Two things of importance today, other than a nice bike ride both to, and I hope from, work. Today is presidential primary day in Washington state. This "election" is costing taxpayers $10 million and it allocates only 25 percent of the states delegates, none of whom will be Democrats. My ballot is due in the mail but I'm not going to bother with it. Why you ask?
Not too long ago, I decided to finally submit some poems, two sonnets I wrote, for publication. I submitted them to our literary publication at the college, The Wire Harp, so I didn't make a huge leap in risk taking. I figured if my colleagues and the student editors liked them, they they could be published. If not, well, nothing ventured nothing gained. Keep in mind, I have never fancied myself a poet, and I still won't be attaching any appellation of that sort to my name.
Yesterday I attended my precinct caucus for the first time in my voting life, really the first time in my life. I don't remember my parents ever going, but they probably did since my father once considered running for the state legislature, though I couldn't say how seriously. I've been a registered voter since 1976, having just avoided Vietnam by turning 18 that year (even though the draft ended a bit before, as did the war itself) and having witnessed, though from afar, the debacle of Watergate. As you might guess, I was eager to vote as this was the first election allowing 18 year olds to vote and Carter seemed a breath of fresh air. In some respects, young voters were as charged up about voting then as they seem to be this time around, getting to vote for someone rather than against someone else. But enough of that.
My caucus site, Democratic by the way, was a meeting place for six precincts. It was the elementary school that is just a two-minute walk from the house, where our son would be going if he weren't enrolled in the Montessori program at a different school. I neglected to check my voter registration card because I never need it. Spokane County votes entirely by mail in typical elections, but for the primary and presidential nominating process, we are among the states that use a caucus system. Because the ballot comes in the mail, we fill it out, slap on a stamp, and send it back. No more trooping to the school, church or wherever to cast a ballot, which is kinda of a downer. When we first moved to Spokane and lived in my grandmother's house, all the poll workers knew my name and we'd strike up conversations. Yesterday, we did have some chats with neighbors, but we regularly chat with them anyway.
Two bits of irony crossed my path this weekend, both dealing with bicycling. The first bit of irony is a bit more important. There has been a recent move to strip the Bicycle Advisory Board of route oversight within neighborhoods. The resolution was brought forward by a neighborhood representative who had his (and his wife's) desires for a bicycle boulevard through their neighborhood. The BAB as a board was against designating any routes at this time as part of a pilot project.
Rachel and I walked downtown today and had to walk part of the way in what is usually a very busy street. Thankfully only one idiot was driving fast down the hill, which was slick, with slushy snow on top of ice. The sidewalks were buried, not just in fallen snow, but plowed snow which is heavier and deeper and very difficult to walk in. All this had me thinking about complete streets, which means taking into account the needs of pedestrians and cyclists as well as drivers. When it comes to clearing snow in Spokane, it would seem to be all about the drivers. Maybe that can change in the future, and I realize the city can't put people out clearing sidewalks with snowblowers, though it would be nice to make the neighborhoods walkable before making them drivable. But I dream.
On top of it all, we've got another storm coming in tomorrow night. That means no bicycling to work at all this week, which sucks. Maybe I can get some skiing in over the weekend, along with grading essays, if I ever get back to campus, and students get there too. Ah well, life is what happens when you're making plans for bigger things, or however that saying goes. I'll just have to adjust my classes and make do and hopefully students won't get short changed.
More snow pictures at Flickr
The other night I went online to do some banking, plugging the money we've spent into a spreadsheet that functions are our checkbook ledger, when I discovered some funny transactions. There were three purchases from Ley Milenium in Culiacan, Mexico. Since we spent several days in Mexico between Christmas and New Years, I thought that, at first, these might just be some slow charges, but that thought lasted but a moment or two.
It's been quite cold the last couple of weeks, particularly in the morning for my commute, still by bicycle three days a week. Yesterday and today, it's single digit cold--3 above zero right now according to the radio weather broadcast, Fahrenheit. Way Brrrr. The silver lining is that my ride home in the afternoon, when the temp reaches the 20 degree range, it seems almost warm. Almost. So, what's it like cycling in this cold. It's not so bad as it might seem, but there are a few challenges.
First, I have to keep warm. Yesterday I wore my usual tights, long underwear top and cold weather cycling jersey along with a lightweight winter coat. I have booties for my feet and heavy duty gloves for my hands. They all work pretty well, up to a point of course. Yesterday I also wore my son's ski mask. The problem with that was it's too small, so it smashed my nose down and made it hard to breath. The mask also sent my exhaled breath up in front my face, steaming up my glasses. I didn't think that would be a big problem, that once I got going, they would clear up. That didn't happen. I discovered upon my arrival at a Bike to Work meeting that the fogged lenses had frozen over. I'd never had that happen before. Today, ski goggles for the ride in will take care of that.
The last two days I've ridden my bike to work in the snow. Yesterday it was fairly enjoyable as the snow hadn't covered the roads in a way that also clogged the shoulders, so I had a reasonably safe place to ride on some parts of my route. That wasn't the case today. Today, after more than six inches of snow fell last night, part of my ride was rather rough. I'm hesitant about riding tomorrow, as enjoyable as a ride in the snow can be.
Instead, this is about more local politics, with a bicycle angel of course. Yesterday I had the opportunity, good or bad is hard to say, to attend the Community Assembly, which is the city-wide group of Neighborhood Council presidents. The Neighborhood Councils are neighborhood groups that bring their concerns and desires to the city through a fairly formal process. I've described that process in part, in a secondary manner, in some previous blogs. In essence, it's an advisory committee that reports to/through an advisory committee that reports to/through a third advisory committee before getting a hearing before the city council, the legislative body for the city. The Bicycle Advisory Board is similarly an advisory committee that technically advises the mayor but works closely with the city council and an appropriate city departments as well. But enough of that.
This past week, the Spokane City Council passed a slightly revised resolution in support of bicycling in the city. The resolution still contains $120,000 for two bicycle boulevard projects and $50,000 annually for the next seven years to fund bicycling related projects. There was a bit of wrangling, where one community activist, a rather self-serving fellow who works in concert with his similarly self-serving wife, sought to have the resolution tabled until he could get a resolution passed shifting oversight for bicycle boulevards (a concept the both of them woefully misunderstand and as a consequence, misrepresent) to the neighborhoods and their oversight group, away from the bicycle advisory board. He lost. he and his wife have been angling for the last few months on getting something only they could consider a bicycle boulevard in their neighborhood and the resolution initially named their desired route, which passes just doors from their house.