Thursday, January 26, 2006

What's the buzz on high-altitude plasma TVs?

QUESTION: The commissary and some of the local stores have great prices on plasma TVs but a friend says we shouldn’t waste the money. He says we’ll be disappointed because the experts say plasma screens are a problem at the Colorado Springs altitude. Any truth in this at all?
- Bob W.

ANSWER: The Gazette’s television writer, Andy Wineke, says, “Plasma screens are gorgeous and they have a lot of positive qualities, but also some potential drawbacks that you have to consider before buying one.

“The top concern here in Colorado Springs should be buzzing. Plasma screens are assembled at a lower altitude and sealed and, when they’re brought up here to 6,000-plus feet, they can buzz. Not all do, and not all buzzing is equally annoying, but you have to listen to your new prospective set in a quiet room so you can tell.
“Secondly, many cheaper plasma screens are ‘EDTV’instead of ‘HDTV.’ ED, or extended definition, is a middle ground between standard definition and high definition. If what you want is a flat screen that you can hang on a wall, knock yourself out.
“On the other hand, if what you want is high definition, you need to find a real HD set — and they tend to cost far more.

“Finally — at least for a brief discussion — plasma screens can ‘burn in.’ Have you ever seen an old projection TV that somebody left a video game on too long?
“The image will be ‘ghosted’ into the picture and it will never go away. That can happen with plasmas, too, and it’s worth thinking about because most TV is still broadcast with a square picture, meaning there’ll be black or gray bars on either side of the picture on a rectangular HD screen.
“Newer TVs have technology to combat this problem, but, again, it’s worth asking about.

“So, although plasma screens are thin, super bright and super cool, don’t assume that just because it’s a plasma, it’s for you. Definitely look at LCD: The prices on LCD screens are coming down while the sets themselves are getting bigger. And the newer projection technologies — LCD projection, DLP, LCoS and SXRD — all offer extremely nice images for very reasonable (comparatively speaking) prices.”

One last thought: A lot of people still say that old-fashioned tube TVs offer the best all-around picture quality. They’re certainly the cheapest. You can find a smaller-tube HDTV for less than $500.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Questions about history of roads in Black Forest

QUESTIONS: There are two roads in the Black Forest area that I have always wondered about: Old Ranch Road and Howells Road. They both dead end from each direction. Why were they never joined through? - Liz Wilcox

QUESTION 2: What was the original purpose of Tamlin Road? - Jim Thomas

ANSWER: Well, Black Forest readers, can you help us shed some light on the histories of these roads?

Don't throw your trash in someone else's Dumpster

QUESTION: It makes me crazy that people throw their trash in Dumpsters that don’t belong to them. One woman was bragging about dumping her Christmas tree and all her holiday boxes in the Dumpsters at a nearby apartment complex. Another guy throws his week’s worth of garbage bags into his trunk and hauls everything to a supermarket Dumpster. Isn’t this illegal? It should be and they should be ashamed.
- Toby Walker

ANSWER: Yes, indeed, it’s illegal, according to deputy city attorney Kathy Moore. It falls under City Code 9.6.104 “Unlawful use of property of another.”

And this could come as a big surprise to the moochers who are trying to save some money: The penalties go as high as $500 and 90 days in jail.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Broadmoor traffic project a neighborhood/city partnership

QUESTION: On Third Street between Elm and Polo Drive in the Broadmoor area, the city road crews have installed two temporary-appearing islands. Also a 20 mph speed bump has appeared on the 25 mph street. The city worker informed me that they would become permanent in the future. Other such additions are on Mesa Street. I question these actions. Why disturb and limit traffic on the beautiful residential street? Also, where is the money coming from?
- Jack B.

ANSWER: This was done as part of what is called the city’s traffic-calming program and involves neighborhoods that are experiencing traffic problems.

According to Kristin Bennett, senior transportation planner for the city, the neighborhood submitted an application to the city’s neighborhood traffic management program accompanied by the required signed petition from at least half of the residents affected.

The Third Street and Mesa Avenue neighborhood was experiencing a number of 36+ mph speeders through their 25 mph area and a “tremendous” increase in traffic cutting through because of nearby construction.

Bennett says that following an evaluation of the problems, the department worked with the neighbors and together they developed a plan with set goals.

Temporary measures include medians, speed humps, a speed table (a larger version of a speed hump that is flat on top) and other steps meant to effectively narrow the driving lanes on the street and slow people down, Bennett says. These are being tested, including having the fire department drive through to evaluate for safety in case of an emergency. The city and the neighbors will meet again to decide which permanent steps will be taken.

Funding comes from the fines paid by drivers caught in the “Citywide 25” program targeting speeders in residential areas. In addition, there is money from SCIP, the voter-approved issue which raised taxes to fund improvements to the city’s infrastructure. There are approximately a dozen traffic-calming programs under way across the city.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Strange vents coming out of the ground, Woodmen and Powers

QUESTION: When driving north on Powers Boulevard just before the intersection with Woodmen Road on the right hand side of the road there are a series of vent pipes that stick up out of the ground about ten feet high. What are these for?

ANSWER: They're venting methane gas from an old, covered-over landfill.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Red Rock sign flub

QUESTION: Recently the city placed green signs along Highway 24 pointing to the new “Red Rocks Canyon Park.” Previous references I've seen call it Red Rock Canyon. Which is correct?
- Cheryl, Manitou Springs

ANSWER: It’s officially Red Rock Canyon Open Space. And it will be Red Rock Canyon Open Space once again — when the signs are corrected.

It was apparently a case of “netspeak," BTW. The city and state were having informal e-mail discussions of the possible types of regulatory signs at the new open space and potential sign locations. One e-mail accidentally referred to it as “Red Rocks Canyon Park.” An enthusiastic signmaker jumped the gun a bit and picked up that verbage, which will be changed as soon as possible.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The oven/kiln near Rusina Road

QUESTION: If you look to your left when heading north on I-25 right near the Pro Rodeo exit, on the side of the hill there is a small round mud structure with an opening - looking kind of like an old clay fire oven. What is it? How old is it? Whose is it? I’ve always wondered and would love to know the answer.
- Diana

ANSWER: It's a good question and we were able to track down this answer for a previous column. Here you go:

It’s a beehive/honeycomb coking oven where ore was cooked when the area was the Pikeview Mine complex from 1897 to 1957. It is one of the last surface remains from this area’s rich mining past. Coking coal was heated at an extremely high temperature and the coke/carbon remaining was pure enough to be used for smelting ore in the production of iron and steel.

Darrell Green says that in the mid-1960s, his parents leased the property, which had a two-story house below the oven. His mother, Bernice Wollen, told family stories about saving numerous animals that had fallen into the oven hole. Green recalls that his now-deceased father could ride his appaloosa horses across the 500 acres all the way to the Flying W Ranch property to the west.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Call the cop in charge with complaints

QUESTION: What happens when cop cars (cruisers) break the law, when they are speeding or not blinking (signaling)? Where do you call when it is the cops?
- Uwe

ANSWER: You call the police! Get all the pertinent facts including the cruiser’s number, location, specifics of what happened, date and time and anything else essential. Contact the nonemergency number of the closest police substation and request to speak to the supervisor. You can remain anonymous if you choose.

Will Prospect Lake ever be the way it was?

QUESTION: We are so happy that Prospect Lake is now filled.
But it doesn’t appear that it is even close to being filled to the same level as it was before the drought. The water is pretty far from the bank around the lake.
Will it always be like that or what is considered a full level for the lake?
- Steve M.

ANSWER: Depending on this winter’s snowpack, Prospect Lake could be filled this spring to “just inches” from what it was in the past, according to parks director Paul Butcher. “Our charge was to bring the lake back to what it was in the past and, by golly, that’s what we’re going to do.”

By the summer aquatic season the boat ramp and the fishing ramp for the disabled can be used, he says.

There are restrictions on how high the water in Prospect Lake can be. Butcher says the state dam engineer won’t allow it to top 6,068 feet elevation.
It was filled to one vertical foot below that maximum capacity and that foot will be added. Why the elevation restriction? Prospect Lake is a dam and every dam is classified according to what is downstream, Butcher says. Because of this, most dams — even the newest ones — are classified “high risk” simply because of where they’re situated, what’s nearby and what the consequences would be in the unlikely situation something were to happen. Prospect Lake’s “high risk” designation puts a cap on how much water it can hold.

Butcher says the relining of Prospect Lake has been successful so far. “In the past we lost horizontal feet of water from shoreline when we tried to refill. Now we’ve lost 4/10ths of a foot over 51 acres and 40 percent of that is surface evaporation, so that new liner is working.”