Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why Halloween is safer than Christmas

Halloween edition of our local Weekly in news stands. Gas can be ghastly.

If one isn't part of a family, one can feel left out for Christmas and Thanksgiving. People will "move Heaven and Earth" just to go over the meadow and through the woods to family gatherings. They often span many treacherous miles over icy roads.

Halloween is friendlier to a wider diversity of lifestyles. One is less likely to feel left out if separated from family; thus less travel.

There is the family side of it; kids tricker treating and so forth, but there's also a lot more.

People wear costumes at work, go to parties. It can be a wonderful creative outlet right where you live.

Some of it might get a bit too crazy, especially if drinking is involved, but possibly not as out of control as New Year's.

At least Halloween encourages one to celebrate where they are, even at work, for instance. There is less need to travel to family gatherings far away. This holiday can give one's "here and now" life a creative twist.

Of course, part of the difference may be that Halloween is not recognized as an official holiday. It doesn't provide enough time for folks to get as far away from their everyday lives in this society where family ties tend to be scattered across the globe.

An ASCII art Christmas tree and more comment.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

20 Story Building Planned For Downtown Bellingham. Bayview Tower.

Picture is a collage I pasted from photo of the site in it's current state and an image of the proposed building from October 20 Bellingham Herald.

It's okay with me. I look forward to watching construction.

It's density, in filling and so forth.

You've probably heard the arguments for density versus sprawl already.

I am sure some folks will be a bit rattled at the prospect of a 20 story building in Bellingham. Same paper spoke of two 18 story proposals for the old Morse Hardware site down State Street from this location.

Basically all condominiums. Some office and retail space as well.

Bellingham is popular.

I do worry about over population as a world problem. All those families, I see at places like the Bellingham Food Co-op; with baby strollers.

The people are coming. And the money is coming too. Quite a few retired folks are bringing their "home equity" to Bellingham.

Building up, instead of out, is better. Problem is we are likely to be building both up and out. That's what seems to usually happen.

One thing that will result is Bellingham getting a more urban skyline.

For folks that are worried about growth, that could be a blessing in disguise. Some of the flow of recent transplants is people trying to escape cities. Part of that flow might think twice about moving near a city with a skyline. A lot of sprawl is driven by hoards of folks wanting to move into rural settings.

So, the prospect of a 20 story building can be kind of exciting. I do hope the city and developers plan things well. One thing I look for is a building "giving back" something to the community. Not all just private spaces that most of us can't afford.

Tall buildings often provide things like observation decks that are open to the public for at least an affordable fee. One great example of that is the Smith Tower observation deck in downtown Seattle.

What new restaurants might be coming to town? Hope they aren't too snooty.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ever evolving gas tax debate

New twists could mean death nail to typical "Republican Party" thought

In the past, "no new taxes" mantra was chanted by Republicans. They said, "low taxes, keep business rolling in the private sector."

Now, some new types of people are chanting that mantra as well; folks that are uncomfortable bedfellows to typical Republicans. These new folks say, "don't raise the gas tax, we shouldn't be building roads." "Cripple highway construction budget." "Force traffic to gridlock and a standstill." "That will cut sprawl, slow growth and maybe force people to get out of their cars."

Yes, it's not the typical "no new taxes" argument, but it is a perspective that has increasing following.

The gas tax debate is said to be among the most divisive issues with-in Republican Party circles. Some party loyalists still cling to the "less government" mantras, but others are getting scared. Scared by their new bedfellows who typically hail from more left wing sides of the political spectrum. What some people might consider radicle advocates of mass transit and dismantling America's suburbia culture can join the "no new tax" bandwagon also. "Stop the sprawl, don't build roads."

These new bedfellows have actually scared a few Republicans into support of increasing the gas tax. Yes, government investment in infrastructure can keep the status quo rolling.

Since I am not a Republican, I enjoy watching this discussion unnerve the Republicans.

I still support the increase in gas tax (the NO on Washington State Initiative 912 position), but I see a lot of validity in the anti road building argument. I am just not willing to go that far as I feel mass transit and bicycling needs good roads also.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Over the hill at ten years of age

I have often thought "Over the hill at ten" would make a good book title.

What does it mean?

If someone wanted to be an Olympic class athlete, they would have to start refining that skill by at least age ten, most likely. That means, if you haven't started yet, and you are over ten, chances are you're out of the running.

Over the hill, already, at ten. That's sad.

It's a burden, but don't worry.

"Second best" is less stressful to obtain.

Second best can mean being physically fit and still having enough talent to do more good than harm.

Don't do what too many folks do. They throw in the towel because they aren't first place.

When I was a kid, I heard that every American can have the dream of being President.

On the other hand, people say when you type the word "failure" and click on the Google search button that says, "I'm feeling lucky," you get the biography of the President.

So much for being top dog, when people call you a failure.

Of course I haven't yet researched how Google's "I'm feeling lucky" search results are determined.

The word "excellence" is often bantered about.

What pressure.

Think schools, workplaces, resumes. Then think of the name for Rush Limbaugh's radio network;

"The Excellence In Broadcasting Network" (E.I.B. Radio Network).

Is Rush Limbaugh excellent? What "top drawer" and "excellence" means is debatable.

Don't throw in the towel if you can't make the top; what ever way the "top" is defined. Being reasonably good is ...

Good enough.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The world's largest lava lamp

Guess where they plan to put it.

Soap Lake, Washington.

See reader comments on my trip below.

This is one of many tidbits I learned on my 2005 bicycle tour around in the Pacific Northwest.

PS. Incase you don't believe me, about just the lamp, you can also visit

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Another Reason To Vote NO on Washington State Initiative 912

I-912 would repeal a hike in the gas tax which was recently passed in the Washington State Legislature to pay for road and transportation improvements. Here is a letter I had in October 2 Bellingham Herald.

Some people wonder why gas taxes go up, while traffic still gets worse. They seem to think state highway departments are frittering away the money. Few stop to realize that land is getting too expensive for building roads. It takes a lot of land to build a highway or add new lanes to an existing road.

Back when the interstate freeways were first being built, traffic congestion could be solved by just adding more lanes to the highway. That was when one could still buy a house for under $20,000. Now, many of those same houses are selling for prices closer to the million dollar mark. Few stop to think about what effect real estate inflation has had on the cost of land for roads.

Many folks sit in homes that have inflated significantly in value over the past twenty years. They still wonder why roads cost more than they did twenty years ago.

Since land values do not seem to be going down in the near future, we need to reduce dependency on the automobiles. Cars take up too much space in our crowded and increasingly expensive world.

That was the letter, but I can add a bit more here.

Some of the gas tax money goes to fund alternative transit. Enough that I noticed, from a quick look at their web site, that a representative from the organization Transportation Choices is urging a no vote. Remember, NO means keeping the gas tax increase.

In the past, some alternative transit and bike advocates opposed certain gas tax hikes as they had tended to be perfectionists. They didn't want to have more roads built for cars.

Another constituency, besides traditional "no tax" Republican types, to come out against taxes for infrastructure are some anti growth advocates. They say, "if we don't build the roads, people will stop moving here." "Just starve the growth and the economy."

That would be painful if people keep having kids.

Supporting the gas tax that funds a balanced system of roads and alternative transit is good.

The whole transportation system is interdependent.

Busses help cars by reducing the traffic, but road improvements for cars also help the buses to get through. Currently, much of our alternative transit is busses that share the roads with cars. Also shoulder improvements are good for bicycles.