Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hurray for ADUs, but some folks would just want less population growth

I like talking to many different kinds of people and I often change my tune, a bit, depending on who I am talking to. A while ago, I mentioned to a friend that Bellingham City Council passed the ordinance allowing auxiliary dwelling units to built in more single family zones. I was happy, but this friend was less enthused. He expressed regret that there was a blanket change to all residential zones. Rather than trying to defend the ADU vote, I changed my tune a bit and said that if population growth were to significantly slow down, there would be less need to build more homes. He agreed with that. He also liked hearing my slightly tongue in cheek comment that if more people were gay, we wouldn't have as much growth.

I'm glad there are more and more single and child free people here in the western world at least. The third world still has more population growth which we get some of via immigration.

Some people think it's selfish to embrace single living, but ironically, the best thing we can do for kids of the future is to leave them a world that isn't overcrowded. We also can do better to accommodate the population, like allowing more auxiliary dwelling units, in my opinion. Also there are lots of new apartment buildings being built in Bellingham's denser zones. Multi family zones. Lots of people keep wanting to move to Bellingham. There are several ways to solve this problem. Less population, yes. More density, yes. Maybe all of the above.

Friday, May 11, 2018

My friend who pirouetted from intel to retirement in Bellingham Washington



Here's a unique video. It depicts my friend Mark Allyn pirouetting from Intel to retirement in Bellingham Washington. Also I've included my own description of this journey based on the stories he tells.

Mark worked for Intel Corporation in the Portland area. His retirement plan was to move to Bellingham.

While his Bellingham plans waited, he continued working not sure exactly when he was going to say goodby. Around the time when he learned that the rent on his Portland apartment was scheduled to go up, he decided to set the date. This, among other reasons was a good time to retire so he gave notice to both his landlord and his employer.

Part of his plan was to ride a bicycle from Portland to Bellingham. He had his processions shipped to his new home ahead of time.

As an avid bicyclist, he had been commuting from his apartment in Portland to work at Intel's Jones Farm campus which is out in the suburban city of Hillboro. The last commute to work was to be the first leg of his bike ride to retirement in Bellingham.

Looking forward to this adventure, he showed up for his last Monday on the job. It was the start of his final week. When he arrived that morning, he noticed a few buses parked in front of the campus. When Mark got inside, he quickly found out that Intel was in the middle of a massive employee layoff. All the conference rooms were booked processing layoffs. The buses were there because they were still hiring a few folks and there was no space for new employee orientation as the conference rooms were being used to process layoffs. On that day, new employee orientation must have been like, "welcome to the company." "Now Get on the bus, don't look." "We'll take you someplace else for the welcoming."

On that last week, Mark could have been the happiest person in the company as he was planning to retire anyway. Thus this video. Dressed in clear plastic he did pirouettes down the corporate hallways. People might have been envious, or maybe they were wondering what kind of fool was this? They may have thought it was something to lighten the somber moment during layoffs.

His last day of work was the first day of his trip to Bellingham. That day started with his normal commute, but he was leaving his apartment for the last time. No need to return to the apartment where rent was scheduled to go up. Ready to leave the job where the layoff was in progress. Looks like the work-a-day world, he was leaving behind, was starting to deteriorate.

After the goodbys, he bicycled toward Bellingham making it as far his first motel stop in Longview, WA. It was a dreary, rainy afternoon as he left Hillboro and headed up Oregon Highway 30 along the Columbia River. He entered Washington State via the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Longview. As he ceremoniously walked across that bridge, clouds parted and the sun came out. A large rainbow appeared. It was truly a "we're not in Kansas anymore" moment.

His ride to Bellingham took several more days which turned out to be beautiful and sunny.

Since then, he's enjoyed doing lots of creative things and volunteering at places like the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Jobs and the economy can expand to accommodate immigration, but is there enough housing?

Trump wants to deport a lot of refugees from Central America and so forth, but this reduces the number of workers and consumers in the economy assuming most of the refugees are worker/consumers. Could make reaching his targets for economic growth more difficult. A larger population adds to the economy. On the other hand, it can also exacerbate the housing shortage. Seems like the economy can grow to accommodate more people as there are more consumers and jobs. It has a harder time providing the housing. Part of that is NIMBY ism. Good planning can address this problem. A larger economy can also add to the carbon footprint. That's where planning for a green economy comes in. Growth of world population is starting to slow down, but growth is still a reality.

Trump's new economic advisor, Larry Kudlow is a pro growth economist who has been a radio talk show host. He's been pretty much pro immigration differing with his new boss on that one issue. New workers and consumers add to the American economy. On his radio shows, he seemed to never discuss the housing shortage. He also never talked about climate change. I would guess he wouldn't be friendly toward ideas such as shorter workweeks or reducing the rat race of life. Personally, I think much of the economy is like spinning wheels on ice. I like to see progress in technology and so forth, but we can have less rat race. Again, the key is good planning.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Nobel Peace Prize often just goes to the famous, like even maybe Donald Trump?

Tidbits from a conversation I had with a friend at the Co-op. He's impressed that the Korean War may be coming to an end. Something disrupted that long gridlocked pattern.

I mentioned that there were people, at a Republican rally, saying that Trump should get the Nobel Peace Prize. My friend hadn't heard that. The thought was kind of horrific, in a way. Who knows what actually lead to the possible end of this standoff between the Korea's My theory is that Trump's somewhat reckless and off the wall comments could have been like the surprise thing that disrupted the gridlock? Who knows. It could have been a very risky move that just happened to turn out right; like tossing a rock, but having it land in the right spot as if not from skill but from chance.

On the other hand, Obama was very cautious, circumspect, not noted to try off the wall or much in the way of risky things.

Then the thought that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, a few years back, came up. I mentioned that I think there's a bias toward celebrities getting the prize so US presidents are likely candidates.

My friend, who's liberal, pointed out some of the darker things that people criticized about Obama. Drone killings and so forth. My friend would be more of a Sanders guy.

I said that possibly no recent US president deserves the prize. How about a good person who's less famous?

I do feel that people who get into power can have good intentions, but get pulled into making unfortunate compromises. Then I mentioned Canada's "darling on the left" Pierre Trudeau who's still backing expansion of Kinder Morgan oil pipeline. His image is becoming tainted on the environmental front. Then I said that the best way to stop pipelines is for consumers to become less dependent of fossil fuels. To become less money minded, maybe less addicted to middle class comfort values?

He said we can still do middle class living if we look to the sun. Solar power, electric cars and so forth. I mentioned my brother who has solar collectors on his roof and powers his car that way. My brother says he gets around half of his energy needs, including his car, from the sun. The friend I was talking to at the Coop has worked in the field of solar energy installation.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Two different connotations of the word "entitlement" confuse the discussion about things like Medicare and Social Security

Seems like there are two connotations for the word entitlement. One definition is something that one is entitled to; like if you deposit money in a bank, you are entitled to your money. The other connotation is the attitude of entitlement. That's more like someone being spoiled having an attitude of entitlement or the stereotype of the ugly American.

The word entitlement is big in today's news. People, on the left, don't like that word being used to describe benefits promised by our government such as Medicare and Social Security. Based on the first definition of entitlement, these things actually are entitlements as they are things people are entitled to. Promises the government has made to its people.

Someone can earn an entitlement by paying into the program, such as Social Security, but also an entitlement can be there based on a promise made by the government, such as for people considered disabled. This can be confusing as well, but they are both promises made by our government. Promises made to maintain civil society; rather than turning our backs on folks unable, for various reasons, to work enough to pay for the benefit. It's like insurance.

I think interest on the national debt can be called an entitlement as well. When people loan money to the government, they are entitled to the principal and interest that was agreed upon.

Due to economic circumstances, tax cuts and the large deficit, it may be hard for the government to meet all the entitlements it has promised. Scary.

The other part of the budget that isn't entitlements is called discretionary spending. The military is the biggest item in discretionary spending. It keeps expanding also. Other things the government decides to do like road improvements, new parks, science, or whatever, are also part of discretionary spending. Many of these things are vital, as well, to keep the country going and improving.

On the military side, I think veterans benefits are more "entitlement" than "discretionary" spending because they are a promise that has been made to people.

The attitude of entitlement (second connotation) complicates this issue as people on both the left and the right get these ideas confused. It's easy to have an emotional battle over this as the so called "spoiled" attitude of entitlement is very different from the idea that someone is truly entitled to something.

Since it is hard to keep all these promises, people may end up loosing things that they are truly entitled to. This becomes fertile ground for conflict and misunderstanding as the second connotation of entitlement; meaning spoiled, haunts the discussion.

Spoiled or not, we may not get everything we've bargained for. Hopefully we can still survive and even thrive with a quality of life. Let's hope society remains intact.

Our attitudes will have a lot to do with this. Less of the second connotation of entitlement meaning "ugly American."

I'm not saying that people should lay down and take being robbed, so to speak. Voting against ill conceived tax cuts and bad economic policy will help.

Still, in spite of our intentions, we may not get all that we bargained for. The numbers look ominous. I hear 10,000 Americans are becoming eligible for Social Security each day. Yikes. The Baby Boom generation, which I admit I am part of. It's a scary big number, but this is also a big country.

It's just money folks. Maybe we shouldn't take money too seriously. Live more for intangible qualities of life. New generations may be better at figuring this out. They can rise to the occasion.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

I consider myself a liberal who often doesn't use standard liberal talking points

This concept works as a sound byte so no more writing needed in the body of this message, I guess.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lust for wealth may have to wait until greener technology can be widespread

I think if people want to stop things like Kinder Morgan pipeline, we should become less concerned about material wealth. Less yuppie, I guess. This would take pressure off the social system; at least until green technology can do more to take the place of fossil fuels. Trying to stop the pipeline, while the economy is still dependent on the money it would bring, is more divisive.

Most of this pipeline is in Canada, but a branch comes into Whatcom County to our local refineries; a source of "family wage" jobs.

There's a plan to expand pipeline capacity from Alberta to a port near Vancouver. Major controversy and some even say that it's becoming a "national unity crisis" for Canada.

Expanding this pipeline would bring lots of foreign revenue to Canada and help fund the government, which Prime Minister Trudeau says can be used to fund the transition to green technology. Trudeau has been a darling to the liberal side of politics, tho this stance has soiled his image among environmentalists.

I thought of a cartoon with Trudeau dancing in the gay rights parade tarnished with an oil stain.

This issue is also creating a rift between two provincial premiers who are both members of the liberal NDP Party in Canada. The Premier of Alberta wants it built while the premier of British Columbia opposes it.

Seems like the battle is over the road to take for weening ourselves off of fossil fuels.

Trudeau and the Alberta government say that the road needs to be financed, to some extent, with revenue from the fossil fuel economy including the new pipeline. A transition strategy.

Others oppose the pipeline.

Seems like the need for revenue is a big problem. Maybe we should learn to live more simply if we don't want the pipeline, at least until other alternatives can get going on a bigger scale.

I think of issues, like the oil pipeline, as being symptoms of a bigger picture. Each symptom isn't as important as the big picture. The big picture is our dependency on fossil fuels.

I don't see Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as a monster for supporting the pipeline as he is walking a tightrope compromise. It's based on what he thinks is necessary to keep the economy going while also getting a carbon tax passed in Alberta and pushing Canada toward a longer term goal of green energy. Here in USA, we have Donald Trump who's rallying cry is to not care about climate change and basically only care about wealth.

We also have our tightrope walking politicians, here in the US, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Rather than being snagged by the divisive details, like a pipeline here or a compromise there, I tend to look at the evolutionary changes that society needs to make. The bigger picture.

Biggest danger, tho, of leaders like Obama or Trudeau is that of average people being lulled into complacency. A liberal who is still basically compromising to powerful business interests can lull average liberal minded people into thinking things are okay while the people loose track of news, go shopping and even forget to vote.

More important than nice furniture and clothing is still the future of our civilization and planet. The long term evolution of our civilization to a more sustainable economy.

Some people may think my lack of total alarm over one pipeline is throwing the indigenous people's, who are dead set against the pipeline, under the bus. There are actually quite a few of the indigenous people's who are for that pipeline, or even another pipeline, I have read about, called Eagle Spirit Pipeline.

Powerful corporations, such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline outfit, from Texas, have a way of manipulating the situation of divisiveness to their advantage. Human tenancies toward divisiveness and greed create fertile ground for certain corporate interests to manipulate the game, keep the people arguing and then giving up to go shopping while the long term issue gets forgotten.

The best vehicle for change is the consumer demand and voting power of the masses. Also the advent of post fossil fuel technology.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Facebook luxury liner continues to voyage through rough seas. I plan to remain onboard.

The Facebook luxury liner continues to voyage through rough seas. I plan to remain onboard, tho I know there are other smaller lifeboats; such as Google Plus. Google Plus is actually a very good social networking system, but it doesn't have the big number of friends. What I call inertia. There's another term for that which I've heard IT people use in radio interviews; "the network effect." Facebook's biggest draw is that it's where one finds everyone else.

I got the screen today about apps that might be using my information. It was interesting to take the time and learn a bit more.

Only a few apps showed as I don't do things like games. Just about all my apps seem to be behaving except for one which I did decide to remove. Something called Angry Birds. I wasn't even sure what that was and I usually avoid "angry."

Doing a search I found it and realized that it was the thing that put some cookie on my computer which causes my firewall to block it's access. A screen pops up every once in a while saying something was blocked.

That app is now gone from my list and eventually I'll figure out how to remove that cookie, or whatever, from my PC. It isn't that serious a problem. What they call a "first world problem."

Facebook privacy isn't a big worry of mine as I use that vehicle to literally "broadcast" my writing and photography. Things that seem to play well on the interactive environment of Facebook then go to this blog which also appears on Google Plus. Facebook is where my trial balloons go and then a few things get archived here or in my Flickr albums.

Google Plus does have a less commercially cluttered wall, but far less interaction, in my case. It can be a lonely world out there. Then there's also Ello which I signed up to a few years back to try it out. For some reason I haven't taken the time to go back. Eventually I may. Warning: it keeps sending me promo emails.

I am glad that Congressman Paul Ryan plans to not run again

I'm glad to see Paul Ryan go. He isn't running again, so he says. I guess it's easier to cut taxes than it is to cut the spending that he tried to cut. Of course cutting the spending means cutting things that voters need like Medicare and Medicaid. Those are lifelines for a lot of people. I think Medicare is the biggest slice of the Federal spending pie. I'm glad that lifeline remains intact. The second biggest slice is the military which is also a big piece. Republicans vote to increase that. Yes, we could probably figure out a way to spend less on medicine, but not the way the Republicans are trying it. This may sound simplistic, but I never heard Republicans say, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." That's a sound byte I heard in grade school.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bellingham City Council considers allowing auxiliary dwelling units in more of its residential zones


Entrance to city hall.

I am in favor of the idea to allow more neighborhoods to have legal Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs). This issue applies to many cities; especially growing cities. After a public hearing at City Council, I wrote some of my thoughts. It was a hearing I had to leave early from due to my work schedule so rather than speaking at the mic with a long waiting list, I write. Photos and writing on Flickr.

My impressions after the public comment period.

My own letter to the council.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Property taxes go up to help pay for McCleary court decision on school funding

At various social gatherings, people are commenting that their property taxes are going up. It's a consequence of the McCleary court decision. It's the Washington State Supreme Court ruling that our state wasn't funding K-12 education adequately. This year, they finally kind of fixed that, I guess, by raising property taxes for the most part.

Washington has no income tax, so it relies on things like sales and property taxes. The money has got to come from someplace.

Property values keep soaring so there's more and more money there, but property owners don't necessarily have the money to spend. It's all tied up in the property.

As property values soar, the cost of living soars so teachers, especially first time home buyers and renters, need more money to be able to afford to live in the communities where they work.

Prosperity has it's downside. The spiral of keeping up.

Some people question how much is spent on schools now. They often say that there are too many high paid administrators. Seems like that's a problem in just about every organization. I notice whenever they raise salaries for top employees, they always say that they have to keep up with pay scales in other areas; like California. They also say that the private sector pays more for similar jobs so if they don't pay these salaries, their top staff will leave.

It's the brain drain problem. The spiral of keeping up. It's like the NFL draft. A bidding war between institutions and corporations. A graduated income tax could help to cool off that vicious spiral.

Our governor, Jay Inslee, wanted to have a carbon tax to help pay for McCleary and reduce carbon emissions, but that didn't get far in the legislature. We do need carbon taxes, but like just about any tax, it's politically difficult.

The news can be a bit confusing, as usual. I do a Google search and find headlines like this. Governor Inslee signs 391 million statewide property tax cut. I guess the taxes went up this year to "fix" McCleary, but they expect the booming economy to generate more taxes next year so they can fix McCleary and also cut some of the tax hike; like walking and chewing gum at the same time (famous quote about former President Gerald Ford).

These same type of issues play out all across the country and to some extent around the world. A bit differently in each region. Washington State isn't just local. Each state is a microcosm of the big picture. Keeping up with the Jones's.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Face to face communication benefits from something I call the captive audience effect

What does face to face interaction have over online conversation?

Non verbal communication may be overrated, but here is something favoring face to face interaction that most people wouldn't think about. Something I would call the "captive audience effect." When folks meet in person, there are usually not that many people in the situation. A room full of people is pretty limited. Folks in a small group setting are usually forced to hear each other out versus scrolling on. Maybe "forced" is too strong a term.

On the internet, there's a lot more choices. There's information overload so people can just swipe to the next and to the next down the line. In a smaller setting, interactions are often a bit more focused and in depth. There isn't as much information bombarding the situation.

When you meet someone in person, you are sometimes surprised to find the person more interesting than your first impression. Online, your natural filtering works differently. For instance on dating sites, people often filter via numbers such as age, weight and so forth. In person, the stats seem to be less absolute.

I'm sure there are some cases where online interaction can be more in depth than in person. One problem that both online and face to face interaction have is distraction. Conversation and focus is often interrupted with distraction, in both cases.

In the big and fluid world of online, only a few household names rise to the top; like there's only one Facebook, one Google, one Amazon and so forth. In the brick and mortar world, lots of little outfits can survive as they serve their more limited geographic areas. The captive audience effect. With the whole world at one's fingertips, only a few household names, like Amazon, can rise above the fray of voices from millions all over the world. In the brick and mortar world, that fray is more limited. In the quieter fray that just comes from a limited neighborhood, more names can rise to the level of being noticed. More can be noticed even if they aren't "top in the world" as they aren't competing against the whole world.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Slowing down. A way to immunize one's self against fake news.

Slowing down is beneficial in many realms. Not only in physical space, but also mentally. Given the recent hubbub about manipulated news on Facebook and other places, the slow lane approach can be very useful. When one sees something shocking or preposterous in the news, be it a political scandal or whatever, it's good not to react too quickly. Give the news time to let the fact checkers work. Give it time to let the dust settle, so to speak. On my Facebook wall, I tend to not think of it as a breaking news service. I'm less interested in getting the scoop. I write more about long term issues. Taking a slower approach can be useful.

In many cases, if it can fit on a bumper sticker then it doesn't tell the whole story.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

How my original career plans got changed and I ended up in Bellingham

Planning for a career in radio, I wrote to some broadcasting schools during my junior year in high school. A fast lane into the field versus the more "scenic" route through college. As brochures arrived, my sister, Lillian looked over the stack and noticed that several of those private schools boasted of faculty trained at Washington State University's school of communications. Her comment was, "why bother with these schools?" "Go to the source;" meaning WSU in Pullman. Communications at WSU has a very high reputation across the country. Home of KWSU Radio and TV where my sister went to school toward the end of her college days. The WSU campus was next door to our childhood neighborhood.


Part of Edward R. Murrow College of Communications.

Interest in the fast lane of vocational training quickly dissolved to where I was making plans for WSU. Who could beat the Murrow program?

My mom still suggested living in the dorms, rather than at home, however. She valued that "going away for college" experience even if it could end up being dorms over looking our front yard. More likely she would have recommended dorms on the other side of campus tho.


Image my brother Bill took from the dorm over looking our house in the mid 1960s when he worked on campus.

Spring break of my junior year, the family took a trip to Walla Walla where my other brother Jack was attending Whitman College. That summer, he was living in a tree house; so to speak. Jack was the caretaker of an estate for a woman named Mrs. Studebaker. Her family owned of some local radio stations. If I remember correctly, the stations were KUJ in Walla Walla and KRLC in Lewiston, Idaho.


Bandstand in Pioneer Park, Walla Walla. Looks kind of like the Studebaker Estate.

We got invited into the "big house" for a cup of tea. Not the Walla Walla Penitentiary, but Mrs. Studebaker's main residence. Learning of my radio interest, she suggested I go to the heart of the matter. Follow the money. Get a start in advertising.

Following her inspiration, I signed up to be on next year's sales staff of Pullman High School's newspaper. It would be my senior year, but after that summer, I decided I was too shy and would not be very good at selling. I backed out of sales first thing my senior year when I signed up for newspaper staff. Had a very good senior year, tho, in the new Pullman High School building. I wrote a few articles for the newspaper.

Planning on college at WSU, I also applied to what is now called Western Washington University in Bellingham. It was a backup strategy just in case WSU didn't accept my application. Western was my "plan B." It responded right away accepting my application. WSU remained silent.

My senior year, I also thought about doing an internship at WSU Communications. It would be for the second semester, but jumping in that quickly was kind of a scary prospect. I backed out of that plan for several reasons including wanting to stay at the high school for my entire senior year. It was a very special year in Pullman High School's new building. I didn't want to miss out.


Pullman High School's very creative art teacher sitting on a student built throne in spring of 1973.

Back in those days, the concept of being gay was pretty much under the radar but I had an erotic fascination with slim men who had long hair. The anti war, hippie scene was intriguing. When I did come out, so to speak, my family and church were supportive being from a liberal college environment.

My sister Judith was a student at Fairhaven College; a division of Western in Bellingham. Ground zero for hippie culture. The thought of being among all those hippies; swimming in the campus pool and showering in the locker room was alluring. Pullman had its hippies as well, but not to the extent of Bellingham. Also the thought of going to WSU, was becoming more intimidating. It's a big school with a fairly rigorous reputation. Maybe I could start at Western, be among lots of sexy looking people, get my feet under me and then go back to WSU. Western was smaller and was starting to look more inviting. That thought started haunting me more and more. Meanwhile, the letter of acceptance from WSU had not arrived yet. Maybe I'd have to go to Western anyway.


Group pose for early World Naked Bike Ride in Bellingham. 2009 before the city agreed to allow more nudity.

Still thinking about WSU, I joked with my mom that I might get to know the organist at our church, First Congregational in Pullman. Besides playing the organ, his main job was head of the WSU office for academic probation. Probation is what they put students on when their grades are too low. Confidence was never my greatest talent.

Pretty soon that letter arrived from WSU. Accepted, but by then the scale of my preferences was starting to tip real strongly toward Western and Bellingham. A few weeks later, I made the decision and enrolled at Western. Figured it would be a good start for my Freshman year and then I could come back to Pullman and tackle Communications at WSU.

My thinking had evolved quite a bit. Having nervous problems through childhood, I first thought that staying in Pullman would be easier than going away for college. I even mentioned that on my application to WSU. Later on, my thinking evolved to the idea that it might be easier to go away for college, rather than staying in Pullman haunted by childhood memories. My childhood was pretty good, but I have suffered from an anxiety condition all my life. I was beginning to think that a move to Bellingham could be a new beginning.

After the summer of 1973, My parents brought me across the state to start fall quarter of my freshman year. Checked into the dorm. Being from a college oriented family, I had a fairly good understanding of campus life.

I changed my name upon coming to Bellingham. Not officially, tho. My official name has always been Robert, but in Pullman, people called me Bobby. I also went by Bob. Being a late bloomer, the Bobby name stuck among classmates clear through high school. In Bellingham, I'd start using the name Robert. It was getting to where I didn't like the name Bobby.


Name tag from a reunion with senior picture from the Annual.

More recently, I enjoy hearing people call me Bobby at High School reunions. It's fun to come back to the reunions after, say 40 years. I've come back by bicycle.


After bicycling to Pullman from Bellingham for my my 40th high school reunion, I was a guest on the radio in Bellingham. I was on a show called "The Joe Show" that used to be aired on KBAI, 930 on the AM dial. Progressive Talk. More recently that station has converted to a music format.

When it came time to register for my first freshman year classes, there was a glitch. Administration placed me in a program called Vicoed since I had shown interest in communications. This happened even though I had written on the form "communications, but not Vicoed." Vicoed dealt more with classroom media, film projectors and so forth for Ed majors. Rather than being able to choose classes, Vicoed students had a prescribed program.

My assigned advisor was a somewhat tired looking man named Dr. Shwam; chairman of the Vicoed program. His first comments were, "if you want to do communications at WSU, you should go there." "Western would just be a waste of time." "You should go back to Pullman so you can get in on the ground floor."

Well, I was at Western. It was a bit late to heed that advise.

I went to the class registration center and told the entry clerk that they had put me in the wrong cue. She said, "you can go on in and register for your classes now." "You don't have to wait to go in with the Vicoed students."

Back then, registration was done with stacks of cards. Computers were employed, but the card stacks were submitted to administration for computer processing. You'd get your class schedule in a day or two. Registration was a big scramble on the basketball floor of Carver Gym.


Part of Carver Gym during a recent remodel. Image taken 2017.

The schedule turned out okay. My sister Lillian commented that I'd learned the ropes pretty fast figuring out how to get out of Vicoed.

A few days after class started, a dorm mate ask me, "when does college start?" I said, "have you registered for classes yet?" He said, "Register?" I suggested he go to the administration and explain his situation.

I wouldn't be surprised if he did okay after that.

I tried to be easy on myself taking mostly electives my first quarter. One of the first classes I picked was introduction astronomy. Turns out I got onto something called the "College President's List" my first quarter due to high grades. College started with a bang, but my grades degraded, so to speak, after that.

December of 1973 brought the end of fall quarter and my 19th birthday. Lillian, arranged a great birthday gift. A personal tour of KOMO Broadcasting; home of KOMO TV and Radio. Tour was led by my sister's friend and well known newscaster Bill Brubaker. It was very interesting, but afterwards I had a strange feeling. Did I really want to work in a place like that? KOMO seemed a bit like an ant hill to me. Start at the bottom, not much room for creativity until one rises pretty high in the ranks. Lots of stress and deadlines.

As I walked back to meetup with Lillian again, I thought that maybe broadcasting wasn't right for me. What should I do? City planning came to mind as well as other creative endeavors. A lot of broadcasting does come off the national networks so opportunities for creative work are limited at the local level.


Back then, KOMO was in a fairly bland looking building. More recently the studios moved to Fisher Plaza pictured in this 2005 image.

Memories of an earlier tour of Spokane's KHQ comes to mind. Coming home from Spokane, one summer during high school, I was with my dad. We stopped by the old KHQ Radio TV building on Regal Street. One of the station's administrative staff greeted us at the door and ask what specialty I was planning to go into. News, advertising, engineering?


KHQ brochure from around 1972.

I hesitated as I wasn't sure. Basically I just wanted a general overview, but didn't think to say that in time. My dad beat me to the answer and said, "he wants to be the company president." The person leading the tour was a bit taken aback, but the tour was interesting anyway.

Eventually, geography became my major as it was the subject of most of my elective classes. I took a scenic route through college and graduated from Western in spring of 1978.

Since then, my life has had a low footprint for the most part. Being afraid to drive, my travels have been mostly by bicycle. I've bicycled across the America. As for a career of self expression in the media, I'm fairly prolific on the web and Facebook. I'm at www.theslowlane.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Facebook is a public forum for me. Privacy is less important in a public forum.

I tend to not worry about privacy on Facebook since I use it as if it's a publishing outlet. Basically everything I put on Facebook is stuff I would broadcast in the newspaper, so to speak, if the newspaper were willing to publish it.

Political manipulation is a big problem, but I think we can immunize ourselves from it. The responsibility lies on us as readers to be careful what we react to. As readers of any media, we should try to not fall for emotional and divisive things. We should give our reactions time to due fact checking and so forth. As the old saying goes, don't believe everything you read on the internet, or for that matter, the mainstream media as well.

Little folks, like me, don't have columns in newspapers, TV shows, or Twitter accounts that start national conversations every time they utter something; like in the case of Donald Trump. Facebook has become a public forum for me and it has the inertia of friends which provide feedback to my writing that is not available other places. I use it as a publishing outlet so I'm basically not looking to it for privacy.

I often float ideas on my Facebook wall and then put some of the things on this blog. The things that seem to play well there given feedback and so forth.

As for other social networking sites, I use Google Plus, but practically never hear from anyone on it. It can be a lonely world out there. I use Google Plus because my blog has a tab that allows me to share posts there. A few friends are signed into my Google Plus account that I seldom hear from. Also it does have one feature that I don't think Facebook has. It allows one to set the privacy all the way open to the entire web. One does not even need to be a Google Plus user to see the posts (if one uses that setting) so I guess they can even be cataloged in Google. I think, with Facebook, the wall can't be visible unless readers are logged into Facebook; except for fan pages.

There's also a service called Ello. Several years ago, I signed up for it, but haven't been motivated to look at it ever since. I'll admit I am part of the inertia issue that keeps Facebook on top. Only so many hours in the day. Ello keeps sending promo mail to my email address, but I get so much promotional and impersonal email that I don't open most of my email unless I think it's from a real person. Maybe I should give Ello more of a try. At least to try and turn off their frequent promo mailings if nothing else. Facebook is kind of the go to for real people. Inertia at work.

Friday, March 16, 2018

My thoughts after listening to interesting interview with Robert Reich on KQED Forum

Interesting interview on KQED Forum with a former U.S. secretary of labor under the Obama Administration. He talks about the decline in the feeling of common good. Rise in cynicism I guess. He basically blames greed, corporations and mostly right wing politics, but while I was listening, I thought about some problems on the left as well.

Here's the blurb from KQED web site.

As economic inequality has surged over the past half century, trust in government, corporations and democracy in general has dwindled among Americans. In "The Common Good" Robert Reich argues that to save democratic institutions, America must restore its morality and rise above spreading individualism. He joins us to discuss how this transformation can happen amid such political divisiveness.

Some of my thoughts about labor unions and so forth below.

Rising cynicism from things that are often thought of as from the left as well. Maybe the right is worse, in my opinion, but the left has its share also.

Here's an example. Idealism of the Great Society led to construction of large housing projects for low income people. Urban renewal. Much of this became crime infested places that, in some cases, had to be torn down. Today's planners realize that those big housing projects, which concentrated lots of poor people into big buildings in one part of town, were a bad idea. It's better to mix variety of income levels into smaller, more human scale structures.

Reigh talked about the value of unions. They have their good points, but problems as well. Seems like back in the 1970s some union workers made very good salaries but the unions didn't care that much about the people who were outside their union. It was hard to get into those good paying jobs. Apprenticeships were hard to get and so forth. The unions shot themselves in the foot politically as outsiders outnumbered union members. Now practically no one is in a union, but the few who are left do seem to care more about the general welfare of workers. Modern unions do care about minimum wage, universal healthcare and so forth beyond just looking out for their own members.

Another problem with unions was the rigid contracts and work schedules. Today's workers and economics call for more flexibility of work hours.

Gentrification is pretty rampant in left leaning cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and even Bellingham where the rising cost of housing is a problem. Also there's the problem of nimby-ism as well as the issue of hippies turned to yuppies.

I can go on, but those are just some thoughts that entered my mind listening to the podcast during my custodial shift.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

My take on the gold standard, debt jubilee and so forth

For discussion, a friend of mine posted a link on my Facebook wall wondering what my take would be on these topics. His comment and then my response below.

Robert, I'd be curious to know what you'd say about this. I think it is quite a lucid piece. It's interesting to see a right wing critique of wealth inequality. There are two things I wonder about: would staying on the gold standard really have helped ordinary people enjoy the fruits of their productivity? And is there a way we could do a jubilee that wouldn't wipe out the savings of people who really need them?

It strikes me that maybe he's creating a myth of a perfect America under the gold standard. But maybe the gold standard could have helped ordinary people enjoy the fruits of their labor. Can you see any way it would?


Here's my response.

Pretty interesting, but I think he is exaggerating the negative. It sells his book. I read most of the article (till into the book sales pitch) on my sleek tablet computer using WIFI at a laundromat. He was talking about how American workers have not benefited from America's wealth. I don't buy that idea in total as we are benefiting from so much new technology. The products we use today, such as tablet computers is one example. The internet brings great wealth. Even our public spaces, the parks, bike paths, schools, museums, public broadcasting is rich, in a way, than my childhood. I hear the average supermarket had around 4,000 items during my childhood. Now it's around 40,000 items (specific numbers may not be exact, but the idea holds). In many ways the world today, here in USA, is abundant and makes the world of my childhood look spartan.

The problem is that it seems like most of this wealth is not really accounted for very well. Much of the wealth we get from the internet is free. It's a benefit to the consumer, but how does one pay the worker when the product is free or at very low cost? More mundane things that have been thought of as necessities for years have gotten much more expensive. Important things like housing, healthcare and a college education. Part of that problem does relate to the practice of printing money. As the author of this article does point out the sloshing around of new money inflates the price of assets and hasn't done as much for wages.

Printed money is part of the reason why houses that went for $25,000 during my childhood now go for over 1 million dollars in Seattle at least. While assets like houses have inflated like crazy, the cost of a Xerox copy remains around the same as it was during my college years. This makes it hard to keep up with asset costs if one is working making things like Xerox copies or other products and services.

I'll have to admit I am not an economics expert, or like a friend of mine has says about himself, "I know enough about economics to make me dangerous." That being said, I think remaining on the gold standard would prevent the printing of money, but it would cause many other problems. It's kind of a pick your poison trade off. I think the gold standard is too confining for a growing economy and what we have now allows for more flexibility.

I may be suffering from biases created by NPR Radio. There is a lot of educational talk about the gold standard in the show called Planet Money. I heard one of the shows with my radio while biking around Lake Samish a few months back. Doing a Google search, I found several of those podcasts. Planet Money has done a whole series on the virtues (maybe) and drawback of the gold standard.

Going back to the gold standard would probably create as many problems as it solves, or maybe even more problems, I would guess. Instead, I think we just need to manage things better. Figure out how to better channel money to workers and less to assets. Taxes on the wealthy and more generous domestic spending can help; in the opinion of us liberals at least.

Part of the problem is when the Federal Reserve prints money, they try to aim at a balance of stimulating the economy without causing run away inflation. Problem is that they are looking at inflation across the whole economy and don't seem to be seeing that there are pockets of high inflation; like house values in many cities, while overall inflation remains low. People are hurting because certain things, like house values, go up while wages stagnate. When the things that are inflationary are necessities, it's a problem.

Better safety nets would help, but also the Fed may be pushing the gas peddle of creating money too much because they aren't looking at the things that are inflating. Maybe they should back off the accelerator to try and tame house value and other asset bubbles. The problem is that backing off the accelerator means lower economic activity and lower employment. That is why unfair distribution of wealth is a big part of the problem. We should have a better way to survive a slow economy. Better than tossing people out into the street.

In an ideal world, maybe they would back off the accelerator and let economy slow down. I am a fan of lower workweeks and striving for quality of life; rather than just material wealth. This could also help the environment. We, as a society, need to learn how to thrive with less consumption. Still have improving quality of life, however. It's how we organize society, wealth distribution and so forth that matters the most.

Today we have many things, like tablet computers, which have vastly improved quality of life, but they are not counted as wealth in the same way that a place to live is. Lots of quality of life things aren't even counted at all by economists. The time parents spend with kids, for instance. Too much of society takes money too seriously.

Debt Jubilee.

Speaking of taking money seriously, the concept of a debt jubilee is interesting. Things like this may have to happen and it would be hard to have a large jubilee without ruining people's savings on the other side of the equation.

In a way, there are small jubilees happening whenever there is a bankruptcy. By coincidence, last night during my custodial shift, I listened to a podcast about the post bankruptcy era for the city of Vallejo, California. 10 years ago, that city government declared bankruptcy which is kind of like pushing the reset button. It may have to happen in a lot of cases. Now Vallejo is getting back on its feet and thriving in many ways. Little bankruptcies can be absorbed in the financial system without too much disruption for most people's savings, but something big, like the US government going bankrupt, would cause the loss of a lot of savings. It can happen, I would guess.

I have some retirement savings in the YMCA plan. It would be sad to loose lots of that, but if everyone else was also loosing, we would all be in the same boat. Could mean cost of living drops also.

I don't know what the author recommends as I haven't bought the book, but my own idea is to cherish the life I live now and the life I have lived in the past. My bike trips across USA, for instance. I'm banking some on the future, but realize that the future is unpredictable. I've had a pretty good life anyway. I hope I have a good retirement, but part of my strategy is to enjoy the life I have today. Much of my good life has already been lived. Already in the bank of life experience, so to speak.

My friend comments again.

Thanks, Robert. Good reflections!

That helps me to understand how monetary policy can distort the economy in some ways.

I read an economist some years ago who said we should discourage home ownership. He said speculation in real estate is always behind all economic crashes, in some way at least. Real estate should be highly taxed.

But when I mentioned his theory to a lady at church, she said "somebody has to own the houses." Why not ordinary people?


My response.

I hear that in Germany there is much tighter controls on windfall profits from selling real estate at least. More controls if real estate has inflated significantly. Condominiums near central Berlin are a lot more affordable than in London, UK where those controls are not in effect.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Can life in British Columbia still thrive if Alberta cuts back on the oil tap?

Under the radar, here in USA, but I often listen to Canadian radio. This is big north of the border. Will oil rich Alberta turn off the supply to consumers in British Columbia? The threat is pushing up gas prices around Vancouver. It's about the expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline brings oil from Alberta to Vancouver area. There are plans to expand it, but those plans have run into fierce opposition in BC. Alberta's Lieutenant Governor is miffed. There's talk of cutting back the existing flow of oil if expansion is not allowed. This brings up my basic philosophy about dealing with oil consumption as a consumer. It's one thing to try and stop a pipeline, but if the threat of cutting back on oil supply causes one to quake in their boots, it's time to think about the role the consumer plays in this whole question.

I know, it's kind of easy for me to talk cause I ride a bicycle. Yes, I consume products from oil as well. Still, I think we need to figure out how to make society less oil dependent. Stopping a new pipeline may have consequences to the way our current economy is structured, on both sides of the border. It's up to consumers and voters to really make the changes we need in society.

Speaking of both sides of the border, there is a branch of Trans Mountain that comes to Whatcom County. It's part of the supply chain for some of our largest local employers; the two oil refineries just north of Bellingham.

Good discussion on my Facebook wall after this post.

John: All this macho posturing in support of massive corporate profits. Never mind that the oil sands are creating a landscape that may never recover, that thousands of folks are poisoned by the runoff from those open sores on the land, or that this is the dirtiest oil on the planet. We see clearly the power of corporations to manipulate governments to do their bidding, and the people be damned.

Nathan: It's a bit worse than that. A lot of the oil the new pipeline would move is already being moved by train. As scary as pipelines can be, oil by train is terrifying. No municipality in North America has a plan in place for dealing with an oil train getting wrecked beyond "run like hell and let it finish burning." Canada already had an entire small town obliterated by one wrecking. So as long as consumers demand the product, it will keep being moved, just in a far more dangerous manner. Stopping the pipeline is not stopping the oil, it's stopping a major safety upgrade. Consumption needs to be targeted, not pipelines.

John: True, but there is the transgression of First Nations lands...and that needs to stop.

Nathan: I agree we need to treat them, their heritage, and their lands better. But that oil is already going through or near their land. Shutting down the pipelines is increasing the danger to their lands unless consumption is reduced to stop the need for oil trains. Robert riding his bike does far more to protect native lands than all the protestors burning oil to drive out and protest what are essentially safety upgrades.

John: While I might agree, it doesn't change the fact that those oil sands should never have been exploited for environmental reasons and anything that can possibly reduce their acceptability may not be a wasted effort. Reducing consumption is definitely a possibility, but not until alternative energy sources are found. Not everyone can ride a bike everywhere and while Robert is truly an admirable individual with a gentle wisdom about him, his solution is unique to him and cannot be pushed as a universal one. The war against environmental destruction must proceed on many levels.

Nathan: Then there needs to be efforts to stop what allows those tar sands to be developed, and the pipeline is not one of them. The trains, or the oil fields themselves need to be targeted. Shut down the pipeline and you still have made no impact to production, and the only impact you have made to distribution is to force a far more dangerous method of transport. The current tactic is like protesting car culture by trying to ban seatbelts.

Below, my response to the thread.

Robert: With oil trains and trucks rumbling through native lands in many cases and the exploitation of tar sands, it is important to reduce oil consumption. Approach this from many angles such as voting in favor of things like carbon taxes. City planning plays a big role as we should strive to reduce the commute time to work and errands. Making density more affordable is a key as, these days, I think there are a lot of people who would love to benefit from urban living in neighborhoods like Vancouver's West End, but can't afford it. If places farther out could be built like the inner city; transit, walking and biking would be more viable. Short of drastic changes in our culture, the biggest driver of change may have to be technology. Something like solar power creating hydrogen fuel.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Hardened schools like missile silos or prisons. A bad idea for education.

Someone at NRA says schools should become the most hardened target in America to prevent school shootings. There are a lot of real hard targets in USA; like nuclear missile silos and prisons. Do we really want our schools to be that? On the other hand, vocational counselors often call for our schools and universities to be more open to people and input from various fields of work. Schools should become less like ivory towers so they can be permeated by the expertise from the larger community. Bring in experts from industry and other walks of life to help build that bridge to the world beyond school. That's not being hardened. We need to find better roads to school safety. Less compartmental thinking.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Why it's hard to cut federal spending. It's the lifeline for a lot of people.

Congressman Paul Ryan being grilled by a Fox News commentator about the huge deficit. Spending is still high. Of course the military got a big increase. He considers the recent disaster relief bill to be "temporary spending." I would say there's always disasters every year, however. He would like to reduce spending by cutting things like Medicaid. I would say that people are dependent on those things, like the 49% of pregnancies that are on Medicaid, so I read. Maybe they should just distribute the morning after pill since it's cheaper than bringing a child into this world.

I don't think they can cut the spending. Things like Medicaid and Medicare are the life blood to a lot of people. Life blood to a lot of constituents. There's always some disaster that they can't just turn their backs on; possibly more disasters, going forward, due to climate change.

Domestic spending is the price we pay for public safety and a civil society. They will need to stop kidding themselves and plan for it. Less tax cuts for the rich.

Maybe society can live cheaper, but Republicans don't talk about what really needs to be discussed, like the morning after pill. If medicine is too expensive, get more people to ride bicycles and eat better diets. Go to the doctor less. The private sector doesn't provide health insurance for a large percentage of our population which means its up to the government to provide for the needs of a lot of people.

Tax cuts for the rich? For the most part I would guess that is not helping the economy. It mostly goes to the idle rich. A few entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk, do invest in things that can help; like Elon's idea to help Puerto Rico turn the lights back on after the disaster by going around traditional power distribution and using more decentralized solar power. Hey, Republicans, I guess we have to do things differently. The old American way of doing business is at a dead end.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Even arming just some of the teachers is a costly solution

A discussion between our Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and President Trump is making news. I would guess that some conservatives are turned off by Inslee's seemingly preachy comment at the end where he tells Trump to spend less time tweeting and more time listening. That sound byte hits the headlines coast to coast.

Deeper down, Inslee made some important points about problems with the strategy of arming teachers. Cost is a big factor. Who's going to pay for the training? Inslee said, "I have listened to law enforcement who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law-enforcement agencies, which takes about six months.”

Yes, the cost of security, military and prison services tend to be among the most expensive functions of government.

I agree with Inslee. I think other strategies for curbing gun violence, in society, are better.

I'm kind of a news junkie so I hear lots of obscure things in the news and then add them to the discussion. Speaking the cost of armed personnel, it looks like the town of Colfax, here in Washington State, is having trouble affording it's police department. If municipalities are facing this problem for their regular police, imagine this extra burden on the budget of school districts.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

There should be a moderate alternative to the NRA

I've often wondered if a moderate organization of gun owners could ever gain traction at the national level. Could an alternative to the radically obstructionist NRA form? It would be an organization that supported the needs of gun owners for education, safety and so forth. Unlike the NRA, it would either advocate more moderate political stands on gun ownership, like supporting moderate curbs to the Second Amendment, or it wouldn't be as involved in politics. If such an organization were to gain a big foothold on the national level, it would most likely split the NRA as I think many more moderate gun owners would prefer the milder group. Maybe there is such a group, but it doesn't seem to get much publicity. Gun owners could still have an association with it's certification and educational benefits. They could even get the things, like discounts at hotels and so forth, that come with membership in large groups.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Schools should be part of the community not hardened targets

A terrible idea. NRA's Wayne LaPierre Says ‘Schools Must Be The Most Hardened Targets’. Make schools like nuclear missile silos or even more hardened than prisons.

In many communities, schools are community centers. Rather than being isolated from the community, they are integral parts of society. Lots of functions happen at schools and also, of course, universities. Instead of turning these places into hardened targets, we need to learn how to make society as a whole safer.

A school building at the heart of community. Memories of an event in 2010.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Carbon tax is a good idea, but politically it is even hard to raise enough gas tax to maintain the roads

A carbon tax is a good way to reduce global warming. A few places are starting to get carbon taxes including some provinces in Canada.

Governor Inslee would like to see a carbon tax in Washington State which the legislature is discussing. It's a hard sell, politically. For gasoline, it would be like a gas tax. I got to thinking that it's politically hard to even raise the gas tax enough to keep the roads and bridges in good repair.

Sometimes I gain insight from what Republican lawmakers say. A Republican state lawmaker, interviewed on Pullman Radio, said that she didn't feel the gas tax would go over well if people didn't even see road improvements from it. Kind of like a tax for what?

Most carbon tax proposals would pay out not necessarily in road improvements, but other areas such as cuts in other taxes like the high Washington State sales tax. Another idea would be Governor Inslee's plan to use some of that money to fill the gap created by the State Supreme Court ruling for funding education.

A tax is a hard sell, even if it goes to very visible and tangible road improvements. Ideally, maybe it would go to "transportation improvements," rather than just roads. Public transit, bike paths and so forth. Such a tax did pass, a few years back, here in Bellingham. Bellingham prop. 1 transportation improvement tax which went to bring back Sunday bus service and do other improvements with some emphasis on bicycles. That did pass within the fairly liberal city limits of Bellingham in 2010.

We do need infrastructure and how is that to be paid for? More deficit spending? How about taxes so it can be pay as you go? How about combining the justification for a carbon tax with that for infrastructure? Raise the gas tax and call it a carbon tax. Get better roads and bridges. Use some of the money for bike paths and public transit. Some car drivers will complain about even that diversion of funds, but better transit does mean less traffic thus helping the cars also.

I guess a true carbon tax would also include other forms of fossil fuel besides gasoline; like, for instance, natural gas used in electricity production. Well, we need infrastructure improvements to the power grid also. How do we pay for that? A carbon tax.

Another big use of fossil fuel is heating and manufacturing. I guess agriculture as well. Okay, we need to fund environmental cleanup. Where does the toxic waste "super fund" cleanup money come from? In Washington I think some of that comes from a tax on our oil refineries.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Republicans tend to be against both gun legislation and mental health funding

Looks like a few of the mostly Republican lawmakers are kind of on the defensive about the problem of mass shootings. They are starting to realize that just offering prayers and saying there's nothing they can do might not be enough. Also seems like quite a few high school students are organizing and rallying. Reforms are being pushed in two areas. Better regulation of weapons and also better funding for mental health. People argue as to whether it's about mental health or gun regulation. Looks like it's both. Yes, mental health needs more, dare I say it, domestic spending.