Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Good milaege. 25 miles to the carton of chocolate milk

It doesn't make much difference to my bicycle. I get around 25 miles to the carton of chocolate milk. Have never driven a car.

Still, the price of gas may be reflected in the price of chocolate milk. So far, it's only gone up a dime, where I buy.

Many factors go into milk production, besides just energy. These things cushion the "energy shock."

As usual, I plan to travel quite a bit this summer. Another summer of bicycle touring.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day Sign in Bike Shop

Several years ago, around Earth Day, this sign in a local bike shop read, "Ride A Bike For Your Mother Earth."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Should Rumsfeld Resign? Actually, Iraq is Congress' War

Rumsfeld is just a figurehead. I actually find some of the things he has said in press conferences to be candid and insightful. Rumsfeld's resignation wouldn't change the policy on the Iraq War. That policy is set by Congress and President Bush.

Maybe they could find a better strategist than Rumsfeld. Basically someone with a magic plan for winning the war, if such a plan were possible. Maybe Rumsfeld isn't the best, but it is possible that he is just a "fall guy." Fretting over whether he should resign, or not, could be just a waste of mental energy; something to occupy talk show hosts and letters to the editor while distracting from deeper issues.

Looking deeper, it is possible that the Iraq War is not a viable strategy.

It does look like another Vietnam War.

How did the Vietnam War finally end?

There are many perspectives, but I think it was Congress that finally pulled the plug on that war.


Congress repealed the Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution, in 1971 starting us down the path of troop withdrawal. War powers act of 1973 limited Nixon's power to keep US troops in the war still farther. Congress may have pulled the final plug in 1974 Foreign Assistance Act.

When the money flow was stopped, the war was basically ended.

In November of 2006 there is the opportunity to change much of Congress. Bring in a lot more Democrats and new perspectives.

Changing Congress might even have more effect than a new President.

I see many "Impeach Bush" signs, but hardly anyone is talking about the November 2006 Congressional election.

Congress may still be where the power is, if it chooses to use that power.

Then there are folks who say we must stay in Iraq, like they said we must stay in Vietnam. Give it a chance?

There may be some validity to those fears as well. I just want to say that to hedge my bets.

It does look like the American people are starting to turn against the Iraq War. If that's the case, this November could be a pivotal election. Congress can set policy on the Iraq War if it so chooses. 2006 may be a banner year for Democrats.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A wreck before even leaving the sales lot

Local newspaper had an article about several cars being hit in a new car lot when another car ran off the road and smashed into the lot. Luckily no one was hurt.

People are often surprised when I tell them that I have never driven a car. I would feel nervous behind such a fast wheel. The kinder pace of bicycling, or public transit, is better. If I was in a hurry, I would book a flight.

Biking on a wide shoulder is safe enough, or on a less traveled road. It is rare when cars run off the road. Most accidents happen in intersections. However, being near the road can be a problem in rare cases, such as that day at the car lot.

Several years ago, a woman was killed sitting at her desk in a travel agency here in Bellingham; with-out even going on a trip. A car crashed through the travel agency's front doors and smashed the reception desk.

One time, as I crossed the border into Canada by bicycle, the custom agent ask why I didn't have a driver's licence. I just had non driver's ID. My explanation was that I didn't want to be part of the "car rat race." He smiled and said, "car wrecks don't happen with out cars."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Biking within 2 miles of home


Most people overlook these things on their way to the airport for that "yuppy eco-tourism junket to the Himalayas."

Colored ventilation pipes in atrium make nice lobby space.

Often overlooked this artistic atrium resides inside the Environmental Studies building at Western Washington University here in Bellingham. Less than 2 miles from where I live. Building houses Huxley College and the Geology Department.

Drying and on display in the hallway of the Geology department. This old tusk. I think from a mammoth. Recently found in Skagit County. Article in Bellingham Herald said this was estimated to be 18,000 years old.

I had to bike up, walk around in the building and take a look. Many years back (not 18,000 however) I attended Western. Still go through campus quite often by bike or foot.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bills In The House. Rephrasing The Debate.

The strong anti-illegal immigration bill, proposed in the US House, has opponents marching in the streets again.

Another bill in the House is hardly noticed and might get to the route of the immigration issue better than ever. It's called the "Global Democracy Promotion Act," or H.R. 4465. This would lift gag orders against international family planning agencies. These gag order limits US funding to international agencies dealing with population issues.

Passing H.R. 4465 would be a big step toward addressing world population growth. I think it is mostly Democrats behind this bill.

Now would be a good time to give this little known bill more attention with the backdrop of concern about illegal immigration. Much immigration is population growth flowing over from Mexico and other countries with high growth rates.

Something like H.R. 4465 is a lot better way to deal with the issue than the more punitive, "Republican," ideas of "rounding people up and making them felons."

The gag order is partially imposed because there is fear that family planning agencies might (heaven forbid) promote abortion. Actually, I am not really a fan of abortion, but good family planning can help prevent abortion as well. Prevent unwanted pregnancies.

I think it was Congressman Barny Frank who once said about some of the Republican Right To Life attitudes,

"The right to life begins at conception and ends at birth."

Well, thousands of folks are now marching in the streets opposing the more punitive immigration bills that have surfaced in the Republican controlled House. Illegal immigrants want the right to a good life AFTER birth.

Actually, the immigration debate has split Republicans.

Some in the House want more restrictive policies while President Bush leans in favor of the "Guest Worker" idea.

Let Republicans squabble among themselves. Their "world view" seems to be crumbling.

In some ways, I don't blame people for worrying that too many people are coming into our job markets. Really, it's the housing market, more than the job market, that seems to be the problem. It isn't easy to be low, or even middle income if the American dream home runs over $400,000 in many areas.

Reducing our overall numbers would help, but also redefining the American dream is needed.

Forget the house with a backyard barbecue. Instead, embrace "life on the 25th floor" with the wealth of multi cultural experience close by. Take the elevator to salsa dancing. Don't bother driving. Take the bus which can run every ten minutes in your denser urban neighborhood.

It doesn't have to be all bad, but we do need to think in terms of population, planning and the ecological footprint that each person places on the environment.

Technology can help. If you don't think you have enough room for that huge library of books, in your new urban flat, don't worry. Your entire library can fit onto a small spool of DVDs!

Welcome to the future.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Is the art of conversation dying?

Picture taken in 1977. Me on left.

Last Wednesday, KUOW's show called "The Conversation" featured the author of a book titled "Conversation: A history of a declining art," by Stephen Miller. It was a very interesting discussion even though the topic was cut a bit short to make way for KUOW's pledge drive. Yes, paying the bills takes precedence.

Good conversation can be highly satisfying, according to Miller. Where people gather and discuss topics in depth. Where there can be civil disagreement and something described as "bantering" back and forth with out hard feelings.

This kind of quality conversation has not been that common in America, and could even be in decline for various reasons.

Conversation that is purely for the sake of enlightenment often takes a back seat to more pragmatic matters of business. Also the pace of modern life is full of interruptions, such as cell phones, which fragment people's focus to the level of sound bytes.

Is this situation getting worse?

Maybe not. Here are some of my personal reflections.

Some people think younger generations are less into conversation than, say, us baby boomers.

I remember my college years when baby boomers were young. Moving into an all freshman dorm, I felt people were quite superficial. Most folks seemed to fit into only two categories; party goers or Jesus freaks.

I was in another set of dorms for my sophomore year where there was one dorm for senior citizens. It was a special program called "The Fairhaven Bridge Project." A dorm for senior citizens going back to school to mingle with the college kids.

I often found myself sitting at the senior citizen tables, in the dining hall, because their conversation had more depth than my fellow students. Above photo shows me conversing at one of those tables back in 1976. Picture was taken for a a brochure on the Bridge Project.

It is possible that the superficiality of today's young folk isn't any worse than it was in our generation. At least in my personal experience.

Since college, I have found my conversations have gotten richer as the years pass. Maybe I am just finding myself among more receptive folks.

Do people tend to get more sophisticated as they get older?

Technology is another thing that is often blamed for the decline of conversation. This also might not be any worse than it was 30 years ago. Back then, people would watch TV, rather than talk to one another. Today there are more electronic gizmos to avoid face to face contact, but it could be just "more of same." TV was bad enough. Now there are Ipods, but we had Walkmans back then.

The Internet is blamed, but it might be more of a blessing than a curse. I know of a lot of folks who can get together in small group discussions because they have found each other on the Internet.

One good thing about the Internet is the fact that small gatherings can get the word out. In the bad old days, small gatherings couldn't afford print space or media time. Maybe something could get a short mention in a calendar, but these were basically sound bytes. Now one can open up more meaningful descriptions of small events on the web. It's the small events and discussions where interaction is often best. Big venues are more likely to be lectures, rather than conversations.

One place where civil conversation, and good natured bantering seems to thrive is at the YMCA sauna. This may vary from location to location. Also it depends on the time, and who happens to be around. Here at my YMCA, these kind of impromptu conversations seem quite common.

Does nudity create a better climate for sharing? Or is it just the fact that most people are afraid to take their cell phones into the hot space for fear of cooking the electronics. For now, at least, saunas and steam rooms tend to be "cell phone free" spaces.

Many folks lament the lack of good dialog in coffee shops these days. It's true. You look in the window and see folks hunched over their laptops.

Bars have never been that appealing to me. Too superficial and intellectual conversation is discouraged, or drowned out in loud music.

So maybe the art of conversation is still alive in places like saunas; rather than coffee shops. Also, the Internet may be more help than harm. People just need to think in some new ways.