Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmas lights more efficient nowdays

Christmas lights galore. This house along one of my favorite bike routes across town.

I remember government officials asking people, back in the 1970s, to have less Christmas lights.

Now there is less guilt, partially due to light emitting diodes. They use much less power for same amount of light.

Inventor of light emitting diode was recently on NPR Science Friday show. He was discussing the art of invention. Started working with the concept in 1962.

I remember "sterio light" would come on in a hifi amplifier of the 1970s. That was my first experience of light emmitting diodes. Now thay come in many colors.

If we can't change our consumptive ways, maybe technology can patch the problem for us.

Don't worry, be happy.

Actually, I like technology and innovation. It is what saves us as world circumstances change.

Miniblinds in space to combat global warming?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Bicycle Shadow.

This is the shadow of me riding my bike holding a camera.
Friends were just over looking through many of my photos. Someone said, "why don't you put this one on-line?"

Picture taken on a road south of Washtucna, Washington in 2001.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Problems Funding Local Government In This Narcissistic Society

Today's news says, median price for a single family home in King County (where Seattle, WA. is located) tops $3000,000.

Meanwhile a lot of industry and jobs have evaporated. As industry goes overseas, the source of wealth, for American cities, has shifted.

It is now "home ownership."

This makes it harder to fund local government because industry is easier to tax, politically.

It is easier to tax "the other guy."

The "big bad industrial monster" is easier to tax than homeowners who vote.

Home ownership has become the wealth machine driving urban economies on the west coast.

Appreciation in home value has been so intense that people can earn more, just sitting in a lawn chair and watching their home values climb by, say, $30,000 per year, than working. Industry is no longer the machine for creating wealth that it used to be.

Local government is needing to shift some of the tax burden to home owners, but it isn't easy to do politically. It's "taxing voters." Industry is easier to tax.

With industry in decline, but house values continuing to explode one wonders where this economy might lead.

A topple tower?

What keeps house values so artificially high?

In Bellingham, many new residents have recently sold their California homes and bought up here. They often have enough left over money to retire early. That keeps consumer spending up so our malls and stores look prosperous. Local government finds it harder to tax this wealth than the "old factory" wealth of past decades.

An economy based on Narcissism.

Yet as housing and health care costs continue to go up, the cost of providing government services rises.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Bellingham Peace Vigil each Friday.

Federal Building is now owned by city of Bellingham. It is a historic building still housing a postal substation and some other offices.

A pedestrian oriented substation as parking is limited in that area.


People should be less addicted to oil anyway.

Someone got me to hold his sign about oil while he snapped pictures of the vigil several months back.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Memories of Buy Nothing Day & Critical Mass Ride

Several Years Ago in Bellingham. A bit too Confrontational, but Good at Heart.

Most Critical Mass rides are a bit too confrontational for me. The costumed cyclists will often take up all the lanes, on a multi lane street like Holly in Bellingham.

More people would see costumes if cyclists only took up one of the lanes. Then motorists could pass a long string of colorful cyclists.

Taking up all the lanes means that motorists just see the backs of other cars. Maybe this is not as effective?

It's just a thought.

Anyway, I don't mean to be too critical of the Critical Mass movement.

Some would say it is the duty of bikes to slow all the cars. It slows society down a bit, even though tempers may rise.

Several years ago, on Buy Nothing Day, a group of colorful cyclists headed out from downtown Bellingham. I went along for the ride, even though confrontation is not really my goal.

Telling people about the peaceful times I have on my bike tours is more my style. It makes them jealous; especially after they notice how much gas costs these days.

Anyway, I found myself "going with the flow" right through a red light. Afterwards it donned on me that going through a red light is not really my goal, it was just the flow.

Soon the line of cyclists came to a stop. Police were arresting one of the ring leaders who placed his bike across the intersection, signaling traffic to stop, while others went on through. His bike was impounded.

A controversy ensued as the activist was knocked off his bike by the bumper of a police SUV.

After this, the police cars were less evident and they were replaced with bicycle cops. Possibly this was an attempt to "soften" the police presence to reduce confrontation.

Next stop was Jerry Chambers Chevrolet, on Northwest Avenue. Insults were chanted across the ocean of new cars parked on the lot.

I don't think any of the customers, or staff, noticed.

The ride proceeded on.

Last stop was Bellis Fair Mall. Slogans were chanted in favor of Buy Nothing Day. Some thoughtful conservations took place with mall shoppers.

Eventually mall security passed a message along to the bicycle police asking them to disperse the group.

People headed their separate ways home.

This was a few years ago.

I like many ideas that Critical Mass stands for, but the style is more confrontational than my style.

Still it does take many kinds of voices to bring change.

I say, good luck to Critical Mass. Just remember, more people would notice the costumes, and color, if the ride just took up one lane.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The elephants run from the elephant in the room

The Right To Live
The elephants run from the elephant in the room

While Bush administration lawyers dicker around trying to repeal Oregon's assisted suicide law, the true "elephant in the room" isn't mentioned.

The elephant is, "are we going to be able to afford all the health care needed to stay alive as the post war baby boom generation reaches retirement age?" Health insurance going up in price, corporations dropping their plans, government in debt, will social security be enough? These are important questions. The true elephant in the room.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

2004 Election Postmortem

After Kerry Campaign. Empty campaign office on State Street in Bellingham.
Since Kerry and Bush had similar stands on national defense, maybe that should have not been the focus of the campaign. The subtle differences were hard for people to grasp.

If the campaign had focused on domestic issues, there could have been more substance to Kerry's difference, from Bush, for people to grasp.

Do Democrats have a "big picture" vision ? America 50 years from now.

Still coasting on Roosevelt's "New Deal" of the 1930s and Johnson's "Great Society" of the 1960s new issues, like gay marriage keep getting tacked on.

That old vision with all these new things tacked on reads like a laundry list of "me too" special interests.

Labor, women, gays, nimbies, and eventually middle class tax cuts.

Can this bag of promises all hold together?

Like many things, gay marriage is more than just another goody to pull out of the bag. It fits into a broader issue of changing family patterns. This relates to world population growth and eventually the environment.

The leg bone connected to the hip bone.

I am remembering a "white paper" that came out in the 1970s from some think tank called "The World Watch Institute." They produced a report on feminism and related changes that are leading to things like smaller families. More single people and, most importantly, "slowing population growth."

Gay marriage can be seen in a larger context. It relates to changing attitudes about sexuality and family. Moving away from procreation toward more diversity of experience.

This relates to things like immigration reform and the 4 thousand illegal aliens I hear about crossing our border with Mexico each day. Nations with high birth rates.

This relates to water shortages in the American southwest. What about the depletion of the Ogalla aquifer? Also relates to traffic, sprawl, and the need for urban in filling.

All these issues relate to a world that is getting more crowded and consuming more resources.

A vision for how America, and the world, shall survive in the next 50 years and beyond is paramount.

All these pieces can find niches in the greater whole. It isn't just gay marriage here and protecting a wetland there. It isn't just a bag of unrelated promises tacked onto an outdated great society image from the 1960s.

Also it is important to maintain a sense of progress. The future must offer us more than just sacrificing for survival's sake. If reducing consumption is necessary, how about envisioning a 3 day weekend?

Hurry, a 3 day weekend.

A 32 hour work week. Less money to consume with, but more time for family, friends and community involvement. How about a cultural revival.

If people felt they could be better off, in a broader sense, than just materialistically, they might go for it.

This relates to the concept of more choices. More freedom. Also relates to healthier lifestyles.

How about more time for exercise? Lower health care costs nation wide, improving access and insurance affordability.

Connect the dots. All these things can find a place in the vision.

So far, I am just talking about a vision of interrelated concepts, not necessarily legislation.

Some would still call this social engineering.

Others might call it an agenda. "The gay agenda?"

Problem is, there really hasn't been a gay agenda. Gay people can be just as materialistic and workaholic as anyone else.

Democrats need to at least start dreaming again. Where will America, and the world be in 50, 100 years?

The national leadership could better connect itself with grass roots level organizations that are promoting these things for a sustainable economy.

Alternative lifestyles.

Population reduction.

Alternative energy.


Alternative Transportation.


Reducing healthcare costs for improving access.

In filling.

Sprawl containment

Hybrid vehicles

Light emitting diodes

Compact florescent lights


Co housing

Wind power

Solar energy

Mixed use zoning.

Mixed income housing.

Voluntary simplicity.

Shorter work week.

Un Manned Space exploration, Astronomy.

Letting free enterprise direct manned space flight; tourism.

New technologies.

Open minded religions.

These things may not "play in Peoria" for the short run, but an election is not right around the corner. If Democrats are looking for a long term vision, they could start connecting the dots that these grass roots innovations have developed.

It may take convincing the majority of Americans to think in new ways beyond just "who provides a tax rebate?"

Making the case for a sustainable economy is a bit different than just trying to win the next election. There may be time to develop this vision before the next election. People might buy it if it looks like the road to a brighter future.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Wallet, clock, more powerful than voting

We only vote for President once every 4 years. Other elections once a year or so. We vote with our wallets every day.

We also vote by how we spend our time.

Are you spending time with friends, shopping at the mall, taking a walk, watching TV, going to the movies, consuming more, consuming less, driving to destinations, taking the bus, riding a bike?

Are you buying from companies that treat the world, and or their employees fairly, or paying just their top executives too much. Are you buying local or "out sourcing?"

There is great empowerment in pondering these questions? Voting for political candidates just doesn't happen often enough. Our wallets and our time are more powerful tools.

On a talk show, I heard them discuss the oil aspect of the Iraq war. How oil has, at least in part helped to plunge that region into war.

A caller ask this intriguing question:

"Can there be Fair Trade oil ?"

There is fair trade coffee and there is fair trade chocolate. How about oil?

The studio guest thought that was an interesting concept and didn't know if such an entity exists or not.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Revisiting The 1980s Post Election Soul Searching

I have kept all letters to the editor, I wrote over the years. About 130 of them by now.

As I catalog them, it is fun to look back over what I said.

Now that the media is full of commentary about soul searching among Democrats, I remember similar "soul searching talk" after President Regan's victory in 1980. People were asking, "can we find an alternative to the nonsense of main stream culture?"

A letter that I wrote, in the Bellingham Herald, around 1984, caught my eye. It was during Mondale's run for President in 1984, not long after someone named Gary Hart lost the Democratic nomination. Mondale ran against Regan's second term. This was soon after Chrysler corporation was saved by a federal loan guarantee. Here is what I said:

Dear Editor
Dateline 1984

Cross - Purposes

Mondale's support for the Chrysler bail-out is one more example of the Democratic party's right hand not knowing what its left hand is doing. When the right hand bailed out Chrysler; it must have hoped that car sales would improve, so Chrysler could recover from its slump and pay back the loan.

While the right hand was betting on an auto sales recovery, the left hand was busy asking Americans to drive less. The left hand wants to reduce this country's consumption of oil and other nonrenewable resources. It does this by supporting public transit as an alternative to car travel, passing environmental restrictions which often get in the way of oil production and replacing parking spaces with pedestrian plazas.

I have never figured out how the Democrats thought car sales would improve while they were also taking steps to reduce this country's love affair with the automobile. Gary Hart's vote against the Chrysler loan seems to be more consistent with the ideals of protecting the environment and saving oil.

I guess, if we really wanted to save Chrysler; we should have supported Reagan. Since Reagan has taken office, there has been a dramatic increase in car sales. Reagan's policies; which have lifted many environmental restrictions and opened the way for more oil production, have given the auto industry the boost they needed most, stable gasoline prices. Also; the break-up of the OPEC oil cartel and the shift of international power back in favor of the United States has lowered our fuel prices.

Car sales are up and the Chrysler loan did succeed, but I still wonder if this was a good thing in the long run. Should we really go back to the days when fossil fuels and the automobile were king ?
I would have rather had someone come up with different ideas; such as supporting better rail service.

Friday, October 29, 2004

My Meeting With Congressman Jay Inslee

Some people wondered, "what was Inslee doing in this (the 2nd) congressional district?" Wouldn't he be campaigning in his own (the 1st) district?

It was a local forum on Energy. Introducing something called Apollo Pac.

I was impressed. Remembering that "can do" spirit that got Americans to the moon, why can't we develop alternative energy with a similar gusto? Wind energy, solar, hybrids, bicycles, transit, changing town planning, no shortage of innovations for adding to the mix.

About 30, or so, energy minded folks gathered to hear his presentation and then participate in a lively question and answer session.

Forum organizers were smart enough to reserve the space for at least an hour after the formal "question and answer" so people could mingle, among one another, networking so to speak. A lot of Bellingham's creative thinkers were there. People need to talk to one another as well as hear from the "big guys," like the Congressman.

Rather than zipping off, in some limousine, Inslee stayed in the room also. He joined in to some of our circles of discussion. I was happy to interact with him, as well as others in the room. Even shook his hand. Hope I didn't give him the slight cold I have.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Green Manhattan

Prettier than a rural sprawling Walmart parking lot. This is one of many nice views I snapped in 1993 when I had an opportunity to walk in New York City. See below, my review of article on Green Manhattan.

Those interested in planning, bicycling and environmental issues would be interested in an article called "Green Manhattan." It's in the October 18 edition of The New Yorker Magazine. I xeroxed a library copy, 7 pages. Haven't yet found it on line.

Talks about Manhattan Island as being the greenest city in America. Not necessarily by external appearance, but by per capita consumption of resources by its residents.

Being able to live with-out a car and not having a lawn to put chemicals on all ads up to lowering one's ecological footprint. It talked about apartments that are easier to heat than suburban homes. Finding ways to keep the impact of human existence confined to urban spaces, rather than sprawling into more and more pristine spaces.

Urban environments can be fun, like not having to drive 20 miles just for a candy bar. What about being able to walk to a great concert?

This article is a good resource for people interested in ideas like in-filling or the Washington State Growth Management Act.

"Green Manhattan," in the October 18 2004 New Yorker Magazine, by David Owen.

I just got to thinking, "urban sprawl" should be renamed "rural sprawl." Urban development often gets a bad connotation even though it is the efficient way to accommodate population. Rural sprawl is caused by people moving farther and farther into the countryside.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Green Slime

Green Slime; a difference in this world

I wasn't planning to add my "two bits" toward a better world when I set out for yesterday's errands, on my bicycle.

One of the things I wanted to do was to put some green slime into my back tire. It prevents flats.

As I was squirting slime into my tube, the manager of the filling station I stopped at (where there is a free air hose) came out to fill another tank.

He was quite intrigued by the slime. Said, "I think I'll stock it in my store." "It makes sense." "There's Fix It for car tires, there would be something for bike tires as well." "It just never occurred to me." "We get a lot of bikes past here; they could use it."

I showed him the tube and explained that I had gotten it at a bike shop. Having it stocked at the mini-mart could add a level of convenience for bicyclists. Bike shops tend to be open more limited hours.

Riding a bike is a unique way to go. People don't see something like green slime every day. This little trip might have made a difference by influencing the inventory decisions of a popular mini-mart.

I often find my self answering questions about my bike, travel and lifestyle as go. These impromptu and unplanned conversations might do more than this blog. Who knows. If I was traveling like just about everyone else, in a car, people wouldn't notice.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Autumn scene along Interurban Trail in Bellingham

Autumn scene along Interurban bicycle trail in Bellingham, WA. between Old Fairhaven Parkway and Old Samish Highway.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Fort Ord bike path into Monterrey, CA. & more from my 2004 bike trip

Great bike path into Monterrey, CA. Goes through old Fort Ord. Each day, I am posting a few more images from last summer's trip.

I am posing in front of the carillon at top of Hoover Tower on Stanford University Campus. One of many things I visited during my 2004 bicycle tour.

Santa Cruz Surfer Sculpture. Seen along West Cliff Drive.  Many would say this surfer guy is younger and cuter than me, but he doesn't talk or swing his arms.  A standing model.

Phone booth at Madona Inn, San Luis Obispo, done in stone. These are some more pictures from my recent bicycle tour.

A home away from home that is larger than my home at home. This RV was seen proudly displaying the American Flag at a campground near Roseburg, OR. Spotlight illuminates flag showing thanks for nation that makes such large motor homes possible.

My bicycle is many times smaller and just think what this nation would be like if more people biked.  The flag could remain the same however.

More pictures from my 2004 bicycle tour.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Dialog About The War From Canada Side Of Border

I tuned in for a few minutes of the Ideas show on CBC Radio. Heard two folks discussing Iraq war. One seemed somewhat in favor of invasion while the other was against. The "in favor guy" sounded clear and articulate, to me, while I don't really remember the point the "opposed guy" was trying to make.

Ironically, a story told by the pro invasion person caused me to think of the war as a failed policy.

He spoke of traveling around in Iraq meeting many folks who were happy to see American troops depose Saddam Hussein. One young man expected Hussein to be deposed and then he could get a ticket to immigrate out. He wants a better life for his family. Out somewhere. The speaker suggested, to the comfortable audience of Canadians, "maybe Canada." "Or maybe USA." Someplace besides Iraq.

Now, some good natured North Americans are getting nervous.

He said many Iraqis are disappointed. They expected miracles from the Americans.

He even joked that the Iraqis might be disappointed that America hasn't done anything about their hot summers.

I say, "We can't even prevent our own hurricanes."

Who is making all these promises to the Iraqis?

Are they watching Hollywood TV?

Can we even deliver on promises made to our own, American, people?

What will happen to the many families, in that part of the world, with 8, or so, kids?

We may not be up to this task.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Stay The Course?

I thought of a cartoon idea, while talking to a friend. Car driving toward a brick wall with driver saying, "stay the course."

My friend said I should submit a cartoon to the Bellingham Weekly. My illustration skills are marginal at best, but it's and idea.

Then another friend entered the conversation.

He said, "that was today's political cartoon in the Bellingham Herald."

What a co-incidence. No I hadn't seen the Herald yet.

The Herald cartoon was not a car, but a boat headed for the waterfall. One rower says, "I'm staying the course" while the other says, "We could use a flip-flopper." Cartoon was by a Mike Luckovich, from Atlanta Journal Constitution.

A coincidence indeed.

I like the idea of changing course, in theory, rather than always being bull headed. On the other hand, I don't necessarily think the US should "get out of Iraq yesterday, if not sooner."

On the Iraq war, I have always been a "fence sitter."

Like "flip-flopper," "fence sitter" is another thing that some people don't like.

There are arguments in favor of trying to bring some sort of democracy to Iraq as well as arguments against it.

Being decisive may be impractical, for me, at least.

How is that for hedging everything?

By the way, tonight is the first presidential debate between Kerry and Bush. While I lean in favor of Kerry, I don't see Bush as the embodiment of evil. Both Kerry and Bush plan to stay in Iraq, for the time being at least.

On the other hand, it's not a very good situation. Someone needs to introduce new ideas, like reducing our dependency on foreign oil.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

My visit to Smith Tower in Seattle

Ornate ceiling in the Chinese Room, Observation lounge of Smith Tower, Seattle. Hang out in the lounge, or walk around observation deck. A 7 story penthouse apartment is in the pyramid above. It is private.

See more of my Smith Tower Photos

But Smith Tower is bigger than a house

Another tourist was amazed that this landmark skyscraper sold, in 1996, for only $13 million dollars. The way Seattle home prices are going, it wouldn't be too many years before one bedroom houses are $13 million!

I budded into the conversation and stated that this is a sign of our times. Residential real estate has inflated way ahead of other economic things, such as commercial real estate. Must be a sign of our selfish, narcissistic times. A lot of economic effort just goes into where people live.

Commercial property can be less expensive, by comparison, because it also brings with it the costs of running a business.

Smith Tower is being run very well these days, managed by a non profit foundation related to Jewish education and environmental preservation. They also have some properties in Pioneer Square. One could call this "good stewardship."

The guide, at top of the tower, also pointed out that Smith Tower was a "fixer upper." $30 million had to be invested in upgrades for wiring, pluming, safety and other things. This was done soon after purchase.

Now, the observation lounge is a nice asset in downtown Seattle that is open to the public. Ticket price for the elevator, $6, last I knew.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Kerry; Flip Flop or Flexibility

Presidential Candidate John Kerry gets a lot of flack for, supposedly, being a flip flop on issues. In other words, occasionally modifying, or updating his position.

Flip flop, or flexibility?

If Bill Gates never changed his tune, wouldn't we still be using the early versions of DOS?

Kerry defends himself, saying he really isn't a flip flopper.

Isn't that letting the Bush people set the agenda? Who invented the concept that changing one's position, every once in a while, is necessarily bad? Even a military strategist will realize that plans evolve as circumstances change.

Is this flip flop or flexibility?

Kerry does get a lot of flack for flip flop, but maybe he can say, "Flexibility." All these words do start with an "F."

Some people might think I am just trying to put a good spin on a dangerous thing.

I still have to ask, "who ever said one must always be rigid?" "Isn't it good to turn the wheel when one is headed straight into a brick wall?" Even for the sake of our nation's defense, flexibility can be an asset.

What kind of building withstands an earthquake? Rigid brick or flexible steel?

Bush probably would say, "that's an irrelevant question."

I would ask, "why is that irrelevant?" Who are we allowing to set the agenda for discussion?

Maybe flip flop isn't the end of the world. To put a better spin on this, call it flexibility.

Of course none of the candidates has hired me as a consultant.

No wonder we get politics as usual.

I still vote for Kerry, but we really do need new paradigms for the discussion.

Yes, I am a little tired of hearing Kerry and Bush keep regurgitating that Vietnam War as a campaign issue.

Defending the homeland is important, but who said flexibility, in strategy, is bad?

Maybe Fundamentalists!

Aren't we trying to prevent fanatical fundamentalists from harming us? Why do we let them set the agenda?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Picture Boulevard Park walkway, Bellingham

The new walkway south of Bellingham's Boulevard Park is done. Connects the park to the old Taylor Street Dock. I don't use it often if I am just trying to bike to the south side of town. Crowded with strollers, I only use it if I am in the mood to take in the view; poke along. For a more pragmatic bike commute, I use access road out of the south end of the Boulevard Park parking lot. Then head south on Tenth back to the trail.

This is not a normal rock, seen between the shoreline and the new walkway south of Boulevard Park. Early in Bellingham's history (so I heard) a big cannery swept tin out the back door, over a period of years. The pile bacame a tiny tinflake island.

One can swim out to this island, but the flakes of metal are sharp. It is easy to get cut sticking your hands here.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

View from Alabama Street bike pedestrian overpass in Bellingham

Riding along the Railroad Trail. This new overpass, for bikes and pedestrians, crosses busy Alabama Street. Also offers a nice view out over the city. One need not be able to afford a $300,000 home to have a view, at least in passing.

Some homeowners, underneath the bridge, were NIMBYS (not in my backyard) against the overpass fearing a loss of privacy. With that thinking, maybe Alabama Street, for cars, should be closed to keep the riffraff from going by.

My bike shadow taken 2004 on Bellingham's new Alabama Street bike pedestrian overpass.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Kerry Or Bush. Short Run Or Long Run Solutions

As campaign 2004 revolves around issues of how to combat terrorism, Bush and Kerry only offer slightly different flavors of solution. I don't blame them. If someone is coming after you with a bomb, you are reduced to "get them before they get you."

Long term solutions provide more interesting contrasts between the two candidates. As the campaign discusses short range solutions, it isn't a very interesting dialog.

"Long term" provides a more interesting discussion.

One of Bush's long term faults is a refusal to address the problem of world population growth. This doesn't get discussed often, but every once in a while one hears about high birth rates in many Moslem countries leading to lots of restless young men. A breeding ground for hostility.

I think Kerry would do more to support family planning efforts world wide.

People often say another long term problem is America's over consumption of world resources. Neither Kerry, or Bush address this. Even Nader doesn't really. Someone like Nader just seems to want to give middle Americans a better break against corporations. Meanwhile his campaign just helps put Bush back in the White House.

The problem isn't really "corporations," it's people. The problem, or much of the problem (I don't mean to over simplify) is consumptive middle class lifestyles.

Much of the world seems to aspire to live like American middle class - upper middle class. Aspirations are for driving cars and so forth. Strong resentments result from some getting that big home and car while others don't.

Can global resources support China's population living in suburban homes with 2 car garages?

What the whole world needs is this:

"New definitions of what the good life means." For instance think, "bicycling can be more enjoyable than driving." Look at the stress of being in the fast lane.

The world needs new definitions of what progress is. High technology doesn't necessarily have to mean high consumption. Maybe having an internet connection can mean more than living in a big house.

New definitions of progress.

One good thing about American culture is its openness to change. Alternatives to "main stream" lifestyles can develop non violently.

The Gay movement is one example of this.

Bicycle commuting is another.

Technology can help. How about tele-commuting versus a 50 mile gas guzzling trip to the office?

Non violent and evolutionary change in people's aspirations is what the whole world needs. New definitions of "the good life." Innovation.

If there can be innovation in technology, why not in lifestyles as well?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

No War, No Locks

It is conceivable that there is some place, in the universe, where a civilization exists with no locks.

No need for passwords or anything related to security.

No armies or wars either.

This would be a society where the concept of "locking something" would have never occurred to anyone.

Idealism is worth contemplating at least, even if it isn't always pragmatic in our world.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

My Shortest Bike Trip?

As an eighth grader growing up on a dead end street, I set out to ride my bike up and down the block. Yelling out the mantra, "Gamal Abdel Nasser," over and over again (just because it sounded funny; like "Heil Hitler") I wasn't watching where I was going. My bike slammed into a parked car and I landed on the roof of the trunk.

Good thing I wasn't going fast. I only got a few scrapes, but the bike's handlebar was bent out of shape. They tried to fix it at Chuck's Hardware, on Main Street in Pullman, but I had to get a new handlebar. Bending it back into shape broke it off.

Nasser was in the news, those years, as President of Egypt.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bike trail near where Scrappy's Junkyard was

A better route for bikes today.

My childhood years were spent in Pullman, Washington where biking, back then, was the pits. Today, Pullman enjoys some wonderful bike paths, such as this alternative to North Grand.

In the 60s, it was hard to avoid North Grand, a busy 4 narrow lane. It was full of frat house kids behind the wheel. Pullman is home of Washington State University. One day, as I was biking home from school in the right lane, a car was trying to pass on the right. Seeing, me he had to swerve back into the left lane in front of another car. That car laid on the horn. Luckily I was okay. Remember, kids didn't wear helmets back then.

Today, one can avoid North Grand by riding above trail.

In the 1960s, there was Scrappy's Junkyard, where the trail is now. Some boomers have fond memories of old Scrappy Richardson. He could miraculously find just the right gas cap, if you needed one, among his mountains of junk. My memories are less positive. I feared getting near the Junkyard dogs.

If I could be a middle school kid in the Pullman of today, with that nice bike path instead of "North Grand or the junkyard," I would take up that offer. Today's kids will have some nice memories.

Dismantled crossarms from railroad along North Grand Avenue in Pullman, WA. 2001. Railroad is still in use.

See also: Pullman to Moscow Bill Chipman Trail.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Highway 9 transportation corridor, improvements might be good idea

Scene along Highway 9 in Whatcom County. Mt. Baker and Twin Sisters visible on horizon. Image taken between Nugent's Corner and Deming.

That section of the highway has good shoulders. Other sections, north of Nugent's, are terrible. Too much traffic, no shoulder, in some cases ditches right next to the road. Farther south 9 is a mixed bag. Not that good of shoulder in Skagit County, but fairly good south of Arlington, WA.

Letter to the editor I wrote. It was in the Northwest Sun July 8. I added some more thoughts here.

My first thought about the proposed Highway 9 transportation corridor is, "great, an uninterrupted bike trail all the way to Seattle; possibly even to the Oregon border." Other people have bleaker images of said corridor. They say it might be a 6 lane freeway bulldozing its way through pristine farmlands. Lynwood Sprawl creeping north?

Guess what folks, we already have Lynwood sprawl in this area. As long as people keep moving here, having kids, buying homes and driving cars, the local infrastructure grows. In the past, growth has been haphazard. A new road here, a power line there. Sprawl comes in bits and pieces.

The idea of a transportation corridor is more enlightened than thinking of just a highway or power line. It tries to contain all these things into one corridor. What this corridor becomes is an open question. The question is answered, in part, by the lifestyles and transportation demands of people in the regions it serves. Under certain conditions, this corridor could just mean rail improvements. Imagine more people using the train.

In Seattle, there is a multi use corridor called the Burke Gillman Bike Trail. That corridor is also the path for a fiber optic cable which helped pay for building the trail.

A good way to reduce the chance that 9 will become an ugly freeway is to cut back on automobile use. This is a good time to look at ourselves in the mirror. When there is more demand for alternative forms of transportation, planning can adapt. This is especially true if it is called a "transportation corridor" rather than just a "highway."

More thinking

Of course my concept of "the people create their own reality" has its limits. Even if everyone around Acme, WA. (one of many points along 9's path) were "child free" bohemians with no cars, a freeway could still be crammed down their throats. The freeway might be built to connect SUV driving yuppies, of Seattle's east side, with their counterparts around Vancouver, BC.

I remember a rock song from the 1960s with the dreaded phrase, "Number 9, Number 9, Number 9." A childhood friend of mine used to play that record to drive his poor mother up the wall.

Also in the Sun

Articles and an interesting cartoon written by other people. The articles reported on volumes of citizen opposition to a possible freeway. The cartoon showed many lanes of ugly traffic, depicted on a planning document, with one planner saying to the other, "Maybe they'll buy it if we throw in a bike lane." The Sun is a free publication available at places around this area.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Cassini At Saturn

I was thrilled at the success of the Cassini space probe that went into orbit June 30. Next few years will bring back fantastic pictures and data. With all the bad news in the world, it is good to see some positive news about our urge to explore. For the true story and pictures visit
Cassini's web site.

My Cassini science FICTION story (it's short).

Several images from Cassini show, what looks like, another spacecraft orbiting Saturn!

Mission controllers, at JPL, look at their screens in utter amazement.

No other spacecraft is known to be orbiting Saturn, no Russian, American, Chinese. "What on Earth - we mean Saturn - could this be?"

Scientists speculate. Maybe a problem with the imaging?

Someone on the team playing a practical joke and inserting this picture into the data?

An alien spacecraft, from another solar system, has wandered into our solar system and been captured by Saturn's gravity?

The space craft looks like our unmanned Voyager probes which flew past Saturn 20 years ago and are now leaving the solar system. Is this space junk, like that, from another solar system which has wandered into our solar system and been captured by Saturn's gravity?

There is no sign of any radio signal. Craft looks very very dusty.

NASA scientists are able to determine orbit of said object.

Cassini's orbit isn't likely to make another close pass by this object. Few images of object are available.

A debate breaks out with-in Cassini mission control. "Should we change the mission plan and go back to the vicinity of this UFO, or go on with our original itinerary?"

Each time Cassini goes around Saturn, it is in a different orbit looking at moons and things. No upcoming orbit will take it near the UFO again in this mission plan.

Scientists debate weather they should alter the plan or go on with the valuable science goals of the current Cassini itinerary.

NASA appoints a "Blue Ribbon Panel" to discuss the options.

Of course.

This mystery makes big headlines all over the world. For a while, Art Bell devotes his entire radio show to the topic.

NASA decides to make this UFO the first target for an extended Cassini Mission after the original 4 year mission is complete. Chances are good for an extended mission. It may take several years to figure out how to safely go into that orbit again and glide by the object at a slow relative velocity. The Blue ribbon panel devises a strategy.

Some scientists speculate that we may have discovered a spacecraft that wandered into our solar system from another part of the galaxy. Another world, like ours, may have launched it to explore the outer planets of its solar system. That spacecraft ran out of power and drifted for possibly 100,000 years. Wandering into our solar system, it was captured by Saturn.

Questions are asked.

Does it have a plague describing its parent civilization? What happened to its parent civilization?

We put those kind of plaques on our Voyager and Pioneer space probes. That was a true case of "long range planning." thinking about the questions that some "beings" may have if they find the plague in some future millennium.

Finding possible evidence that we aren't alone in the universe pushes the news from ugly mid east wars off front pages.

Ending my short story of science fiction.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Digging out foundations for large condo projects along Harris Street in Bellingham

Construction project getting started in the Fairhaven District of Bellingham. Condominiums along Harris Street. 

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Not quite World Naked Bike Ride In Bellingham. First try in 2004.

See photos below.

I, personally, wasn't planning to go totally naked (knowing this is Bellingham), just skimpy shorts and body paint. Posters called for both naked and costumed riders which would have been fun to see. Pictures below.

Update. More recently, another bunch of folks have organized rides in Bellingham starting in 2009 and continuing till the present. See here.

Many cities around the world have naked cycling events. In Seattle, there was a group of painted, naked cyclists at start of the Fremont District Solstice Parade. Other cities like Toronto, Vancouver have their events. What about Bellingham?

I thought about traveling to Seattle, but saw some posters for
World Naked Bike Ride in Bellingham. Can this be? Isn't Bellingham a bit reserved? Hidden?

I decided to "stay local" and see if anyone would even show up.

The poster described this as a costume ride in celebration of WNBR.

Knowing that public nudity is illegal, I wasn't planning to go nude. Just taking one's shirt off, or painting oneself, could be considered radical in Bellingham. Of course one does see lots of shirtless Frisbee throwers, and so forth, in city parks. Hot days can be rare in this area; except maybe late summer.

Not surprising at all, about the first person to show up was an officer from the Bellingham Police Department. They saw the posters too, I guess.

Striving to maintain a friendly demeanor, the officer was asking questions about this event, orienting himself as to what was planned.

As a few more people showed up the officer started explaining laws about public nudity. If I remember correctly, it's a misdemeanor, but when someone 14, or under, sees this, it can be a felony.


I put forth my vision of scantily clad, painted cyclists showing off healthy bodies. This would be legal and a step beyond boring everyday life. There was once a car advertisement touting "the shape you want to be in." If mild erotic appeal can be used to sell cars, why not the bicycling lifestyle?

There was no problem with that, as far as the law was concerned.

Just then, my friend Rick showed up having watched the Fremont event in Seattle. Yes, indeed, there were totally naked cyclists in that parade. Families even brought their kids and baby strollers. They were watching. It was relaxed. A festive atmosphere in the big city.

I commented that it was probably good for the economy. Vendors and Fremont businesses did well from the celebration.

We marveled at the contrast between the Fremont Parade and Bellingham. I am not sure how the public nudity laws are dealt with for the Fremont event. Some kind of politics must have been worked out ahead of time.

In spite of the legal damper, and the fact that there wasn't a huge turn out, several shirtless painted cyclists were gathered. We rode down the South Bay Trail from our starting point outside The Hub bike repair collective.

Awaiting us was dancing at Boulevard Park. That was another event.

I think I was the only painted cyclist to join in the dance for a bit.

Starting to get ready.  Click on photos to see larger versions.

Having some fun.

That's me with loud shorts  Click on photos to see larger versions. 


Participants often say these rides are to protest the indecency of over consumption and oil dependency. Making this point with naked riding may be a stretch, but one can sort of follow (I hear Rush Limbaugh laughing in the background).

Why go to something erotic when one is just trying to make a comment about oil?

Good question.

I don't know what the connection is for other cyclists, but for me it goes this way.

There is a certain amount of indecency in the way most people approach things like dating, relationships and socializing. Much of it revolves around possessions. possessing one's partner, the toys one must have to play the game. Consumption of alcohol that takes place in establishments where people go to socialize.

I prefer a more aesthetic approach. Standing back and enjoying the dance of life with out having to own it. For some reason, the conversations that take place around some nude hot springs are more intelligent than other gatherings.

Cyclists can be appealing as they pass through my vicinity; lean and healthy.

I guess I am looking for a selfish reason to promote cycling. Saving the world is okay, but most people aren't motivated because the affect of one person is hardly a drop in the bucket. Saving one's own health is a more tangible sell?

Think of how much money Americans spend on things like diet aids, hair dye, clothing, all for the appeal, and of course, the car one drives. "It's the shape you want to be in."

Cyclists are usually lean and healthy just from the cycling lifestyle.

Speaking of shapes, when I was a kid, the family car was a STATION WAGON.

In the 1980s, as families and relationships demanded more, the station wagon got taller; a MINI VAN.

Soon the mini van got more sporty and fun, the SUV.

What's next? Maybe the more armor plated HUMMER to keep it all going?

Not to mention troops in the middle east for oil supply, the Hummer might be needed to plough through traffic.

Or there is the naked cyclist, even just lightly clothed cyclist. We survive by not being in the traffic pattern of main stream life.

Article about that ride in a small newspaper, Bellingham Sun 2004.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Great Plains or California

Monument at geographic center of North America, Rugby, North Dakota.

The Great Plains or California

A very interesting article in May 2004 National Geographic about the Great Plains of USA. North, South Dakota, Nebraska and so forth. Some counties where median age is 60 and still loosing population. Stagnate economies.

Interesting irony, some of these sections of the Great Plains are politically conservative. People embrace hard work and lower taxes, yet the economies are stagnate. In some towns, the funeral home may be close to the only thriving business, but housing is affordable.

On the other hand, some of the politically liberal places, like San Francisco Bay area in California, have booming economies and un affordable housing.

Where they talk hard work and low taxes, there is nothing to do.

Where they talk justice for poor people and "down with the corporations," one must just about be a millionaire to live there.

Every ideology seems to not match reality at times.

See my short essay about Crossing North Dakota by bicycle.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Some Memories From The 1980s, Ronald Reagan, Rock Hudson, The Air Controllers

Flags at half staff on WWU campus after death of Ronald Reagan. I was never a fan of Reagan. Here are some reflections on the 1980s era.

Not following television, or movies, I never heard of Rock Hudson, until just before his death. Radio newscasts were speculating that this mighty figure had AIDS. The news came to me on a little transistor radio strapped to my bicycle as I was biking across Washington State for the first time.

Not long after that trip, I learned that a local acquaintance of mine, Scott Lennon, had just been diagnosed with AIDS. He was one of Bellingham's early cases.

Coming back from my bike trips all tanned and healthy, I had mixed feelings about hearing this news. On the one hand, of course, it was sad. On the other hand, I couldn't help feeling a little vindicated. Much of my college years, I was such an odd ball, I didn't fit into the local social scene of gay people that much.

Scott was a fairly glamorous and popular guy. My gay experience was closer to being a loner. I was not very comfortable in bar settings, but being a loner had some advantages, including missing the venereal diseases going around.

After Scott was diagnosed, he slowed down a bit. He devoted the last years of his life to AIDS prevention and education. Spoke at schools and many other settings.

Maybe the loner wins in the end, like in the tortoise and the heir. On the other hand, it is very important to remember the phrase, "there by the grace of God go I."

This tree was planted in memorial to Scott Lennon who lived in Bellingham and died from illnesses related to AIDS. It resides in the courtyard of Fairhaven College, a branch of WWU. I think this is the tree they planted, if my memory is correct.

That whole era of the mid 1980s was colored by the Ronald Reagan's Presidency. Self-righteous thinking was a hallmark of Reagan's era. Like the cartoon I saw of Santa's slay passing over the food bank line. Santa dropped a brick that said, "get a job."

It can be a cold reality.

Maybe Reagan's belief in private charity took the cold edge off this picture, but only slightly.

I have always believed in a balance. Personal responsibility and compassionate government.

Too self-righteous a philosophy can turn around and stab one in the back. Another memory I have from the 1980s was that day Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. They went on strike wanting pay raises and better working conditions. Reagan fired them. Air controllers are government employees and he was trying to stick by his word to reduce domestic spending.

The air controllers union, PATCO, had just endorsed Reagan for President in 1980, so I read. What they were thinking? Maybe they had it coming. I couldn't help feeling a bit self-righteous about the air controllers also. I never voted for Reagan.

It seems like we need balance. Personal responsibility is very important, but compassion is needed also. One must never forget the phrase, "there by the grace of God go I."

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

2004 Fourth Corner Pride Festival

The following images taken at 2004 Fourth Corner Pride Festival  Sponsored by PFLAG  (Parents And Friends Of Lesbians And Gays)

Located at Bloedel Donovan Park in Bellingham. A homespun, somewhat smaller version of the gay pride festivals held in large cities. Whatcom County, You're coming up in the world. A good size turn out, given that we are not San Francisco. Shows that a lot of caring people reside in this area. Festival celebrating GLBT folks and the many friends and volunteers we have from non gay sexual orientations as well. It brought Whatcom County out in the (most of the time) sunshine for one afternoon at least.

We're here, we're queer. Stick a pin on the map where you live. Dots starting to fill in, even in Lynden. "Stick it to Lynden."

Dancing to the heavenly sound of a marimba band.

Welcoming table from United Church Of Christ. One of several churches represented.

Looking at outdoor booths through glass block wall of Bloedel Donovan gym. It didn't rain till people were ready to pack up and leave.

A cake after most of the rainbow was eaten.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

House fire in Bellingham

As I was biking across town, I saw smoke down a street. Sure enough it was a house fire. They were able to quickly douse it.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Reflections on Cordata Area in Bellingham, WA.

Silicon Valley Creeping North

A few weeks ago, I bicycled out Cordata Street. Haven't seen the campus of Whatcom
Community College for quite some time.

It has grown! Bellingham has two major centers of higher learning
now. WCC and Western Washington University, known as WWU.

Comparing Whatcom to Western brings one word to
mind - Parking. The community college seems to have parking, at each
building, while Western is less "car friendly."

I like Western's layout better, being a non driver. Western is a much prettier campus.
It gets a lot of criticism for parking being a long ways from buildings, but bike parking is right near the door..

The Whatcom campus looks like it is becoming a "juggernaut" for a
mini "Silicone Valley." So many firms in glass steel boxes. Light
manufacturing mixed with warehouse style retail. It reminded me of
last summer, biking through Mountainview, California, near San Jose.

One nice thing about Moutainview; it does have lots of bike lanes.
The sprawl has been "retrofitted," for calmer things like bikes.
Also retrofitting for earthquakes.

Codata Street, in Bellingham, was poorly planned with out bike
lanes. Seeds of sprawl, along with all that parking at WCC are
planted. Newer streets, out in that area, have bike lanes.
Retrofitting is happening here also.

"Is the cup half full or half empty?" Or, as some people say, "is it
overflowing?" "Out of control?" Anti growth advocates hate seeing things like Cordata mushroom.

When I was riding though northern California, my radio
practically danced off its handlebar mount with a jingle from this
firm called "Tap Plastics."

The jingle goes "Tap Tap ... Tap Plastics." And there is a full

It's just about cutting plastics to sizes for things like window
coverings. Does it deserve all this fanfare?

Now, Seattle stations ring with the jingle as a "Tap Plastics" has
landed in Bellvue. Will it someday come to Bellingham? Will it be
followed by "Crispy Cream Doughnuts?"

If it does, it would likely land in Cordata area.

Amazing how people's day to day purchases can shape the world.

Business tends to make big deals out of trivial items. That new sofa
cover, paint for the deck.

When I was growing up, in eastern Washington, the entire landscape
seemed covered with signs for "Tiny's." It was a business in
Cashmere, Washington." Little signs would just say,

"Tiny's, Cashmere, WA."

Fence posts had signs, houses had signs, phone poles, bumper

What was "Tiny's?"

When we finally went through Cashmere, my mom looked out the window.
With great disgust in her voice she said, "It's nothing but a big
overgrown fruit stand!"
It's about "making a living." "Getting that new sofa and sun deck."

See more of my Bellingham pictures here.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Saw this reader board in my neighborhood on Memorial Day. "God Bless Our Troops," also a list of car repair items (for God to bless?) That is "car culture" and part of the reason why our troops are in the Middle East.

See More signs here.