Going out in Old Town? Make sure you bring your papers!

I came across this story in the Coloradoan earlier this week:

Old Town Fort Collins bars plan to launch ID scanners

You need to read the story, but in a nutshell an initiative called “Downtown After Dark” wants every establishment in downtown Fort Collins to install drivers license scanners, as well as photograph everyone that enters a bar in Fort Collins at night.  They want to build a database of all patrons so that they can easily identify trouble-makers.

They say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, but I’m not even sure if these intentions are that good. I can appreciate the intention of wanting to curb bar fights and disorderly conduct, but is giving the police a database on everyone that goes out the way to do this? Talk about “guilty until proven innocent.”

If we’ve learned anything by the internet: building a database of personal information will surely get hacked. It’s like what Steve Buscemi said in Armageddon, you’re going to put your trust into something that was built by the lowest bidder? They said that the ID system is being targeted by the small minority of disrupters, but it’s the vast majority that’s going to be impacted when some identity thief gets into that data. Moreover, if you have open access to employees in these establishments, how hard is it for a seedy worker to go in and get the address of woman he’s decided to stalk?

You then have the issue of what’s considered “unruly behavior”. I’m sure the law enforcement in Fort Collins do a fine job, but this system becomes all too easy to track the whereabouts of anyone out to have a good time in Fort Collins. What happens when someone who has unpaid parking tickets shows up at the bar?  What happens if a private investigation firm gets access to this DB. All of the sudden your employer can now find out whether you were drinking the night before you called in sick?

Each one of these systems costs $1800 – multiply that by the number of bars in Old Town and watch those costs sky-rocket.  Those machines need to be paid for by someone – whether it’s the owners hiking the prices of drinks, or the tax-payer when this measure is put on a ballot.

This all boils down to the fact that some bars in Old Town have a problem over-serving people. Instead of cracking down on the patrons who are having a good time, not causing any trouble and pumping money into the local economy, why don’t we crack down on the bartenders who aren’t cutting people off when they need to be? There are bars in Old Town which constantly have these incidents, why not crack down on the owners of these places to beef up their own security before tracking anyone who goes out in Fort Collins?

Snow day!

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For those of you outside Colorado, you may have heard that we are getting quite the snow storm.  Late yesterday afternoon it started raining, which quickly turned to snow as the night progressed.  Both Bethany and I drove separately from Denver to Fort Collins and dealt with the horrible road conditions.  We woke up this morning with a robo-call for Bethany that told her the Fort Collins schools were closed. We were doing a chili cook-off at work, so I still drove into work.  My chili was a hit at the sparsely-attended event, but was still a lot of fun.

I had no doubt that it would snow this week, as Greenfoot has a show tomorrow night.  It seems like we’ve had crappy weather for the last 3-4 shows that we’ve played.  I’m holding out hope that the snow will taper off early enough tomorrow to encourage people to come out to the show.

For those of you in Northern Colorado, I hope that you’re safe and warm tonight (and have nowhere to go).

“Unrelated” news

Just thought that my friends in Fort Collins would be interested in knowing that the City Council will be reviewing their controversial Occupancy Ordinance, that limits the amount of unrelated adults that can live in a rental home in the city.  What makes this so controversial is that this law seems to target college student housing.

There was a really article in the Coloradoan that came out a few days ago, talking about a ‘lodge’ owned by a fraternity that was set up to house six members of the frat, as well as provide meeting space and non-alcoholic dinners.  The house is located on Shields, right off of Laurel (which is right across the street from campus). The frat members attempted to be good neighbors by fixing up the yard, and attempted to work with city regulators to make the house fit within the zoning regulations. Yet neighbors still complained and now the city has threatened to fine the occupants $1000 per day members don’t move out.

This ordinance really frustrates me.  While I sympathize with issues that single-family homeowners can face living next to inconsiderate students, what do people seriously expect when they buy a house that’s right next to campus?  People can’t tout the benefits of living in a college town without having to accept that students are going to live in your town.  It’s no different than complaining about an ethnic group living in your town but saying that you love the authentic <insert ethnic group> food.

Fort Collins is a big city, and if you want to live in a neighborhood with many families and few college students, there are plenty of great neighborhoods on the south side of town – away from campus.  CSU is only going to continue to expand, which will only increase housing needs by the students.  I realize that resident Michelle Haefele in the article doesn’t want her neighborhood “turned into a student ghetto”, but the last time I checked the CSU campus was there before she moved in.  What did you expect when you bought a place in the neighborhood next to campus?

What bothers me most is that residents are so eager to blame college students for their declining property value.  The behavior of some students is unacceptable, but what is also unacceptable is painting students with this broad brush by enforcing this ordinance.  Let me ask you this, if you replaced the word “students” with an ethnic group or poverty class in the complaints, wouldn’t people have a problem with that?

Let’s see what City Council does Tuesday. I for one hope that people realize that they live in a college town, yet Fort Collins should be a big enough city to be able to accept everyone.

Trying to lose the cable

The countdown is on until closing on the house (39 days!) and all of those pre-move activities need to get in gear.  One of those things is figuring out how our information utilities – TV & Internet.  Currently I’m paying a hefty $150 check to Comcast each month for both digital cable and Internet.  If you were to itemize my bill you would see:

  • 1 HD DVR Digital Receiver
  • 1 Standard Digital Receiver
  • Cable Internet (I own the modem)
  • Digital Plus (or whatever it’s called) that includes the music videos tier
  • Sports Tier package (thanks Comcast v. NFL Network)
  • HBO (to watch Inside the NFL)

One of the advantages of moving is to reassess whether you’re using all of those services and better define your needs.  Things have changed since I originally subscribed to this package and I’m realizing I don’t need the bazillion channels that I’m not watching.  I also no longer need HBO as Inside the NFL has been canceled from the network.  A good HD package is important to me, and I want a DVR that actually works rather than the piece-of-crap that Comcast gives us.  I also want the NFL Network, and do resent paying an extra $5 a month to Comcast just to get it.  The music videos are nice, but not really necessary.  With that in mind, I’m evaluating my satellite options:

DirectTV: $55.96 (for 12 months, rates hike back up to $73.96). Setup Costs: None, but $99 DVR purchase fee.  Pros: You get Sci-Fi in HD (good for BSG) and they have a good offering of HD channels (includes NFL Network on standard HD tier).  They also have the NFL Sunday Ticket package available, something I may be interested in having in the fall.  Cons: Their DVR is rated as moderate, price hikes $20 after 1 year.

Dish Network: $52.99 (no indication of price hike) Setup Costs: $50 (opted out of 2 year agreement), doesn’t indicate about DVR costs.  The HD channels are good, not as many as DirectTV but it does have the NFL Network. Pros: Cheapest solution and offers the best value of HD that I watch.  The DVR is the highest rated on CNet. Cons: Not sure about DVR charges, no NFL Sunday Ticket option.

Comcast: $102 but if I remove HBO it’ll drop $11. Setup Costs: Unknown since it would transfer.  Decent selection of HD channels. Pros: It’s what we know and most convenient to move. Cons: Crappy DVR, still need to pay $5/month for NFL Network, no Sunday Ticket option.

The Internet Wrinkle

Dish Network looks like the best option to go with for now, but now comes the Internet wrinkle: I want high speed Internet, and Comcast offers the fastest download speeds.  I like to game from my Xbox Live, so a consistent speed is needed as well.  However, I’m pissed about their throttling and wouldn’t mind canceling the service.  DSL isn’t an attractive option because of the slower download speed and the fact that I we may need a phone line (don’t know about naked DSL in Fort Collins).  There are some WiFi providers in Northern Colorado, but I’m concerned that my HOA will prevent me from putting an antenna on the roof.

The ideal situation: I would like to go Dish + Comcast High Speed.  My friend Kyle told me that he had it done before and a splitter can be installed, however this result in momentary connection loss, which can be very bad for gaming.  The other thing I’m not sure about is that there are currently only 2 cable drops in the house (Living + Master Bedroom) so it may be difficult to split those cables as well.  I could always run another cable to the office area, but I realize what a pain it is to run cables through finished walls.

If anyone has any ideas about the Internet solution (either naked DSL or some Comcast tips), I would greatly appreciate any input.

Update: After further research Qwest advertises up to 7mbps and offers naked DSL for $45 a month – comparable to what Comcast is doing.  I’ll have to research this.

Hitting the workout grind

As pretty much everybody does, I made the New Year’s effort – I won’t dare to say “resolution” – to hit the gym.  Before Thanksgiving I was in a pretty good groove, but then illness and a busy December prevented me from ending the year on a good note.  Now I’m empowered by my gym switch from the Pulse over to the new 24 Hour Fitness in Fort Collins.  I decided to stop giving the Pulse my membership money due to the fact that it doesn’t seem that they’re putting any of it towards maintaining and improving the equipment and facilities there.  Walking into 24 Hour Fitness and seeing dozens of brand new cardio machines and weights spoils you, plus through Bethany’s corporate deal they were able to make us an offer we couldn’t refuse.

Right now I’m just continuing my goal of getting back into some sort of routine and thus getting back in shape.  I’ve found that I’m specifically goal-oriented as much as I just want to see continual improvement and consistency in my gym time.

I also use my gym time as an excellent opportunity to catch up on my Podcasts.  One of my favorite things is to listen to ESPN’s PTI and Around the Horn during my gym time, but a lot of times they don’t post until right after I get off work.  Because of this, I’ve resorted to killing time at work after 5 just waiting for them to post the podcast, or even trying to download the podcast on my laptop in the gym parking lots.  Thanks to my purchase of a Sandisk 1GB Mp3 player, but pretty much only for it’s ability to read Micro-SD cards.  When I head over to the gym I check ESPN on my Treo to see if the podcast is available (go figure, it typically is right when I walk out the door from work).  Putting my mobile broadband plan to good use, I download the podcasts onto my phone and transfer them to the Micro-SD card using my Treo’s SD port.  Next then you know, I’m happily listening to my podcasts and making the most of my time.

I realize that all of the new gyms and Mp3 players in the world won’t keep me motivated, that ultimately it comes down to my own ambitions, but I’m hoping that these new opportunities will continue to foster my positive gym-going habits.