Sunday, October 04, 2015

Video made during my visit to Russian House #1

Part of my 2015 bicycle tour down the west coast. Visit to Russian House #1 near Jenner, CA.

On their Facebook page, they post videos of conversations and music from various customers. It's an interesting way of sharing. Also promotes understanding between Russia and USA; two countries often locked in controversy.

Our guest about Radio Moscow

Posted by Russian House #1 on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Video available to non Facebook users as well.

They didn't seem at all offended when I told a story about writing to Radio Moscow, when I was in college, and asking about human rights for homosexual people in the Soviet Union. I wrote that letter in 1976 to a listener question and answer program called "Moscow Mailbag." That question wasn't read over Radio Moscow, but they wrote me back with a pretty negative reply. I wasn't surprised as human rights wasn't that big a strong point in the old Soviet Union. More recently, things have gotten better for a while, from what I gather in the news, but also things get worse again. Goes in cycles.

Copy of letter I got in 1976 from Radio Moscow.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The quantum unknown creates license for imagination wonder, but be careful

Quite interesting article on Quantum Physics And The Need For A New Paradigm. Here's some of my own thinking, not directly from article, but inspired by these things.

The space/time universe that we experience may just be the tip of the iceberg as discussed in the article. Who knows what this can mean. It provides room for one's imagination to roam. I feel there are lots of possibilities, including what some folks would classify as metaphysical. At the same time, one needs to be very careful before drawing conclusions beyond the actual science.

I like to be open minded about the many possibilities, but I am skeptical of pretty much any metaphysical claims that people make. There's still lots of unknown and lots to learn, but the science doesn't say much, or support, the various claims that people can make; including the claims of great world religions.

Far out concepts about things like the quantum realm can provide license for us to think outside our limited, materialistic space/time box. At the same time, our ideas can be a minefield of quackery and the science doesn't really back most of what we can conjure up. I like being open minded, but non dogmatic about the possibilities we all think up.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Did Pope Francis's meeting with Kim Davis undermine the rest of his message?

Pope Francis had a fairly brief meeting with Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to sign gay marriage licenses. He still holds onto what I consider some outdated concepts about sex and family. At the same time, he usually tends to put these things in the background while speaking quite strongly about fairness and income distribution. I wouldn't agree with everything he stands for, of course, but there are some things in his bag of ideas that are cogent remarks on the condition of today's society.

On the plane headed back to Rome, Francis talked about the concept of conscientious objection. "Without referring to Kim Davis, the pope said conscientious objection is a right that is part of every human right." I can understand some of that thinking. Who wants to be forced to do something against their convictions, but I guess Kim Davis could, of course, resign from her position. Solders in war, who often have conscientious objection to a particular war, have a harder time getting out of the military. Back in the days of the draft, people were sometimes forced into military service against their will.

Job descriptions do change as society evolves. County clerks now have to follow the broader definition of marriage, people who join the military, during peace time, often face changes in the job when a war starts.

Still, the pope does say many good things about compassion and income distribution even though his less than ideal opinions on sexuality threaten to undermine his stance among us liberals. This pope has also spoken out about global warming, but those views are definitely undermined by this world's continuing explosion in population growth. Now passing the 7 billion mark. We may not be able to address global warming without a significant slowdown in population growth. Old ideas on sex and family certainly undermine that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse is not that it was during the super moon. The super moon is only slightly larger than a normal full moon. It's that the eclipse happened in Bellingham when it wasn't cloudy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis has more credibility on similar issues than the last two popes

Pope Francis has been a strong critic of the income gap, the dark side of capitalism and selfishness. The last two popes had similar views, but this pope has more credibility. He seems more humble, himself, in things like his choice of pope mobiles and clothing. Also he is less pushy about the church dogmas that aren't that friendly toward birth control, gay rights and feminism. The other popes were more pushy on those dogmas so they ruined their credibility among liberals when it came to what they were saying about things like poverty and greed. What this pope says resonates better with us liberals creating more of a resounding chorus. The other popes might have tried to sing that tune, but it was more cluttered with emphasis on parts of the dogma that would turn the rest of the liberal choir away.

Also, the past two popes came at a time when the Catholic Church was besieged in the midst of the priestly sex abuse scandal. That scandal is probably starting to wind down now. It clouds the credibility of any stand that the church takes on ethical issues, but even that ugly black eye seems to be starting to recede into the history books by now.

On the topic of gay rights and population growth, the pope is still not willing to drop old ideas, but he does seem to speak more softly on these things. Using the concepts of grace and forgiveness, he puts out a welcome mat to more diversity of people and dialog. This is also an important step forward. Less of the witch hunt mentality that pope Benedict was accused of.

Personally, I still think it will be difficult to solve climate change unless we address the population problem. Even this pope has said he doesn't expect us to be reproducing like rabbits (I forgot the exact quotes), but church dogma puts a lot of obstacles in the way of new thinking on sex and family issues.

I still think this pope has taken many steps in a good direction and, for the most part, has been a positive influence in the ongoing discussion. He does have a kind heart. Change is often step by step.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Maybe philantropy is a better model for funding pharmaceutical research than return on investment

Egregious for sure. New hedge fund management in this pharmaceutical company raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Martin Shkreli is the Donald Trump of drug development.

They say they have to charge a lot to pay for research and development. I just got to thinking, there may be better ways to fund research than the standard "return on investment" model. How about philanthropy? Lots or research is funded by foundations and donations. Often donations from the very wealthy. For instance, if someone dies from a rare disease, money is often donated in that person's memory. Philanthropy might work better than pharmaceutical profits. Maybe it isn't good to view drugs as private investments, but rather investments in the public good.

Also, of course, there is government funding of research, but thinking about the philanthropy model is an avenue that's still kind of "free enterprise;" for those who are skeptical of turning everything over to government.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Religious bigotry and overpopulation are related and make their mark on the refugee crisis as well as climate change and other things

Religious bigotry and overpopulation seem to be related. Often religious bigotry stands in the way of reducing population growth. One thinks of anti gay bigotry, anti feminist attitudes and things like the battles against organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Then we see the troubling results of all this in the massive refugee floods around the world. Overwhelming in numbers; the people seeking to escape bigotry and war in their countries of origin.

Besides the refugee struggles we have the issue of climate change related to our growing numbers and aspirations. Will the California drought end before destroying California's vast agricultural industry that so many folks depend on?

Some forecasters say 2016 might be an El Nino year with more rain to California, but this isn't certain. Also El Nino means warm in its own way so little or no relief for the snow pack.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we face low snow pack also. Forest fires raged and are just starting to abate for the season.

How fast can Bellingham grow? Will lots of folks and retirees want to take refuge in our small city? Will housing remain affordable? What about traffic?

We can accommodate lots of people if we learn to live differently. Will single family residential zones have to go? How about the automobile with all the space it devours for parking? Maybe we can do better as some of these challenges also bring the seeds for opportunities, but we have to be willing to accept change. Flexibility. Not bigotry.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Maybe being that big isn't a good idea for Haggens Corporation

Quite a few people in Bellingham tend to be wary of big corporations. Sometimes events will land in one's lap that reinforce one's views. Haggen, a regional grocery store chain that has been based in Bellingham, is now facing the downside of "big corporate merger mania." The unhappy stories flowing across the pages of Wall Street Journal and other media. Of course this would happen around us; here in Bellingham. Gives many of us more pause in our thinking about big corporations; as if we didn't have pause already. Looks like it was trying to grow too fast.

West Coast Grocer Haggen Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9 2015.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Wormholes without the need for the pesky black hole

I read this interesting article about a magnetic field passing through a wormhole in the lab.

Significant, as I think (tho I could be wrong) that this is the first time evidence for a wormhole has actually been seen. The concept has been around for decades. Use of wormholes to take a shortcut and jump from one part of the universe to another without having to pass through the intervening space has been the subject of science fiction. I'm remembering the book "A Wrinkle In Time" where the concept of "tesseract" was used to travel around in the universe. This may not be quite that exciting, but the concept seems somewhat related.

Up until now, most talk that I hear about wormholes has been associated with black holes. If the wormhole exists, it's hiding behind the event horizon of a black hole and the event horizon is hiding inside the accretion disk where matter and energy are swirling down into the black hole. Certainly a daunting, if not impossible prospect to peer through all of this and tell just what's there. No one can really see into the black hole so seeing something akin to a wormhole without having to deal with the black hole is significant.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Have we all fumbled the situation in Syria? Now here comes the flood of refugees

Maybe we should have intervened to help the moderate democratic forces in Syria?

Who knows. We did intervene in Libya and it's still a mess.

Obama has taken heat for being cautious about trying to "save" the Middle East with our military. Maybe we just make it worse. Also, it really isn't Obama's call. It's an international situation and Europe plays an important role. Europe is not enthusiastic about "sending in the troops;" even thinking about troops as being a force for humanitarian aid.

With that in mind, is Europe now reaping what it sows; or failed to sow?

Syria has crumbled while Europe and United Nations debated and gridlocked. Now the flood of desperate refugees is showing up on Europe's doorstep. This may be the biggest problem Europe faces today. Forget the banking crisis, refugee flood may be even worse. It's totally a mess, at least according to the news, but part of the mess is from Libya also. Europe and Obama did try to help out in Libya.

Russia has been a true stumbling block on Syria also.

Much of the Middle East is such a mess of religious bigotry and over population. I feel for all those desperate folks washing up on Europe's shores. And we, in USA, think we have an immigration problem. Imagine the situation in Europe! Overwhelming.

Immigration to the US is slowing to a very moderate pace, these days. It's from countries in Latin America where most of the people seem to assimilate fairly well into US society. Catholicism is a major religious force in Latin America where many US immigrants come from. It's getting more tolerant of diversity and the new pope is helping. Birth rates are going down in Mexico, at least, from what I hear. The heavy religious bigotry that we see in so much of the Middle East is more serious stuff.

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.