Friday, February 1, 2013

Phenology: More Black Ice, and Disappointments

It was too cold for much snow to fall, last night. A little powder stuck on the grass. The "wet-weather spring" that's started seeping down the road below the Cat Sanctuary, due to flooding and rising water tables, is running clear, cold water that washed off the snow. Most paved, salted roads are clear. Back roads, like the mostly unpaved road below the Cat Sanctuary, are spotted with the dreaded, lustrous, transparent "black ice" that's almost impossible to see while driving. It should be easier to see the ice by now; the air's not warm enough to melt anything, but the sun is blazing.

The Nickelsville computer center is linked to Gate City by a two-lane state highway (legal for alternative vehicle use, but no shoulders, berms, or sidewalks) that crosses a one-lane bridge (no sidewalks) located in between two long, dramatic downgrades. Bridges freeze first. If the operators of the building had asked me whether a worker who has to drive across that bridge should go to work today, I would have said no. No way. Nobody should have to drive across that bridge in bad weather because of me. The worker who was scheduled to go in today mentioned yesterday that she wouldn't go in if there was any snow. I didn't expect she'd be there, but someone here was kind enough to check before I came in, and confirmed that the Nickelsville computer center would open on schedule.

I said to myself, "Right. People who are already in Nickelsville would know how bad their bridge is. If they're willing to work, the bridge is probably no more hazardous than usual. If it's not bad today, it probably won't be any worse tonight; the snow is over." So I sat down and waited for the endlessly annoying "call bus" which is all we have in the way of public transportation, having allowed a so-called charity to destroy the flourishing locally owned taxi service...don't get me started.

Well, I hope Nickelsville residents are enjoying the computers...because the "call bus" that's supposed to have taken me to the computer center is not running today. Why are buses, most of which run on perfectly clear, dry, salt-stained roads, not running, while a building located along a road that may well become unfit for use is open? Go figure.

Nothing left to do but enjoy a bit of whimsy: Iris, the kitten had rhinotracheitis in December and refuses to adjust to cold weather, has had something to do with this. My four-pound dominatrix has Powers. Along with grabbing me and/or darting in through the door every time I went in or out this morning, nonverbally saying "You've had two days to work already! Today you should sit by the fire with me!", she also put some sort of hex on the morning chores that caused them to take twice as long as usual to do. And now this. Iris Must Be Obeyed.

Somebody out there is saying, "Excuses, excuses. When is this web site going to go through the bills in the Virginia General Assembly, one by one, and comment on each one, as it did last year? If all this web site is going to do is second the motions already being made by other people, what use is it?" Well...actually I have done some of the one-by-one stuff, reading a couple hundred bills that didn't seem to be of special interest to this web site. In terms of passing or blocking bills I think it's valuable to weigh in on the ones that mean a lot to other people as well as us. For personal reasons discussed in the pertinent articles I've given more attention to alternative transportation than our other Tea Party contacts have, and some of them have given more attention to some other issues than this web site has; this site is still independent. And I will haul the laptop into town and take more long, independent looks at more bills when the weather and timing permit.

Be warned, though: there are those who don't want citizen bill readers to read their legislation, and they have tried a few tricks--messing up the order in which bills appear on the legislature's web site (none of that wonderful 1-2-3 order we saw last year), burying bad ideas under masses of verbiage guaranteed to make any normal person's eyes glaze over, and hustling bad bills through the voting process before any of us had time to weigh in. This web site won't catch all of the bad ones. There will be more times when, as yesterday, all I can tell you is that one of your legislators already voted just the way you wanted him or her not to vote, because the only people who had sent him or her messages about a bill were our mutual political enemies.

Disappointment? Er, uh...I hate to break the news, if this is news to you, but a good half of the comments I posted on bills last winter were obsolete by the time they were written. I was still learning my way around lis.virginia.gov and didn't know how to check the status of the bills I was reading, for pity's sake. So this year, we can go back and revisit the low-priority bills in the spring and summer if you really want to, but I'm not going to make a full-time job of arguing for or against dead pieces of proposed legislation. Life is short; my eyes are aging. I'm only trying to read live bills this year.

Want to speed up this web site's attention to issues that matter to you? Tell Saloli. If you work most efficiently, as I do, reading and typing, you too can visit lis.virginia.gov, use the "Bills and Resolutions" button on the left to search for words or numbers, by all means use the "history" button on each bill's page to find out whether it's dead or alive, and tip us off. If you work most efficiently watching and listening to videos, you can watch the Lege live on TV and report to us (you may have noticed we don't watch TV or videos much). That readers or correspondents are interested in an issue doesn't guarantee that we will be, but it significantly improves the odds. And if it's really important to you, you can always indicate that you're willing to let your thoughts be posted free of charge.