Saturday, December 07, 2019

Recreating Facebook in a decentralized way?

There are quite a few people who are critical of Facebook, yet it's hard to beat the interactive momentum that Facebook has.

I got to thinking that the open web used to work kind of like Facebook, but at a much more subdued level. People just posted things on their blogs, web sites and so forth. Things came up in searches and comments were made.

I guess this could happen again, versus trying to create a new Facebook. It's hard to get the momentum of network effect going on a new site; especially when friends are mostly on Facebook. Possibly a new site could get off the ground if it had less; rather than more, concern about privacy. If one doesn't already have friends on the site, low privacy makes it easier to find people and content via search.

It was fairly easy to find connections on the open web back when there was less privacy, paywalls and so forth. The web was like a seamless thing. Not totally open and seamless, but the whole concept of "open source" comes to mind. Decentralized and non proprietary.

The reason why this comes to mind is that a friend of mine just mentioned that he used to find what was going on in various towns, that he traveled to, by doing searches on the web. Now he says it's harder to find things because the events and discussions just get posted on Facebook, but not on the open web. He thinks Facebook's search doesn't work very well and it would be easier if the things could be found in Google.

When he said that, a light went on in my mind.

I do still try and put things onto the open web; including this blog and my photo albums on Flickr.

Facebook does intensify the interaction significantly, but quite a few things aren't posted on the open web anymore. I still put things on the open web; especially if they play well; so to speak, on Facebook. Facebook is a testing ground for my thinking as it's where I get almost all of the interaction. If it plays well on Facebook, then I put it on the web. Places like Flickr are good for search and archive, but, these days, it's a lot quieter out there; feedback wise.

A strategy of Facebook is friends interacting with friends. It's friends that are most interested in our content; rather than the big time media. Big time media tends to ignore us. Of course if they print everything we offer, it's truly "information overload." That's why focusing on friend networks takes off. It stimulates the grassroots discussion.

I basically still like Facebook. I do think more use of the open web would help. Posting things on blogs, web sites and so forth.

Open search engines could be developed to prioritize the content from average people, rather than loosing it under a stack of celebrity (such as Trump Tweets) content. One's friends could become a "filter option" in Google Search.

Maybe something like the Facebook feed could be recreated at the user end; on the user's browser. A plug in to the browsers that would bring up things from bookmarks the users put into the browser. Create a feed from a list of bookmarks which would include one's personal friends?

Maybe that's what RSS feeds were? I'll have to refresh myself on that again. It's kind of a dusty memory.

Before the World Wide Web, grassroots discussion was a lot more limited. There just wasn't enough space, in the media, for everything. There were things like letters to the editor, but there was more space for interaction in person. Discussions around the water cooler, so they say. I still find that I have a lot of those discussions in person today.

In a way, Facebook is the water cooler on steroids.

Back in the early days of search engines, there was a search engine called Magellan. It had a rule, if I remember correctly, that it would only list content from official publications and more credible, institutional type sources. No personal, self publishing type web sites were allowed. Other search engines, at the time, did allow personal sites. Sites such as Altavista and Lycos did allow personal content. The later sites took off with more interesting content while, I think, Magellan didn't get that big. A while after that, Google started indexing everything from personal to institutional content. Google really took off.

To reduce fake news, it may help to try and just catalog institutional content, but one must remember; the Trump White House is an institution also.

My strategy for reducing fake news is to be in less of a hurry. I'm not in a hurry to re post things until there's time for fact checking and discussion to happen.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The places I have lived.

It may seem narcissistic, but I have created a photo album about the places I have lived. It's on Flickr which is visible on the open web. No subscriptions needed. I've weaved some of my opinions, about living situations, into the photo captions and descriptions that come up when one clicks on each photo.

You've already seen a few of the pictures on Facebook, but I now have the whole album. It does seem narcissistic, but social media tends to favor personal stories over just news and opinion that one might also get from the mass media.

So here it is. Places I have lived.


Photo from my 2013 move. Follow above link to my 2019 move and beyond.

See also My Childhood.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Is leaning far to the left sustainable; not just at the ballot box, but also in the economy?

Obama has recently been in the news as he cautions people not to lean too far to the left. Part of the worry is politics. It's thinking about what is electable, but I also have another, more long term thought.

My question; are big reforms advocated on the left sustainable? Would they be supported by the American people in the long run? For instance, free college sounds good, but do higher taxes, to pay the cost of running colleges without tuition, sound good?

Here in the blue state of Washington, we recently saw a victory for tax cutting, transit gutting Tim Eyman's cheap car tabs initiative. That victory; like Trump's victory in 2016 caught a lot of people by surprise.

There are many, what would be called radical ideas for dealing with climate change, but I am noticing, here in the blue city of Bellingham, lots more automobile traffic than ever before. Bellingham's population is growing, We should be riding bicycles and using public transit.

I think, moderate Obama has a good point. Are we willing to support our own ideals? Are we willing to support them at the polls and in the new economy that they would create?

Kind of related to my thoughts above is this commentator tipping his hat to Trump on the economy. Given Trump's many problems and drawbacks, this commentator still says, the economy is humming along pretty good.

That's what I think of as the Achilles Heal for Trump's campaign strategy. Looking deeper, tho, is this "booming economy really a good thing? What about the carbon footprint? What about income inequality? I think Americans need to make some big changes in our expectations at the grass roots level. Yes, I mean things like more bicycling and less fixation on money.

For an alternative platform to challenge Facebook, it would have to go the opposite direction from privacy.

The momentum (network effect) makes Facebook extremely useful. Like most big institutions, it does have it's problems. If an alternative could get going, it's always good to have choices.

For an alternative to get off the ground, I think it would have to go the opposite direction from privacy. On a new platform, one would need to be able to brows freely without having to be in the friends list of the people they are browsing. The posts and topics would need to be searchable, both inside the platform and in Google. I think posts and threads would need to be visible on the open web to gain publicity. It would take this, at least for a while, to get the ball rolling; so to speak.

This would be the opposite of what some people want when they want more privacy. To start and to get the ball rolling, it would need to be open; in my opinion at least. It would kind of be like going back to the web, before Facebook, when people had their various pages and blogs available. Today, few people think to go to my blog anymore. It does get some traffic and searches, but most of the interactivity is on Facebook. That's why I use Facebook.

In the 1990's, they had a term called "push technology." That was when information, on a web site, would be pushed out to a list of subscribers; like being in a newsgroup or on a mailing list. Facebook takes care of that now. On a new platform, people could still sign up to friends lists to subscribe, but they would also have to be able to brows the content without having to be subscribed, or in the friends list, of the person posting. To get the ball rolling, it would have to accommodate the lurkers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Why have an HD radio?

Since I am kind of a radio geek, I just bought a new HD radio. Most people wouldn't even know what an HD radio is. How is that different from a regular radio?

Certain stations put out an HD digital signal which allows the station to transmit more than one program over its signal. Some FM stations have 2 or 3 programs.

Why have an HD radio versus just finding everything, radio and all, on one's cellphone?

Relying on cellphones for everything can be problematic. No wonder people's cellphone batteries keep going dead. Then there's the problem of having to pay for data. HD radio sends you its data (programming) for free.

Another issue is emergency communication. Radio can be more robust when the lights go out. It's harder to provide auxiliary power to all those many cellphone towers than it is to have backup power for one radio station. See my entry on the recent PG&E fire prevention power shutoffs in California. Lots of folks were left in the dark without thinking about using the radio.

I've thought that HD radio might go by the wayside due to the use of cellphones, but it's still hanging in there. Problem is, it isn't easy to find an HD radio. Not just a radio with digital tuning, an actual HD radio. Hard to find in stores and many of them are expensive. One can search online for HD radios from various retail websites.

The first HD radio, I had (called the Insignia) worked okay, but the control buttons were very hard to see and hard to use. Tuning, volume and so forth were across the top.



I eventually took it to Goodwill with it's instruction booklet. I also wrote some things on the booklet to help people, maybe, know how to use it.

The HD radio I use now was made in UK. Called the Retro Mini. Works pretty well and easier to use.



The HD features only work if one is within the primary range of the station. Unfortunately, they don't work for fringe area reception. During childhood, (and still sometimes today) I to liked getting radio stations from as far away as I could still barely hear them. That doesn't work for HD.

Here in Bellingham, my location has a clear view to the mountains north of Vancouver, BC where lots of FM stations are located. One of my favorites is CKNW which broadcasts talk shows. Seems like Canadian commercial talk is better than that in USA. CKNW is normally on AM. 980 AM, but static from cellphones and computers in the home make AM reception difficult. The program is also on FM HD. It's on CMFI 101.1 FM HD 2.

CMFI HD 3 is another AM station; "All Traffic All The Time." Vancouver's all traffic 730 AM. Yes, traffic is a good use for radio; even at 4 in the morning. I sometimes like to listen tho I am seldom in traffic. Listen and gloat.

Here in Bellingham we have a few stations that broadcast an HD signal. The most notable is KZAZ, our local outlet for Northwest Public Broadcasting.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Urban areas with different values need to have more autonomy

I think this country would work better if urban areas had more autonomy. After the $30 car tab initiative passed, here in Washington State, this columnist, in the Seattle Times, suggests the more in "urban" King County, be allowed to tax itself. Tim Eyman's tax cutting transit crippling initiative didn't pass if the vote were just taken within King County.

There is a big split between rural and urban thinking when it comes to the need for things like public transit. Unfortunately, statewide rules put limits on what urban areas can tax within their jurisdictions; even if the people within the urban areas vote for the taxes.

According to the article, the denser populated areas of King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties voted for more expensive car tab taxes to support the Sound Transit light rail plans. Other more rural areas in those counties voted against those taxes along with most of the rest of the state.

I think, if the taxes could be levied and voted on by precinct, it would be best. Even county lines don't always fit. Big areas of those 3 counties are less urban. The less urban voters in Pierce and Snohomish Counties were able to carry those counties for the cheaper car tab measure. The Tim Eyman measure. King County, itself, did vote against Tim Eyman on that.

This author is suggesting Sound Transit drop it's plans for expanding into Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Only do the build out within King County. There are a few Sound Transit services already in those counties, however, like the Sounder Train to Everet and the light rail in downtown Tacoma. He would suggest no more plans to expand light rail beyond King County.

I do tend to also see some merit in a comment, in the article, from Pierce County's executive who must not be a fan of rail. He says we would be better off with rapid bus transit. Bus transit rather than light rail. He could be right in that. Seems like America really can't do rail. In China, rail gets built whether property owners, in its path, want it or not. USA is different.

Buses might still be more practical, tho not as glamorous. The Pierce County executive suggests a dedicated "bus only" HOV lane between Seattle and Tacoma. This would get the buses out of the traffic snarl. Bus only HOV. Not an HOV lane that considers 2 passengers in a car to be mass transit. The current HOV lanes are clogged with traffic also.

Allowing urban areas more autonomy would be a great help. The needs and problems of rural and urban America are quite different.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

To have, or not to have insurance

In one of my threads on Facebook, a friend suggested that the concept of insurance is a bad idea. He thinks insurance creates the illusion of an endless pool of money allowing medical professionals to overcharge and patients (in the case of health insurance) to not accept personal responsibility for their health.

I find those ideas interesting, but I also feel insurance is needed due to the wide range of health circumstances that people face. Here's what I wrote in response.

I think it was invented, in part, because there is such a vast discrepancy among people regarding health. Some folks; like me (knock on wood) have been healthy for years while others have real expensive medical conditions. Some folks are born with conditions where life, or at least quality of life, is real expensive to maintain. In the past, lots of these people just died and / or were an even greater burden on their families and loved ones. Insurance helps to take care of those less fortunate.

It also enables less healthy lifestyles and greed at the top. Creates the perception of a limitless money pot. It can go both ways.

If everyone were fairly healthy and of reasonable income, one could just use their savings accounts for medical needs. There have been attempts to create medical savings accounts with this in mind. I have one that my employer pays into. It works unless, of course, I were to have catastrophic illness, or long term illness. I also have high deductible insurance from my employer for that eventuality.

That friend has some libertarian thinking so he is suspicious of attempts to use government to provide things like health insurance or even public transit. I tend to favor things like the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Private health insurance seems to be serving less and less people, these days.

Whether public, or private, I still feel there is some need for the concept of insurance. Here's more of what I wrote in that thread.

One thing Libertarians seem to overlook and not provide an answer to is the problem of vast discrepancy in medical needs between different individuals in society. As I mentioned earlier; some people can get through life with very little need for medical care while others face chronic illnesses and, in some cases, birth defects, that require loads of care. Without something like insurance, the people with more extreme medical expense are more apt to be left behind. I think that is one of the original reasons for creating the insurance "large pool" concept. Its to soften the blow on those who are medically less fortunate.

Having said that (above), the system of insurance is ripe for abuse and there does need to be smart ways to deal with those problems. I do think there needs to be more competition, so to speak, and transparency in the medical profession. Also more incentive for healthy living. As with communications technology (you mentioned in your comments), this can help to bring down the costs.

There is a lot of technology in medicine. At the same time, not all things work like the amazing advances we have experienced in communications technology over the last few decades. Medicine may not be quite as easy, in that way.

Competition has helped in the advancement of technology, but there has also been lots of government participation as well in the basic research and the development of things like the Internet backbone.

Seems like a mix of strategies is the best way forward. We need something better than just all "libertarian free enterprise," or all "government." These are extremes in thinking that may look good in theory. A mix seems to bring us forward, but nothing, even a mix, is without it's potential for abuse. Insurance, whether, private or government, can easily be corrupted.

I know there are some solutions that libertarians have for taking care of the medically less fortunate. Solutions; such as charity care and volunteer service, but it seems that without the big pool to soften the burden, these solutions would still leave many folks out in the cold. The needs of the less fortunate are just too overwhelming.

In the past, lots more people, with serious illnesses, just hobbled along without the technology, we have available today, to address these handicaps. Today's ability to bring more people into normal living, through medicine, does create a high cost, in many cases. Also, in the past, more of these people just died earlier. Flashback to a somewhat critical letter I wrote, back in 1986, to Group Health Insurance Cooperative in Seattle. They responded.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

All electric over natural gas? A lot of electric comes from natural gas. Cars are still the elephant in the room.

Seattle considering a ban on use of natural gas on buildings built after July 2020, at least.

I think, probably a bad idea. The main alternative, used in buildings, is electricity. Guess what. A lot of our electricity comes from - natural gas. It doesn't really stop the use of natural gas; a fossil fuel.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, most of our electricity does come from hydro electric dams, but natural gas is another big source of our power. We have more hydro power than most places, but as our population and prosperity grows, there aren't enough rivers to keep up with demand. If there isn't enough hydro power, much of our electricity comes from natural gas; such as the Encogen power plant on Bellingham's waterfront.

Wind and solar generates power also, but not that big a percentage; yet. We need to use the wind and solar more.

Some people might say that electricity is best as it's the most adaptable. One can generate electricity from many sources, including solar, nuclear, coal and so forth. If we convert to "all electric," it might force us faster into adopting solar, but in the meantime most of our Northwest power is hydro. Hydro has it's problems too. Think dams on the salmon streams. There's even a proposal to dismantle some of the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers to help the salmon and the whales. Several native American tribes are pushing this idea.

The biggest problem is our transportation. Still way to dependent on fossil fuel powered cars and trucks. That's the true elephant in the room.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

If radio doesn't provide local information, people turn to internet, but what happens when the power goes off?

Power company just not taking chances and turning off lines as winds whip through autumn dried California. Evacuations and things people take for granted, like traffic lights and cellphone communication not working in some cases.

This brings up the issue of emergency communications now that so much information flow goes over the internet and cellphone technologies. Quite a few cell towers don't have backup power, computers go dark without electricity and folks who now rely on their cellphone for just about everything keep running down the battery.

In years past, radio was a great technology for disseminating local information, but these days, a lot of radio stations are just automated music formats with no local news staff, or just national network feeds carrying programs like Rush Limbaugh.

If radio stations produced more local news and information content, people could turn to the radio for useful information. In the Bay Area, KQED does a good job, among stations, however. I enjoy their locally produced shows about homelessness, the environment, technology and so forth. I even find that information interesting up here in Bellingham, but I am an information junkie.

Some folks called a recent show about PG&E turning off power lines due to fire threat. They were wondering where they could get information, including emergency information, if their computers and cellphones go down. Where does one tune to on the radio? Battery operated radios can save on cellphone batteries.

I wrote a comment, probably lost among the comments, wondering if the Civil Defense Emergency Network could be, or has been, activated over radio stations to inform people which local stations were carrying the emergency information. How does one find those stations if their computer is down?

Much of the radio dial is just automated music or national network formats with no local news coverage. Maybe not quite so bad in a big metropolitan area, but here in Bellingham, there's practically no local news or talk. It just isn't economically viable. KGMI comes closest, but I noticed, over the years, that when we have big storms and so forth, it's often on a weekend when the local news staff is not working. That station is usually just national network feeds. Other local stations are pretty much all music; like turning my MP3 player on shuffle; a concert on the decks of the Titanic as it's sinking.

42% national sales tax to pay for Elizabeth Warren's Medicare for all plan?

Yes, health insurance is expensive. An interesting article, by Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance (not the video) talking about how much a "Medicare for all" plan could cost. Staggering, but toward the end of the article it does say that people and employers pay a staggering amount now for private health insurance. When considering what folks pay for insurance, the higher taxes to support Medicare for all isn't so bad after all.

Of course higher income people would be hit harder with the taxes than they are with premiums as taxes tend to be more graduated; or at least should be graduated based on income.

Healthcare is too expensive. Even Medicare for all would have to be paid for, but private insurance is expensive also. More people should ride bicycles for exercise and health. I just add that whenever I can.

Cancelling UN climate conference might save on jet fuel

The next big UN conference to address climate change was planned for the city of Santiago in Chile, but social unrest in that country forced the Chilean government to cancel the event due to security concerns and so forth.

My cynical side might say cancellation of this conference can save some jet fuel and greenhouse gas emissions flying the delegates to the conference. The conference may be scheduled in another location, however. Bonn, in Germany is being considered as a backup.

After resolutions are passed at these conferences, one wonders if they can get the nations and the people to comply with the lower guidelines for reducing carbon emissions anyway. Meanwhile there is social unrest related to income inequality and folks fretting about things like rising gas prices. As populations and demands for prosperity keep growing, there is a lot about mainstream ways of life that seem no longer viable. Shifting to a more bicycle culture, solar energy and green technology isn't always easy.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Extinction Rebellion has some good ideas, but here is one mistake they, as well as so many others, make.

I've been hearing about something called Extinction Rebellion. Wants quicker action to reduce carbon emissions. Protests by blocking bridges and so forth. They blocked the Burrard Street Bridge a while back.

In my opinion, these people are making the same mistake that so many folks make. They focusing on changing the government. The problem is the people, not necessarily the government. Government is just part of the problem.

In Vancouver, BC they are trying to all but make cars extinct. If most people lived my lifestyle, Robert Ashworth, it could be done, but I don't think most people will give up their cars.

They'll get electric cars, maybe, if easily available. This group would be okay with that only if the electricity comes from green energy, I guess. They want to see big changes within 5 years. I'm a non driver. The bicycle is my main means of transportation and travel.

Extinction Rebellion calls for much less meat consumption, car free living and a lot of other big changes in people's lives.

One of their main proposals calls for a reform of government by creating something called a "Citizens' Assembly." That could be like a house of Parliament (in Canada) or Congress (in USA) I guess. I do think that's a good idea, but it would not necessarily get us to significant reduction in carbon emissions.

What a Citizens' Assembly would be (as I understand) is a body of citizens randomly picked; like in serving on a jury. It would better represent the population than an elected body in some ways. These days, elected bodies are basically only made up of wealthy people who can afford the publicity to have name recognition to get elected. Money rules. A citizen Assembly would be picked by random lottery. Even so called nobodies; such as farmers, custodians, scientists and so forth could serve in the body.

I find this idea intriguing as a way to reform government and reduce the power of money in government. One body could be chosen this way while the other houses of government could still be elected. It would give more kinds of people voice in the government. Not just the politicians who can win the popularity / name recognition contest of being elected. These days, money has pretty much warped the election process except maybe at the local level. It just takes so much money to get on'e name out there, in most cases.

Adding a Citizens' Assembly might be a good idea, but it wouldn't necessarily get us to quick a ending of carbon emissions. A Citizens' Assembly would still be made up of people. The big problem with our carbon addiction is the people and our cultures. The government is mostly just a reflection of what the average person still wants to have. Most people aren't likely to support policies leading to things like giving up their cars within 5 years.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Do we still need to keep ramping up product production, or isn't there a more up to date economic strategy?

Trickle down economics keeps getting discredited, but somehow it persists. It gained lots of traction during my college years when inflation was rampant. Prices were going up for lots of commodities and products such as gasoline. There was some attempt to have price controls, but that often led to shortages. There were the gas lines of the 1970's. Some economists thought, if you help the producers, give them tax breaks and so forth, there would be more supply and lower prices.

Thus what I think Supply Side Economics is about? Question mark here as, admittedly, trying to read up on that subject causes my eyes to gloss over.

We face a very different situation now. Here in the US, we are awash in cheap products. There is usually lots of supply. There isn't the "Energy crisis" like in the 1970's. We've basically fracked (oil fracking) our way out of that. Today's problems are a bit different. It's been getting harder to afford a place on this planet that one can call home. Ramping up factory production, or oil drilling, isn't going to create more place for people on this planet. Better planning might, however. Density, transit and so forth; in the places where the jobs are and the people want to live.

We also have the cost problems associated with income discrepancy. Large segments of the population that can't afford the services provided by high income professionals such as medical services and insurance services. Education is effected by this also; for instance the high cost of college administrators. Giving more money to the wealthy isn't going to help here.

In my college years, I heard it said that giving money to consumers would just increase demand and push prices up farther, or lead to shortages. That thinking might work for gasoline, but not necessarily for all parts of the economy.

Today, I hear economists, such as Paul Krugman, talk about the need to stimulate demand for things we need; like building green infrastructure.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

As Greta Thunberg shamed them, they cheered even though many got to the UN by jet. Surrealistic.

It was surrealistic when young climate activist Greta Thunberg gave her speech before the UN. She was shaming the people as in how dare you. Shame on you and they cheered. Many in that audience arrived by jet plane.

There is kind of a disconnect between what people say has to happen and the lives of most folks being business as usual. This disconnect contributes to climate anxiety.

Making the needed changes is possible, but challenging. Here are some of the challenges.

Reducing the carbon footprint as world population continues to grow. Expected to level off at around 10 billion people; 3 billion more than currently alive. More people needing places to live, jobs and so forth.

Much of the Third World has been, and still is rapidly rising out of poverty. Good news in many ways, but challenging when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint. More people driving cars and so forth.

Countries, such as Japan have shut down nuclear power plants which has led to an uptick in power coming from fossil fuels. It may be even harder to reduce dependency on fossil fuels if we decommission nuclear energy at the same time. Nuclear is a large source of non intermittent power. Solar and wind energy is best, but these are intermittent sources; meaning they only work when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. The technology of battery and power grid distribution still needs improvement.

Significant reduction in the carbon footprint is doable, but it will require many changes in the way business and governments work, also changes in people's lifestyles, expectations and voting patterns. We also may have to rely on things like carbon sequestration and even geoengineering; meaning artificially reflecting some sunlight away from Earth.

How quickly we have to make big changes is up to debate, I think. According to Greta, pretty much right away; like in the next decade. That's anxiety producing, in itself. As for what the scientists say, that's a bit less clear. We do have a problem, but how quickly we have to solve it doesn't seem like the slam dunk; so to speak.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Redefining GDP to include more forms of progress

In Greta Thunberg's speech at U.N. Climate Session, she criticizes talk about money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. GDP growth could be a bad thing. For many, this would be a real hard pill to swallow.

In my own opinion, I am not a big fan of increasing wealth and economic growth, but I am a fan of progress. There are many forms of progress that are not measured by traditional measures of GDP. Human rights, health, more free time, meaningful conversations, friendships less burden of work; even erotic pleasure; to name a few. This calls for major changes in culture and lifestyles all over the world.

People tend to be more comfortable with technological progress and technological progress is a great thing. That can happen also.

On the subject of technology, much of that progress is not measured in our faulty figures for GDP. The tiny and inexpensive Smartphone offers us so much yet it's monetary price adds very little to GDP compared to the multi million dollar computer I saw in the mid 1970's when I toured the computer center at Washington State University. That computer boosted 2.5 megabytes of RAM memory which was significant back then. Todays, far more features of the Smartphone hardly tip the scales in people's perception of their wealth.

Advanced technology is one road to less energy use. Think LED lights.

We are living in a time of great abundance, yet our economic situation puts many folks only a paycheck or two out of poverty. Maybe we can't grow our way to a sense of fulfillment, security and peace of mind. That shift in thinking is an economic challenge in the West.

Meanwhile; especially in what's called the Third World, the traditional measure of GDP growth is possibly even more sought after. As world population grows and more people rise out of poverty, there is continued pressure to provide more jobs, homes, cars and so forth.

Immigration adds some population growth in the west also driving some of this pressure here.

I think we have to redefine what progress means. Think less in terms of traditional wealth and more in terms of other qualities in life.

There is some anger in her statements. I hope this doesn't provoke a war between the generations.

Here's another item in the news.

Climate change fight should be 'sexy' and 'fun', Japan's new environment minister says.

Reminds me of some of my thinking in relation to World Naked Bike Ride. Think about things that motivate people rather than just sacrifice, doom and gloom.

Japan, itself, comes under criticism as new coal plants are under construction there. Problem is that after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, quite a few nuclear plants have been shut down so much of Japan's power needs shifts back to fossil fuel sources.

This environment minister, in the link above, has encouraged the shutdown of nuclear plants as well. Another hard pill to swallow; especially thinking of the islands of Japan having little land area for solar and wind farms.

If Japan can try and go green, even without nuclear, we ought to be able to also, here in USA, with so much of our land area; including our desert lands. Still, it's a challenge.

Here in Whatcom County, there is still a moratorium against wind power in most rural areas of the county. This due, in part, to the property owners, "not in my backyard" issue and also due to the worry about wind farms effect on bats as well as birds; especially bats. Eastern Washington has lots of big wind farms now; like around Ellensburg.

Building solar panels can create economic activity and traditional forms of wealth, but making these changes also can create economic disruption; for instance carbon taxes. Some people gain while others loose in the short run at least. We need lots of new thinking about the economy.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Think how much growing pain grumbling there would be if US population were growing as fast as world population.

World population has doubled since my childhood, but here in the USA, it has not quite doubled. The US population has grown from 200,000,000 to around 325,000,000. Not quite doubling, but still a big jump.

The main point I am making is that we are sure noticing the growing pains, here in USA, yet we still aren't growing as fast as some other parts of the world. Imagine the growing pains we would feel (or at least grumble about) if we were growing as fast as some of the other parts of the world.

One of the most obvious growing pains is the angst about immigration that's mostly expressed on the right side of the political spectrum. Refugees are swelling our ranks, but imagine what it would be like if 1/3 of our population was recent refugees. I hear that was the situation in the small country of Jordan which sits right next door to Syria; a nation which has been crumbling.

We hear growing pains on both the left and the right. Most people, on the left, don't seem to grumble about immigration, but there is a lot of anxiety over new construction and development. There's quite a bit of worry about all the new construction here in Bellingham. I also hear that California is behind by 3 million units in the housing construction it would have needed to keep up with its population growth. Housing costs are at a crisis point in many US cities and towns; at least in desirable locations.

Part of the problem is how we go about developing and accommodating people. I hear that 40% of the land area, in Los Angeles, is devoted to asphalt for parking and driving automobiles. This is not just a problem in Los Angeles. We need to rethink lots of things, including how most people transport themselves in our society at least.

Much of the world is still aspiring to live like we do.

Here in the west, our human rights, gay rights and feminism is pretty good, but we do tend to be consumptive societies. Our population growth is more under control. I think part of that is the success of things like gay rights and feminism. Most of our population growth is due to immigration.

In much of what is called the Third World, attitudes about human rights can be a lot worse. Population is growing faster than in the west while many of the people aspire to have similar material wealth to the west. It's like the worst of both worlds.

I know that population growth is slowing down, all over the world, but not slowing down fast enough; especially if one believes that we are close to the breaking point on climate change.

As for the west, we really need to rethink things like jet travel and automobile dependency unless we can find green alternatives to power these things. We are making progress, but is the progress coming in time?

I like the insightful comments I got to this post on my Facebook wall. One can see most of them, I think, if logged into Facebook tho not necessarily in my friends list.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Thinking about agriculture. The pressure to industrialize.

Interesting article came up in my Facebook news feed.

Destructive farming is the issue — not whether you eat meat or vegetables.

I reposted article and then I also put what's below in the comments to my own repost.

Besides the farming techniques talked about in article, I think a lot of the problem is just the sheer volume of meat and food we consume. Even meat is okay in moderation, but depends on how it's done. Humane treatment of animals is an issue tho.

As for the environment, overpopulation needs to be discussed. Also over consumption. So much of our food is wasted. There is a lot of pressure for big scale industrial agriculture. Grain fed feedlots and so forth. With less pressure for low price and volume of production, smaller, family style agriculture can work. In USA, we tend to pay too much for housing and medical care while not enough for food as a percent of household budget. Good food does require something from us.

As for meat, things like cattle can help the soil if handled properly. In marginal and dry areas, cow hoofs can till the soils while cow pies add humus. In moderation, meat is okay, but there is too much pressure to create volume for mass consumption. The pressure leading to industrialization.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

A right wing politician critical of gay rights and now, not surprising, the Amazon is burning

I often connect the issues of sexual politics and reproduction to environmental issues. Most people don't discuss that connection very often. They put gay rights and feminism in the human rights compartment of their compartmentalized thinking. Environmental issues are in another compartment. I often connect the two with the issue of overpopulation.

I'm not surprised that not long after Brasil elected this right wing president, the fires have gotten worse in the Amazon. I'll admit that maybe I am reinforcing my own bias as I just did a Google search with the words Jair Bolsonaro (president of Brasil) and Gay Rights to see what came up. This article came to the top. I had heard that Bolsonaro was not friendly to gay rights. This article brings that point home tho it isn't new news. It came out in April 2019.

One can also blame part of the problems in Brasil on the traditional left, or at least some of the leftist politics of Venezuela. Venezuela has a left wing government that has made lots of promises to the people which, apparently, it is not able to keep. The Venezuelan economy has been imploding causing lots of refugees to flee into other Latin American countries; including Brasil. Venezuela is on Brasil's northern border near where the Amazon region is located.

Population growth, in part from refugees, may be one factor adding to the pressure to lift environmental restrictions in the Amazon. The pressure of farmers, miners and so forth trying to make a living.

Venezuela's economy is based, mostly, on fossil fuels. I think the true solutions are to reduce population growth and reduce dependency on the fossil fuel economy. Often those type of goals are not talked about in the mainstream right or left wing circles. One problem Venezuela has faced is the volatility of oil prices. When prices go up, promises can be made, but when prices go down, promises are broken.

Remember, even if climate change is subtle and not as alarming as some people think, we still have to find a way to feed, house and employ possibly 4 billion more inhabitants on Planet Earth by the end of this century due to projected population growth.

As to the problem of meat consumption, this chart was of interest to me. Brasil being the world's largest meat exporter feeding many countries, around the world, such as Egypt, with growing populations and rising material aspirations. Clearing of rain forest is largely driven by beef consumption.

Interesting that the US is not clear at the top of the list. Consumption is a worldwide problem related largely to population. The US does get lots of blame, but the problem is worldwide. I would guess the US grows lots of its own beef so Brazilian beef sources are less important. The US is still on the list, however. It's still in the top 10.



I found this chart in another interesting article.

Hong Kong is at top of this list with the large population of China a second.

Lists like this also bring up more questions for me. Hong Kong is small, tho densely populated. Is Hong Kong also shipping beef along into China? It's listed separate from China.

The Middle East is a big importer of Brazilian beef, according to this chart. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE.

As to my own meat consumption, I do eat some meat, but try to eat mostly plant based things. Better for health also. I do drink lots of milk, admittedly.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Should some redistribution of wealth be part of a green new deal?

Representative Cortez's Green New Deal also calls for a more fair distribution of wealth, rather than just compartmentalized thinking in dealing with climate change. She gets flack for her ideas.

I haven't studied them fully, but I can see a need to address income inequality in relation to climate change because a lot of the things we need to do, like carbon taxes, are basically regressive taxes. They hit consumers. Workers driving to work, folks who can't afford to live close to the job and so forth. Most energy consumption is among the masses who create the mass market. Average people will probably be more apt to swallow the needed change if they felt they were getting a fair deal.

There are far less rich people, in total numbers, so their personal consumption as a class may not be that high even though their per capita consumption (per individual) can be really high. They also have more power in shaping society and how business is run. If the leaders would do their part, then the average consumer would feel better about doing his or her part as well. We need to bring back more of a sense that we are all in the same boat.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

All the fuss about 5G and what about the low frequencies?

Some people in my mostly liberal circle of friends are starting to talk about the threat of radiation from cellphone systems switching to 5G technology. I've done a bit of reading from establishment scientific circles so I tend to not be worried about that. I guess I've brushed that worry off pretty quickly. Low power microwave signals don't worry me, however there could be other consternation about 5G. Worry, itself is a health hazard.

There is the pressure and stress, felt here in USA, to keep up with China. Do we need to roll out our 5G technology before China establishes the standards, makes the equipment and runs most of the systems? What about human rights and privacy with China running things? Would there be the spying "backdoor" to "China Inc?" That's a worry.

Then one wonders what good is 5G? Do we have to always keep up with the Jones' and not let the grass grow under our wheels? That's always a worry when there is pressure to "move ahead."

What will 5G provide that we don't already have maybe too much of already? Does this mean folks can watch high definition television on mobile devices? Television while driving?

I know, there are lots of things I can't envision today; like who would have dreamed of search engines back in the 1950s? I'm a fan of progress, but I tend to shy away from pressure and rat race.

I hear that 5G is a higher frequency than today's cellphone systems. Higher frequency for more data, but one must be even closer to the service provider's antenna for it to work. Less fringe area service; from what I understand.

Does this make it harder to have the service in rural areas, behind hills, in sparsely populated areas or even in the canyons between buildings, let alone the canyons between mountains?

While thinking about these things, what about the lower frequencies? Microwave frequencies, used by cellphones, need line of sight between your device and the service provider. Yes, it does reflect off buildings and mountains, but it tends to work best with line of sight.

Lower frequencies, such as the old fashioned AM radio band, provide signals that can bend over hills. The signals travel long distance. I would guess less dropout spots.

When traveling along the road, AM radio can envelope one in a steady signal without the shadow areas of higher frequencies; such as with even the standard FM band. It can get to areas that don't have antennas nearby.

I know, lower frequencies provide lower bandwidth. Maybe they don't work for everything we want, these days. Still, these frequencies could be put to better use than just hearing Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity on the radio.

Yes, I'm putting in a dig to the deterioration of AM Radio as so many stations just carry the same network shows. Little choice beyond right wing talk. Too much redundancy on the AM radio dial. Redundancy on the FM dial as well.

Now I will digress and say some things about the current state of AM radio. AM does have more than just Rush Limbaugh. It has Country and Western music, oldies and repetitive traffic reports.

I've seen some articles hinting at suggestions for re-purposing the AM band. Use it for something else besides being locked up into almost useless radio stations (sorry Rush fans). Can't you folks listen to your national network on the internet? If all programs just come from the network, who needs local radio stations?

I forget, AM does have ethnic radio; Spanish speaking stations, Punjabi Radio.

There's Mexican music on the same radio dial as talk shows advocating the border wall. That's kind of neat, in a way. It's America. We can peacefully share the dial at least, but maybe not. The dial is still pretty crowded. There's too much redundancy on both AM and FM radio dials. Can't we open things up and allow more access to the lower end of the radio spectrum?

Yes, a lot of commercial stations seem to be just coasting. Like some property owners; quite a few stations are little more than just place holders on a dial that used to have listeners. It's time for some radical disruption.

There's also the shortwave bands. What they used to call "shortwave" back in the early days of radio. Not as short as the microwaves used by today's cellphones. These frequencies don't get much use today; from what I understand.

Shortwave was the frequencies used by international broadcast stations; Radio Moscow, BBC World Service and The Voice of America. On shortwave, one could send signals clear around the world.

During my childhood, I used to tune in stations from all over the world. Signals would bounce off a layer of ionized air that's high up in the sky. It's called the Ionosphere. The ionosphere can bounce signals clear across Oceans and continents. It was neat to be able to get signals from so far away, but often the programming was a bit boring. The bureaucratic utterances of governments. Radio Moscow was notorious. There is a lot more variety on the internet.

Ham operators would use these shortwave frequencies also. Home hobbyists could send their low power signals to another continent. Problem was, about all they would ever talk about was their antennas. It would be like listening all day to, "I'm running a T with 4 dipoles." "Then I got another over the garage." "I'm hooked to a number 5 trimmer coil." "The XYL (ham term for wife) doesn't like all the space that last installation is taking."

In the early 1990s, I visited a ham operator who was sending data packets from the internet to other operators using the airwaves. He could send photos to remote places in Africa, but it would take quite a while; like a real slow modem connection.

I think some of these frequencies are still useful for things like search and rescue. Use of the ionosphere can bounce communication to places like deep ravines in the mountains where there wouldn't be cell service or wifi. Not even line of sight to a satellite that's too low on the horizon.

AM signals can bounce off the ionosphere also; especially at night. When I was growing up, I used to tune in stations from all over the country, with just a regular AM radio.


Illustration I put in high school newspaper about long distance AM radio at night

Could these lower frequencies be put to better use in today's digital age?

Rush Limbaugh fans may be among the many "rushing" to to get 5G going. It's part of keeping America on top. Like "Make America Great Again?" Don't let China beat us at this.

After commercial radio has pretty much clogged up and trashed so much of the AM band, it's good to ask, how will we plan to use 5G? Is this going to be another "vast wasteland;" like television was once described as? I am not against technological progress, however. I just like to think about these kind of questions.



Article I wrote in the Pullman High School newspaper 1972 / 73 year about long distance AM radio.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The summer of 69 when the vacuum tube gave out in our TV just before Armstrong stepped onto the moon

July 20th 1969 was part of the summer between my 8th and 9th grade years. I watched the all day coverage of the moon landing, but just before Neil Armstrong was to step down that ladder, a vacuum tube gave out in our television and the TV went dark.

We got in the car and headed across town to some friend's place that had a working TV. We got there in time for the reruns.

My two sisters were less enthused about the space program than me. They weren't planning to watch it anyway. Instead, they were driving across the state from Pullman to Seattle. When Armstrong stepped down that ladder, one of my sisters said that she took a picture of a drive-in in Ellensburg where they had stopped for dinner. That was to capture the moment.

Meanwhile, my parents and I were on our way to our friend's house with a working TV. Those friends were named, The Stevenson's. The father of that family had died earlier, but he was a big figure at WSU in Pullman. The Stevenson Dorm Complex is named for him. 3 13 story dormitory towers and a dining hall. Yes, growing up in Pullman, one can know people who have university buildings named for them.


Stevenson Dorms are the brick towers near foreground of this 2017 picture I took of Pullman Skyline during my 2017 bicycle tour.

In many ways, it was an epic summer. In the national news there was Woodstock and Stonewall. I wasn't aware of Stonewall when it was happening, tho. Leaned about that incident many years after the fact.

The moon landing was hyped as a big deal. I was fascinated in it myself tho others in my fairly liberal family were not as enthused as me. They felt the money might be better spent on poverty relief and environmental cleanup. I kept saying that pushing the progress of science could also help other things; like environmental cleanup.

The TV networks covered the moon landing all day. As they waited for the various events, such as the landing and then a few hours later the walk, there was lots of airtime to fill up. They had interviews and special features. They even interviewed folks who believed that the walk was a hoax and the whole thing was staged in Hollywood.

All day coverage had me glued to the TV as I find science a lot more interesting than things like day time soap operas. That's one reason why the TV tube went out at the critical moment, but we all took it in stride. Normally, I'm not a fan of TV. I listen more to the radio.

Back in 1969, I made a reel to reel tape with some radio coverage of the Apollo Missions. I still have that tape today. It's in good condition, but unfortunately, during my college years, I recorded over a big part of it to do a tape exchange with a pen pal about another topic.

Also related to summer of 1969, Stonewall. I wasn't aware of the Stonewall Rebellion until years later.

Sculpture I made in a college ceramics class about Stonewall. That 1969 event I didn't hear about. My first impression was the Stonewall Halfway House and Drug rehabilitation center in Seattle for gay people. The Stonewall House. I saw an article about that Seattle institution as I looked at publications that were coming into the Gay People's Alliance Office at WWU, here in Bellingham, where I hung out a bit. I was also taking ceramics. That was around 1976.

With the cone of silence, about gay issues in society, during my childhood, I wasn't aware of the Stonewall Incident till around 1976. I learned about the detox center first then the incident that it was named for sometime after that.

I grew up in a liberal family and gay rights was pretty much respected as a civil rights issue, when it did come out, but it was pretty quiet and information wasn't as available during my childhood as it is today. I must have not had the radio on when the Stonewall Rebellion was happening. It dropped out of the news pretty fast. Unlike the moon landing that was all over the news.

I would like to believe that society is still progressing today. In 1969, there were around 3 billion people on this small planet. Today, over 7 billion are struggling for it's limited resources. We do need to take a lesson from things like Gay Lib. We need to modernize our thinking about family planning and procreation. Not everyone should feel the pressure to procreate. It's okay not to procreate. We have enough people.

To deal with the difficult problems of global warming and limited space on this planet, we need the fruits of our science. Solar panels are an example of a technology pushed forward by the space program. Microchips are similar to tiny homes in my way of thinking. As society progresses, we can also miniaturize to save space on this planet. Smaller families, smaller homes, more sophistication. Our earliest computers hardly did anything compared to the Smartphones of today. They cost millions of dollars, took up entire rooms and used lots of energy. The first ones ran on vacuum tubes; the same tube technology that snatched my ability to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon as it was happening.

Today, we have progressed to the tiny Smartphone age tho not everyone sees this as progress. One thing about the tube going out in our TV during my 1969 experience was that it does make for a good story today. It was kind of like an unplugging at just that critical moment.

Someday, if we survive, maybe we will live beyond the confines of this planet, but in the meantime, life on this planet is made better if we look beyond our shortsightedness. Science is one of the best tools we have along with some flexibility in thinking and some patience in our demands from this planet.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Preaching to the choir on Facebook

There is a lot of preaching to the choir on Facebook; especially when people defriend folks they disagree with and then post articles providing strong evidence for things like climate change. The people who need to see such evidence have been defriended leaving only the choir behind.

Of course maybe no one, but the choir will believe such evidence, but I do find that a lot of folks do think about things in new ways when communication is given a chance. Especially when presented with ideas they haven't just seen over and over again; like the standard talking points.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Some say immigrants get better healthcare and prenatal care than American citizens.

Some of my thinking gleaned from a thread on Facebook.

American citizens should be able to access healthcare. That's why we need healthcare reform.

I sometimes have felt that disabled people and some immigrant or refugee populations had better healthcare than many low income workers or even small business owners that fell through the cracks in our system. Much of our system of healthcare and welfare was designed in an era, like the 1960s, when it was assumed that if one was working one was fairly well off and middle class. The income gap has skewed the situation. At the same time, it still is in our interest to provide prevention and a pathway to citizenship for some of the immigrants that are working in our economy. Their labor seems to be in need in our economy and the old phrase still applies, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Yes, American citizens should be served.

The need that American citizens have for things like prenatal care is why we need healthcare reform in USA. We need to work toward a system of universal coverage with sliding scales so healthcare can be available to all Americans; especially working Americans. Many working Americans can't afford private insurance premiums and don't have employers that provide health insurance. I think the Medicaid expansion, that was part of Obamacare, was a good step for the most part. It attempts to expand coverage to more people, including people with low paying jobs. Before, a lot of those people were not eligible for Medicaid because they weren't eligible for Disability or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. It helps single lower income working adults.

But some people hate Obamacare.

Obamacare does look real bad for people who have higher incomes and good health; like the $2100 per month premium with $12000 deductible you mentioned. I think this happens because the lower end of the sliding scale gets subsidized. Someone does have to pay to subsidize the lower end. The higher end of the sliding scale pays more. Many people at the higher end do get "sticker shock" when they see what they get for their money, I guess even compared to private insurance.

One way to address this problem is to just not serve people who cost the system too much. To try and serve mostly healthy people. This can keep the costs down, but it's a problematic solution ethically. It's taking away coverage for people with preexisting conditions. Even a lot of Republicans don't wish to do this, tho they don't seem to have answers to this problem. Republicans hate taxing the more fortunate, but seems like there is no way around having to do that in order to continue providing coverage to folks with preexisting conditions; especially lower income folks in that situation.

I do think there does need to be more incentive for healthy living, but not all bad health comes from lifestyle. Much of it is luck and genetics.

Our society does need more of a focus on healthy living, but other things get in the way. Some of it is people's stupidity, of course. Also a lot of bad things are pushed on the populous; such as liquor sales, tobacco and sugar. Then there is the whole problem of sedentary lifestyles. Our transportation system, our town planning, even our lack of sidewalks in some areas. Also the problem of being over stressed and over worked. Also over medicated in some cases. The way many doctors practice medicine.

When someone said, "what about the better system that our religious organization provides?"

I guess systems, like your church system, can cut out much of the middle man (middle person) bureaucracy. That helps. I would guess they also tend to serve folks who try and live more healthy lifestyles. Also I think some of those systems have caps on their coverage so real serious, costly illnesses remain outside the cap. There is still the problem of American citizens who incur much higher medical cost than average; often due to no fault of their own, tho lifestyle is a big factor.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The US an oligarchy? Still has freedom of expression. China could use more freedom, but it can get things done, so I hear. Benevolent dictatorship?

Freedom of thought and freedom of expression are cherished virtues that we still have here in USA, for the most part. At the same time, I've heard our country described as an oligarchy instead of a democracy. It does seem like it's definitely a tainted democracy at best, if not an oligarchy. Things like gerrymandering of political districts comes to mind. How much money influences politics these days also comes to mind. We have serious problems related to the very running of our society which make it hard to do things like adapt to climate change or even build high speed rail. Gridlock and nimby ism come to mind. Lobbying and our inability to pass moderate gun legislation also comes to mind.

I gather that some people, in China, think they have a better system than we do. They can get things done, like high speed rail. On the other hand, maybe high speed rail isn't the best answer, but that's another topic. China may have an easier time adapting to climate change.

I would guess some of Chinese folks feel like one needs a bit more control when dealing with 1.3 billion people. Someone, I know, who has lives part of the time in China, describes it as a "benevolent dictatorship." He's spent time in China, Hong Kong and USA.

As for the internet, in China, it is pretty closed behind what is called "the Great Firewall of China," but my acquaintance says a lot of Chinese people figure out how to "climb the firewall."

Still, I appreciate the freedom of thought that we have (or at least I think we have) here in USA. We may be kind of gridlocked, but at least we can still entertain ourselves by talking it to death while we sit in that gridlock.

I think about this all while hearing the news from Hong Kong about demonstrators sacking the Hong Kong Parliament building. The yearning to preserve and expand freedom of thought remains powerful. I hope things don't get so chaotic that authorities, like Chinese authorities, come in with something like martial law and shut everything down. Social change often has to happen incrementally. If it gets too chaotic, crackdowns do occur. It takes both patience and innovation to move the cause of freedom forward.

I realize that I have lots of ideas and opinions, but admit I've only been to two countries in my life, so far. I've only been to USA and Canada. I do keep up with world news quite obsessively, however.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Cruising in the age of consent. Me Too may apply differently to gay people versus heterosexual situations.

Interesting article, Cruising in the age of consent. It's a bit long with lots of ideas, but here's just one of many concepts I gleaned.

As is talked about in the article; issues of the Me Too movement tend to apply much differently in a gay setting than in mainstream heterosexual settings. In the latter, there is more of a strength and power imbalance between men and women. That doesn't necessarily apply in the gay world. I especially like this one statement about the concept of safety being somewhat different in the gay world versus the heterosexual world.

"Gay men’s classic sources of trauma and violence stem less from being hit on than from being literally hit by homophobes. Safety hasn’t typically meant freedom from carnal pursuit; safety has meant the possibility of it."