The Lands – One of my writing projects

2 June 2019

I introduced this project here.

This is a bit of an update.

The project was to serve as a platform for me to write about better solutions that I was aware of. It takes a hint from Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, as the writer speaks to us from the future, speaking about our present as if it were the past.

An imaginary disaster known as The Event destroys the planet’s communication and computer infrastructure, while leaving everything else intact. I got the idea from studying about the effects ionizing radiation can have on computer memory chips.

The planet recovers with the help of Tech, Policy and The Way To Happiness. I also mention things I have learned about a design system known as Permaculture, and about land use planning. I use mostly my own photographs to illustrate the articles, using the invented idea that a device exists that can help a person turn his memories into photo-realistic images.

After the Scientology TV channel went live, I began to realize that my church was pushing for a higher public awareness that answers existed to many of our most pressing social problems. I thought I could do something similar with The Lands by turning it into a novel or a screenplay. And so I set about trying to write one. So far I have writtten 19 pages of a first draft. Mostly dialog, I don’t care that much about exact settings or actions at this point. I thought I’d share here an excerpt that transcribes part of an imaginary speech given by the hero Emil to a crowd of corporate executives summoned to Washington D.C. by the Defense Department to get briefed and come up with a plan of action:

Emil: (looking around) All right, then. I’ll make a few opening remarks.

The most ancient origins of business parallel the most ancient origins of government. Almost universally, monarchs were considered chosen by God, if not gods themselves. And in the long past, monarchs, or persons like them, were the only ones granting charters to large businesses. Such businesses could grow large enough to threaten the power of the government, so the old monarchies only wanted political friends to operate such enterprises. In such a wise, the divine favor enjoyed by monarchs extended to the large enterprises they permitted to exist.

Many large corporations – and even some smaller ones – have continued to operate as if they were God’s surrogates here on earth. I hope none of you find this overly-offensive. The picture painted by history seems plain enough. So many businesses and governments down through the ages acted as if they were above any earthly laws, that their word was inviolate, and that they knew best how to run an enterprise or a nation or a planet, and should be allowed to do so.

Large businesses have become perceived by the public as modern extensions of ancient monarchies, aristocracies, and oligarchies. And from what I know about such matters, that is not an unfair assessment of the situation. Attempts to repair this situation using PR methods have only worked to the degree that the PR was sincere.

I would like to point out that a business, even a very large business, does not have to be operated in this fashion. It’s just that most still are.

Emil is trying to get some of the largest corporations and defense contractors to agree to essentially “trade swords for plowshares” and actively assist in the recovery efforts across the planet. It is only because they actually have lost the organizational advantages they enjoyed due to their extensive use of computer systems and computerized communication networks that they are willing to consider turning themselves, essentially, into a giant charity activity.

It has been a very interesting project for me, and I hope some of my friends will find it intriguing enough to share it with their friends.

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Folsom Sage

26 May 2019

My “photo of the week” is of a lovely sage plant which I pass when I go to Folsom to shop.

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By my best guess, this is a sage “cultivar” called Allen Chickering. Genetically it is a hybrid, and per my understanding of the term cultivar, the plant has been enhanced for visual appearance and aroma by selective breeding.

Currently this plant is mid its rather short flowering season, but this has perhaps been prolonged by an unusually rainy Spring. Sage is one of the favored native plants for this area, due to its drought resistance and pollinator-friendly flowers.

As mentioned earlier, my trips to Winco in Folsom save me money on food, and continue to be entertaining and a good way to get in some moderate exercise on the weekend. These days I almost always bring my camera along, as there’s no telling what will turn up along the way.

Mather/Mills in Rancho Cordova

On this trip I had to stop somewhere to wait for the train that goes all the way to Folsom, and I chose the Mather Field/Mills station. This route mostly follows Folsom Blvd, and it passes many historic locations, as this road is one of the oldest in the area.

For much of the route, the light rail parallels a conventional train track. It is hardly ever used now, but harkens back to times were trains were the major passenger and freight service. One structure from that period that has been saved and reused is the station house/tavern/dance hall that was built in 1911.

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Next door is a small park with a kiosk containing historic information and a decidedly non-historic little sculpture that looks like it would be fun for kids.

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Harmonics

24 May 2019

One of my interests is creating projects that demonstrate physics concepts. This is particularly true for physics concepts that are mentioned by Mr. Hubbard in has writings or lectures. One such concept is harmonics.

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The above representation, obtained from an educational website, illustrates the basic idea here. “Hz” stands for Hertz, the chosen name for a unit of measure of frequency, previously known as Cycles Per Second.

These terms, as far as I know, are borrowed from the world of music, where they have been in use at least since the time of the Greeks, who liked to play around with the mathematics of vibrating strings.

One way of looking at harmonics is the idea that they can be derived by taking a string and dividing it into different numbers of parts that add up to the total length. That gives you a series of whole fractions for different string lengths (periods), and a series of whole number multiples for frequency (or tone). In audio, we usually refer to frequencies rather than wavelengths or periods.  In radio and light, you are more likely to see wavelengths referred to.

The harmonic series illustrated above contains two octaves. An octave is a frequency exactly two times another frequency. In music, octaves are given the same note letter, as they indeed sound like the “same” note.

Traditional musical scales

Traditional music scales are based on whole fractions. It was possible to determine relationships between notes using fractions before we had electronic means to measure frequency. Thus, a traditional musical scale would be made up of a fundamental tone and then a series of chosen higher tones relating to the fundamental by whole fractions of a value between one and two. The most common notes used were sub-octaves of the harmonics of the fundamental tone. Thus: 3/2, 5/4 and 7/4, 9/8, 11/8, 13/8 and 15/8. Many other tones are possible, but it was found – or considered – that these sounded the most musical when played together. Modern tuning systems approximate these notes while creating a scale that makes transposition between keys (scales starting with different fundamentals) much easier.

My project

With my project, I just wanted to demonstrate what several harmonics of a fundamental sound like.

The biggest challenge in generating such tones electronically is to get a pure tone (sine wave). Sine is the name of the function that describes a pure tone. It is a term taken from trigonometry (the study of the properties of angles and circles).

I wanted six sine waves that were exact mathematical multiples of the fundamental. The only practical way to achieve this is starting with digital signals. Those signals can then be built into sine waves using various processes. I was a little nervous about how well this would work, and how easy or difficult it would be to create good sine waves. But it worked out OK. In this design, most of the sine waves are constructed from 16 voltage steps. For the fundamental tone, I made knobs to control the size of the voltage steps. For all the other tones, I used fixed resistors. The basic idea was taken from a magazine article from the 1980s that I had saved in my digital library.

This project works fairly well. The power supply was a little complicated, because I needed four different voltage rails: +10V, +5V, (ground = 0V), -5V and -10V. My fixed-resistor sine wave generators work quite well. The one using variable resistors is a little flaky, but does an acceptable job. I get seven harmonics from this equipment, including the fundamental, and I can mix them in different ratios to get richer sounds.

I built this into a cabinet that was already occupied by an old multimeter I purchased years ago. I decided there would be enough space for it without removing that old meter, so it remains a part of the project. I can even use it to measure the amplitude of the output signal!

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A Hodgepodge

19 May 2019

Creepy Caterpillar

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Two weeks ago in Folsom I came upon this little creature at the Light Rail station. Turns out it is a Tussock Moth caterpillar. This family of moths seems to be named after the appearance of their caterpillars. The moths themselves are short-lived. The caterpillars of many kinds of Tussock Moths (especially the notorious Gypsy Moth) feed ravenously on leaves of trees and bushes, including oak trees which are otherwise rather insect resistant.

Classic Car

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One week ago at the Winco parking lot in Folsom I spied this car, and snapped a photo. It was not until after downloading the photo that I noticed several bullet holes (I presume fake) on the door panels. It turns out this car is very similar to the Ford (stolen) that Bonnie and Clyde were killed in while driving through Louisiana. I can only guess that the “bullet holes” are there in commemoration of that event. I am also guessing on the engine size, but this type of car could hold a large V-8 engine and was popular for its power and speed.

CCHR Marches Against ECT

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Instead of my usual trip to Folsom on Saturday, I went to San Francisco to participate in a March supporting a ban on ECT. It rained the whole time we were there. CCHR stands for Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a group established by the Church of Scientology in 1969.

Psychiatrists still think that inducing convulsions (seizures) in the patient is a valid form of therapy. They (or their predecessors) have been doing this to their patients for roughly 500 years. As soon as electricity became widely available, they began to use it for this purpose. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) became widely used in the U.S. a little less than 100 years ago. It is still quite widely used.

Wikipedia states that the ordinary shock “dose” is about 0.8 amps for between 1 and 6 seconds. It is widely known in the occupational safety community that a shock between the hands (or from a hand to a foot, etc.) of this amplitude and duration would cause burns, death or a heart attack, as well as severe pain. Psychiatrists apply this across the head or to one side of the head, and anesthetize the patient (except in a few countries, per one report) so that he or she will not be aware of the pain. They report “swift results” from this procedure.

Of course, they are not trying to make people well; they are just trying to make them quiet. What sort of persons or groups would prefer quiet people to happy people? These are the ones who support the work of the psychiatrists. The rest of us avoid them as much as we can, if we are aware of the destruction which they routinely cause. By best estimates, over 1 million people planet wide each year receive this “treatment.” About 10% of those live in the U.S. Ages range from babies (literally!) to seniors, but especially older people and women. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization recommends that ECT on minors be banned, citing no evidence of benefit.

From what I have learned about psychiatry over the years, I consider their leaders and spokespersons to be a pack of raving lunatics; criminals. They assisted greatly in the development and continuation of racism in the United States, they enthusiastically forwarded the “man is an animal” notion that helped make modern war and anti-religious fanaticism OK in the early 1900s, then helped the Nazis establish their death camps before and during the second World War, supported Apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the U.S. and have more recently unleashed the tragedy of psychoactive drugs on this planet. For me there is no alternative to the total abolition of psychiatry on this planet. We will get around to other planets as soon as we can.

Dial Two

4 May 2019

This is my third project in the “dial” series. See Dial One here.

With this project I wanted to try out a few design options, and I concentrated on those.

Though it is still far from a thing of beauty, the more minimal enclosure, featuring primarily the dial itself, was one thing I wanted to try. There was plenty of room for the electronics, and a nice big dial, but putting the power supply in the box seemed not possible. This is not necessarily a big problem, as the system also requires a sensor, or signal source box, and this could supply the power.

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The dial itself is irritatingly green, but in a more finished version, that board could be painted black. For the “featured” photo I adjusted the color balance to fade the green down.

16 steps

The other feature I wanted to try was a 16-step dial.

For this design I abandoned the idea of scanning the dial, which meant inventing a significantly different way to get the dial pattern to move around. Each step on the dial is on or off depending on a latch which stores that value for one cycle of 16 steps. Each latch gets its data from a common signal line, but the time when the data is transferred is different for each latch. In that way, the signal – which carries the pattern – can be time-delayed relative to the scanning pulses, thus updating the position of the “pointer” for every 16-step cycle.

Lights and Colors

To keep things simple, I used one circle of white LEDs. But this does not seem very aesthetically pleasing. I need to find colors that will work better. There is also no fading built into this design; the lights are either full on or full off. More control over light intensity seems desirable here. My next design will address these issues.

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This photo was made under very low-light conditions, then brightened slightly with digital manipulation. But this only slowed down the camera enough to show three lights on at once. I am considering making videos of my projects. That would give you a better idea of how they look “live.”

Another great Kids Day

27 April 2019

This was my 2nd year attending Rancho Cordova’s Kids Day with fellow church members. We were there mainly for the parents, but we gave the kids lots of things to do, too. It’s never been easy to raise children, and our various programs can assist parents to make better choices and be more confident in an activity that – last I checked – isn’t even taught in schools.

Kids Day, on the other hand, has been happening for the past 30 years.

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I don’t know if it’s always been in this venue (Hagan Park), but it’s a lovely setting, especially at this time of year.

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The event starts late morning (to give us all time to set up) and lasts into mid-afternoon (to avoid the hottest part of the day). A lot of parents and children show up.

Rancho Cordova is one of Sacramento’s older suburban communities. Its current inhabitants are from all over the world, and have arrived here for numerous different reasons. We saw many people obviously from Pakistan or India. The Orient is also well-represented. And you can sometimes tell the Russian families, if they speak a little of their own language or have an accent. The oldest “new” suburbanites in the area are probably African-Americans who have been able to join the “middle class.”

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While members of our group took pictures, the kids enjoyed the activities we dreamed up for them.

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The “Fish Cup Game” at the CCHR booth is always a big hit.

And at the Drug Free World booth we had coloring for the younger children. This girl I took pains to photograph because at this young age she was already taking a professional attitude in her work. She drew two perfect little cartoon characters.

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Older children are invited to sign our Drug Free Pledge, and many did.

Sunburn not withstanding, it was a fine day for one and all.

Changes in the wind

14 April 2019

A flying animal has been one of the classic metaphors used by artists to convey the idea of a spirit leaving a body at death, and so I chose the image of a butterfly – just captured yesterday – to introduce this article.

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Two weeks ago, at the end of March, a young man who was born and raised in the South Central neighborhoods of Los Angeles was prevented from doing something he wanted to do.

He had planned to meet with police and other local officials the next day to discuss the problem of gang violence in his neighborhood, and what could be done about it. Nipsey had just started to become known in the broader community as a rap artist with a little different angle to his lyrics. But in his own community he was already widely known as someone who wanted to strengthen himself and everyone he met with knowledge, with love, with a sense of responsibility, and with a dream that things could get better.

In the middle part of the last century, various businesses had established themselves in the Los Angeles area and were providing good jobs. This attracted a large number of people into the neighborhoods now known as South Central. Later, those businesses fled, leaving so many families living there to their own devices. And those big corporate plants started to be replaced by unhealthy enterprises like illegal drug distributors. People there could work for the new “employers” if they were willing to take the chance of being caught by the police or being killed by someone working for a rival group.

“Gangs” were an old tradition in neighborhoods like this. Because the darker-skinned people of these communities had more to worry about than just finding jobs so their children could eat. These communities were being targeted by some social force that has always maintained a secretive identity, yet has always seemed to be present. While some activists try to simplify this problem down to “whitey,” most knew that was far from the full truth. But to most, the exact cause didn’t matter. To be dark-skinned in a white man’s world meant you needed an extra layer of spiritual and physical protection. And the gangs were one way to obtain that protection.

That the gangs came to war with each other was just an indication of how devious the evil ones of this world could be. Those wars, combined with constant harassment from the police, created more bloodshed and suffering in this community than any community anywhere could easily tolerate. And so, there were constant attempts by men and women of higher purpose to stop the violence in the neighborhoods, and seek some sort of change that would protect them better than any police, any gangs, or any large outside companies, had ever done. Yet, there was constant discouragement.

A few people in this community, however, had discovered something new. Though it came from a white man, its power was enough to turn heads. And a few learned some of this technology, and benefited from it. And so Minister Tony Muhammad, an executive with the Nation of Islam who had been given the responsibility of bringing a better life to the people of South Central, was one day introduced to Mr. Hubbard’s technologies. He began to use The Way To Happiness in the community, and it seemed to be of genuine help. And step by step, with the help of many others, Minister Tony put in place a program to end gang violence in South Central, and rebuild the community into something new and very alive.

Minister Tony was always willing to respond when violence struck. And so one day, while attempting to bring calm after a shooting had occurred, he got badly hit by a police officer, and then arrested. A young man named Ermias witnessed this, and was among those demanding Minister Tony’s immediate release. And so this young man, a genius and a dreamer, caught the spark of hope for his community that so many others had, in their turn, fought for.

He started out selling T-shirts with his brother. But he was also a self-taught mix artist and rapper. And in his songs and in his work, he tried to convey his vision on a level that his friends in the neighborhoods could understand. By 2018, and with only one major album to his credit, this young man – now in his 30’s – was nevertheless ready to take it to the next level and work with Minister Tony to elevate his community and his people. On the last day of March of this year, someone who he knew shot him dead in front of his clothing store, located near the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson.

How do I know about all this? Minister Tony came to my church last night and told us about it. And we promised our support for his work in L.A.

In the days, weeks, months and years ahead, you may hear various versions of the life and death of Nipsey Hussle, and how he helped change South Central and then the whole planet. Or, maybe you won’t. But I’m telling you right here and now, that story is real and is really important. Stay tuned.

 

What does Spirit have to do with it?

7 April 2019

With this post, I introduce a new category on this blog: Spirit.

Most people who I meet outside of my church have little or no concept of spirit beyond something like “team spirit” and similar senses. Or they may think of it as a substitute term for the soul of religious or psychological texts.

Indeed, any dictionary reflects these various meanings. Mine gives as the second definition, “the thinking, motivating, feeling part of man, often as distinguished from the body.” And the third definition, “life, will, consciousness, thought, etc., regarded as separate from matter.” It is taken from a Latin word meaning “breath.” Thus, when a body stops breathing, you may say that its spirit has left it.

Reading this, one may be tempted to ask, “Well, fine. But what difference does it make?”

In the posts I assign to this category, I will invite the reader to consider the possibility that it does, indeed, make a big difference!

In my youth I, likewise, did not see the point. Yet I, in my youth, made a simple yet perhaps quite profound observation: That a huge majority of the population of earth follow some religion. If religious concepts – including the concept of spirit – have no relevance today, why do most people still think they do?

Religious experience

One reason many people still “believe” is that many people still have “religious” experiences. These are experiences which – for lack of a better definition – are not explained by science or similar rational thinking processes. Thus, while a sudden thunderstorm may have seemed like some heavenly mandate in years long past, climatologists now understand most, if not all, weather phenomena.

While this category still encompasses a quite wide range of experiences, there are a few that are persistent, unmistakable, and if anything, better documented now than they were in the not-too-distant past. One is the experience of death (body death), obviously followed by a return of life in all documented cases. Another is the experience of being outside one’s body, whether or not clinical death occurred. Then there is the distant relative to these, past life recall.

We are not talking about anecdotal evidence here; these are carefully documented cases studied by medical doctors and similar clinical researchers. The point is, “science” is aware that these phenomena, in particular, are real. It is only that scientists, for the most part, reject a spiritual explanation for them. Religious people, on the other hand, have much less back-off in this regard, though they may display some amazing biases of their own.

The question of consciousness

While “consciousness” can be variously described, it is – most obviously – the thing or quality that leaves a body when it dies. Furthermore, in man it is the part of us that is capable of remembering and interpreting experiences, as well as inventing experiences that never happened, dreaming, and hoping for, wishing for, or working for future experiences that haven’t happened yet.

Consciousness has, as have many subjects of this kind, been approached from two main angles. The philosophic approach seeks to devise high-level explanations that will encompass – or at least shed light on – the various unexplained phenomena. And the scientific approach (typified by psychology) seeks to understand these phenomena at a more practical level, like: What can you do if someone has an experience that continues to bother them? It should be noted that “psychology” is based on the Greek psyche, from whence Latin gave us the word spirit.

The point most often made by people who think the subject of consciousness is important is that we won’t solve some of the most fundamental problems of human existence, like insanity, crime and war, until we get consciousness right. And I agree with them about that.

Having a working understanding of life

If we can get the question of consciousness answered correctly – at least for the psychologists, if not for the philosophers – it would open the door to a lot of handlings on this planet that currently seem basically impossible.

Look at all the effort that has been put into ending war, crime and insanity on this planet. Yet they all still exist, and in more threatening forms, it seems, than ever before.

Beyond that, the mystery of the origins of biological life, and of Mankind in particular, continues to elude us. And we have yet quite to figure out exactly what is holding this universe together; a problem in theoretical physics that remains unsolved.

If we had such an understanding firmly in place, how hard would it be to mend a broken marriage, a broken heart, or perhaps even a broken planet?

These articles are not being written to tell you what I think. They are being written to invite you to LOOK. The most workable set of answers – if not the only relatively complete set – that I know of has already been arrived at. Your introduction to these answers is found here: scientology.tv

I urge you to take a look!

ARC in the universe

Artwork created by CSI, 2018.

 

 

A flowering

31 March 2019

Facebook recently informed me by email that I was tagged in a photo. It turned out to be this picture taken in North Carolina last year, and recently posted by Ryan Prescott. It’s a beautiful communication of how people can come together when the need arises and help each other.

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This photo includes at least two people from California, several from Florida, one from Venezuela, and the women in sunglasses who I believe are from New York or that general area. We were all in North Carolina to help clean up after flooding and damage caused by a hurricane.

Sacramento Flowering Trees

Meanwhile, here in the Sac area certain fruit trees are very much in bloom.

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I noticed the incredible profusion of these flowers when I went shopping yesterday. I went back today to photograph them at the light rail station where they are most prolific, Sunrise station in Rancho Cordova.

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In this part of town some streets are lined with these trees. I am not sure of the exact species; they seem to be maybe an ornamental plum.

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Many trees and plants in this region are flowering or leafing out right now. They know they have a relatively short window of time between when there is some rainfall and when that stops and it gets really hot.

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These flowers won’t last long. The wind blows them away almost as fast as they can bud and mature.

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On this trip I also noticed the redbuds blooming very strongly. We don’t have a lot of redbuds here; I don’t think they are native to this area. But they do grow well here.

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Springtime is perhaps the perfect time to reflect on the importance of creative activities in the games of life. Where would we be without creation?

 

St. Patrick’s Weekend in Sacramento

17 March 2019

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“St. Patrick’s Day? Who cares about St. Patrick’s Day?” the lizard seems to be saying. Well, he lives in Folsom, so missed out on all the excitement.

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I wasn’t the only one out with my camera.

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The new businesses at 7th and K used the sunny, mild weekend to seek new customers.

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Three bars in a row…the fate of modern downtowns?

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Lots of people came out to see what was going on. Across from these shops, at the little square, the local more-established pub had an outdoor stage set up with a band playing. This happened both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

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Look at the crowds walking to and from DOCO (Downtown Commons)!

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Police have a lighter load with these mostly well-behaved crowds. Some ride cars, some ride bikes, and some ride horses!

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The K Street “canopy” is not even green yet, but Sunday was quite warm, with most choosing summer t-shirts and tops.

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Cars, trains, people and dogs are all part of the downtown scene. This is the crosswalk at 8th and K, right next to my building and home to two different light rail stations.