Tuesday, October 28

Free and cheap things to do in Boulder

A couple weeks ago I ran into a couple on the bus who needed directions to the Boulder International youth hostel. They asked about other things to do in the neighborhood and I thought I'd post my list here. The hostel is located on "The Hill", a residential and light retail area just west of the CU Boulder Campus and I'm only including things that one can get to on foot or with a short bus ride.

Boulder Creek: If you walk downhill to the north from the hostel you'll hit Boulder Creek which runs east/west through the heart of Boulder's downtown. The creek is a destination in itself. There is a wide path next to the creek which runs to several destinations, several park areas for leisurely sitting, wading spots, and in the summer the creek is open to tubing. Boulder Creek also hosts two of the city's largest festivals the Boulder Creek Festival at the beginning of the summer and the Hometown Fair at the end of summer.

Farmer's market: Every Saturday morning (8 am to 2 pm) and Wednesday evening (4 pm to 8 pm) from the beginning of April through the end of October. Fresh food including seasonal veggies, sprouts, bread, homestead cheeses, and products like handmade soap and jellies. There are meals for sale, expect to spend $5 - $7 for pho, noodle bowls, pizza, and burgers (vegitarian options available everywhere).
The farmer's market is more than shopping. There are buskers, you can have knives sharpened, bikes repaired, and find out about local hiking, schools, and much more. It's also a huge outdoor picnic for residents so it's great for kid watching, finding a game of hacky sack, or just starting conversations.

The Hop: The Hop is a circular bus route within Boulder's Community Transit Network. For $1.75 ($2.00 starting in 2009) you can visit all of central Boulder's hotspots without a car. This includes: the Hill, the Pearl Street pedestrian mall, Pearl street, the 29th Street mall (a newly-constructed plaza-type mall featuring Borders, the Apple Store, Macy's, Target, and more), The Dairy Center (with neighboring REI and Circuit City). Ask for a transfer when you get on and you can transfer to other busses in the CTN, including the Hop2Chatauqua during the summer.

International Film Series: The International Film Series screens over 100 films every year, all year long. In general, the films are shown in venues on the CU campus, in walking distance of the hostel. Admission is $5.

BMoCA: The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art hosts local and international exhibitions of contemporary art. Cost is $5 per adult normally, but admission is free on Saturdays when the Farmer's Market is open.

Boulder Public Library: Just west of Broadway on the Boulder Creek Path (or on Arapahoe) is the main branch of the Boulder Public Library. The branch is made up of two building connected by an enclosed bridge. The southern building contains the library with a spacious magazine reading area. The bridge has a perpetual used book sale and a coffee shop. The north building hosts an ongoing free art exhibition and also has two theaters which host a variety of films, lectures, and music.

Chatauqua: The Colorado Chatauqua was built in 1898 as part of the Chatauqua movement -- programs aimed at increasing the education and culture of adults across America in the days before radio and TV. "Chatauqua" in Boulder means both a park boasting awesome vistas and hiking trails and the historic buildings including a theater and a gourmet restaurant. The flagship events at the theater are part of the concert series which isn't cheap. However there are conversations, films, and smaller concerts weekly which fall in the $4 to $7 range.

The Dairy Center: The Dairy Center for the Arts is a renovated dairy building which has been formated into three performance spaces, a lobby gallery, a photo gallery, an enclosed gallery and classroom spaces. The galleries are generally open to the public whenever events are taking place and they are generally free. Performances range from aerial dance, vocal and instrumental music, comedy, dance, and theater. Prices are set by the groups performing so look for 2-for-1, sliding scale, and name-your-own price events.

The Pearl Street Mall: I hesitate to add a mall to a list of free and cheap things to do... I have trouble "going shopping" without buying and that's not free and often not cheap. However I know there are people with more self-control than I and the Pearl Street Mall is a lovely pedestrian mall with many buskers and public art installations. There are also several used bookstores and a surplus store on the east end of the mall if you have to do some cheap buying. It also hosts several independent coffee shops including the Trident and The Laughing Goat.

The 29th Street Mall: See above for disclaimer. The public art at the 29th street mall includes interactive art from the national labs (NIST, NCAR) located around Boulder. Boulder's only first run theater, the Century, is at the mall. Early bird tickets are $5.50 (seems to be the first showing of any movie.). See the entry on the Hop for more about the mall.

Sunday, October 19

Tatsuya Ishida hits one out of the park

I woke up to a nice synchronicity today. Tatsuya Ishida, who draws the webcomic Sinfest, neatly mirrored something I've been thinking a lot about over the past month or so. Namely how in the past 40 years we've come to a place where it's nearly normal to buy everything we need from some corporation or another. Here's the strip.

'nuf said for today. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 7

The Difference Government Can Make

I grew up in a libertarian household that was won over to the Republicans in the age of Reagan's "government is the problem" 80's. I have an innate skepticism about turning to the government for solutions. But in the late 80's I started getting involved in churches and learned a different lesson. In a church, the pastor and the board can set a direction, but people are basically going to do what they're going to do. You don't change people by yelling at them, you change them by offering them experiences that have different outcomes than they expected. What the ministers do is set up the opportunities.

Government really is the same way. People ignore rules that are unjust or impractical or no longer reflect their values, and in time the rules change. This is why my friend Alex could honeymoon with his wife in North Carolina even though their inter-racial marriage was technically illegal. No one cared anymore. So governments can't (shouldn't) make rules about things people don't care about. But governments can provide opportunities.

I live in Boulder county in Colorado. Many folks outside of Boulder refer to the city as, "The people's republic of Boulder", in part because those who live here are willing to use the government to shape a balance between corporate interests and human interests that is different from many other places. In my lifetime, Boulder has been willing to restrict its growth by imposing a greenbelt, it has become one of the most bikeable cities in the nation, and it was among the first cities to sign on to the Kyoto protocols directly, and it was the first city to impose a carbon tax.

These kinds of things can be imposed by higher levels of government, but it turns out that local governments, the kind you and I can get directly involved in, have the power to make significant progress.

Now Boulder county is doing something I am jazzed about. In the fall elections, Boulder county residents will have the ability to set up a bond-issuing authority that will make long-term loans for renewable energy installations to available to residents of the county. This is a great way to get more people to adopt solar, because it removes the barrier of having to come up with $14,000 out of your own pocket for the installation.

These are the kinds of things government can do. If you want change, get involved!

Thursday, October 2

Get educated on the mortgage crisis

I haven't posted here in a while... trying to do more direct activism lately. But I'd like to pass on some excellent sources for understanding what's going on with our finances.

This is an interview (half an hour) from Fresh Air discussing how our current crisis parallels the Great Crash of 1929, which marked the end of the Roaring 20's and the beginning of the Great Depression. What I appreciate about the interview is it covers a number of really practical suggestions for the upcoming regulations. For example, if banks want to qualify for FDIC insurance, they need to keep not only 10% of deposits on hand in cash, but must also have 10% of their investments in infrastructure projects and 10% in green energy projects. In short, this is an opportunity to redirect money from gambling and risk and into the very changes we need to minimize global warming.

And two episodes from This American Life where they discuss the economy:
Giant Pool of Money Originally aired on 5/9/2008. Discusses what credit swaps and sub-prime mortgages are, their job in our economy (soak up some of that giant pool of money and provide an excellent return), and how it went bad.
Another Frightening Show about the Economy 10/3/2008. I haven't heard this yet, but it's the same guys as above talking about how we got here and what could have been done to prevent it. It's on my to-do list for tomorrow night.

If you're angry and you'd like someone to blame, I suggest the July/August '08 Issue of Mother Jones. A warning however, Mother Jones is a partisan magazine and they point fingers at the advisers of a current presidential candidate.

For the mile-high view of trends in our economy and how where we're at is the result of a hundred (or more) years of money policy, Chris Martenson has a 2.5 hour lecture on his website. It's engaging, well presented, has plenty of illustrations to bring the points home, and is scarier than reading a Stephen King novel at 11:50 pm on Halloween. If you, like me, are prone to depression, please handle with care: http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.