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?

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

NASA scientists are able to determine orbit of said object.

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.