Monday, August 17, 2015

Bike trip 2015

It's probably not a GPS Google Maps mistake. Some folks like to park right in front of the store, rather than walking a few blocks. Also applies to the river.

This river is along south Oregon Coast where I am now biking. Took the picture from a bridge. My 2015 bicycle trip is down the coast south from Portland, Oregon. I took the train from Bellingham to Portland and then rode out to the coast along Oregon's Salmon River Highway. Been on the coast since Lincoln City. Plan to bike into California till time starts to run out and then take train back. Updates are on my Facebook page available to Facebook users. I'll update here and on Flicker for the open web when I get back. My computer time is a bit limited, or I wouldn't get that far into California. Weather is mostly cool and sunny with a bit of mist. It's the coast.

Happy summer.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interstellar travel not likely, but we can still observe the universe

Where are the star ships? Well, interstellar star ships are not likely in the future of humankind. At least according to author Kim Stanley Robinson who was recently interviewed on NPR Science Friday. The stars are just too far away. It would take several human generations to get to any star system even within 50 light years. The amount of energy it would take to get up to just 10% of the speed of light would be stupendous. Then it would take lots of energy to slow down again at the destination. A star ship couldn't be very large as more mass just means more energy needed to get it to speed.

Science is also discovering that over 80% of our DNA is shared with other earthy creatures. We are of Earth and the Earth environment goes through us; like jellyfish in the ocean. We may not be able to spend long periods, like generations, in the small environment of a star ship.

In my own opinion, this doesn't preclude space exploration, however. Curiosity can lead to great astronomy as well as space missions to places like Pluto. Even human space exploration and colonization could be in our future. (My own opinion not mentioned in this article). We could build large colonies in our solar system and bring much of the earth environment with us. These colonies could be larger than the star ships we could build as they wouldn't have to accelerate so fast because they would not have to go beyond the solar system. They could be larger and more earth like; which is something our species needs.

Philosophically, to me, it is interesting to note that science seems to pull us in two directions. It gives us technology to get farther into space than any other earthly creature, yet at the same time it tells us that we are mere animals, ourselves. Made from the same DNA and needing the same environment as other creatures of Earth. Science seems to be dethroning the image we have of ourselves as being in the realm of the gods or being able to live beyond an earth like environment.

Now, some other type of intelligence, like artificial intelligence, could supersede us making for a different situation, but barring that we are still of earth. Faster than light travel (warp drive) could change this prediction also, in my opinion.

Barring something like faster than light travel, we can only look beyond our solar system and look we do. Even just looking inspires us to great achievement.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Light sticks replace sparklers as Fourth of July traditions evolve

I noticed lots of kids were waving colored light sticks at the Fourth of July celebration on Bellingham's waterfront. Personal fireworks are banned in Bellingham, WA. I got to thinking that the light stick can be viewed as the sparkler of the modern era. Fourth of July Traditions are changing. Light sticks are safer than the sparklers that my generation had as kids, but the modern events can still create fond memories. Just different memories.

Watching the city's giant fireworks display is a part of the tradition. We didn't have a city display in the town of Pullman, WA. where I grew up back when I was a kid at least. We did have quite a neighborhood tradition where folks gathered on a hillside for a picnic. After the food, kids would set off personal fireworks on the road below. Parents watched from the hillside that worked like an amphitheater. There were found memories, but also nerve wracking moments; like the time a pinwheel shot into the audience and almost set Mrs. Powers stockings on fire.

Some people lament the loss of the personal fireworks. They feel the Fourth has been denuded; like a cat that's had it's claws removed. I'm okay with the ban and the evolving traditions. At the same time, I notice why some of these changes are happening. For instance, it seems like folks are a lot more finicky about their pets, these days. Back in my childhood days, dogs and cats would cower, during the Fourth, but their owners seemed less worried about it. Folks are more fussy about their pets these days. Safety standards seem higher these days also.

So the traditions keep changing and the Fourth continues to make memories. I also notice that many of the light sticks are rainbow colors. Some hardcore conservatives might lament that the Fourth is becoming too, what they would call "sissy."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Maybe we should call Gateway Pacific proposal the "second coal port"

People should start calling the proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal "the second coal port;" as in, "do we need a second coal port?" There's already a coal port in this area when one counts Robert's Bank just across the border in Canada. That's where the coal trains that now come through Bellingham are headed.

Is another port needed just cause it would be on this side of the border? Could increase volume of coal shipment of course, but that brings up questions of global warming. I just got to thinking about the concept of calling it the second coal port.

I have to admit, the trains can be kind of fun to watch. Sleek and precise in terms of engineering. When I was in college, they called these single commodity trains "unit trains." Economical to run; like monoculture. Mono trains? While I say fun to watch I feel somewhat guilty. Like watching pornography?

Monday, June 08, 2015

The "before Obamacare cost shifting system" wouldn't work as well today

I happened to tune into a conservative radio talk show host, Eric Wattenberg, who felt that the pre Obama Care healthcare system was better than today. He believes that the system of having low income people with no insurance showing up for charity care at hospitals worked pretty well. Show up and get care without being able to pay and then have the hospital shift the cost onto its other users who have insurance. That was the old system. What this talk host doesn't realize is that more and more people don't have private insurance as the years go on. Private employers are less and less likely to provide insurance. Now days, there would be so many uninsured people that the old "cost shifting" system would be overwhelmed. It was never that good to begin with.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

World Naked Bike Ride in Bellingham and on the radio

More fun fun memories from bicycling lifestyles. Being interviewed on The Joe Show last Monday over KBAI Radio. Zachary Robertson got us in a Selfi. I am at far right. Joe Teehan interviewing us from behind the mikes.

7th annual Bellingham World Naked (and/or partially naked) bike ride around downtown Bellingham is planned for Art Walk Friday, June 5 at 6 pm, or arrive at Hub Bicycle Collective a few hours early for the paint party.

Podcast the Joe Show June 1 2015.

Event poster. Designed by a Nate T.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arctic drilling protest in Bellingham, WA. with Ski to Sea twist. Protesting no snow for ski leg of race

See my photo essay on Flickr

Taking protest against oil drilling in Arctic Ocean to the consumer end of the equation. The filling station on Holly Street.

Protest in Bellingham also addresses the lack of snow for our annual Ski to Sea Race. The ski leg of the relay has had to be cancelled in 2015, due to practically no snow on the course.

Protest started at the regular Friday vigil by Federal Building. Then it proceeded to Shell Station on Holly where it provided a good photo op to remind consumers of their role in the oil economy as well.

After that, it headed to Bellingham waterfront near a rig that is being readied in Bellingham Bay to help with the oil drilling.

Protest in Bellingham was on May 22 2015 after a similar protest in Seattle where hundreds of kayaks were seen around a drilling rig being worked on in Seattle harbor.

See link to my photos on Flickr.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

My brief foray into street vending in the 1970s. Elmer's Glue Art

When I was in college, I made some sculptures out of Elmer's Glue. The glue dried into clear drops that I could color with felt pen to look sort of like stain glass. Thinking these might sell as Christmas ornaments, I took some home to Pullman, where I am from, for Christmas Break. Thought I would try selling from a sidewalk stand. First I checked with Pullman City Hall to see if it was okay and found out that one needed a vender's permit. That cost around $10 which isn't too bad, but one also needed a liability insurance bond just in case someone stumbles over the stand and tries to sue the city. Premium for said insurance was around $140. Good for one whole year, but I only needed it for a few days. Needless to say, I gave up on the idea.

Upon returning to Bellingham, I decided to try selling at Vendor's Row near Viking Union Building on WWU campus. Process was much more accessible as no insurance bond was needed. After some easy paperwork, I got a table and tried selling my ornaments for a few days. They didn't sell. It was a learning experience and I'm glad I wasn't out the insurance bond.

Eventually, I glued my unsold inventory of ornaments into an odd looking wreath. Then I baked the wreath till it looked like dried lasagna. On the last few days of my table reservation, my strange looking wreath was an attention getter. I used it to pass out flyers for a friend who was doing a concert on campus.

Photographers from Klipsun (WWU campus feature magazine) took some photos to use with a feature article on gross food. The article may have been published, but those photos never made it in. A moral of the story is that it was nice to have a space with low overhead to experiment even if the experiments didn't lead to commercial viability.

Below: Another sculpture made from dried Elmer's Glue pieces that I still have. Took a month for the pieces to dry. Pieces made from pouring glue into small forms that I made from card paper. I used the wax from color crayon to cover the card paper so the water based glue would not stick to the forms. When the glue pieces dried, I glued it all together and then baked it in a low temperature oven.

Written piece I did in my dorm room to accompany sculpture.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

I'm creating a Pearl Tree mind map of my agenda

I have found a tool on the web for creating a mind map of one's ideas. Actually I learned about it from a friend. I've been arraigning some of my posts, from Facebook and my blog, into a hierarchical tree by topic. Its a good way to see where one's various posts fit into their worldview. One can construct a political addenda, mind map or what ever. Can map other kinds of things as well. For instance, knowledge trees, family photos by branch of the family, travel stories and so forth. A good way to archive. Can make more sense than just the sequential stream of Facebook posts.

My hierarchy of posts on Pearl Trees

Above: Image of a tree about myself that I drew in my college years. Later modified.

Below: Original image of that tree. Done in pen and paper, 1970s.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Say good by to agriculture in California's Central Valley?

The word collapse may be overused these days, but I think we could soon see the collapse of agriculture in California's drought stricken Central Valley. With successive years of low snow pack in the Sierra, farmers are now turning to wells, from limited groundwater, for irrigation of crops in the Central Valley. If this runs out and normal snow pack doesn't come back in the near future, imagine the Central Valley around Sacramento and Fresno being more like the Mohave Desert. Of course this is only one possible scenario, more normal rain and temperature patterns may return as early as next year.

I wouldn't say that folks who are naively still banking on Californian agriculture would be "science deniers." The actual science is still not real clear about what will happen over, say, the next 25 years.

On the other hand, there are some really alarming climate models coming out from the science about that region in the second half of the 21st century.

Vertical farms, where crops are grown hydroponically with less water, can be done and desalinization of water from Pacific Ocean can be done. Problem is economics. In the near future, at least, it seems more likely that the oranges and so forth that we currently get from California would be shipped in from other parts of the world.

Above photo:

California lettuce field, near Guadalupe, that I passed on one of my bicycle trips down the coast. I'm not sure if this coastal agricultural area is dependent on irrigation water from Sierra snow pack. Some coastal areas use local rivers, like the Salinas River, fed by rainwater. I don't have my own picture of a Central Valley field.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Door to Northwest Economic Council and Smart Trips office on Champion St.

I think the Smart Trips logo is designed to look like the numbers on an old gas pump.

My reflection, sort of, in window.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Where around Bellingham is Go Hawks?

Oh, that's right, just about everyone is staying home to watch the Superbowl. Team spirit rotated into the destinations.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

BBQ place near where I live has a nice tree surrounded with their normal patio lights.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Fed walking tightrope between inflation and recession doesn't seem to work anymore

I recently came across an interesting article entitled, The Fed Sets Another Trap. If I'm understanding this article, it seems like it's author Stephen Roach is calling for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates back to more historically normal levels and reduce some of the money that's now in circulation. Interest rates are unusually low; an unhealthy situation in the long run.

Parting from this article, I have my own thoughts.

Raising interest rates poses the danger of slowing the economic recovery. On the other hand, low rates and extra money may be contributing to localized inflationary bubbles, not just in the future, but right now. Things like the price of urban real estate are spiraling up. Look at housing prices in San Francisco and other cities, for instance.

Walking a tightrope between inflation and recession is a job that the Federal Reserve has been ask to do since it's inception, but that job is becoming increasingly difficult. Should they do stimulus because unemployment and under employment is high, or should they put on the breaks because the cost of certain things are going up?

The cost of many goods and services are remaining stable, or in some cases going down. This is partially due to great efficiencies in the technology of production. These efficiencies are putting deflationary pressure on prices and the wages in the sectors of the economy that provide those goods and services. Other sectors of the economy see prices on the rise.

Just asking whether the Fed should tighten or loosen the money supply is not enough. We need to do something about the growing disparities in our economy.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Passing through Christmas, Michigan. Summer of 1991 bike trip

See photos of my 1991 trip.

My mom didn't allow toy guns in my childhood home

My mom used to ban toy guns in our house while I was growing up. For a little while during my childhood, I thought she was a bit prudish as other neighborhood kids seemed to have lots of fun playing shoot em up. I would have to go to the neighbors to play with gun toys. What seemed prudish, back then seems quite sensible now, looking back. Toy guns can look too real, from a distance. That's one of the many problems with toy gun play. What seemed a bit prudish, or out of step with the norm back then makes more sense now. My mom had good insight.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Walmart reliance on Medicaid, the wave of the future?

Companies like Walmart get a lot of flack because they rely on things like Medicaid to provide employee health benefits. If we had single payer healthcare, that would be the norm. The public, rather than private employers, would provide healthcare. It seems like that could be the wave of the future as employer provided healthcare deteriorates and the public sector picks up the tab.

The standard conservative and liberal camps, with their talking points, tend to confuse this issue. Liberals, who usually support single payer, still complain about all the private employers who's workers rely on Medicaid expansion and the Obama Care exchanges instead of employer provided health plans. Well, isn't that what single payer healthcare does?

Conservatives, who rail against government healthcare, don't do very much to provide private health insurance to employees. Companies, all the way from mom and pop businesses to mega wealthy corporations like Walmart, remain scanty on their employee benefits. If companies don't subsidize employee health insurance, government health plans, like the Medicaid expansion, fill the void. Problem is conservatives grumble about government providing healthcare. Remember, many of the more conservative states have refused to implement the Medicaid expansion.

Somebody needs to do it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why blaming the one percent may not be that effective

Since Occupy Wall Street fame, the figure of 1% top income percentile has become a popular meme. Why 1% instead of 2 or even 10%?

1 is a small number so 1% is not that many voters. It's politically expedient to say you are for the 99%. After all, 99% is a mandate that will always win elections, supposedly, tho it often doesn't seem to work that way.

The one percent meme is another manifestation of our search for a painless solution to the problems of society. Government is one tool to solve problems, but taxes which fund the government tend to be unpopular. Therefore, the easiest political solution is to try and impose unpopular things, like taxes, on as few people as possible. If only the 1% has to pay a new tax, then the 99% of voters don't have to pay, so the tax should be able to pass. Right?

For some reason, that doesn't seem to be the case. Do the 1% have so much power that they influence media and voters to literally buy elections?

That's part of the problem, for sure.

Another part of the problem is the percentage of people in the lower 99%, and especially the lower say 50% of income distribution who actually vote. I hear that 2014 election saw the lowest percent of eligible voters to vote since 1942.

Blaming everything on the 1% is a way to absolve oneself of personal responsibility. If social change is to happen, we all have to do our part be it voting or what we support with our dollars in the marketplace. The wealth and power of the 1% still relies on the mass market of shoppers and voters.

What about the top 2%, 10% or even 20% income percentile? America's income gap keeps getting wider between all income classes. Upper middle class has gotten way out ahead of lower middle class and the poor. Why can't so many working people afford medical care, for instance? Are doctor and professional incomes way above what most working people can afford? There's nothing wrong with paying doctors more than average workers due to the education and skills required to be a doctor, but one must ask what's economically sustainable. As planning for affordable healthcare is considered, we have to take into account what is sustainable. What can the premiums, for insurance and/or the taxes for government based healthcare sustain?

Unaffordable housing is another issue that the income gap brings up. How can folks making minimum wage afford to live in a city like San Francisco? Is it the 1% who has bought up all the residences making buying and renting unaffordable for the bottom 50% in that city? San Francisco, supposedly a bastion of liberal politics yet about the most unaffordable city in America.

I'd say it's more than just the top 1% that creates the housing problem. How about the top 10%, or maybe even the top 20%? There are many high paid tech workers, and so forth, who can afford expensive housing. They have crowded lower income classes out of the housing market. Here, the problem is upper middle class. If there isn't enough housing, the upper middle class gets first dibs. That is except for subsidized housing and folks grandfathered into rent control.

So it looks like it's a broader problem than just the 1%. It's society as a whole; to some extent. Everyone has some responsibility. That doesn't let the 1% off the hook, but the problems can't be solved unless more folks take responsibility. Landlords, consumers and voters. We all can make the difference.

I've heard it said that if we just raise taxes on the 1%, there wouldn't be enough money to make that much of a dent in the federal budget. The 1% have lots of money, but there are not very many of them. What about raising taxes on the top 20%? That's a bigger chunk of money. That's what our graduated income tax did before the so called Reagan Revolution.

Maybe some liberals, not to mention conservatives, wouldn't like the idea of taxing the 20% because there is a lot of rhetoric, these days, about the need to strengthen the middle class. Quite a few folks talk about the need to support a large consuming class. As economist Paul Krugman says, mass consumer spending creates more jobs and jump starts the economy more than the wealth of the 1%. Still, I think the upper middle class could do more to bring a fairer society. Seems like the upper middle class is becoming wealthy while the lower middle class is becoming poor. The real middle, in the middle class, is getting a lot thinner. Income distribution is a problem within the middle class leading to affordability problems in things like education, healthcare and housing.

Even lower income people bear responsibility. How we treat one another and our voting patterns do make differences.

Another thing to think about is the natural environment. Middle class consumer spending isn't always a wonderful thing. One has to think about the the carbon footprint, for instance. Mass consumption of gasoline, cars, houses and products has to take the environment into account. Going more green is best in all these things.

Another consideration is not just how much money someone has, but what are they doing with their money. Is someone in the 1% donating millions to good causes, or buying Congress? Is someone in the top percentile building a business and developing new technologies or just buying luxury homes and bidding up the price of everything from real estate to paintings?

There is more to the equation of a better society than just deferring all responsibility to the 1%. Sure, the 1% should pay higher taxes, but it takes the rest of us voters to at least show up at the polls if we want that to happen.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Collage art I did in 1980s about contradicting demands of the voters

Sent to a Mail Art show about politicians in the 1980s. Discusses contradictory demands of voters. Scroll down to see dialog beneath each picture made of cutouts from magazines. Mantra is, we voted them in when they promised these things, then we voted them out when they gave us what we wanted; as in "be careful what you ask for as you might get it."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is America's welcome mat getting tired and overburdened?

There have been quite a few posts in social media about the Statue of Liberty not turning it's back on the world, but turning its back on New Jersey.

In my files of old art collages is a copy of this piece I sent to a Mail Art show in the 1980s. Theme of the show was "Liberate Liberty." One was encouraged to interpret that however they wished. I doctored an image from National Geographic Magazine to make this piece. Taken from the Jersey shore, I think from some article on population growth and the environment.

My question was, is Liberty's welcome mat getting tired and overburdened?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Charles Manson has name recognition going for him in our celebrity fixated culture

A young woman wants to marry Charles Manson, even though he is in prison. Adolph Hitler sells a painting, even though he is dead. The power of being a celebrity. Famous and infamous. Too many people coast on name recognition and audiences still rely on it more than they should. Remember the lesser known brands, or at least take time to look beyond celebrity status. This applies to politicians as well. Name recognition should not rule the day.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Mail Art piece from Berlin Wall

25 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell and sometime around then, I got this art piece in the mail from Germany. Dust from, I assume, the wall enclosed in plastic at the center of the photo. Back then, I was participating in a grassroots network of pen pal artists who sent creativity to one another, sort of like the sharing that ordinary people are doing today on Facebook. Back then, there was no Facebook and the art traveled through the mail. It is called Mail Art. Some people still do Mail Art.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A lot of government red tape comes from local rather than national government

Folks who vote for Republican leaders at the national level are barking up the wrong tree if they are doing this to reduce regulation on small business. Much of the regulation of small business comes from local government such as city, county and state. Local rather than national government. Small business is often saddled with various local zoning regulations, fire, health and safety codes, certification for certain professions, building permits and business licenses. Then there's also the many environmental rules for wetlands, farmland preservation, water restrictions and so forth.

There are federal regulations as well, but many of the ones that come to my mind relate to Wall Street. There's federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as federal banking rules. Some of these rules may have been too lax leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Do we want to deregulate Wall Street more, but still saddle small business with local regulations that are overlooked by national politics?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Washington State I-1351 could harm state social services, parks and other needs

I think I'll vote no on 1351, the class size initiative.

I don't always follow party line thinking. Democrats may be horrified, but I think I will vote against Washington State Initiative 1351 mandating smaller class size. Problem is, there is still no extra funding source, in that legislation, to provide this money. I'm worried that it might force the state to slash other things, such as social services, state parks and even college education (which isn't K-12) to come up with the money. Smaller class sizes, especially in the early grades, are desirable, but I am afraid they will not be able to find the money and may be forced to cut other things that the state needs.

Raising more revenue, for the state would be a good thing, but this initiative doesn't address that. One of the problems is that Washington State has a very regressive state tax system. Much of the state revenue comes from sales taxes which tend to hit low income people harder even though food is tax exempt, at least.

Still, much as people grumble about income taxes, the graduated income tax that many other states have does a better job at taxing the rich, so to speak. Also there are a lot of financial transactions and so forth that are tax exempt. Tax reform is needed to make our state tax system less regressive while possibly raising more revenue. In the meantime, I worry about the non K-12 things that the state does, such as mental health services, parks and so forth that might get squeezed out in the budget battles.

Some folks support initiatives, like this, which could force the issue so the state might raise more revenue and deal with tax reform. I am afraid that's kind of a game of chicken. If anti tax people don't blink when K-12 pushes its way, the other needs in the state loose. In the long run, these other state services are also good for kids and education. For instance teachers need things like parks and museums as places to take class field trips to. Also, of course, without adequate social services, many of the children are less prepared to learn.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

My 2014 bike tour photos are now on line. Trip in Western Washington and Oregon

Start of 1 mile walking trail to Big Four Ice Caves east of Everett, WA.

See Trip Album here.

Also see.

Vancouver, BC. Gay Pride 2014.

And Blog Entries.