26 October 2008

Weekend Reflections

The Borders Bookstore in Northfield, Stapleton (a shopping district in Denver), is truly delightful. One of the best in Denver. Among other things, it has an excellent collection of Manga, a good mix of classics and new releases -- many not available at the many book stores that chase the best seller lists, instead of driving it, and does an excellent job of displaying books in a way that makes you want to buy them. Their kid's activity was also well attended, and their cafe (run by Seattle's Best) had a healthy following as well.

While my daughter was at a birthday party at Northfield, my son and I made our way to Dick's Field, which, in addition to being home to the Colorado Rapids, also has many soccer fields used by amateur teams. While he and I honed his goal keeping skills, a woman's rubgy game played in the background. I'd never seen women's rugby before, which was interesting, as was the post game ritual in which all the women on both teams stripped down to their sports bras to return their jerseys.

A new modern apartment complex has sprung up between Colfax and 17th on Colorado Boulevard. It is an infill development that replaced some sorry small houses in poor repair that had filled the block before, and no doubt will improve the neighborhood, despite bringing dreaded density, and even worse, renters.

Further North on Colorado Boulevard, Lefty Martins, one of the best loved appliance stores and local businesses in that neighborhood is still in business, surviving by becoming part of the Appliance Factory Outlet chain. Churches Chicken, a stunted franchise, manages to do a good trade nearby.

Predominantly black churches are on every corner. Some are large and present an aura of modest respectibility. Others look they they are held together with gum and duct tape, and have names that sound like they come out of bad 1970s sit-coms. Are they suffering the same kinds of declining enrollments that mainline Christian churches are experiencing? Most predeominantly white churches from evangelical to Catholic to mainline, are moving towards a worship style closer to one that predominantly black churches have been distinguished by for decades. What are the worship style trends in these churches? I have no idea.

A neighborhood hardware store on South Broadway, General Hardware, is going out of business. Home Depot dealt the first blow. Ace Hardware near Alameda and South Broadway dealt the killing blow. But, much of the harm was self-inflicted. While I preferred the store and its service to the competitors, it was never open when I needed to go there. It closed early on weekdays, it was closed on many banker's holidays, and it was closed on Sundays. Working homeowners like me have to shop then, so what can I do.

In good times and bad, the endless parade of weddings in Washington Park is unabated.

Disney's dominance in kid's entertainment these days is undeniable. Between their radio, movie and television offerings, both of which are dominanted by their own products, they determine what is "in," dominant character merchandising to kids, and are really creating their own independent voice distinct from adult genres. Disney's world has a big tent. There is significant country cross over in their musical mix, along with R&B influences. Almost every production is consciously multi-racial to a far greater degree than almost all of the kids in their audiences. Unlike their competition for the youth market, which is more influenced by adult genres, Disney seems to see emotional depth as a vice, and bubbly optimism as the sine quo non of professionalism.

According to the Sunday newspaper, it has finally dawned upon the computer industry that people are utterly exasperated with having to spend three minutes waiting for their computers to boot up, and are working on a new line of products to remedy the problem. According to Microsoft, only 35% of Vista users can boot up in less than 30 seconds, which sounds optimistic to me.

In real life, I saw a $300 laptop computer at Target with all open source software. I'd heard about them months ago, but this weekend was the first time that I'd actually seen one. Acer is also offering a $300 computer, but its offering runs Windows XP.

Also in the Sunday newspaper, a new rotavirus vaccine for kids under two (first offered in 2006) is dramatically reducing ER visits and hospitalizations for severe childhood diarhea, even though only about half of kids get the vaccine. Estimates are that incidence is down 80% or more. Several other diseases like pnemonia, menengitis and strep are also being reduced with new childhood vaccines. This vaccine, along with the new HPV vaccine, seem to show that the highly effective public health measure of vaccines continues to have major room to improve health outcomes. I got my flu shot this weekened and hope that we won't have a dud this year as we have in the last couple of years.

Obama signs outnumber McCain signs in my neighborhood by ten to one or more.

There are a number of "Yes on 47" (anti-closed shop) billboards, but I've seen only one "Yes on 47" sign in front of a person's home. It was a Country Club mansion. I'm sure that the owner is terribly worried that he might have to pay a management fee of the union that covers his job, which he opted out of membership in.

A flyer in favor of 47, 49 and 54, the three anti-union measures, lie about what each of those measures will do. Contrary to the flier, with or without 47, there is "no forced unionization" in the United States. Contrary to the flier, 49 does not "Stop unwanted payroll deductions from employee checks for political activity," as those deductions can be made only voluntarily under current law. And contrary to the flier, 54 bans far more than "pay to play schemes between corporations and politicians handing out contracts." There is also, contrary to the flier, no credible economic evidence that 47, 49 or 54 will help "the little guy" in the face of Wall Street problems, help workers survive "the coming economic depression," help retailers, reduce bankruptcies, or provide bailout options, as the flier impies, nor does it eliminate fraud and expensive government mandates, or support small business and hard-working Coloradans. In short, the "Western Skies Coalition," operating out of a post office box in Littleton, is nothing more than a craven bunch of big money fat cats willing to lie brazenly to support an anti-worker, anti-union agenda. Misrepresenting what ballot issues actually say shows just how despicable scum like Jake Jabs and Coors and John Andrews, who are helping to back these measures are as people. They could have taken a high road and described their measures accurately and argued for them on the basis of the reasons that they actually want them -- to cripple unions in Colorado. But, they didn't.

CORRECTION: Jon Caldara, and not John Andrews, was the intended target of my rant. I regret the error.


Michael Malak said...

If I'm actually going to haul myself into a store rather than order on the Internet, I prefer to shop at local stores such as Tattered Cover. Actually, I prefer the used bookstores on Broadway and the one in Highlands.

I voted no on Amendment 47 (prohibiting forced unions). From a libertarian perspective, government should neither encourage nor discourage unions. From a Catholic perspective, if government needs to get involved in unions, it should be on the pro-union side. (I am a libertarian-leaning Catholic.)

I voted no on Amendment 49 (automatic payroll deduction for union dues for government employees) because while unions have their place in the private sector, they have no place for government employees because government should be as small as possible anyway, and it's an abuse of taxpayer money. Unions are useful in "company towns" where there is only one major employer.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I'm surprised. Amendment 49 is the most anti-libertarian of the three. You can't make automatic payroll deductions unless the employee authorizes it, and Amendment 49 also impacts other voluntary payroll deductions authorized by the employee.

Amendment 47, in contrast, does represent an involuntary payment, although it is not government imposed and indeed, is government limited strictly to the degree necessary to prevent free riding.

Any way you put it, the real cause of outrage is not that these resolutions were proposed, but that they have been misrepresented.

Dave Barnes said...


"spend three minutes waiting for their computers to boot up".

Not if you are Mac OS X user. We don't turn our machines off, we just put them to sleep. My iMac draws 1.2 watts while sleeping. I only reboot once a week and find the 2-minute process quite acceptable.

Come visit me and I will show you why you should switch.


Anonymous said...

I can't find this in the CRS, but aren't state employees (e.g., school district employees) prohibited from wearing campaign buttons at work? Two of my colleagues are wearing McCain/Palin buttons, a site which is barely tolerable to me. Any references for me (I'm a librarian, but I thought you might know off-hand).

Michael Malak said...

Sincere apologies -- I meant to say that I voted "yes" on Amendment 49 -- in order to prohibit automatic payroll deductions from government employees. But I think you got my meaning correctly despite my misstatement.