Friday, August 15, 2014

At Deception Pass Bridge on my bike trip


Took the short walk on the trail under the south end of the bridge.



I got to talking various routes with these folks who were cycling from south part of Whidbey Island to Bellingham. When I mentioned my web site, they gave me high fives as they remembered my site as one of the sites with biking information about the area. They were glad to meet it's author. I'm pictured second from left with three of the people from that group.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

South leg of my 2014 bike trip begins. Heading down into Oregon.


Storefront in Mount Vernon, WA. I went through Mount Vernon on my way to Anacortes. Next headed down Whidbey Island as far as the Port Townsed Ferry.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Bombing them with water instead of butter

I remember at the start of the second Iraq war the phrase was going around to bomb them with butter and aid, rather than lethal weapons. Well, now that's happening with water and food supplies for that minority group that the ISIL has trapped in a mountain range hoping that they die of thirst. The minority groups need help and the US is offering that. At least there is some humanitarian concern out there.

Story below is a bit outdated. More recently in the news the White House has started to try and do something. Story describes the dire situation at least. Hard to know what the best strategy is to combat the hatred in this world. Story.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A "choice anxiety" situation I would not envy for Hillery Clinton

Deciding whether to run for President, or not, would be a hard decision for Hillary Clinton to make. On the one hand, a chance at being the first women US president in history. On the other hand, would her health hold up to the long and arduous campaign trail, not to mention the presidency? I'm glad I'm not in her shoes. Talk about "choice anxiety!" decisions like that can keep one up, tossing and turning, all night.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Long before Obama, Congress was impossible on immigration reform

Boehner claims that immigration reform can't happen in Congress because "the American people and their elected officials don't trust Obama to enforce the law as written." "Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue."

I, Robert, think that Obama's use of executive order is kind of a non issue. Instead, I think a lot of T-Party style Republicans have been rattled for years, including during the Bush years, by illegal immigration. This has created a "build the wall rather than reform immigration" mindset in much of Congress. There's enough "build the wall" mindset in Congress to block reform regardless of what Obama does.

It's true that some of that political mindset comes from the fact that over many years, more people have wanted to come to USA to live and work than are legally allowed by the number set in our quota for legal immigration. This was a big issue during the Bush years, ironically more than during the Obama years. Changing demographics and other factors have slowed the flow of illegal immigration during Obama's watch. Former President Bush was also hoping for immigration reform, but even he ran into congressional inaction against his proposal for a guest worker program.

Seems like everyone talks around the true issues. It has to due with certain times in our history when more people want to come to USA than our legal quotas for immigration allow. We should be asking, is the quota for legal immigration too low and not reflecting the reality of farm jobs and so forth in this country? On the other hand, maybe this country is starting to get too crowded. Maybe we are just experiencing being part of a planet that's still having population growth.

Article in Yahoo News that inspired this comment.

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's a little late, but now they are saying Bush Senior worried about sectarian division in Iraq as a reason not to go all the way, so to speak

Now they tell us.

I hear that George Bush Senior didn't go into Baghdad to topple Saddam Hussein, during Iraq war 1, because he know that destroying the Iraqi government would just lead to the type of sectarian fighting which we're seeing today.

Why wasn't this talked about before Bush Junior started the second Iraq war? Back then, people thought Bush Senior didn't go into Baghdad because it wasn't called for in the UN mandate. That mandate only called for pushing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Back then, a lot of people thought, "if we could only unseat Saddam Hussein, the Iraqis could build a democracy." People thought that only the limited nature of the UN mandate prevented us from, supposedly, creating a democracy in Iraq during the first war so Bush Junior thought "just no UN mandate, what a flimsy reason, let's go ahead and do it."

Well now, hindsight is better than foresight. People are saying Bush Senior thought all along that the ethnic situation in Iraq was unsolvable. If we had known that all along, maybe the second Iraq war could have been prevented.

I know, there was also the weapons of mass destruction myth and so forth, but at least the "let's bring them democracy and free them from that dictator" myth could have been avoided. I even almost bought that myth, myself, admittedly.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

When people in Iraq keep fighting each other, we are probably best to stay out

I hear in the news that the insurgents taking over in northern Iraq are even worse than Al Qaeda. Even kicked out of Al Qaeda for being too brutal. How can anything be worse than Al Qaeda? Wasn't Al Qaeda about as bad as one can get? I guess Iraq doesn't work as one country. Trying to hold it together is just a waste of money, not to mention lives. Iraq is Kurdish in the north, Sunni in north central and Shiite in the south. The most stable part is the Kurdish area. I think Iran is trying to hold Iraq together, or at least keep the Shiite leaders in power. If we (USA) do the same, we are strange bedfellows to Iran. History makes strange bedfellows. I doubt there is much we can do. Iraq is bound to disintegrate for now, except for the Kurdish section. That part seems most stable of all.

On the other hand, remember Somalia being a mess? I now hear that it's starting to get better. They're just starting to get tired of killing each other, and/or the most violent have killed one another off.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What does World Naked Bike Ride have to do with global warming? Is it a shaky philosophical stretch? My own reasons to ride.

Why bike nude, or even semi nude? There are about as many answers to this question as people who participate in the WNBR rides in various cities around the world. It's certainly an attention getter. In this world of "information overload" nude and colorful cyclists aren't as easy to ignore as a stack of manifestos.

Many will say that it's a protest against the use of fossils and global warming, but others would ask, "what does nudity have to do with global warming?" Some will say it's about body freedom and casting off the barriers, such as clothing, that often divide us.

The concept of vulnerability comes up also. Demonstrating the vulnerability of soft human bodies among the hard steel environment of cars; like the phrase "visualize bicycles." In a way, that seems like kind of a negative message. Might scare people away from bicycling in the world of steel automobiles, but there is another aspect to stepping outside the cover. Coming out of the shell can also mean exposing oneself to other people as well as positive experiences.

Going places on bike, foot, or even public transit can open one up to meeting more people. Chance conversations from stopping beside friends along a trail versus being inside the box of an automobile fighting freeway traffic. Fellow cyclists and walkers can be opportunities for interaction, versus morons blocking traffic. Last time I biked around Lake Padden, here in Bellingham, (I had my cloths on) I stopped and visited with 5 people I knew along the trail. That's partially from living in a fairly small area where I know a large percent of the population, but also it's from getting outside the box and being seen. Boxes can be suburban homes, cars or whatever. The bike is a friendly way to go.

Still, people wonder why WNBR riders go so far as to expose their genitals? Again, there are as many answers as there are people who do the rides. Not everyone goes that far. Many of the riders are actually clothed. Some, like me, wear scanty clothing (though I was more nude for the dance). Also the body paint is a big part of the rides. It's kind of like a town parade. While not everyone is painted, some of the body art is incredible. Brings lots of smiles to passersby. In 2014, Bellingham ride took place during the monthly Art Walk Friday.

Some of the riders who expose their genitals try and say that it's not related to eroticism, but I might ask, who are we trying to kid? Eroticism is a part of life and it could be the biggest draw for crowds watching the rides as well as viewing the many photos that go on line afterwards. I say, might as well use the erotic draw for something positive. Eroticism is used to sell cars, televisions and then the weight loss programs needed by folks who sit all day. Why not use this psychological energy to promote bicycling and other active lifestyles? I once heard an ad for a sleek sports car that said, "the shape you want to be in." How about promoting bicycling lifestyles in this way. Think of all the money people spend on diets.

Once we encourage more folks to bike, for personal reasons such as health and fitness, or meeting interesting folks, there is less fossil fuel burned when people are biking rather than driving. There's a connection.

Of course one need not be a supermodel to be part of the rides. It's for everyone of all shapes and sizes and its non competitive.

I think there is a big connection between dancing and bicycling and I'm glad the Bellingham WNBR ride ended with a great dance, this year (2014). If one can bike, one can dance and if one dances, especially through the dreary winter months, one is ready for biking come better weather. Both dancing and biking are good ways to keep the cobwebs from forming in our minds and bodies and also to get out and mingle with some fun folks.

My Flickr gallery from the local rides.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Another fun WNBR ride in Bellingham, 2014


An estimated 190 rode this time and possibly 1,000 lined the streets. Biggest WNBR ride in Bellingham's history.

Stay tuned for more photos and ideas. I didn't take quite as many pictures as on other rides. Too busy having a good time to work on the logistics of camera.

Here is an image someone took of me that turned out nice. I was only partially nude on the street, but totally nude for part of the dance. Maybe the dance was the best part. High energy, good music. A band named Br'er Rabbit and then a DJ. Even some old style favorites from the disco era. People throwing the leftover paint at each other.

I danced barefoot for a while, which people are asked to do at the free form dances in dance studios that I go to. Problem here is that there was gravel under the straw that they laid out on the outdoor dance space. For some people, lying on a bed of nails can be pleasure, but not as much for me, so I put my shoes back on. Most folks had their shoes on, but some neo-hippies still went barefoot.

It sure was a lot of fun clear till midnight. Maybe the dance being the best part, but all of the event was fun.

I feel very fortunate to still be enjoying the energy at this stage in my life and also fortunate for the diverse group of accepting people who did the ride, volunteered, watched the ride and the community of Bellingham for allowing it. Special thanks to Zach Roberson for being at the focal point of the rides each year.

Some of my images from the rides in Bellingham.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bellingham naked and clothing optional ride on Friday June 6th 2014


Very good article in Bellingham Herald. Interview with my friend Zach.

The sixth annual Naked Bike Ride on Friday, June 6, will, in fact, have people wearing clothes.

"A lot of people plan to wear clothes," said Zach Robertson, one of the event organizers. "It's 'clothing optional,' so no one has to go naked. It's more of a space for people who want to be naked to be naked."

Body painting starts at 4 p.m. and there will be a legal debrief and a raffle before the bike ride at 6 p.m.

The route is set to start at the Hub Community Bike Shop on North State Street and loop around downtown on streets including Holly Street, F Street, Dupont Street and Railroad Avenue. Click here for a map of the exact route.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the bike ride regardless of how they feel about their body, Robertson said.

"I hear a lot of people say, 'No, my body's not good enough for this,' and it makes me sad," he said. "It's through the naked bike ride that you realize the human body is not very exotic and it's also not taboo. It's mundane."

The naked ride starts a lot of important conversations, Robertson said. For example, there's not much difference between a bicyclist wearing clothes and a bicyclist not wearing clothes, but the ride draws attention to driving safety around bicyclists. It's also an opportunity to talk about issues with fossil fuels and body image. Those, organizers say, are the reasons behind the ride, which is part of a worldwide movement.

Robertson said he hasn't heard anyone accuse them of looking for an excuse to go naked in public, but social change often brings criticism.

"We're looking to be as gentle and communicative with people as possible. When you're doing something different, there's often a critique," he said. "But it raises a conversation that needs to be had."

About 120 people participated in the bike ride last year, Robertson said. This year Chelle Beautiful will be available to body paint anyone who calls in advance at 360-599-5036.

See more details on web site.

Link to article.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A person like god would have gotten awful bored waiting for Earth to get more interesting

I would think that a personal god, in our image, would have gotten awful bored waiting around so long to create us humans for his entertainment. If he existed, he must have spent the longest time watching over billions of years when earth's inhabitants were mostly bacteria, molds, insects and small creatures. Then there were things like the dinosaurs, but I doubt their conversation was that interesting. Maybe he would have had to duck across the universe to other planets where more interesting, human style, things were going on for all that time. I'm thinking "human centric," right now. I doubt such a human like creature of a god ever existed. Not in the form we imagine at least.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Remembering "all your base are belong to us" in light of the Bellingham tortilla fad

There is a mystery fad in Bellingham. Tortillas in various spots around downtown as if placed by a prankster or an artist. Lots of folks talking about this, creating Facebook groups and so forth.

Reminds me of a silly video that went viral a few years back. A picture from my web site got used in that video. News stories were a "flash in the pan" of national TV and magazines for a bit. Watching that video these many years later brings me on a "retro early 2000s computer culture trip."

Last week, the tortilla talk turned toward whether this whole thing is a racial slur. Are tortillas appearing around town to harass Hispanic people?

Who knows. The person, or persons, placing the tortillas have not been identified so no motive is known.

That early 2000s video may have had some international slur to it as well. Turns out the video is making fun of a Japanese game company which marketed a product in USA and didn't translate it into English very well. A phrase from the game reads, "All Your Base Are Belong To Us." That phrase is the basis for the entire video.

My image is just one of many images in that video, but it is now the thumbnail on the You Tube entry. Original sign on my web site said, "Bad Route Road." I passed this sign during my 1993 bicycle trip across USA. Original picture. The video doctored that sign.

Enjoy.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Solar energy proposals, such as Oklahoma SB 1456, bring questions to my mind

Is it worthwhile for people, with home solar installations, to sell power to the power grid during periods when the solar installations are producing extra power? Maybe the cost of safely collecting this power, from all these small sources, is higher than the value of that power? See more article below picture.


Solar collectors on a house I biked past today. Power line in the background.

I keep reading about utilities that now wish to charge a fee to customers who have home wind or solar installations. A fee for selling power back to the grid. Wouldn't this mean that the utility just doesn't pay for that power anymore? Currently the utility credits the customer for that power. Right? Maybe they just want to credit the customer less? None of this has been explained very well.

One wonders what the true economics is behind these proposals, or if utilities, in some states, are just trying to wipe out alternative energy? Are they all friends to the evil Koch Brothers? Is this just a sinister plot, or is there some real economics behind these proposals?

Is it really worthwhile to sell power back to the grid? If the costs are higher than the benefit, why would anyone want to do this? If utilities start charging the owners of rooftop solar panels for the privilege of sending their power back to the grid, wouldn't the owners of the rooftop panels just not send that extra power to the utility? Wouldn't they just use their solar panels for their own power and use power from the power grid at times when the solar doesn't provide enough power, but not try to sell the extra power back to the grid?

This brings up the question of storage, which is also a bit expensive, but coming down in price also (like solar panels). Maybe it's better for the owners of small rooftop operations to find a way to store energy, during times of excess power from the solar collectors, rather than selling it back to the grid? Is storage a better strategy than selling power back to the grid? Storage, such as batteries within the home, for times when less solar power is available; such as for use at night.

These proposals, such as Oklahoma SB 1456, that keep cropping up in a few states, bring questions to my mind.

Finally, an article that explains the science behind this beyond just the politics. Explaining the problem some utilities face integrating distributed solar into their power grids. The need for better storage. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out. Vanadium: The metal that may soon be powering your neighbourhood BBC News Magazine June 13 2014.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Trying to prime Western Washington University's sometimes balky minority pump

Always a mystery why some topics go viral while others don't. WWU President Bruce Shepard's comments about wanting Western to be less white, or at least have a larger percentage of minority students than it has today, has gone viral and hit national media.

I am only slightly critical of these comments just to say that the stir is somewhat of a waste of breath. A bigger problem, in society, is the growing gap between income classes which contributes to the barriers of getting into college. The cost of college, enrollment ceilings and so forth. This effects minorities, but it also creates the perception of a "zero sum game." If we provide more to some (minorities) we have to take that away from others (whites). Ideally, there should be enough abundance for all.

There has been a long history of trying things, like I remember a College Of Ethnic Studies, at WWU, which was created in late 60s (I think) and later dissolved in 1975. It sputtered due to soft interest and limited funding. Artificially trying to entice more minority students, to WWU, could be hard if minority students tend to cluster in areas of larger population. In larger populations, there are enough people, of the various minority categories, to get the ball rolling on various clubs and so forth so people feel less isolated. A certain population level creates a threshold size to get various clubs and activities for one's special interest off the ground. I remember, WSU, in Pullman, seemed to have a much larger African American student population than Western, over the years. Part of that might just relate to the size of the student body and what can be offered in terms of clubs and camaraderie.

As for income gap, all the college presidents and top personnel, as a class, are making much higher incomes relative to the rest of society than they did back in my college days of the 1970s and budgets are tighter.

A Google search has brought me to this article, from years past, about Western's College of Ethnic Studies and another college president. The story of the traffic stop is hilarious.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Random lottery may be more representative than popular election given money in politics

In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, such as the one today and Citizen's United, things have evolved to the point where popular vote doesn't create governing bodies that represent the people. Maybe it never did. Popular election elects people who win a popularity contest and, these days, that means people with money for media. Popular elections still may be the best thing we have as in saying, "democracy is a terrible idea, but all the other options are worse."

On the other hand, there could be merit to some other options besides popular vote; like random lottery for selecting members of a representative body. A random lottery would be better at selecting a representative cross section of the people than popular vote. A random lottery would select people from every walk of life including janitors, the disabled, scientists, teachers, farmers and whatever. Not necessarily just people who can manipulate media for name recognition.

Going viral on the internet, even without having money, is one counterweight to money that still exists in popular democracies, but that factor may not be enough. Maybe at least one body of our legislative branch could be selected by some kind of random lottery if we totally redesigned the system.

Friday, March 28, 2014

How I learned an important tenet of Inflation (universe that is) Theory


Even though this isn't the gravitational waves. It's an old image of the cosmic background radiation in microwave and wow, I love the colors. Image: A map of the CMB created by the COBE satellite (credit: NASA, DMR, COBE Project).


Here's another image, more related. AP Photo/BICEP2 Collaboration, I found on Diane Rehm Show web site. Several interesting interviews coming out.

In my file box of correspondence is this letter from National Geographic Magazine, circa 1983 (image below). I bring it up in light of the recent discoveries about the Big Bang Theory related to gravity waves in the cosmic background radiation.

The recent finding is strong evidence for the "inflation theory" version of the Big Bang. Inflation theory has been around a while and was featured in a 1983 addition of National Geographic Magazine. They did a big colorful feature on theories about the origin of the universe. When I read the article, back in 1983, I thought I had found a mistake. Article talked about the edge of the universe expanding billions, or maybe even trillions, of miles during it's first seconds of life. I thought, "how can that be as it would be traveling faster than the speed of light?" Supposedly nothing can travel faster than the speed of light so I wrote them thinking I had found a mistake.

I thought, maybe they'll even print my letter in National Geographic. It's hard to get a letter published there as they have millions upon millions of readers. Letter didn't get printed, but I did get this interesting form letter back. Letter was to all of us folks who brought up that question and thought we had found a mistake. One of the letters on that "non mistake" was printed and the rest of us got this form reply.

Turns out the universe, itself, is exempt from the rule that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Space/time, itself, can travel faster than light, but nothing within space/time can do so. That's a major tenet of "inflation theory." That's also when I first learned about inflation theory. Space/time itself inflating, like a bubble for a brief moment, faster than light.

That was back when inflation theory was still just one of many theories. Now, 2014, its still one of many theories, but due to the recent findings in the cosmic background radiation, inflation theory is gaining traction.



Friday, March 21, 2014

Unlikely we can push Russia out of Crimea, but we can push for human rights

It would be hard to get Russia out of Crimea as I think the majority of Crimean s' welcome them. Also it's former Soviet Union territory. Economic sanctions might be good, but to what end? Also it would be hard to get the many countries of Europe, dependent on Russian gas, on board. I mostly favor economic sanctions, but have some reservation as to what outcome we can realistically expect the Russians to do. Seems like they are not likely to let go of Crimea for quite a while at least.

A more likely scenario would be to push for better human rights within Russia which would also mean better treatment of minority groups in Crimea such as the Tartars and Ukrainians. Remember Russia's treatment of gay people as kind of a "canary in the coal mine" foretelling treatment of minority people's within regions under Russian rule.

The west can try to bolster Ukraine's economy and use it as an example of good governance as well as economics. Yesterday, I heard a good interview on Diane Rehm Show about this situation. Former US ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock actually hinted, in this roundtable discussion, that Ukraine might be better off without trying to hang onto Crimea with it's Russian majority. We could push for better economy in Ukraine. I hear things are going quite well in Poland. Ukraine can be another example, like Poland of how to do things right.

Pushing for human rights is a good idea. The international community has a stake in what goes on within a sovereign country. For instance, neighbors have gotten stuck with floods of refugees from the appalling situation in Syria. I hear that refugees are 1/3 of Jordan's population these days. Jordan, some other countries and the international aid agencies are being overwhelmed.

Pushing for human rights, within sovereign nations, is important, but it seems very hard to convince the Russians to withdraw from Crimea. Maybe in the long run, some sort of international peace keeping deal can be worked out and continued pressure within organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which the Russians, Europeans, US and many other countries are members.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Snow on Sehome Hill


Pruned tree near Sehome Hill observation tower on the snowy day of February 23 when I went for a walk. See 10 more of my snow pictures around Sehome Hill and Western Washington University campus. Snow if fairly rare in Bellingham, but when it happens, we go out and take pictures. Then share on social media.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Would Keystone Pipeline be a road away from the minimum wage economy?

"Minimum Wage Economy." A catchy phrase uttered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal after a White House Governor's conference. Criticizing Obama's push to increase the minimum wage, this governor feels "we can do better." He said, push for economic growth and build the Keystone Pipeline.

What would building the Keystone Pipeline do to prevent a minimum wage economy? Not much. Not much in middle class jobs as I've heard possibly less than 100 folks would be needed to run it. That's not counting temporary construction jobs, however, but still not much in the way of new job creation. Maybe there would be some government jobs, from local jurisdictions being able to tax what flows through the pipeline, but still not much. Especially not much since I hear that the refining end of the pipeline would be in low tax jurisdictions.

As for harming the environment, maybe Keystone wouldn't even do that much either. If it weren't built, the oil would be shipped another way; like by rail as long as people keep consuming it. So, one should ask, what's the point of fighting?

So many of the things, like Keystone Pipeline, and to some extent even the minimum wage, are red herring issues. Not really the big things we need to be thinking about, but good fodder for our polarizing debates.

Higher minimum wage is another red herring. I basically support it, but I don't know if it would do that much good. It would just push the problem around like so many legislative solutions do. Employers, who tend to pay minimum wage, would just pass the added cost on to consumers and they might also layoff a few workers. It's kind of like trying to solve the problem of not enough affordable housing by imposing rent control. These kind of solutions tend to just push the problems around. Helps some folks lucky enough to hang onto their apartment with artificially lowered rent, but doesn't create the incentive to build more affordable housing.

The minimum wage economy may be just the reality of our economy. Like it our not, our economy creates a lot of low wage jobs regardless of who's in the White House. It seems like the "new normal;" the new normal for the foreseeable future at least.

Government can help in a lot of ways, but the political will to do this is not evident for the moment at least. Higher taxes on rich folks could create more of a sense of fairness between income categories in society. Basically the idea of a graduated income tax which we used to have back in the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. We've gotten away from that policy in recent years. Also government spending on infrastructure can stimulate the economy to possibly create more middle class jobs. Economists like Paul Krugman say that this stimulation would help to jump start the economy so the private sector would eventually create more jobs in the long run. Kind of like priming the pump. In today's political environment, such measures seem unlikely, but politics can change.

In the mean time, here is a coping strategy to deal with our current situation of low wage jobs. We can learn to live with a low wage economy and not only survive, but learn to thrive. Governor Jindal would say that this is "putting up the white flag." Saying we're defeated instead of pushing growth; like, for instance building pipelines.

What are the solutions for a minimum wage economy? Accepting the fact that a lot of jobs are going to be low wage; in the foreseeable future at least, so we need to plan for low wages. Bring down the cost of our living. I realize that bringing down the cost of living could further dampen demand in the economy thus leading to even lower wages overall. Maybe this isn't the best argument, but lowering consumption does have a few good ramifications. Its a strategy for lowering the carbon footprint. Keeping in mind our environmental crisis. Until we develop greener technology, we may need to just consume less on average. Also more simple living offers some positive effects for individuals. Life that's not as much of a rat race. Possibly less obesity. The joys of simplicity.

This is where my kind of solutions come into play. Things like smaller houses. Cottage homes, for example. Even mobile home parks. These cottage home / mobile home / intentional communities can work in smaller cities where there's space.

What about urban areas like San Francisco where mobile homes can't be placed and even studio apartment rents are outrageous?

In urban areas, the solution can be advocating even more density. Building up and infilling. Build more studio apartments and cater to the changing demographic which is becoming less family oriented. Cater more to single people. Seniors, for instance as that portion of the population is growing. You say, what about young people? Well, many young people are less likely to be in large families as well, these days.

You say the central city is already maxed out when it comes to density? OK, we can densify the suburbs around the central city. We can make the suburbs more like the central city with transit, walkable neighborhoods and so forth. Everyone shouldn't have to live in the central city to be able to walk to work, or take transit at least. How about retrofitting the entire metropolitan area around the central city to make it all more sustainable; more affordable and more walkable?

That's what I call planning around a minimum wage economy. Make our living arraignments more affordable. This would have a big impact on transportation also. Make it so people don't have to own a car. Yes, bicycling, walking and public transit. Also better for one's health.

Speaking of health, don't we, Americans, spend way too much on health? Lots of unnecessary tests, procedures and medicines. Maybe we can rethink how we are dealing with our health also? Save lots of money here.

There are many examples of how we can live better and plan our environments with lowering the footprint in mind.

Some say, this concept of more sustainable living is putting up the white flag. Well, I can sort of understand that. I'm not necessarily against prosperity and yes, I might surprise folks in saying that I do think technology can fix a lot of problems. As much of a fan of the bicycle that I am, I also look forward to cars that run on hydrogen fuel which could come from solar power. Even, maybe, nuclear power. I'm also a fan of the self driving Google Car. I believe the Google self driving car could significantly cut down of a terrible scourge in current society - the highway traffic death toll. Part of the reason why I'm not into driving, today, is the over 30,000 highway deaths per year, that the automobile creates in it's present form. Yes, in the future, I believe we can do better, with technology. Self driving hydrogen powered cars and so forth.

In the meantime, as the panacea of technology is still on its way, we can do better by also learning to live more sustainably. Living a lower and healthier footprint. A more peaceful life with less rat race; hopefully.

The long term solution to our environmental / economic woes is going to be both smarter living and also new, less fossil fuel dependent, technology. We can do better, but we all, both us and our governments, corporations and institutions have to learn to do it a bit differently.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

State constitutional mandates putting education as #1 can be problematic

Some states, like here in Washington, have constitutions that say education is the number 1 paramount duty of state government. While education is important, this old edict can be problematic as it doesn't necessarily mean that the state budget gets larger. Sometimes it just means that education crowds out other important state functions, such as survival needs of low income people, public safety, parks and the environment as well as roads and infrastructure. It's all important. Also, here in Washington at least, the constitutional mandate only applies to K-12 education and still leave higher education outside that box.

Education is important, but the rest of society needs to be functioning as well. Just about all of society can be seen as part of the educational process. Access to healthcare can mean the advise of doctors in diet and lifestyle; important education. Parks can mean museums and interpretive centers which can be highly educational. They can help teachers and schools with field trips, for instance. Public broadcasting, educational content on the internet, it's all important. Yes, schools are important, but sometimes an old constitutional mandate becomes problematic; like a straight jacket, especially if there is nothing to increase overall revenue.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How do we solve global warming? a preamble



New Preamble to my web site main menu.

How do we solve global warming?

Technology of course. Ever evolving solar panels, hydrogen fuel, better batteries, electronics that becomes more sophisticated while using less energy.

Is that the whole story? That's part of the story, but what about slowing down? What about making society's pace more tranquil, more user friendly. What about less rat race, more bicycling, less obesity, shorter workweeks, less pressure; life in the slow lane?

I think both approaches to solving the problem of global warming can work together. No need for a war between the high tech advocates and the concept of slowing down. It can all get us to better solutions. The solutions related to slowing down are especially needed in the short run until the technological solutions become more available.

Explore the labyrinth of my website and blog as I post photographs and writings that are usually around these topics of lifestyle and technology as it relates to sustainable economics and especially my very photogenic interest in bike touring.

Main menu to my website which links to this blog and more.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Light dusting of snow in Bellingham

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and all that. For folks who got my snail mail card and others, here is a link to my 2013 summer bike trip again.

My New Year's Letter.


Path from WWU to Jersey Street on Sehome Hill.


Bellingham Food Coop sign on Forest Street with Sehome Hill in background.

Snow is rare in Bellingham. Some years hardly ever, other years a few storms. Rarely it's deeper and stays longer. This early December snow was a typical light dusting. Lots of people come out with cameras and post to Facebook when it happens.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Privatizing Medicare and abandoning the less fortunate

If we were to privatize, or at least not subsidize, Medicare, being elderly would be considered a preexisting condition. Coverage would be either real expensive or non existent.

I heard an urban legend that some Eskimo tribes had their version of Medicare which was basically leaving folks who were too ill to keep up with the tribe behind on an ice flow to pass away, or onto the "next life." We could end up having a system similar to that if we don't pay our taxes and watch out. Hopefully we will not migrate into that kind of a system even though, in some cases, people passing away and not suffering some circumstances of disease might be more charitable than just being strung along.

Compared to private insurance, Medicare tends to be the most efficient means to provide healthcare in terms of the ratio of administrative overhead to dollars spent on actual care. I hear that for some private insurance companies, 20%, or more, of the premium dollar goes to insurance company bureaucracy rather than healthcare. In Medicare, it's around 3% for administrative costs.

One of the things that the Obamacare program is trying to do is cap what percent of insurance company revenue that is spent on administration rather than healthcare.

Still, the Medicare program is more expensive than insurance plans that serve younger people even though only 3%, or so, goes to overhead. Why is that true?

Older people, as a population, tend to have higher medical expenses than the younger people who make up the policy holder pools of private insurance companies. This has to do with the people being served, not the administrative costs.