Monday, July 31, 2006

Being a homeowner is too lucrative for economic good, it can be considered a vocation

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Highest paying job in the economy?

Being a homeowner.

It seems like home ownership is the highest paying occupation. I don't have statistics to back this up, but it's a good guess.

One of the strange distortions of our economy that results from the incredible real estate boom, over much of USA, in the last few years.

Does the occupation of home ownership produce anything useful?

Growing food produces something useful. Manufacturing plywood produces something useful. Educating students, writing software, it's all useful.

What does the occupation of "homeowner" produce for others in the economy?

A question to ponder.

As population grows and land gets scarce, home values rise. At the same time, industry gets more restricted. The economic base seems to be shifting away from employment and toward using land as a wealth generator.

One also notices lots of retail and service jobs.

Where do people get the money to shop in all those stores?

Imagine, our economy based on home equity loans.

Amazing.

Now I hear about a New York Times article on middle aged men dropping out of the workforce. The jobs they find pay much less than what they had in the past.

Many have been laid off or down sized. Quite a few of these folks are coasting, for now at least, on their home equity. Others are on disability and so forth.

It's an interesting article in Today's NY Times business section.

"Men Not Working."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Good human rights discussion in Irshad's blog

Irshad Manji has a great blog.

I sometimes feel like the world would be better off if the Middle East didn't exist, but realize there are a lot of decent people caught up in all that mess. It would be callus to just write everything in that region off, but it's hard to know what the best strategy is for helping innocent people caught in bad circumstances.

Ideas and discussions presented on this blog, and other places can help.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Silver Lining?

US involvement in Iraq and the greater Middle East may have just made things even worse. Fanned the flames more.

If there is any good to come from this, it could be the total discrediting of right wing politics in USA. It may have taken this to discredit much of the religious right and the Republican agenda.

Hopefully, at least much of Congress can change in November.

Many folks keep holding signs that say "impeach Bush," but it is really Congress which has that power. Voting in November may be a step in that direction, but the process is fairly slow. Bush's second term, in the White House, will be over before long anyway. Likely before an impeachment process can unfold.

My, how time flies.

Also, of course, it isn't just the American right wing that's discredited. Fundamentalism looks bad all over the world. Whether it is the "Christian Right," "Islamic Fundamentalism," or what ever, it all looks perverted.

I hope more liberal and tolerant voices can be heard from all corners of the world. Liberal religions and so forth.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wandering Around

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Grand reading room in Wilson Library at Western Washington University, here in Bellingham. Just an easy walk from my home.

Seems to invite one to slow down.

The only countries I have been to are USA and Canada.

Still, I see many different things than "main stream society" because of the unusual way I travel. Most people go by car and jet.

I bicycle, walk and use public transit. It's almost like seeing a different world.

In 2003, one of my bicycle tours took me through Los Angeles. I described that trip as "leisurely." Others are surprised by that adjective for getting through Los Angeles. Remember, they are going by car, or changing planes at the airport. I go on the bike paths and back roads.

They gripe when it takes several hours.

I have a different perspective and don't mind that it took me two days, from one end of the metropolitan area to the other.

Glad I had enough money for the expensive motels, however.

In USA, it costs more to "stay put" than it does to keep moving. No wonder we have a "rat race" society.

Still, expensive motels are just in the cities. On most of the rural California Coast, state park camping was only $3 per night for bicyclists.

An advantage of being a bicyclist.

I don't seem to feel any need for going overseas. Not that I hate jet planes, or anything. I just feel that most people don't really take the time to be in their local environment.

Here in USA, we will need to pay more attention to our local environment so we can figure out how to make it run with less oil. That might mean actually learning the local bus schedule.

Some folks know more about overseas resort towns than they do about how to cross their own home town with out getting on the freeway.

Travel to a different perspective.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Imagine a world with-out the Middle East

It seems like most of the bad news comes from the Middle East. Maybe the world would be better if that region didn't exist. Then again it might just mean other trouble spots would rise to the limelight.

Not only is the Middle East the source of most bad news, it's also a big source of oil; that addictive substance in civilization. Like pure sugar, it's bad for us.

I sometimes think that if sacred places and buildings in the Middle East were destroyed, the world could stop fighting over them. This may be an irresponsible attitude. Certainly there are innocent people and places there.

Normally, I like historic buildings, but maybe we could do with out many of those religious places that people keep fighting over. If those buildings turned to rubble, the world might do better with out them. And I believe in God. I just think too much fuss is going into sacred places that are man made.

Maybe the world could learn a lesson from this high school girl, I met, while she was working at an AM / PM Mini-mart in upstate New York.

This was during my 1991 bicycle tour across USA.

The little store was a world of throwaway items and plastic counters; in Upstate New York which is a bastion of American history. It was just an Exxon station, or something like that. All modern and sterile.

Across the street were some apartments with the number "1772" over the main door.

I was intrigued and ask the woman, "Were those apartments really built in 1772, or is that number just the street address?"

She just gave a quick laugh and said, "Built in 1772, I wouldn't be surprised !" "Those apartments look pretty old and crappy to me."

Then she was ringing up the next customer, like that history didn't really matter.

Maybe they had a crummy landlord also.

Smelly carpet?

It was my first time in Upstate New York and I thought "buildings built before the revolutionary war are kind of neat." We don't have things like that here in the state of Washington.

Of course many of the old temples and places of the Middle East are far older than that.

I don't feel like saying this often, but at times one needs to say (about old memories and baggage)

"Get over it."

This is especially true if it causes people to fight.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Monica Lewinsky topic revisited

Americans becoming more socially isolated in recent years?

Maybe, Bill Clinton's biggest mistake was kowtowing to conservatives with white lies. He should have publicly embraced the concept of friendship and support outside one's primary relationship.

Friendship and support, at least.

Of course there is the worry of venereal disease with sexual relationships, but the line between friendship, support and eroticism can be blurry. Clinton could have handled his yearnings for contact, outside the primary relationship, in a better way, for sure, but said yearnings have validity.

Maybe he should have lead the nation into a dialog about these issues. Imagine, such a discussion starting from "The White House."

It was a missed opportunity.

Yes, we do have lots of workshops, seminars and therapists that provide contact outside the marriage.

It's a whole industry.

Massage workshops, retreats. Even things addressing sexual issues such as the "Body Electric" workshops, for instance.

These types of seminars serve an important function of breaking isolation, but some might criticize them as being "manufactured intimacy."

Yes, "manufactured."

"Just pay your $480 fee and feel connected."

Now I read, there is a study, from Duke University, that says Americans have fewer friends outside of the family. They say American's circle of confidants has shrunk dramatically in the past few decades and the number of people who say they have no one to discuss important matters has more than doubled. This study also indicates that social ties are more family based than before.

Study is called, "Social isolation in America: changes in core discussion networks over two decades."

While I can't provide a detailed review of the study, I can present my own thinking, as inspired from these news items.

It seems like people are desperately clinging to their marriages and shrinking circles of "nuclear family" ties. It's almost like "clinging for dear life" as the world washes away around us. Increasing mobility means neighbors no longer know one another. Longer work hours, longer commutes means less time to nurture friendships outside of the primary relationship.

This trend is in the wrong direction. Most people need more than just the nuclear family.

Even the nuclear family, which is being held so tightly, is on shaky ground. It's influenced by the same mobility forces that brake up friendship networks.

Often it seems like people are loosing wide circles of friends and clinging more tightly to marriages and the marriages are becoming "war zones." Marriages are more apt to end in divorce, these days.

I fear that folks are getting their "variety" from something called "serial monogamy." That is going from one marriage to the next through life.

It's serial monogamy, for variety, rather than wide networks of friends, relatives and neighbors.

I also hear that the nuclear family is more isolated, these days, than in past history. In the past, extended families of grandparents, uncles and aunts provided support networks. Today, these broader "extended family networks" are more scattered.

The nuclear family is isolated and subject to what one could call "cabin fever." When one gets board and seeks variety, it often breaks up.

Serial monogamy leaves a painful trail of broken relationships in its path. It's a sad story.

Putting more energy into a diverse circle of friends is better than putting everything into one's marriage until cabin fever strikes.

Yes, a national dialog on the state of our relationships and the dynamic between "primary relationships" and "outside friends" would be healthy.

Former President Clinton was struggling with these issues along with just about everyone else.

There is a lot of rhetoric about trying to make marriage last. Most Americans seem to talk a lot, while not really living this value.

One can, at least, praise the Clintons for staying married. Through all the news of Clinton's extra marital escapades, that marriage has held together.

These days, people talk about fidelity, but don't practice it. As soon as a rough spot hits, like some extra marital affair, folks bail out.

At least the Clintons demonstrate that old fashioned value of staying together.

I remember someone calling a talk show accusing her husband of winking at another woman in the supermarket. He wasn't having affairs, just winking.

The talk show host had a good answer. She said, "your husband is only married, he's not dead." "He will have feelings."

Expectations can be real high these days. Even winking can become a problem. The bar is set so high that a slight hint of adversity can end things.

This situation must be caused by advertising. It's advertising that constantly pounds people with the message "you deserve better."

The nature of business and advertising raises expectations to unsustainable levels. At the same time, mobility and things like the Internet make "greener pastures only mouse clicks away."

Then there are lots of people, like me, who can live without partners. For single people, friendship networks take on an added importance.

Yes, I think it would be good for people to back off a bit from clinging so tightly to the marriage concept.

People should seek broader networks of community. Relax, "let go" a little and, ironically, even the institution of marriage might benefit.

I guess it was Hillary Clinton who coined the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, I say, it takes a village, and more than just one's "nuclear family" to satisfy our needs.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nation's Population About To Blast Past 300,000,000

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Even if they don't find the "gay gene." one would still think there is plenty of reason not to worry that not everyone leads "lifestyles of procreation."

There are more than enough people.

Evidence for genetic basis of gayness is convincing, to some, but not all. The jury is still out.

A recent interview, on National Public Radio, brought me yet another perspective on the natural state of human beings.

Genetics does not really dictate our sexuality.

One of the beauties of our genetic makeup is that we are given a lot of flexibility. Human behavior, including sexual behavior, is not rigidly dictated by genetic programming. This gives us the ability to adapt our behavior to changing circumstances.

Maybe the genes drop a few hints, but they really don't say as much as some folks might think.

We have the inherent ability to be quite adaptable.

Adaptability is an attribute for survival.

Even thinking about "survival of the fittest" the species with the most offspring is not necessarily the one most likely to be survive.

"Quality," rather than just "quantity" makes a difference.

Elephants, for instance, don't have a lot of offspring, but they take real good care of the offspring they have.

Our genetics may dictate things about the workings of our kidneys and heart, but the more interesting area of human behavior is not necessarily a slave of genes. The ability to use "free will" and adapt to changing circumstances, in our environment, is a great thing we have inherited.

We ought to be glad we have this flexibility.

I don't think there is anything in the "program" that says, "everyone must procreate" to "get with the program."

There is an old phrase that goes, "come on, get with the program."

One can ask, "what program?"

These thoughts are inspired after an interview, I heard several weeks back, with a Professor named David Barash, at University of Washington.

Another way to adapt to growing population. Don't litter.


More people, more need to curtail things like littering.

I was never a litterbug, but the first sign I saw that said, "thousand
dollar fine for littering" impressed me. It was on my 1988 bike trip to southern California. Somewhere around San Simeon.

"Wow, thousand dollar fine for tossing a candy wrapper."

Now, these signs are common place; even here in Washington State.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Here comes the train


Where the trail and tracks cross a freight train approaches.

Near Boulevard Park.

At dusk, the approaching light is what my camera sees. Looks like a sunrise coming down the track.