give him space to stop without hitting me. The &$#@@!! doofus was still on his cell phone as he finally got his car to stop.

And Santa Fe is worried about large capacity magazines????? Yeah, sure.....piss and moan all you want about the hazards of guns in the hands of the mentally defective, but in these people's hands, a car is a deadly, and often used, weapon.  I hope Mayor Coss and his city council understand that.

This is the second "threefer" I've had on the road this month watching people Driving While Stupid. Lest I look like I'm turning a blind eye to us cyclists,, one day last week I saw two cyclists riding to LANL doing equally hare-brained things, but a cyclist riding in the oncoming lanes on Diamond Drive between Canyon and Trinity is, most likely, only going to claim the Darwin Award for herself, not impose it on others. (I think she made the "diagonal left turn" from Canyon).

 Is it getting wackier out there, or am I just lucky lately? If there is a lesson learned here, it is that we are more likely to want to impose controls on "others" while glossing over the need for more controls on "ourselves". A substantial fraction of the public drives, and few want to see themselves held to the higher level of accountability that is needed badly. 35,000 dead Americans per year killed on our streets and highways can't all be wrong.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Driving and Flying for Climate Consciousness?

A Modern Day Sale of Indulgences?

The League of American Bicyclists has a blog post advertising the Climate Ride, to be held from NYC to DC on the 21-25th of September. In May of 2014, there will be one on the Left Coast. For those of us here in the hinterlands, it means driving or flying halfway across the country to California or the East Coast to ride a bike and think deeply about climate policy and climate science. Still some slots left open if you are interested but while you are at it, think of those pounds of carbon you are burning on that jet or SUV to get there (unless you do a self-supported tour to get there).

Raise enough money 
and you get carbon offsets for the trip
I have an alternative suggestion. Why not mimic the Rides of Silence. Each community can organize a climate-ride with a nearby community that is within reasonable cycling distance and link info on the ride to a central organizing ride via the Web. Meet halfway for lunch and discuss ways of reducing our anthropogenic footprint on climate and nature. Bring your checkbook and support a regional organization working to manage anthropogenic impacts to climate change, not to mention habitat destruction. Ride back home again without the CO2 burden of a trip to one of the coasts. Bring someone interested in using bicycling for transportation but who needs a gentle nudge.

If you do the official Climate Ride, have fun but make sure that its more than a feel-good activity held in a sea of indifference--bring something tangible back to your home town. Me? I'd rather avoid the heavy carbon overhead. As I snarked on the LAB blog post, flying to the East coast for a bike ride dedicated to climate consciousness is a little like holding a steak dinner to benefit vegetarianism.

Meanwhile, howz this: Los Alamos and Santa Fe can do a climate-consciousness ride. Let's meet at the Tesuque Market for lunch. I'm not sure that is halfway, but I like the food and don't know of a comparable place in Pojoaque.  Albuquerque and Santa Fe can do one as well; its about fifty miles between them, right?  I am sure that we can pass the hat to our favorite, climate-conscious local charity or the national one of your choice. Send the charity what you would have spent on the plane ticket or gas tank.
Any takers?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

BombTown's Lisa Dougherty Continues her Race Across America

Lisa's RAAM progress can be followed here.
A direct link to her information is here.
Everybody's info is here.

Wow. That has to be hard....

From Lisa's home page.
In other topics of occasional interest, here is the latest spin on "how safe is it to ride a bicycle"?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Local Environmental Group is Cover for Bomb Making Activity. Or was that "balm"?

"04/17/11PEEC presents Homemade Balms and Bars Class
For Homemade Balms and Bars, Debby Wood will be...

 There. Now that I got the NSA's attention...

Funny how a simple request for publicly-discussed and agreed upon traffic or speed cameras can create a near-insurrection in most communities, but revelations that Feds have been collecting vast amounts of of our phone records in secret barely creates a whisper beyond the usual suspects such as the ACLU. We annually kill about 650 bicyclists (2010-11 numbers) and kill more peds per year than died in 9-11, the single worst case of international terrorism carried out on our soil. Annual total traffic deaths in the U.S. generally are more than ten times the 9-11 carnage.

"Is that a balm scent on your pants, ma'am, or is my dog just happy to see you?"

I don't know about you, but as a cyclist, I worry more about my colleagues texting and yacking their way to work every day than I do about a terrorist. To make our lives safer on the roads, no secretly concocted 4th Amendment violations are required; there is not a fundamental right to privacy in the operation of a vehicle on a public street.  But the public is inured to roadway carnage. We, however, dive for cover and allow virtually any Federal indiscretion as soon as a keffiyeh is waved in front of us. Go figure.

Perhaps our priorities are misplaced?

Annuit Coeptis: The President has approved of this spying

Guess we need to add an eternal ear to this.
Motorists exempted from all scrutiny, of course...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Commute de Smoke

Feel free to look directly at the sun

I've not been in the mood to ride much other than to and from home to work and back again. The air is pretty bad and tonight I had to close my mouth and breathe through my nose to avoid gulping down soot. Needless to say, it was a slow ride. The sidewalks and deck were covered with soot and burned pine needles wafted over by the mushroom cloud shaped smoke updrafts.

The Albuquerque Journal has great pictures of the fire if you subscribe. I have taken a few, but lately feel like taking more pictures amounts to dancing at a mass funeral of our trees. The Thompson Ridge Fire has come over the top of Redondo and has worked its way towards the meadows in the Valles Caldera. (As of 6/5/13 am, it has doubled in size again.) Its something to mourn or watch in terrible frustration. Certainly not to mindlessly snap photos thereof. Nonetheless, here are a few I took with the portable camera once I was off DOE land on my commute home.

 Douglas-fir sample from the Southwest has annual tree rings dating back to the year 1527. The narrowing of the rings that formed from the 1560s through the 1590s indicates that the tree grew little during the 16th century megadrought. (Copyright Daniel Griffin, permission to use the illustration granted by Park Williams. Illustration and figure caption from Ambrosiano, Puckett, and Jensen's review of Williams et al, Temperature as a Potent Driver of Regional Forest Drought Stress and Tree Mortality, Nature Climate Change 3, March 2013. The review is available here if you can't get the Nature paper.)

We still struggle to live within nature's limits. Ma Nature is fragile enough in these parts. In another of his excellent articles, John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal tells us that in the last three years, rainfall at Bandelier National Monument has been 53,56, and 24% of the long term average. With climate model predictions that today's drought might be tomorrow's normal, we might as well enjoy the trees while we got 'em. They may be gone soon enough. In this recent report on the potential future of tree die-off in the Southwest, a consortium of scientists (including LANL's own Park Williams) at the U of Arizona Laboratory for Tree Ring Research notes that our native trees do best with a combination of high winter precipitation and cool summers. We are not headed in that direction.
Riding past Los Alamos Medical Center yesterday afternoon

Up the hill onto North Mesa tonight

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Air Quality in the Jemez is sketchy

 I rode the BMW across the Jemez this afternoon to a point above La Cueva on NM126. The air is a little smoky as you climb up to the Jemez on NM4. The worst of it right now is in the Caldera itself, which is literally a bowl of smoke and gets bad as you descend into the caldera. You can barely see Redondo. The fire is on the back side, away from you, and pumping smoke up and over the top.

Once you clear the caldera, the air got much better and was almost normal by the time I got to Las Conchas. Mind you, I have no idea what it will look like in the morning--the winds or lack thereof can change where the smoke is headed. If you are asthma prone, as I am, proceed with caution. I'll have to remember my inhaler.

Thompson Ridge Fire as seen on NM-4 at Winter Road, just E of La Cueva, 1530

Fire photographed from NM126 a few miles north of La Cueva, 1540

Walking the dogs along the edge of North Mesa at 1815