Friday, December 25, 2009

Carefully timed Christmas

Posted By on Fri, Dec 25, 2009 at 7:33 AM

For those who like a little seizu— I mean, a carefully timed music/light combination with their Christmas light viewing, visit the Colorado Springs Light Tour Web site. Misspellings aside, the site offers a comprehensive list of houses with light displays timed to music (usually 93.5 FM). All homes were not visited for confirmation, but I can say that the 5356 Rawhide Lane location was rocking a Beach Boys holiday remix that could only be called festively twitchy.

If you can't make it out of the house, a little consolation:

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

New NORAD commander coming

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 10:03 PM

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced Tuesday that President Obama has nominated Navy Vice Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. for appointment to the rank of admiral and assignment as commander of Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Both are based at Peterson Air Force Base.

Winnefeld is currently serving as director of strategic plans and policy, and as senior member of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Military Staff Committee at the Pentagon. If confirmed, he will replace Gen. Gene Renuart, who's been commander since 2007.

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More 'broken news'

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 5:30 PM

Had we received this before printing this week's cover story, it may have made it into the paper. Alas, only those readers industrious enough to visit the blog may feel the love:

Stevie had a special message for
  • Stevie had a special message for

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Secret prisons? News to Maketa

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 12:58 PM

Reports that The Nation soon will claim the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service is maintaining 186 secret prisons around the country — and up to five in Colorado — took El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa by surprise.

Maketa has housed ICE detainees for years under a contract so lucrative that he used money from it to build a jail annex to house minimum security inmates and create a 40-bed detox center.

Asked by e-mail what he thinks of The Nation's upcoming report, Maketa responds, "Wow, news to me, I'm not sure what this is all about."

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Repeat as necessary

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 11:51 AM

Because nothing says Christmas Eve more than staring at a burning log.

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Senate passes health care reform bill

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 6:24 AM

Health care reform cleared another major hurdle this morning as the Senate voted 60-39, on straight party lines, to approve its version of the reform bill passed earlier by the House.

Because of the differences between the two bills, a conference committee will begin working after the holiday break to hammer out compromise legislation.

Both of Colorado's senators already have released statements this morning.

Sen. Mark Udall:

“Before I cast this vote I was thinking of the families and small business owners I have talked to from across the state, who have shared their stories and described their need for a more stable and cost effective health care system. They told me they wanted legislation that would guarantee insurance companies will keep their promises to their consumers. And they told me they are concerned about the impact rising health care costs have on our national debt and about the strength of Medicare for the long-term.

“The bill is far from perfect, and it doesn’t include everything I would like. But it is a solid foundation that will give families the security they need to stay healthy, provide entrepreneurs the freedom to start a business, and begin to rein in health care costs and get control of our skyrocketing debt. And I am particularly pleased that this bill contains provisions I proposed to encourage innovation and ensure that health reform doesn’t leave rural America behind.

“While Senate passage of this bill is a major milestone in the journey toward meaningful health insurance reform, there is still work to be done in a conference committee with the House. I will spend the coming weeks fighting to ensure that the final legislation keeps faith with the people of Colorado.”

Sen. Michael Bennet:

"Today I voted for a health care reform bill that will bring meaningful change to Coloradans. Reform that provides coverage to 840,000 uninsured Coloradans, extends and protects Medicare for our seniors and provides free preventive care for everyone. Reform that provides tax cuts to small businesses and eliminates exclusions based on pre-existing conditions. And, as promised, I voted for health care reform that doesn't add a dime to the deficit.

"This bill will make a substantial difference in the lives of Coloradans who are doing jobs much harder than those in Washington, working late into the night, and taking an extra shift before Christmas so they can afford that extra gift beneath the tree. It is for those Americans who are unemployed in this savage economy and still trying to make sure the kids know they are remembered during this holiday season.

"For Colorado, this bill will help over 68,000 small businesses provide health care coverage for their employees as they have always tried to do. It makes health care more accessible and more affordable in rural areas by making sure doctors receive a fair rate of return for the quality care they provide. And for the nearly 500,000 seniors in Colorado, it strengthens and protects Medicare while ensuring seniors don't see a single cut to their guaranteed benefits.

"I do not support the special deals in this bill. I continue to believe we should include a public option. And I have been disappointed by weeks of delay tactics that have done nothing but expose a broken Washington.

"However, this bill is about the Coloradans and all Americans who just want a decent shot at the American dream. It's about lowering skyrocketing health care costs and reducing the deficit by nearly $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years. It's about ensuring the strength of Medicare for years to come and bringing much-needed, improved and affordable care to working families.

"After decades of trying, we finally passed a bill that saves money, saves lives and gives families a fighting chance against relentless insurance company abuses.

"I will continue to push for improvements in this bill as we move toward the conference report and a final bill."

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Secret detention center in Pueblo?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 6:45 PM

The Nation magazine apparently will soon publish a report that claims Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is maintaining 186 secret detention facilities around the country — including in three Front Range cities. From

According to the report, ICE has been confining people in “unlisted and unmarked subfield offices” around the country. A partial list of phone numbers and addresses suggest Colorado subfield offices exist in Denver, Aurora, Loveland and Pueblo.

An update to the Colorado Independent story notes that there may be a fifth facility in Grand Junction. For now, it looks like Colorado Springs — home to a new ICE office as of a few weeks ago — has not been home to a facility like this, where suspected illegal immigrants "can disappear into the system."

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$1.5 million for homeless to the Springs

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 1:46 PM

The Obama administration announced a $1.4 billion program today to help the homeless, with $1.6 million headed for Colorado Springs. It's part of the state's $17.5 million allotment.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is renewing grant funding needed to keep thousands of local homeless assistance programs operating. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said the money will help an unprecedented 6,445 programs continue offering critically needed housing and services to homeless people.

For the first time ever, HUD is quickly providing renewal grants to local programs to prevent any interruption in federal assistance, and will announce funding to new projects in early 2010. The biggest single amount in Colorado Springs, $379,000, will go to the county Department of Human Services, with other sums going to Partners in Housing, Inc., the Salvation Army and Pikes Peak United Way. (For a complete list, click here.)

"As we move into the coldest time of the year, it's critical that no program risk running out of money to keep their doors open," Donovan said in a press release. "These grants will make certain that those programs on the front lines of helping the homeless have the resources they need to house and serve persons who might otherwise be forced to turn to the streets."

The grants are being awarded through HUD's Continuum of Care division, which provide permanent and transitional housing to homeless persons. In addition, Continuum grants fund services such as job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care.

Earlier this year, HUD allocated an additional $1.5 billion through its new Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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Black Sheep bookings on parade

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 1:35 PM

Flashbulb Fires: Watch them steal the show on January 30.
  • Flashbulb Fires: Watch them steal the show on January 30.
Chris Huffine over at the Black Sheep has given us a heads-up on a couple of newly booked shows for February.

Boston Celt-punks the Street Dogs, featuring frontman Mike McColgan, are slated for Feb. 8. McColgan was the original singer for the Dropkick Murphys, fronting that band throughout much of the Pleistocene era.

Following in their wake on Feb. 13 are the New York City-based Toasters. The third wave ska band (we're on the 12th wave right about now) has already proven itself by surviving nearly 30 years and more than 40 ex-band members, so they should have no problem making their way to the Springs in the dead of winter.

Also of interest (well, to me anyway) is a band that's been added to the January 30 Single Fire show at the Sheep. Single File, as you may or may not know, is a Denver area band that got itself signed to Warner Reprise and produced by Howard Benson of My Chemical Romance fame.

But it's opening act Flashbulb Fires that I find to be a whole lot more dynamic, inventive and just generally interesting.

And don’t just take my word for it: The band’s Glory album has earned comparisons to Grizzly Bear and early Radiohead. Its hometown Denver Westword drools over how their “harmonies are undauntedly layered with richly orchestrated horns that could come straight from the heavens and vocal harmonies sweet enough to be sung in any choir." Plus, the Des Moines City View calls it one of the best indie-rock albums of the year.

So, you know, there you have it.

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Oh Christmas tree, recycle me

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 12:38 PM

I love the process of buying and setting up Christmas trees as much as the next guy (maybe only my wife can detect the sarcasm here). But getting rid of the tree is another matter — by the time I get around to it in early January, our family's once stately pine is usually a brown needle bomb poised to drop its load in the hallway, the car roof, or anywhere else, if given the chance. My plans to recycle the tree usually wind down as I rationalize that it will decompose just as happily in the yard outside if cut into several macroscopic chunks.

Well, this year might (or might not) be different. For those diligent readers who plan to have their trees mechanically ground into garden mulch, here's some info from El Paso County about some of your choices where to do it:

El Paso County will be offering seasonal recycling services to County citizens for disposal of natural/grown Christmas trees at seven convenient “Treecycle” drop-off locations Countywide. Designated Treecycle sites, listed below, will receive citizens’ discarded trees, which will then be ground into mulch and given away to other County residents for use in gardens, landscaping and other home/property projects. The Treecycle program will operate two consecutive weekends: Saturday & Sunday, January 2-3 & 9-10, 2010, 9 a.m. — 5 p.m.

Baptist Road Trailhead — Baptist Road & Old Denver Highway
Falcon Trailhead — Southwest of Woodmen Road & McLaughlin Road
Cottonwood Creek Park — Dublin Boulevard & Montarbor Drive
Sky Sox Stadium — Barnes Road & Tutt Boulevard
Rock Ledge Ranch — Gateway Road (to Garden of the Gods) & 30th Street
Memorial Park — Pikes Peak Avenue & Union Boulevard
Rocky Top Resources-x — 1755 E. Las Vegas Street

•Rocky Top Resources will operate as an extended Treecycle site
 from December 28, 2009 through January 30, 2010.

Hours of Operation: Monday — Saturday, 8 a.m. — 4 p.m.
Closed: Sundays and January 1, 2010 (New Year’s Day)

A tax-deductible, suggested donation of $5 per tree will be applied to El Pomar’s youth sports programs throughout El Paso County. El Paso County Treecycle sponsors include: Colorado Springs Utilities; the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services; Waste Connections Inc.; Rocky Top Resources; the Gazette; Asplundh; and the El Pomar Youth Sports Foundation. For more information on the Treecycle program, contact El Paso County Environmental Services at 520-7878 or visit

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The golden mean made simple

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 12:18 PM

File this with other crap you never knew you needed:

Anyone who has ever taken Art History 101 has probably heard a lecture about the Golden Mean, a ratio that occurs in mathematics, physics and nature which is about two-thirds of the way between two points and represents a constant measure of beauty and balance. The mean was discovered by artists during the Renaissance as a proportion to give a work of art symmetry.

But for the struggling artist who can't figure it out on his or her own (as in, with a ruler or just eyeing it), comes an answer. The Golden Mean Finder is a compass that adjusts to the perfect 1 to 1.62-ish ratio of distance that makes a work of art sing.

Designed and patented by an artist, the Golden Mean Finder is an economical device that requires no mathematical calculations, is convenient, fast, and simple to use. It fits easily into an artist’s paint box or a student’s backpack.


  • Golden Mean Finder

In action:

  • Golden Mean Finder

  • Golden Mean Finder

Call me a purist, but with a price of $39.95, a tool like this isn't going to squeeze the da Vinci out of anyone.

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5 million Coloradans

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 9:46 AM

Colorado's population surpassed 5 million for the first time in July 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau information released Wednesday — actually 5,024,748 as of July 1.

That means the state has added 700,000-plus people in this decade, ranking Colorado among the fastest-growing states at about 17 percent from the 4.3 million listed as the state's population in April 2000.

To see the latest estimates of population for each state, go here.

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Beer bath ...

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 9:09 AM

If you're resigned to giving a belated gift for the holidays and wish to shop local, here's a unique item I just discovered: beer soap.

Visit Lotion Bar Cafe and check out the three soap options made from Bristol Brewery's Laughing Lab, Beehive and Winter Warlock varieties.

Lotion Bar Cafe adds honey to the Beehive, ground oats and vanilla to the Warlock and apricot seeds to the Lab.

Bars cost $5 and even the toughest and most manly of men would probably use a homemade froofy soap if he knew there was beer inside. ("Hey Earl — smell my pits, man ... wanna hit happy hour?")

Lotion Bar Cafe can also be found during summer months at the Colorado Farm & Art Market.

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Hope for the homeless?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 8:39 AM

With winter bearing down, along with a brutal economy, the Obama administration today will announce "homeless funding to benefit thousands of local homeless programs." The news conference begins at 11 a.m. MST. Check back for details.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Classical Academy head leaving for Charter Schools Institute

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 7:59 PM

Mark Hyatt, president of The Classical Academy in Academy School District 20 for the past seven years, is leaving for another job. But he won't be losing touch with the world of charter schools.

Instead, Hyatt will become the new executive director of the state's Charter School Institute, which certifies 19 charter schools across the state, including a handful in Colorado Springs. He'll continue at TCA through January before moving to his new position.

He'll inherit a controversy, because CSU probably has not finished dealing with the Pueblo-based Cesar Chavez School Network. After many revelations of problems, one state-mandated audit already has uncovered cheating in the administering of tests at a Chavez school, with another audit focusing on finances coming soon.

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