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City Lights

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The lead article in the January 2014 article of the CFU newsletter is a plan adopted by the Cedar Falls City Council to install LED street light fixtures in residential neighborhoods across town by the end of this year. The new fixtures will save the city over $4 million in street lighting costs over the next 20 years, and the new fixtures will pay for themselves through cost savings in less than two years. Next year the city will begin replacing fixtures in commercial and industrial areas, and afterwards will decide whether to update fixtures along the Parkade and for rental yard lights in residential areas.  [source]

With that blatant plagiarism out of the way, I have to say this is welcome news. LED lights tackle a common problem among traditional sodium fixtures; that is, light pollution. Most street light fixtures are not designed to direct their light entirely downward towards roadways and sidewalks. A fair amount of light ends up spreading outward, or even upward, creating an annoying haze upon approach. This citywide haze is why, when you’re driving along the interstate at night and are approaching a big city, it appears to glow as if hit by an atomic bomb. That “glow” is light pollution and is caused in part by street lights.

Let’s also not forget how unsightly and unnatural sodium lights are. They cast a sickly, jaundiced, puss-like pale over neighborhoods, one I am all too familiar with from nighttime bicycling. LED lights cast a more pleasant, moonlike light upon the ground.

While city councils can’t control or change every source of light pollution, which also includes car headlights, home and business lighting, and street light reflection, they can at the very least take steps that will have some measurable impact that will also save the taxpayers money over the long run.


Sadly, most people living in urban areas will only see the brightest starts in the night sky. Rural residence can see a fair deal more, but within the US you have to travel the western part of the country, many miles from any street lights, to catch a glimpse of the galaxies. I witnessed this view one time in my life, when I was sixteen, hiking through the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It’s one thing to see a few recognizable constellations, it’s quite another to see the entire night sky awash in tiny cosmic pinpricks. This was a common occurrence across most of this country a little more than a century ago. Industrial “progress” has since divorced us from our celestial umbrella.

Perhaps I wax poetically a bit too much. But do me a favor — stop reading for a moment, walk outside (if you’re reading this at night) and look up. What do you see?


Los Angeles, New York and other major US cities are already converting their trillions* of street lights to LED, and it’s nice to see Cedar Falls making the switch sooner rather than later. The images from L.A.’s changed landscape are striking…

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 9.12.24 PM


LED fixtures won’t allow me to walk outside the Mandalay and see the galaxy spanning overhead, but they’ll help reduce the nauseating yellow glare that’s been cast over this community for far too long. I’ve already seen a few fixtures installed around town; one down on Grand Blvd near Pfeiffer Park (near the turn towards Waterloo Rd) and a row of fixtures in the parking lot where Ray Edwards used to be. That row runs parallel to a row of traditional lights along Seerley Blvd. So anyone who wants a side-by-side comparison of sodium and LED fixtures can just drive on down Seerley and check out the future of better, more beautiful street lighting for themselves.


Written by camcarlson

February 10, 2014 at 9:39 PM

Posted in Cedar Valley

Autumn Tiger Lamentations

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It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but that I never find the ‘right’ time to sit down and write. Trust me when I say life is very good right now… but there’s always something to carp about. That’s what a blog is for, after all!

I lament the current state of movies, coupled with the current state of the corporate theater distribution model. Nothing good comes here. I haven’t seen anything I truly liked, as in wanted to see multiple times, since “Looper” and “Cloud Atlas” last fall. That’s sad. I liked the “Evil Dead’ remake just for its sheer disgusting-ness, and thought “Mud” and “The Way Way Back” were worth watching, but otherwise the best film I’ve seen so far this year has been “Amour”, the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film from *last* year. So in a nutshell, I’m still waiting for quality films to come to the Cedar Valley. What else is new?

1 year ago this week I was driving to Ames to see “Lawrence of Arabia” in 4K digital. Fantastic presentation.

9 years ago this week I saw “Lost in Translation” at the AMC Oakview in Omaha NE. The most personal, touching theater experience to date. I think I’ll try to watch it this week.


I also lament that I’ve done little exercising since Labor Day weekend, something I intend to correct this week.

I also have added a woeful number of miles to my bicycle this year, in part because Viet is the fan of long-haul treks that I am. A few times this summer we made it through George Wyth and up the river to Big Woods Lake, but then we would stop, rest, admire the scenery, he’d take a lot of pictures, and we’d head back to my apartment. I think I’ve put in maybe 300 miles on the Raleigh, tops. But, in a way, I’m okay with that. The bike is falling apart, and it was never a good fit for me anyway, so I don’t mind *not* getting sore from 1-2 hour excursions 3-4 times a week. If I can scrounge together enough funds next spring (which will depend on if we go anywhere for spring break next year) I may buy a new bicycle.

Speaking of buying, I’m inching closer to a new car purchase. The Intrepid has served me well these past 12 years. It’s approaching 205K miles. But the exterior is in rough shape and the last time I took it in for an oil change the mechanic told me he didn’t feel comfortable having it up on the lift with all the structural rust “crunching” noises he was hearing. It won’t see another winter, that’s for damn sure. So a new set of wheels are needed.

That’s all for now. It’s 11pm and I want 6 hours of sleep before getting up at 5:25am and putting in another marathon day at the office.


Written by camcarlson

October 1, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Where there’s a developing thunderstorm over every aisle

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Written by camcarlson

July 9, 2013 at 10:16 PM

Posted in Cedar Valley

Curriculum Cinema

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Early during finals week at UNI I made my way to the Rod Library to inquire about a visitor’s pass. For a while I had contemplated getting one so I could finally devour their extensive DVD collection. A college student at the front desk asked for ten bucks up front and gave me a small yellow form to fill out. She said I’d get the card for one month (4/29 to 5/29 or thereabouts) and explained how to search their catalog on the library website. She must have assumed I either wasn’t an alumnus or that I was but wasn’t intuitive enough to navigate an online catalog, but she had a pretty voice, so I held my tongue and let her run through her spiel.

Afterwards she handed me the visitor card and then decided to inform me that starting “after the semester is over” the visitor passes would be free of charge. For a second I considered asking for my money back and returning in a week or two, but I decided to let it slide. She had already entered my info into the system and wasted enough of my time, so I considered the $10 a donation to the library. My meager contribution to my alma mater, I suppose.

For the past 4 weeks I’ve been devouring one movie after another, of varying quality. Most were worth watching, a few were surprisingly good – Chimes at Midnight, Baraka, Orlando, Come and See. I’ve gone through about 44 films at this point. I stopped in last Thursday to drop off the current batch and pick up just a few more, and thought to ask the guy at the front desk how I would go about renewing the pass after it expired the following week (this week). He called forth his supervisor, a slightly older lady, who said they were moving to the free visitor pass system as of June 1. Before I could say anything, she said she wouldn’t make me come back to renew it, punched a few things into the terminal, and said I was renewed… until June 1, 2014. Sweet!

Now that I’m not under a deadline to watch as many movies as I can, I don’t feel the pressing need to check out any more DVDs this summer. I think I may actually go in later this week for a book! I’ve been on an Easter Island kick as of late. I’ve read what I can find at the CF library, which amounted to some cheap YA-quality literature. Time to move up to the big leagues.

Written by camcarlson

May 28, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Posted in Cedar Valley, Cinema

6 Years @ the Mandalay, 4 Years @ Snap

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This week marks the sixth anniversary of living here at the Mandalay. The apartment was a nightmare when I looked it over in early February 2007 and it wasn’t much improved when I moved in later in the month. The carpet was soaked in cat urine, the replacement fridge sat outside the door in a pile of snow, there were no blinds or curtains on any of the windows, and everything (and I mean everything) had been painted beige that day, so a musky fresh paint smell lingered all night long while I slept on my bed mattress on the living room floor. The good thing about living situations starting out so poorly is that they can only get better with time. In a bit of a coincidence, a snow & ice storm delayed my move during the last week of February 2007, and this week we were hit with almost continuous snowfall over 36 hours that resulted in a foot of fresh snow on the ground.

This has been the longest period of time living in one place as an adult, and it equals the length of time spent living in that 2-story house on Royal Drive between the 5th and 11th grades. In the six years I’ve lived here I have lived without cable television. I have a television and DVD player hooked up in the corner of the living room but neither are used much these days. Given CFU’s current basic cable subscription rates, I’ve saved over $1,300 over six years, not to mention who knows how many thousands or tens of thousands of hours not spent watching television… earmarked instead for movies, books and (since 2009) afternoon workouts at the gym or on the trails.

I’ve also neglected to paint the rooms a different color. The beige is boring, and once in a while I think about buying some paint, but I never follow through. I usually tell myself that I’d end up moving shortly after painting and therefore it wouldn’t be worth the hassle. However, during the summer of 2011 I did scrape the beige paint off the tiles on the bathroom walls and applied two coats of primer to the upper drywall. It looks better than it did before. That’s the sum total of my home remodeling.


In 2010 I began a comprehensive decluttering project. I purged two huge boxes of paper files, donated more than 90% of my books, magazines and movies, along with unused clothing and excess dinnerware. Presently the apartment is rather spartan in appearance, and that’s how I like it. In fact, I still feel it’s a bit cluttered, in the sense that it’s merely untidy. But hey, it’s a work in progress. This past weekend I finally sorted through a decade’s worth of film negatives, stored in two checkbook boxes. More than half were culled from the collection. In a bit of unfortunate timing, Porter’s closed their doors for good last week after 100 years in business, so now I need to find another business that will professionally scan the remaining negatives for me.


So, in 2009 I joined a gym. I had been growing my hair out for a few years and the rest of my body was following suit. I was pushing 200 lbs and I knew I’d have to get moving if I wanted to shed the flab. A friend recommended Snap Fitness, a 24/7 gym near the corner of 18th & Main. I walked in on the 5th of January, one of many new years resolution types, though I was one of the few who managed to keep up with it when spring came and most newbies fall off the bandwagon. I lost 25 pounds during the first few months and I learned how to run more than a quarter mile without running out of breadth, a remarkable achievement for someone who was never athletic growing up.

To my surprise, I’ve kept up with exercising for the past four-plus years. My attendance is a bit cyclical in that I’m at the gym 5-6 times a week during the late fall, winter and early spring, then less so as the weather warms up and I can afford to bicycle or jog on the nature trails. But even in good weather I try to go to the gym 2-3 times a week to lift weights.

A couple weeks ago Snap moved out of the cramped confines of its strip mall location and into the first floor of the renovated Oddfellows building on the corner of 4th & Main, right in the Parkade. There’s twice as much space, separate rooms for cardio workouts and resistance training, plus larger bathrooms (with a shower) and a wider range of weightlifting equipment. Some machines still need to be fine-tuned and, like the old location, a few of the treadmills seem perpetually out of commission, but I wasn’t expecting world-class service from a small-town gym. It meets my needs and I’m happy. The hard part, until the snow melts, is going to be forcing myself to get out of bed on the weekends and work out before lunch, something I used to do with solid regularity up until last fall.

Written by camcarlson

March 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Cory’s Big Move

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I spent last Saturday helping Cory move about ninety thousand pounds of appliances and electronics out of his parents’ basement. That’s how much it felt like we moved, anyway.

Cory’s been building up collections of all sorts of things down there since as long as I’ve known him. He has a respectable collection of 80s/90s Apple computers, in the room immediately to the left of the basement stairs, and some televisions, radios and rotary telephones in the room to the right, plus other miscellaneous items throughout the basement; Betamax players, Umatic players, Laserdisc players, Videodisc players, typewriters, vacuum cleaners, Radarange microwaves, washing machines & dryers, refrigerators, ovens, light bulbs & light fixtures, other random kitchen appliances and cookware, transistors, car parts, antique instruction manuals, film strips… you get the idea. Many of these items come from thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, or found abandoned in random places.


Now that Cory has nearly finished work on the interior of his second building out on his property (dubbed CS3, or the research lab) the time had come to begin moving as much as could be moved within the time limits of a single Saturday and the physical limits of four strapping (relatively) young men (Cory, Ben, Don and I) and two spirited women (Cara and Cory’s mother).


We began at 7am, moving the heavy items out of the basement first: Radaranges, console TVs and industrial strength typewriters. With the assistance of an appliance dolly we maneuvered several ovens and fridges up & out through the back stairway. Took about 3 hours to move the first load onto the front lawn and entryway, then load it into various cars and a rental van picked up earlier that morning. About an hour to caravan over to CS3 and move everything inside; Radaranges and miscellaneous garage supplies downstairs and everything else upstairs.


photo 3

Back to Cory’s parents’ for lunch, then a second round, including the BIG appliances, hauled up and loaded into cars. By the time we made it to CS3 for the second unload it began to fog over and mist a little. We took advantage of the fading daylight (a very gray day at that) to move random items from the Lodge over into CS3; a sectional couch, 2 teletype machines, half of a switchboard desk and a Hammond organ, along with smaller items.


By the time we reached his parents’ house again it was around 5pm and dark outside. We loaded just the larger vehicles and the rental van with what we could handle, mostly TV sets and some other appliances. We were exhausted by the time we made it to CS3 the third time but we pushed on, beyond reason, hauling one item after another up the wooden, slightly creaky exterior stairs on the side of the building. Drained of strength and incredibly hungry, we retreated to Cory’s parents’, then to the Panther Lounge for some cold beers and hot pizzas.

photo 4

When I returned home that night I could barely walk, my ankles and left knee were so sore. My lower back was killing me. As I was undressing to take a shower I discovered some odd-shaped, colorful bruises all over my arms. They didn’t hurt much but they were quite a sight. The big rainbow one on my left bicep is still around, though it’s fading in appearance. I’m using it as an excuse to skip the gym for a few days. That, and my lower back is still just a bit sore.

Written by camcarlson

December 4, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Posted in Cedar Valley

Tagged with , ,

Autumn marches on

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Bleh. I really don’t have a reason for not posting anything in the past couple weeks aside from the usual excuse of being lazy and/or uninspired. I work, I exercise, I watch movies (in smaller doses than I used to), I apparently don’t read anymore (something I need to remedy very soon), I almost never go out drinking anymore unless it’s with co-workers on Friday afternoons, and I continue to find random items to purge from my apartment. Just this past week I sold two things on ebay, netting a tiny sum for each, which will no doubt be used to procure Xmas gifts for the family in short order. So it goes. This just happens to be one of those slow quiet times of the year, though that will change with Thanksgiving this Thursday (like Xmas Day, it’s an excuse to eat like a pig), friends may or may not be coming back to town this weekend and next weekend, not to mention the usual inflow of regulars over xmas break next month. Like last year, I have the week between Xmas and New Years off. Eight solid days of sleeping in and hopefully catch up on some movies and literature I’ve been putting off this season.

In other news, the Cedar River has gotten so low that water no longer flows over the spillway at the dam.

Written by camcarlson

November 18, 2012 at 8:54 PM