Sunday, December 31, 2006

Often Bellingham's fanciest displays are on almost dead end streets. In keeping with subdued excitement


One of my readers informed me that her sister saw Bellingham's Erie St. featured on national television and she lives in South Carolina.

I went looking, on my bicycle. What a good way to see Christmas lights, by bicycle. Last time I did this in someone's car, the windows kept fogging up. Couldn't see much.

Erie is in an area with lots of dead-end streets. Kind of hidden away and not that many people pass by. They went through a lot of work in that neighborhood. I wonder what the birds think.

There are many lit up homes around Bellingham. I can enjoy them without having to do it myself.

Some people worry about the energy used, but I wouldn't be surprised if it still takes more energy to heat the average American home.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Executive Workout


I always thought "executive workout" means just using the sauna at a gym and not any of the gym's exercise areas.

I do so much bicycling that I get lots of exercise without going to a gym. I usually go to the gym just for the sauna and steam room area. Around here, the term executive workout gets used for that.

When I do a Google search another concept comes up.

Executive workout can also mean a quick workout that executives add to their busy lives. They stick it in on top of all those other things that are piled into their lives.

That's not me. My lifestyle is more leisurely.

Never owning an car means not having gained that 2,000 lb "love handle made of steel" commonly referred to as an automobile. Walking, jogging and bicycling is second nature for me. One can literally "run their errands," or at least jog them.

Occasionally I do aerobics at the gym. This is not because it's a workout, but because the music is good. More positive than the negative stuff they play in Bellingham's scuzzy bars. The workout can be a byproduct of a good time.

I call my workout a "playout."

Aerobics is like dancing. More fun than running on a treadmill. Treadmills remind me of corporate America. "Keep running faster, faster and you don't go anywhere."

Some people go to a sauna after the workout to soothe muscle aches. I can just go for the social aspect of the sauna as my muscles seldom ache. They are toned from the gentle, steady pace of a bicycling lifestyle. Little strain or injury. Not like competitive sports.

I didn't even bother using a sauna after bicycling 60 miles to Vancouver, last autumn. There was a sauna where I was staying, but eating was a bigger priority. The sauna is social and warmth for me, not "pragmatic therapy after a workout."

After 60 miles, I was hungry. Went over to Davie Street and quenched my hunger with the largest bowl of soup I have ever eaten. It was full of crisp
broccoli and just the right touch of meat.

One waitress in an Asian restaurant said, "eat lots of vegetables and a little meat to stay healthy."

"Lots of fruits, vegetable's and a little meat."

That's not going to the extreme of being a vegetarian, it's just a meal with some balance.

After the big meal, I was ready for a short nap back at my hotel. Then a fun night of dancing at a bar called Numbers on Davie Street. That place really does have good music, in my opinion. Old disco tunes. Good energy music.

I have never made a New Year's resolution, but maybe I should. I could brush my teeth more often, but eating lots of
apples has helped. It seems like less of a chore than brushing. Apples taste good.

There is an old phrase that goes, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Sounds like a good New Year's resolution.

Friday, December 29, 2006

More gruesome news from the Middle East

Now it's the execution of Hussein who himself executed many.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I don't remember ever believing in Santa Claus


To my scientific mind, it didn't seem practical that anyone could get to all the rooftops and go down all the chimneys in one night.

There are just too many of them.

Then, one special Christmas eve, my dad drove us out to the Pullman airport to pick up my oldest sister who was flying in from Seattle. There was a red glow in the sky. It did looked convincing.

Was this Rudolph's nose reflecting off low clouds and fog? It was a hopeful sign. Maybe there is a Santa Claus.

Then my brother pointed out that the airstrip's runway lights were casting unusual glows on the clouds.


*Picture wasn't actually taken at airport, but has similar look.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Lights On My Bicycle


For the season, but mostly for safety.

Why not put colored lights on your bike where people will see them? Who would see a Christmas tree in your apartment?

Then leave the lights on till Spring, like the city of Bellingham does by keeping it's lighted stars up in the downtown till around February.

Why not have showy lights for safety?


There are cyclists who go through the trouble of welding together those high bikes, you know with the seat and handlebars way up off the ground. That's good for special events like parades, but why not something showy to enhance bike safety?

I used a product called Spoke Brites. A pack of three sold for $9.95. Colored light emitting diodes that are powered with button batteries. Motion switches turn them on when the wheel is turning; especially if there are bumps in the pavement.

Problem is, they don't turn off for daytime riding, unless one removes them from spokes. This isn't a big problem in our long periods of winter dark and the batteries last a long time.

Spoke Brites don't seem to be available in the local bike shop I checked. Lance Armstrong must have not used them. I found some in a Fred Myers on Bakerview Road. It's one of those big box stores that has variety.

There are some other glowing LED products designed for wheel spokes. One friend has them in his wheels, but I am not sure where he got them. Some kind of mail order place.

I also retrofitted another type of light that can be more easily found in bike shops. Two LED blinkers that people normally wear on clothing, or place on the back of the bike. I used clear plastic tape to stick these in among the spokes for red lights that move with the wheels. They have switches.

If you are trying this, make sure to mount them so they don't catch on the frame or brakes as they go around.

So far, no one has stolen them. They look kind of tacky in their wads of tape, when turned off.

I get a lot of comments as I ride. Picture may have not turned out as good as they look in motion.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Downtown Bellingham Building Heights Controversy


Drilling for coffee? Image shows drilling rig set up at drive-through coffee place.

Is it local production of that "brown liquid" from the ground? "Buy local, mine it local?"

No. I think it is drilling to explore firmness of underlying rock. A six story condominium building is planned for that lot. That's the corner of State and Magnolia.

Then there's the next block south. That's the block where two parcels sit side by side along State Street.

At State and Holly, a new bank is proposed. The Key Bank that sits there now would be replaced with a newer version of Key Bank.

Some people fear that the bank plans would not be tall enough for that location. They say that downtown Bellingham needs a more dramatic "first impression" as one comes down Holly Street, but just next door, there is another story.

That's the proposed Bay View Tower. 23 floors of mostly condominiums, give or take a few stories. To be Bellingham's tallest building, but there are people who fear that it would be too tall.

"Not tall enough" and "too tall," just with-in the same block. I guess one can never please everyone.

Some people would like to impose height limits in downtown Bellingham.

On the other hand, I like the diverse architecture that one sees in places like downtown Seattle or Vancouver, BC, where tall buildings can sit next to small structures and mini parks. It gives a city that exciting and diverse look.

As an observer, I don't mind seeing some of the many changes happening around me. Population growth and prosperity are underlying issues that could be questioned on the global scale, but the architectural fruits of growth - the urban landscape - provides an interesting drama. I enjoy watching things unfold.

When I was a kid, my dad used to keep tabs on all the construction projects around town. We lived in the college town of Pullman, Washington where major buildings were being added to the university campus. Pullman is home of Washington State University.

Speaking of dramatic architecture, the corner of High and Holly Streets, in Bellingham, holds a new facility of note. It's part of Whatcom Educational Credit Union. That credit union is getting so big, it's like an empire.

Ceiling kind of looks like an inverted pyramid.

Interesting, and it's true, "education is big business." Big business, especially in towns like Pullman and Bellingham.

With all these things going on, it looks like quite a few people have money.

Money has never been a big goal of mine. My lifestyle of "living in one small room" remains intact however.

One small room with a computer and a bicycle.

Mainstream "professional and middle class America" lives differently than me, but my lifestyle seems to work okay right along side mainstream culture.

People say my lifestyle is unusual.

Unusual because I don't even drink coffee.

Several years ago I read that Bellingham leads the nation in the number of drive-through coffee locations, per capita. The most coffee places for it's size.

There must be a lot of coffee drinkers here, or more likely a lot of hopeful entrepreneurs. Merchants wanting to sell to coffee drinkers. Local businesses and also the chains.

Just about everyone seems to be in the act. It's called aspirations. Coffee kiosks on so many street corners. Drinking, driving. Not the kind of bad drinking and driving that comes to mind, but still. It's people and their hurrying lifestyles.

Coffee, cell phones, driving.

My aspirations are a bit different. I don't drink coffee, or drive an automobile, but chocolate milk, that's another story. Chocolate milk is an addiction as I bike.

Here is something else to think about. The Key Bank plans some drive-through lanes as an important part of it's design. What happens if people actually do cut back on driving cars? If gasoline goes to, say $10 per gallon?

Walking or biking past Bellingham's construction sites is entertaining. Interesting, but also a bit worrisome. Rent increases, related to prosperity, can push "non moneyed" people out of cities.

I hope our city can succeed in respecting it's diversity of incomes and lifestyles as well as it's ever evolving diversity in architecture.

At least for now, it looks like construction creates a lot of "available living space."

Also I hear that some of the tall buildings may never get built. It's aspirations, but there is also the need for a foundation of financing and buyers.

Like the many coffee places around town; there are a lot of "for rent" and "for lease" signs. That's kind of reassuring for renters, like me. Construction can create the "elbow room" needed for keeping life affordable as population and the economy keep growing.

Someday, people still need to talk about lifestyles and population.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Power Outages: another argument against sprawl


Power outages that have plagued western Washington after the December 15 2006 windstorm could be used to illustrate a problem with sprawl. It's a problem with low density development where houses are spaced far apart among a lot of large trees. Power lines have to be strung long distances to service each resident.

It seemed like most of the denser, more urban neighborhoods didn't suffer outages, or the outages were shorter lived. In denser neighborhoods, lines are less vulnerable to large trees. Also there can be more redundancy in lines so if one goes down, power can be rerouted over an alternative path; sort of like how the Internet works.

This is another reason to encourage more compact development.


Image from my mimeographed newsletter of 1981.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time Magazine's Person Of The Year 2006 - You

Dethroning The Celebrity

I am reminded of a controversy over Time Magazine's person of the year in 2001; New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Who had the biggest impact on news in 2001?

The thought of giving such an award to Bin Laden for orchestrating those 911 events was disgusting. Giuliani was a safer compromise. More heroic, but not necessarily the person making the biggest splash to shape our memory of 2001.

That's the problem with "top dog" celebrity, "winner take all" contests.

It looks like Time's 2006 pick has dethroned the whole idea of being top dog and given the award to all of us.

I am pleased with this turn of events.

The Internet can empower all of you.

We can all share a tiny fragment of being "person of the year." There really isn't one centralized "person of the year."

I have often thought that too much emphasis is placed on the winners and celebrities in society. We all have stories to tell. I am happy to see all of us share in the 2006 award.

Hope no one has to do something really ominous to be heard.

See comment on my web site that I wrote several years back about Time's person of the year.

One year, the computer, rather than a person, won that prize. I think it was sometime in the 1990s.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two Comments On The Weather


Wind and rain on the window pane, but this is actually a swiped image from some web cam. I doctored it with my cheap image editor.

Traveling lightly in an urban core

It's been winter with wind, rain and snow.

My little room has been quite cozy in this downtown area.

Lights seem to never go out here. An advantage of living among dense development. Not that many trees to fall on power lines and there are a lot of redundant circuits. If one goes down, they can usually switch to another.

In the last wind, we did loose power, for about 5 seconds.

5 seconds is all.

I was at work which is just a few blocks from my residence. Outage wasn't even long enough to remove the afterimage of the brightly lit lobby from my eyes.

Before the wind, I shut my home computer off at the strip. It doesn't need to be on 24/7. My web sites run on servers that are located back east and in California. These hosting corporations have fortresses with everything they need till Armageddon.

Shared hosting, kind of like communal living.

Yes, technological civilization has a certain amount of redundancy and resiliency.

Agility is a good attribute as well. Being able to get around on foot.

Living in a dense urban area, there were lots of restaurants and stores to choose from. Quite a few things did close during the snow, but there were enough places that I could always find something open.

One time, I had to walk out to Lakeway Drive for a decent meal. That wasn't too bad. I needed the exercise anyway.

My little rented room doesn't have much space to stash things.

I can't really afford to be a survivalist.

With practically no food stored at home, I rely on my agility to get around and the fact that there are so many restaurants and stores in this downtown area.

Hard to imagine them all being closed.

Being single makes it easier to get around as well.

That's my lifestyle, traveling lightly in the heart of an urban core.

Some other folks stock their homes with lots of food, auxiliary generators and so forth. Sometimes things like generators can be more of a hassle. I hear of problems with fumes and even fuel storage fires. Still, it makes more sense to try this in rural areas where services are farther away. It wouldn't make sense with my lifestyle.

I do have a portable radio with batteries. My bike light and camping gear could work for a short while if needed.

The radio can go with me where ever I go. It has been interesting listening. KOMO radio's "neighbor to neighbor" coverage has been good.

The most recent wind was a lot harsher just south of here.

I have to count my blessings. The storms have just been interesting things to watch and follow on the news for me.

That's my lifestyle. Not having many things to worry about, having a lot of agility and being close to a lot of urban services.


Green House Catastrophe?

Conservatives might laugh during the snow and say, "where's the green house effect?" Liberals might say, "it's really climate change and some areas, like northern Europe could get colder."

Well I say, it's just a normal winter.

We have gotten wind, rain and some snow, other years. It's just that we have had quite a string of "milder than normal" winters recently.

Maybe the milder than normal winters have been related to global warming so when we have a normal winter, it seems abnormal.

A perception incubated in global warming.

Really, there is never a normal year for weather. That's because "normal" is only a "many year" average. Random weather fluctuations are always either "warmer than normal," or "colder than normal," or "wetter" or "drier."

It's a random thing.

One can be philosophical about the concept of normal. Most things aren't really normal.

Things are always unique. "Normal" is only the sum total of things over a long period.

Normal is, basically, abnormal.

Remember, that is true for people as well. Us, abnormal folks, (abnormal in many directions) are really the majority.

I've probably lost you all by now.

Anyway, hope you are surviving the winter.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Last Gavel

I am so glad that the Republican Congress has come to an end.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

First year in new Pullman High School 1972 - 73


See more images

It's a bit blurry, but I just dug up this photo. It was taken inside my old high school; Pullman High.

This picture was taken during the 30Th reunion as the class of 73 was touring the building.

Class of 73 was the first graduating class from this innovative building. There was a lot of open minded thinking, even back then.

Pullman is a college town. That school even had an award for "most individualistic student." They gave it to me in spring of my freshman year.

The art teacher was quite a character. One spring his students piled gooey stuff around a sink to create something that looked like an elixir spring in the art department.

A burbling elixir spring.

He would then bottle water in glass jars and label it with things like "pen and ink," "watercolor" or "felt pen." He took these jars around the school pretending to be selling them; like a "snake oil salesman."

Students enjoyed the stunts, or thought he was a bit weired.

It was that same teacher who staged a "pep rally" for some paintings that were being entered into a competition.

If PE classes get pep rallies, why not art?

I once suggested that modern school needed a throne.

A throne, like where a king would sit. Something to make that new school look like the Gothic building we had just moved out of.

This wasn't a serious suggestion, but some students built one. The students scrounged up farm implements and combine parts from wheat ranches around town.

Rusty old farm implements.

They welded a "junk throne" together. It went on display at the school. That art teacher sat there and pretended he was commanding students from the throne.

This was the same teacher who built a castle out of old car doors, washing machine lids, bed springs and, of course, farm implements. It was located on a country road out of town.

Soon the throne went on display to a circuit of art galleries around the region.

Quite an "art happening."

I also remember that art teacher asking students to ponder this question.

"In the hamburger of high school, what would art be? Would art be the relish, the bun, the patty?"

Those were nice memories.

A small "college town" that felt safe and creative back in the year 1972-73.

That was back when the Watergate scandal was starting to make news. Political science classes followed Watergate hearings and people used to laugh at Richard Nixon.

Maybe we were too harsh on our poor president.

I think Pullman went for McGovern in 1972. Surprised some folks being that we were in the Palouse region of eastern Washington.

It is a college town.

In history class, the teacher once called Pullman,

"The Athens of the Palouse."

Athens of the Palouse. Slogan must have never stuck.

I was planning to go into broadcasting, back then. Even took a TV production class in the school's shining new TV studio.

They were proud of that facility.

Radio was really my big interest.

Never imagined I would get a web page. Web pages hadn't been invented back in 1973.

A classmate brought me back to Pullman for the weekend of the 30Th reunion.

See more images I took from that trip to the reunion.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's A Lost Cause

Lots of news on the radio about how badly the war in Iraq is going. It's a lost cause.

This may be a bit simplistic, but the "religious right," in this country, is wrong. Maybe our "religious right" put too much faith in deeply religious people of the Middle East. Maybe they thought the religious folks of that region would co-operate in a fledgling democracy. "After all, aren't they moral people with deep religious convictions, albeit Muslim?"

Well, the intolerance of that region has turned to sectarian violence and civil war. Religious fundamentalists will do that.

Here in America, it took our so called "good people;" often religious people, several hundred years to craft the liberal democracy we now enjoy. In the "good old days," we nearly exterminated the American Indian and made their religions illegal, until more recent times. We've had slavery and our own civil war.

It took us several hundred years and we are still learning the lessons of tolerance. Still learning how to celebrate diversity. If the Middle East learns these lessons in 50 years, it will be moving faster than our past history.

We have come a long way as a liberal democracy. We even have liberal and accepting religions.

We need to tend to our own needs better, so as to become an even greater example of civilization to the world. Continue to put our own house in order.

Just think, what if all the billions spent on "military in Iraq" could have been used domestically, on things like alternative energy. Our foreign policy could advance past the ulterior motive of keeping oil flowing.

That would be "domestic spending;" not the priority of most Republicans. It would also be idealism. Daring to dream.

Some would scoff, but look what so called "realistic thinking" has brought us - a lost cause in Iraq and a black hole for large sums of money, not to mention all the lives lost.

Right at the start, it looked like getting rid of Iraq's dictator had some merit. I admit, I was a fence sitter (undecided) on the question of yes, or no, back in 2003.

Now it looks like the various religious fanatics in that region are making any positive outcome improbable.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why Retrocausality Can't Happen


Clock and intercom unit at my old high school in Pullman, WA.

In my opinion

What is retrocausality?

It is something being able to change the past. For instance, going back in time and shooting Aldof Hitler before he takes over Germany.

At least that's my understanding of what the term retrocausality means.

Why can't this happen?

Here are some results from the time I spend in contemplation. Yes, I get to do a lot of contemplation time working as a custodian.

Some physicists talk about the theoretical ability of going back in time. Photons being able to go back, or what ever. I guess this makes some sense in theory. In popular media, it brings up questions related to whether the past can be changed, or not.

Well, I would say that the past could not be changed, even though something might be able to travel to a past time.

The past can not be changed.

Why not?

Einstein talked about space and time being the same thing. (At least my understanding of Einstein indicates this, help me if I am off base).

He talked about "space/time."

If this is the case, then I would say that traveling through time would be similar to traveling through space. One can go forwards, backwards or even sideways through space.

As for time, our common experience always goes forward, but theoretically one should be able to go backwards as well.

When traveling backwards in space, we don't automatically expect that we will revisit the exact experiences that we encountered on our last visit to that spot space.

For instance, I recently traveled back to the space of my old high school, but I didn't expect to find my old high school experiences. I did not expect to find those same experiences just because I was revisiting that space.

The experience I did encounter was different. It was my 30th high school reunion.

My reunion wasn't being in high school again, even though I went back to the space of my old high school. No I couldn't retake a test I took back then and get a better grade.

Well, can't the same thing be said about traveling back to a place in time?

One can go back to 1973, for instance, but all the things that were located in 1973 are now "moved on." They are moved on to the present.

Going back to 1973 might not be that much different than going back to the space of my old high school. The space is still there, but the experience is different. The high school students have all moved on, gotten jobs and so forth.

When I went back, the students had all changed and the space was filled with the 30th reunion experience.

Now going back in time might bring the same idea. The year is still there, but the experience is different. Our universe is no longer residing in 1973. Going back there might mean leaving this universe. Yes there is still a 1973, but this universe has moved on. Maybe there is another universe experiencing 1973.

The space where my old grade school once stood is still there. The space is still there, but no school resides at that spot anymore.

That spot is now occupied with apartment buildings.

So, if we can go back in space and not encounter the world as it was when we visited that space last, why wouldn't that happen in time as well?

I would say that one could not go back to Germany in 1935 and shoot Hitler. Maybe one can go back to Germany and one could go back to 1935, but Hitler would no longer be there.

Maybe I am missing something? Help me out. What is wrong with this idea?

Now I know that traveling to my old high school space is not really visiting the space that my high school was in back in 1973. The galaxy is moving through the universe, so it's always in a different space. It is the same space in relation to the surface of the Earth. That is the point of reference I am using for this contemplation.

Anyway, am I missing something? Or, does this make sense? Your comments welcome.

The reason why I wrote this is because of some interesting articles that someone recently sent me about a professor Cramer, at University Of Washington. He is doing research on these issues. Check out this interesting blog article on that research.