Monday, May 30, 2005

Escaping Ski To Sea Weekend

Testosterone racers converged on Bellingham.

I left town. Missed it all. Went 50 slow miles. Stopped to take in the views.

Visited a friend in Arlington, WA.

Like being in a bubble of tranquility as the rat race went around me.

Bicycling slow and mellow, down back roads.

Most traffic heads out Friday and back Monday. I headed out Saturday and back Sunday.

Wasn't on the freeway anyway, where I heard, there was a horrendous accident on Monday. Down by Marysville, just south of Arlington, someone cutoff another driver causing truck, with camper to careen out of control, crossing the median. Head-on with death and destruction. Freeway traffic disrupted for hours, but that was Monday. I was already home, didn't even use freeway.

Friend did bring me back part way, by car. So we could have more time for visit. Explored a "back way" to Mount Vernon. I biked home from Mount Vernon Sunday.

Back into Bellingham just in time to hear the clanging poles of booths being taken apart. Ski To Sea Weekend had just ended. The annual Ski To Sea Race.

They were taking it apart. Everything was over. Glad I missed the race weekend.

Then read news of dead body found near Bellingham. Person was last seen in a state of being too drunk to enter a bar. Was turned away, death still a mystery.

Radio talks about all the drowning incidents in Washington State over weekend. Alcohol involved in many of the cases.

The beer garden.

My leisurely trip included a relaxing putter around Arlington Airport.

This wasn't the crowded weekend of the "Arlington Fly-In," however. Airport was mellow, surprisingly so.

Long philosophical talk, with a friend, sitting at picnic table.

Not much security worry. This is a mellow airport with out commercial travel. Ride around, watch hobbyists work on planes, see a few gliders come in.

Oh, I should be remembering our troops and the sacrifices of war, not my own leisurely weekend?

Work to make that beer garden happen. Business, paychecks.

President Bush was also at Arlington, I think.

Another Arlington. Famous for the cemetery outside Washington, DC.

I was in the state of Washington, clear across USA from Washington, DC.

Speaking of deaths, I was glad that my letter to the editor published just before the weekend. It linked the deaths of war to deaths on the highway.

Highway deaths kill an amazing number of Americans, yet more folks are concerned about the deaths of war. Both can be related to the oil economy. Terrorism and dictatorships fed by the need to fuel "fast paced" lifestyles around the world.

That was the "gist" of my letter.

Fast paced living. Competition, drinking, testosterone, accidents ... airport security. Sometimes "mainstream" life seems alien.

I had a "low key" weekend. Maybe that is part of mainstream life as well.

A different part. A mellower bubble.

I didn't win or loose any races.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Grassroots and Independent Media Conference here in Bellingham. My Impressions.

By co-incidence my brother just finished sending a CD of scans from his old slides. Slides taken when I was in grade school. It includes our 1964 TV. An RCA Victor. Color! but, still used vacuum tubes.

Choices were limited back then (the 1960s). The TV only got 3 commercial and 1 educational channel.

Radio wasn't much better in those days. A lot of repetitive music formats. Every place had it's country and western station, rock station and right wing religious station. Back then I wondered why there wasn't any left wing religious stuff on the air?

There seems to be a lot more news, talk and public affairs radio today.

Many more choices; especially counting the Internet.

I just happened upon this conference by accident. Someone handed me a piece of paper with it's web address.

Yes, I think there is more "diversity of voices" being expressed now, in spite of corporations swallowing one another. In spite of the Bush Presidency.

Blogging, the Internet, low power FM, independent video.

There's the new talk network called, Air America.

"Finally a view from the left," as it advertises itself.

Air America is quite successful, so I hear. Move over Rush Limbaugh.

Conference was free and located in buildings not far from where I live. One of the workshops was in a place that is now "the education building" for a credit union.

I remember when that spot was called " The Cattle Men's Drive In."

Greesy spoon now turned to enlightenment.

No need to go to a fancy resort. Just use buildings nearby. Quite a bit of space available on weekends.

Experts came from Seattle and around town.

The conference was partially sponsored by Whatcom Peace and Justice Center. Much of it funded by a generous donation from Dudley Foundation.

Low power FM?

At one workshop, low power FM radio was discussed.

Back in 1978 low power was basically killed with new FCC rules. It was said that the public broadcasting system (NPR, PBS) lobbied Congress to wipe out low power as they feared interference. Possibly feared competition as well.

Now the idea is back in this age of rapidly changing media.

Bellingham's Museum of Radio and Electricity has recently opened up a low power FM station and another one is being planned by a community out in Van Zandt, WA.

There still aren't that many low power opportunities as the FM dial is chock full of stations, in urban areas at least. The FCC only opens "windows of opportunity" for low power licences rarely, but the mechanism and dream is alive.

Meanwhile, broadcasting on the Internet may reach more people anyway.

There is basically no FCC on the Internet and nearly an infinite number of channels.

Digital broadcasting

More broadcasting channels will also be opened up with digital radio. That will be over the air.

I insert this information here, but it wasn't discussed at any of the three workshops I was at.

KUOW is that big news and talk NPR station in Seattle. It now has two separate program feeds on the web site.

There's KUOW 1 and KUOW 2.

Twice the number of programs. Giving more voices a chance.

Some people may fear, "just more of same voices."

KUOW is gearing up for the broadcasting of two feeds in their "on air" signal as well. One will need a special radio to get the second feed.

It's made possible with digital radio.

Who knows, maybe my 1940's tube radio can get it. There's a "mystery switch" on that radio. Switch position 1, KUOW 1. Switch position 2 ...

No, I think that switch is just a "tone attenuator." My old radio doesn't even get FM.

Gorilla illegal broadcasting?

Illegal, gorilla broadcasting came up as one of the topics, in another workshop.

I wonder why anyone would bother anymore. The Internet is so open, but there still is that lure of a confrontational act; especially among the anti WTO crowd.

I wonder if gorilla broadcasters can still reach an audience in this age of digital tuning?

Back when I was a kid, we had tuning dials on the radio. One could tune up and down the dial noticing when new stations appeared. Sometimes this distraction would change one's listening plans.

Now there's digital tuning. One just jumps to the station they wish to hear.

Scanning up the dial can still be done, but it's more cumbersome.

Can people find new signals outside the presets they have programmed into their dials?

It's called, "Lock in" your preconceived notions.

This is less of a problem on the Internet.

Even if there isn't much audience potential, gorilla radio might be harder for the FCC to catch these days, however.

Miniature equipment can be moved around town. Set a transmitter up and then take it down . . . before anyone can track it down.

Also the Internet can be used as a studio outlet. A legal studio outlet that others can patch over to illegal transmitters.

The studio can't really get busted if other folks pick up the program off the net and then transmit it to the air. The studio can just say, "I don't know those folks who were transmitting this." "What folks?"

It's called agility.

On the other hand, bureaucracy is cumbersome. FCC's limited staff makes enforcement difficult, unless one is covering over another station's frequency; thus generating lots of complaints.

In heavily populated regions, like the Bellingham area, just about every frequency might be, at least, some station's "fringe service area."

Can CB band be used for community radio?

Being less of a rebel, I asked, "what about the use of CB and ham radio bands?" In the CB world lots of little transmitters are licensed legally.

"Can CB / or ham play a role in community radio?"

I have listened to CBers, on my shortwave, and they mostly seem like a boring lot. Just talking about their antennas all day. Some say CB is a dying art.

Can't these transmitters be used for more interesting content than just:

"Hey, Charlie, what's up, nothing much." "I'm running a dipole on the roof with a copper lead wire to the screw terminal in ..."

Is there a law stating that one can not hold an interesting conversation over CB?

There wasn't much familiarity with CB in the room. That's another generation, I guess. CB seems to be mostly of the World War II generation.

Even Audio Blogs

Someone, like me, could even broadcast. This blogging service,, has an option for "audio content."

I haven't tried it yet. Maybe someday.

Conference on the web?

So much one can ponder and there was a lot to that conference I didn't even touch on. So many opportunities. Worlds at one's fingertips.

Last I checked, conference still has a web site. Workshops were videotaped and they say the content will eventually be on the web.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Some of the bikes leaning against the fence at the celebration for Bellingham's Bike To Work Day 2005.

Car Free Neighborhood

With our sizzling hot housing market, I wonder if some developer could set up a subdivision that is car free? Only bicycles, deliveries, pedestrians, emergency vehicles would be allowed on it's streets. I bet houses would still sell like hotcakes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek Magazine

Gets the blame, but it's rioters who are the true culprits in that Koran desecration debacle.

The Bush administration is reacting the way New York City officials reacted to the 1977 New York blackout.

Blame the power company.

During a 1977 power outage, many neighborhoods of New York City erupted in violence. I remember hearing city officials demand that the power company never allow this to happen again.

That's a tall order.

Power companies can't be infallible.

It did happen again, in 2003, but the city was much better behaved. Some responsibility must rest on the residents who can choose violence or peaceful means to deal with a situation.

Like power companies, news medias are not perfect either.

Riots that took place in Islamic countries have set the stage for the Bush administration to mount it's attack on the media. Riots created a golden opportunity for the Bush White House to walk right in and take advantage of the situation. Intimidate the media.

If the media can't occasionally take risks, possibly not getting the story right, the true story may never be known.

Rioters are responsible for much of this debacle. A famous quote, heard often on Paul Harvey News goes.

"Self government requires self discipline."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Lake Washington Dinner Train rail trail opportunity

Was topic of today's "The Conversation" show on KUOW. Archived on their web site.

King County (where Seattle is) has the opportunity to buy 47 miles of railroad right of way from BNSF Railroad. This could be the basis of a marvelous trail liking east side suburbs from Snohomish all the way to Renton.

If the county doesn't buy the line, it is possible that the right of way could be broken up as parcels got sold out to different property owners. Keeping it all together would be great.

Photo shows bench near old North Bend Depot. A similar area of old rails and trails farther east in King County.

Currently, some of that corridor is used by Lake Washington Dinner Train; a tourist excursion ride. This use could coincide with a trail. There need not necessarily be a conflict between trail and dinner train use as was pointed out on the radio show.

Back in October of 2002, I remember writing an email to an agency called Sound Transit about that vary corridor. No, I don't live in King County, but listen to Seattle Politics on the radio.

My ear would fill up with talk about Sound Transit's problems developing new light rail corridors through Seattle. Land is expensive. The cost of new stations, tunnels, harsh. Still worth it, in my opinion, but many a talk show host; especially KIRO's Dori Monson, were fuming.

Then there would be an advertisement for . . . The Lake Washington Dinner Train. Ride from Woodenville to Renton.

My mind said, "Wait a minute." "There is an existing corridor." "Interstate 405, passing through the same area, is another congested freeway."

"Maybe the Dinner Train route could be used for light rail." "Take pressure off 405."

So I wrote an email. Wrote to Sound Transit and got back a very good and informative reply.

It had been studied, but population density, in that area, is still a bit too low for commuter train viability. There were also some problems with building track so trains could run two directions . Environmental impacts also. They recommended preserving the corridor, however.

Well, now spin the clock up to 2005 and the issue of preserving the corridor is making news.

Preserving the corridor as a trail.

That would be a lot easier and still take some local pressure off 405. Really, you can go a lot farther on a bicycle than some people think. I'll bet many of the 405 trips are under 10 miles.

Trail and rail possibilities, for that corridor, are significant.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Paper & Cloth

It doesn't make sense that such a big deal would be made about pieces of paper. Pages of the Koran that were, supposedly, desecrated.

Now it looks like this may have not even happened. The paper that makes up the pages of Newsweek Magazine isn't infallible either.

It's all just pieces of paper. Why make such a big deal out of this? People died in the riots.

It's like desecrating the American Flag. That's just a piece of cloth.

When someone burns a piece of cloth, in public, they could likely be cited under existing laws against reckless endangerment or outdoor burning. Special laws of protection, because it is the flag, are un needed.

For some reason, people put a lot of stock in pieces of paper and cloth. Flags, Bibles, Korans.

Of course it is important to have laws and order in our societies, but we can go overboard.

These papers and cloths are not God. Following the letter of the law, with out the spirit, is problematic. Fundamentalism is problematic.

I say, lighten up folks.

Even "money," which is another piece of paper, has its limitations.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Pedal With Your Politician in Bellingham, WA.

Gathering riders with politicians. Starting point at Farmer's Market.

Someone snapped my picture at start of Pedal With Your Politician ride. May 14 2005.

It was a feeling of empowerment, today, as I participated in the fourth annual Pedal With Your Politician ride. Joining us were two county council members, Barbera Brenner and Seth Fleetwood. Also County executive Pete Kremen and city council women Louise Bjornson and Barbara Ryan.

Mount Baker Bicycle Club organizes this event.

At one stop, along Cornwall Avenue, a couple of moms, with kids, met up with us. They explained the difficulties of crossing Cornwall Avenue where it bisects Broadway Park.

Some cars stop to allow pedestrians across while others pull around the stopped car and barrel through.

The words "Fuck You!" were yelled from the window of a passing car while we were gathered along the road side.

Someone ask Ellen Barton, President of Mount Baker Bike Club, if she had arranged for that utterance also. She denied it and that event was chalked up to coincidence.

Farther down Cornwall, Ellen pointed out a turn lane in the middle of the street. Turn lanes are designed so cars do not have to slow down while someone makes a turn.

Problem is, this is in a school zone, she pointed out.

Do we want to facilitate fast moving traffic while also telling folks to slow down in a school zone?

The left hand doesn't always know what the right hand is doing.

Bellingham High School and Assumption Catholic Church are along Cornwall. Assumption also has a school.

Good words were said about another church along Cornwall Avenue.

The Congregational Church.

They recently enlarged their building, but unlike many churches, chose to stay in the neighborhood.

There are several "mega churches" that have built on the outskirts of town where acres of parking is the goal.

A big church, that recently moved to the outskirts of town was jokingly called:

"Cornwall Park Warehouse of God."

This reminds me of a trip I took to Wenatchee, one year, where there was something called "Bethesda Christian Center."

Closer to downtown there was an empty church building with a big sign that read,

"Church For Sale, Can Also Be Used As A Warehouse."

Bethesda's "mega church corporate power monster" was creating a vacuum, in that town, sucking parishioners from local churches. Neighborhood churches were going under.

Later, I heard Bethesda went belly up. Not sure why, tax fraud? or maybe infighting among the Congregation.

Last time I was bike touring through Wenatchee, I noticed the Bethesda campus looked like it had become a furniture factory.

Back here in Bellingham, one can also praise the Congregational Church, on Cornwall, for being open and affirming to gay and lesbian people.

Liberal Christianity and a good neighbor in our community.

I know I am off the topic of bike riding. Talking about all this church stuff. My mind doesn't do "compartmental thinking" very well.

It all relates to a kinder world.

Open and affirming, slowing down, not being such a mega corporate monster.

Calming down the rat race of life.

The opposite of that car which sped by yelling profanity.

We're hoping to make this city less "mean spirited."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Public, Private Lives

Spokane Mayor Jim West's biggest crime was not actually a crime.

In my book, his biggest transgression was things like proposing legislation, while he was a state legislator, that would have banned gay people from teaching.

While anti gay attitudes are not crimes, politicians can be held accountable for them at the ballot box.

These recent revelations about West's secret dabbles in gay chat rooms and so forth should serve as a wake up call to voters about a significant number of anti gay politicians. Struggles with an issue, in one's personal life, will often lead to harsher perspectives about that issue in the person's public life.

Of course it must be said that not all opposition to gay rights, or right wing politics, is rooted in two faced personal lives. It's just that a certain percentage is.

While prejudiced stands, and the motivations for those stands, that a person takes could not be considered crimes in our free society, voters should be advised and hold politicians accountable.

Different From The Log Cabins

I have a few friends who loosely labeled West a "Log Cabin Republican."

That is far from the truth.

The Log Cabin Republicans are an organization of openly gay people who also support many of the principles of the Republican Party. Some folks feel this is an oxymoron, but there are actually quite a few supporters of the Log Cabin movement.

That is a totally different world from the two faced life of politicians who are conservative in public life while having a secret private life. Basically Log Cabin Republicans tend to be out of the closet.

Still they may support conservative causes such as lower government spending.

Some Log Cabins might even oppose civil rights legislation, for gays, because of a basic philosophy of "libertarianism." Opposition to the government regulating who a private employer should hire. This opposition to civil rights laws would also apply to nondiscrimination laws about race and other things.

While I don't endorse most of Log Cabin thinking, I do understand the big difference between that and politicians who are revealed as hypocritical when their private lives become known.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Microwave tower atop Galbraith Mountain

Microwave dishes atop Galbraith Mountain, a popular area for mountain bike trails near Bellingham. I prefer the gentle climb of logging roads to the swift turns and jumps of the trails.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The long emergancy

Last night, Art Bell's national talk show had an interesting guest.

He wrote a book called THE LONG EMERGENCY. Similar, in thought to a film, I once saw, called END OF SUBURBIA. It's about how many aspects of current culture, from the 3,000 mile salad, to the auto crazed strip mall, are in trouble. As cheap oil runs out, the American economy could crash. Box stores, burger barns, Nascar racing, jet travel. It could be headed toward disaster.

The author describes this as a major dislocation and transition. We could be in for turbulent times, but also a transition to something, hopefully, better. As alarming as some of that author's predictions are, he didn't describe himself as a doomsday prophet. Predicting, instead, a difficult transition.

I would add a softening thought to this.

America still has plenty of coal. If we find ways to capture the carbon dioxide from coal power, it doesn't have to be the greenhouse nightmare that some fear. Nuclear power may make a comeback as well.

This is just my thinking, not mentioned on that show.

For "traditional values" people, these "traditional" sources of energy will take some of the bite out of the needed transformations.

It's "Nuclear Power for the Nuclear Family." Mom, Dad, the kids, the station wagon (now the SUV or Hummer.) Life in the burbs.

Still, more innovative and non traditional things, like wind, solar and changes in personal lifestyles, will be needed.

I have lived my entire life with out driving a car. The bicycle has gotten me all the way across USA in 9 weeks and the train took me back home in style. I have traveled across USA twice. Once in 1991 and again in 1993, plus lots of more local "peddle power" trips.


THE LONG EMERGANCY should be a good wake up call, even if coal and nuclear may soften the blow a bit.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Evolution of the family car

1960s-70s Station Wagon
1980s-90s Mini Van
1990s-2000 SUV

And now the Hummer.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Power Corrupts or Power Amplifies

An acquaintance of mine was wondering why they invited President Bush to Pope John Paul's funeral when they didn't invite mass murderer Charles Manson. He said Bush has killed more people.

My phrase "power amplifies" came to mind.

I said, "you would rather have Bush as your neighbor than Charles Manson." "If Bush wasn't in a position of power, where every little act, or mistake, is amplified into great consequence, he would likely be a nice neighbor." "Might invite you over to a back yard barbecue."

On the other hand, if Charles Manson were the President, the entire world might be obliterated in nuclear war.

Power amplifies.

Bush seems about as nice as most average Americans. Maybe he is a little more "career driven" than many. Anyone in his position of power can do things that have consequences effecting the lives of millions, actually billions. I doubt I would trust many of my neighbors in the White House. Some, yes.

If the President sneezes, the world catches a cold; figuratively. An average person sneezing might not be noticed.

So power amplifies.

Does power also corrupt? Can power change one's personality from "nice guy" to "power maniac?" Have you ever had a friend who changed when they became the "boss?"

There is the old phrase that says, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Several friends of mine have admitted that they became "a different person" when they got behind the wheel of an automobile. "There goes Mr. Nice Guy." The dog eat dog world of I-5 traffic brings out a different side of their personalities.

Just about everyone, I know, drives, but I wouldn't call them mass murderers, even though automobile related deaths are high on mortality lists.

The popular phrase, "power corrupts" may have some truth to it, but I still prefer to think, "power amplifies."

Saying "power amplifies" may let people off the hook, a bit, since it basically just says that the more power one has, the more oomph there is to one's actions.

Oomph to one's actions either good or bad.

I did vote for Kerry, however.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Laughing All The Way To The Bank

An hour, today, on KIRO's Dori Monson talk show was about Washington State's famous teacher who went to jail for having an affair with a 12 year old boy (maybe 14?). Mary K. Letourneau.

Now she is out of jail. The boy is 22 and they plan to get married. A cable TV network plans to pay $500,000 for the rights to tell this bizarre story. Latourneau is now reported living in a million dollar waterfront home.

Some folks are outraged, but others just say, "hey, she did her time." "The affair with a 22 year old is now legal." "She can laugh all the way to the bank."

While I am not as horrified as some people are by this tern of events, I do see it as a fallacy of the marketplace. Letting the marketplace, alone, determine who rises to the top is problematic.