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Cherish autumn by bringing the outdoors in for your arrangements

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Cherish autumn by bringing the outdoors in for your arrangements

Autumn begins like a whisper, stirring among the trees. One green leaf turns gold. We barely notice until the treetops are aflame with light. Through shortening days and lengthening nights, the transformation is guileless in its beauty.

Drawn to awe by the humble grandeur of what has given its all, we reach for ways to keep the glory with us a little longer.

A vignette of natural simplicity displayed in Linda Sadler’s home. (Lindsay Squires, Special to The Denver Post)

Distinctive beauty

“This is a season to cherish. It is fleeting. We need to etch it in our minds,” said Linda Sadler, motioning to a single red leaf in the yellow celebration festooning the gray branches of her ash tree. Linda is a colleague of mine at Tagawa Gardens, an experienced perennial team member, and a garden coach.

“I’ve always loved beautiful things,” Sadler enthused as we stood on her brick walkway in Centennial, framed by leaning verbena bonariensis sparkling in the late afternoon light.

In a walk around her home, we admired the chartreuse glow of New Mexico privet, the balletic arch of lavatera, the stout tufts of Redbor kale, the yellow-gold airiness of Amsonia hubrichtii, and the slender cabernet leaves of euphorbia Bonfire.

“If I want a plant, I will have it,” Sadler said with conviction, touching the specimen plants that she has gone far and wide to procure for her garden.

“When I just think I’m going to be done with my garden, it lasts about a day, and at night, I’m already dreaming of what I’m going to plant next,” she laughed ruefully.

Sadler dries as much loveliness as she plants. As we wandered inside, her daughter, Katie, recalled Christmas cookie tins filled with silica gel and dried flowers. Linda instantly pulled one such tin from beneath an upholstered chair, running her fingers through bright remnants of petals.

More natural treasures awaited us in every elegant room. A garland of leaves dangled above a pristine white mantel. A clutch of dried fern fronds arched delicately near a small lamp, its gold stem entwined by perennial statice and masterwort. An atlas from the study revealed a trove of burgundy and gold leaves. A blush of hydrangea lay on an end table.

Most spectacular was a white chandelier hung with single dried stems of roses, peonies, paperwhites, hydrangea and larkspur. Even a white tulip held its fragile form.

1635251576 657 Cherish autumn by bringing the outdoors in for your arrangements
Dried blossoms suspended elegantly from Linda Sadler’s chandelier. (Lindsay Squires, Special to The Denver Post)

For the Thanksgiving table that will soon be arrayed beneath, Linda hollows a white pumpkin, settles a glass vessel inside, and creates a natural centerpiece with wild stems and white snowberry from her garden.

Simple inspiration

For Vanessa Martin, a fallen leaf is a muse. Detailing the simple elements of nature, Martin’s botanical work brings to life what may otherwise be overlooked.

Taking a walk nearly every day in her Aurora neighborhood, she doesn’t set out to find something but to simply see what’s there. “I do what’s in front of me,” she said.

A fallen leaf on the sidewalk, a tulip in the garden, a bird on a branch — these simplicities become the story of her art. “They are silly little stories, but that is how it becomes meaningful.”

“No one would have guessed that I would become an artist,” Martin laughed, sharing her journey through commercial real estate before finding her way into the School of Botanical Art and Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens. “I made it work. I was determined, because I loved doing it. I would travel and go right from the airport to class. If you really want to do something, you will find a way.”

Fusing traditional botanical illustration with what she calls a pinch of contemporary style, Martin wants her art to be accessible to a large audience.

“People are part of my process. It is not enough for me to just create something,” she said. She recognizes an emerging hunger for art in a younger audience, stirring her hope that it will be appreciated by a new generation.

After many years using watercolor, colored pencils and graphite, Martin discovered printmaking. Much of her current work is Intaglio. Arranging several prints on the table for me to see, Martin plies multiple artistic techniques to create texture, dimension and subtle color in her work.

“With abstract, you have to stand back; with mine, you have to get close,” Martin said.

While Martin’s artistry has developed through the years, her work is still grounded by frequent walks and the long-held desire to “inspire art lovers to appreciate the beauty of a dried fallen leaf or a yucca pod that has spilled its seeds.”

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Fallen autumn leaves rendered beautifully by Vanessa Martin. (Lindsay Squires, Special to The Denver Post)

Supplied by nature

Many years ago, Martin’s exquisite yucca pod became my first piece of botanical art. I am enthralled by seed pods.

Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve displayed dramatic stems and natural arrangements. Borne of the Nebraska prairie, I inherited this delight from my grandma and my mom. Our hands are the same, reaching for simple treasures and finding in them the joy we need to go on.

1635251576 14 Cherish autumn by bringing the outdoors in for your arrangements
A repurposed grapevine wreath arrayed with plants from garden. (Lindsay Squires, Special to The Denver Post)

While visiting Nebraska for harvest this September, I ventured into the prairie with a small pruning shear, filling my arms with arching grasses, glittering goldenrod, and weathered seed heads. Returning to Denver with this autumn trove, I arranged the stems by color and arrayed them in vases, just as I have done since childhood.

But what wildness is here to harvest in our suburban Colorado gardens? Determined to create from my own doorstep, I studied each of my unsuspecting garden plants for new possibilities. After several excursions through the backyard and various closets, I gathered a surprising tangle of dried seed heads and craft supplies. With sturdy hollyhock, slender obedient plant, dried poppy heads, blush pink sedum, and two Queen Elizabeth roses crumpled by first frost, I made a simple dried wreath for the front door.

It was the same front door where a purple finch nested in the trailing begonia this year. After she and her watchful mate raised their brood, the little nest remained — a token of their patient artistry. I saved the nest and arranged it on a shelf with a small book, a framed flower from Ireland, a piece of Eastern European pottery holding two allium heads, and a clear jar of downy milkweed seeds that I’ve had for at least a decade.

As with most treasures, it simply begins with noticing and cherishing what you have. This is what my grandma and my mom taught me, their hands turning simplicity into special beauty.

Even after it is spent, the garden continues to give. Take to your own garden with an eye for possibility. What might you create with what you have?

Pick up a leaf, hold it in your hand, or press it into the pages of a beloved book. Take the beauty into your soul, and in that earnest way, bring the outdoors in.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, The Adventurist, to get outdoors news sent straight to your inbox.

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How data is reshaping real estate

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How data is reshaping real estate

By Patrick Sisson, The New York Times Company

Jordan Fisher was troubled. Every variety of the Red Bull energy drink comes in a similar metallic can, and his company’s camera system, which tracks products that customers pick up in stores, was having trouble distinguishing them.

This obstacle was one of many that his company, Standard AI, faced while retrofitting a Circle K convenience store in Tempe, Arizona, with computer vision software, which tracks every item that customers pick up so they can simply scan their app-enabled phone to pay as they leave, eliminating the checkout line. A network of more than 100 cameras can identify any of the thousands of similarly sized candy bars or beverages grabbed by customers, including cans of Red Bull, now identifiable thanks to a combination of geometric projections and higher-resolution cameras.

This tracking of consumer activity within the store — where shoppers look and linger, with cameras capturing their interactions and their near-misses — is part of a growing effort to use data collection to make commercial real estate more efficient.

“Checkout is kind of the killer app, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Fisher, CEO of Standard AI, which hones camera accuracy in high-volume, high-density environments. “You have a system that understands where people are in real time, down to the centimeter. It’s all about utilization of real estate.”

From the invasion of big-box stores to the ascendancy of e-commerce and, most recently, pandemic lockdowns, physical retail may seem stuck in perpetual crisis. But in-person shopping is still very popular and the subject of significant investment. (Retail tech investment hit a record $31.5 billion in the second quarter this year.) Amazon has spent generously on physical retail, including $13.4 billion on the acquisition of Whole Foods, and the development of its Just Walk Out system, which kick-started a race for cashierless checkout among grocery stores and retailers.

The added layers of technology in stores and entertainment venues — crowd-tracking cameras, information gleaned from smartphones, tallies of neighborhood foot traffic and sophisticated demographic data — aim to replicate the data measurement and analysis of the online experience.

But privacy advocates are sounding the alarm about the technology as Big Tech is under increased scrutiny. Congressional testimony from the Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, in October has intensified calls for new regulations to rein in Silicon Valley giants.

Outcast via The New York Times

A handout photo shows the crowd analysis software used by Standard AI to track customers in a Circle K store in Tempe, Arizona. Tech start-ups are offering new tools to help retailers and entertainment venues be more efficient by counting crowds, tracking foot traffic and following local shopping habits.

Complicating efforts to address privacy concerns is a lack of regulatory clarity. Without an overarching federal privacy law or even a shared definition of personal data, retailers must sort through layers of state and municipal rules, such as California’s Consumer Privacy Act, said Gary Kibel, a partner at law firm Davis+Gilbert who specializes in retail privacy.

Technology companies counter the pushback by noting that their systems are designed to limit what they collect and anonymize the rest. For instance, Standard AI’s system does not capture faces, so they cannot be analyzed with facial recognition technology.

The growing volume of data on consumer and crowd behavior is having significant implications on real estate design. It is making even physical space more interactive for marketers.

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Can supersonic air travel fly again?

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Can supersonic air travel fly again?

By Roy Furchgott, The New York Times Company

Despite the promise of two-hour flights from New York to Los Angeles, the supersonic airline industry never really got off the ground. That is largely because of physics: specifically, the sonic boom, the thunderclap noise made when an aircraft breaks the sound barrier, which essentially doomed supersonic aviation as a viable business.

In 1960s-era tests, booms reportedly broke windows, cracked plaster and knocked knickknacks from shelves; in 1973, the Federal Aviation Administration forbade civilian supersonic aircraft from flying over land. Planes could go supersonic only over the ocean — most famously, the Concorde, the sleek British-French passenger plane that flew a handful of routes in less than half the average time. But potentially lucrative overland routes were off-limits, restricting supersonic travel’s business prospects.

NASA and aviation entrepreneurs, however, are working to change that, with new aircraft designed to turn the boom into a “sonic thump” that is no louder than a car door being slammed 20 feet away. That may induce the FAA to lift the ban, which could allow for two-hour coast-to-coast supersonic flights.

“The main reason NASA is working on this is to enable regulation for supersonic flight,” said Craig Nickol, NASA’s low-boom flight demonstration project manager. “The main objective is to open up new markets.”

The supersonic age dawned Oct. 14, 1947, when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier while piloting the rocket-powered Bell X-1 over the Mojave Desert. In the following decades, the barrier was also broken by a succession of military jets, once by a passenger airliner (during a test flight of a Douglas DC-8 in 1961) and, ultimately, by regular commercial service from the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 and the Concorde, both long defunct.

The far more successful Concorde mostly traveled trans-Atlantic routes at about $6,000 to $7,000 per ticket for a 3 1/2 hour flight in a cramped, noisy cabin, which was nonetheless considered glamorous. The Champagne-and-caviar flights were discontinued in 2003 after 27 years of intermittent profitability and one crash that killed 113 people. What the Concorde’s chief pilot called “the airliner of the future” was consigned to the past.

But the possibility of a supersonic renaissance was arriving even as the Concorde was on its way out. The slide rules and log tables used to design it had been pushed aside by supercomputers, which enabled engineers to test and tweak virtual aircraft designs comparatively cheaply and quickly.

That is exactly what DARPA, the research and development wing of the U.S. Defense Department, and NASA did in 2003 with the Shaped Sonic Boom Experiment, which confirmed that computer-designed modifications to a Northrop F-5E jet would hush the sonic boom in the way the software forecasted.

“We flew it and measured it, and our model predicted the boom very well,” Nickol said. “It was the first time we could prove that we could shape the sonic boom in a way we could predict.” That demonstration set the course for research to follow.

Taming the boom is complicated. Air has substance, which an aircraft slices through, much as a boat moves through water. A plane pushes air aside as it flies, creating ripples of air pressure. As an aircraft approaches the speed of sound, pressure builds up on surfaces like the nose and tail, creating waves of high pressure in front and low pressure behind. At the speed of sound, waves pile up and combine to reach the ground as an abrupt change in pressure that is heard as that thunderclap sound.

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CDOT’s Safety Patrol works to clear highway crashes as quickly as possible to keep traffic moving

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CDOT’s Safety Patrol works to clear highway crashes as quickly as possible to keep traffic moving

The crash that hit Interstate 225 in Aurora at the height of the evening rush hour was garden-variety: A sedan smashed into the back of a sport-utility vehicle, and nobody was hurt.

But the wreck quickly backed up northbound traffic all the same, with the heavily damaged Toyota Camry stuck, its engine dead, in one of the middle lanes near Colfax Avenue.

John “Boston” Alborghetti knew just what to do. Arriving before police, the CDOT Safety Patrol driver first checked to make sure no one was hurt. Then he used his specially outfitted Ford F-250 pickup to nudge the Camry over to the shoulder, where it joined the Jeep that had been hit.

Traffic was moving in all four lanes within five minutes.

Patrollers in the Colorado Department of Transportation’s roadside assistance program have kept tabs on a growing network of metro Denver and Colorado highways for 29 years, offering free help to stranded motorists while assisting authorities at crash scenes. The Safety Patrol recently added new routes in metro Denver to its network and signed up a new sponsor, the Geico insurance company, which will contribute $550,000 a year toward the program’s $6.5 million budget, CDOT says.

Alborghetti’s response on I-225 on the recent Monday evening prioritized safety and speed, since a quicker clearance of the highway lessens the chances for another crash. He left broken glass and debris on the pavement, but the people involved in the crash were safely on the shoulder.

“If (the stalled car) was in the left lane or right lane — not in the middle — I would have kept the lane shut down with my cones and I would have swept the debris up,” said Alborghetti, 50, a no-nonsense Army Reservist with a Boston accent whose nickname was inspired by his upbringing there.

“But people just want to go — I want to open it up quick and fast, get people going.”

Safety Patrol drivers don’t investigate crashes or issue tickets, but they do help responding state troopers and police officers with traffic control and safety. They also can clear most anything that’s blocking the highway, whether it’s a car, a large appliance that’s fallen off a truck — or even an 18-wheeler, which takes two Safety Patrol drivers working in tandem, Alborghetti said.

For three years, he’s been the operational manager for IncidentClear, CDOT’s Safety Patrol contractor. Its drivers assist more than 40,000 motorists a year, CDOT says, between crash responses and helping drivers who need a flat tire changed, a jump-start, extra fuel or lockout assistance.

When needed, the program’s towing partner provides free tows to safe, well-lit locations off the highway.

Eli Imadali, Special to The Denver Post

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol driver, buckles his seat-belt after helping two drivers involved in a crash on I-70 in Denver during his evening shift driving on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

“We see accidents happen right in front of us”

Alborghetti was joined by a Denver Post reporter and photographer on that Monday in early November as he drove nearly 100 miles of metro Denver highways in three and a half hours.

As Alborghetti drove, he kept an eye out for collisions and for vehicles pulled over on the shoulders.

“So as I’m looking, I’m not only looking at this side (of the highway), I’m looking at that side, too,” he said as he neared the Sixth Avenue exit on Interstate 25 near downtown. “Because an accident may happen before CDOT or everybody else knows about it. We see accidents happen right in front of us.”

The afternoon had started quietly. Alborghetti’s first stop was on Interstate 70 near Sheridan Boulevard, where officers were responding to a car traveling the wrong direction in the eastbound lanes. He stopped in the left lane, his truck’s yellow emergency lights flashing, and placed cones to block it off for extra safety.

The driver turned out to be an older man who entered on the wrong ramp. By then, he’d pulled over on the inside shoulder and was talking with the officers. Alborghetti said they asked family members to come and drive the man home.

A half-hour later, while driving on I-25 near University Boulevard, Alborghetti spotted police and a CDOT incident management crew on the other side of the highway. He exited and turned back. They were managing traffic for a food truck that was stranded and blocking the right lane after its back axel busted, throwing the wheels out of alignment.

But this time, there was nothing for him to do, since the truck was upright and couldn’t move on its tires. If it had overturned and “it’s sitting out there, then boom! We will push it,” he said. Instead, Denver police called in a flatbed truck.

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol ...

Eli Imadali, Special to The Denver Post

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol driver, walks at the scene of a food truck spin-out on I-25 in Denver on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

New patrols added on I-270, I-76

The Safety Patrol has nearly two dozen trucks stocked with equipment, extra gas and cleanup materials. Its drivers patrol interstates 25, 70 and 225 as well as the Sixth Avenue Freeway and C-470 in the Denver area; stretches of I-25 near Colorado Springs and Fort Collins; and I-70 in the mountains between Golden and Vail.

In mid-November, the Safety Patrol added new regular patrols on interstates 76 and 270 in metro Denver.

Most shifts cover the morning and evening rush hours, but some Safety Patrol drivers roam the highways during off-peak hours and on weekends, especially on the I-70 mountain stretch. They operate everywhere except construction zones, which have their own safety crews.

“I really want to tell people,” Alborghetti said, that “if you see one of our trucks … move out of the way — because there is something hindering and stopping you from going home to your family, going to work, going out on a hot date or something,” and the Safety Patrol can get traffic moving again.

The Navy veteran lives in Castle Rock and now is in the Army Reserves. He said his most recent deployment was in the last year at the U.S. military’s detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He worked in security at Lockheed Martin’s Jefferson County campus, he said, before joining IncidentClear and the Safety Patrol.

Five years from retirement, he says he enjoys overseeing the patrol crews, while driving routes himself occasionally.

It’s a job that brings gratitude from the people helped by the patrol drivers. But the job also comes with its share of dangers, despite extensive training aimed at minimizing safety risks while working in traffic. Safety Patrol drivers also might be the first ones to arrive at a fatal crash scene — an incident that’s more likely to shut down a highway while it’s sorted out.

The drivers’ pay starts at $18 an hour and increases by $1 each year, Alborghetti said, with drivers eligible for safety bonuses.

For some, the variety is appealing. Drivers see similar patterns of crashes and roadside breakdowns, but each day brings a reshuffled deck — with winter storms throwing an extra wildcard into the mix.

“What’s today, Monday?” Alborghetti said, noting it had been relatively tame. “It’s a free-for-all on Fridays.”

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol ...

Eli Imadali, Special to The Denver Post

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol driver, fills out a report after responding to a wrong-way driver on I-70 in Arvada on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

Reducing the risk of more crashes

The quiet afternoon would soon give way to a flurry of radio traffic after 5 p.m., as rush-hour traffic grew denser.

But before that happened, Alborghetti talked about how the Safety Patrol responds to crashes. There’s a reason the drivers move quickly, with the program touting an average clearance time of less than 12 minutes.

As traffic backs up and drivers slam on the brakes, each minute brings a greater risk of another crash.

Alborghetti took the ramp from C-470 back onto I-70 as the sun was setting. He passed the stretch in Lakewood where the driver of a runaway semitrailer crashed into stopped traffic in April 2019, setting off a fiery chain-reaction pileup involving 28 vehicles. Four people died, and the driver recently was convicted of vehicular homicide.

The tragedy was a secondary crash, Alborghetti pointed out: That traffic was stopped because of a less-severe crash involving a car, a semitrailer and a school bus that happened five miles up the highway in Wheat Ridge about an hour earlier.

Clearing that one was more complicated than a fender-bender. But he said the time it took prompted hindsight discussions within CDOT and the Safety Patrol that underlined the importance of clearing most crashes quickly, to lessen the traffic backup.

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