Monday, December 31, 2007

Blunting the impact of Happy New Year


Looking down on tree from balcony.

Some don't celebrate in bars packed with drinking, driving, craziness.

Impact on the road.

It's also "peak demand time" so they charge high cover.

Dancing is just as fun on Saturday before New Year's. Lower cover, not quite as crowded.

Celebration on the Internet blunts the moment. Softens the impact.

When is the moment of New Year's?

It's 9 PM here, when I connect with my friend in Quito, Ecuador. Midnight Quito time. My friend in Australia has already celebrated.

Happy New Year where ever you are. It doesn't have to be right at the same moment.

Ebenal CH2M Waterfront building 3 stories or 4 stories?

I'm not a libertarian, but it's really none of my business whether this waterfront building is 3 stories or 4 stories. People all over Bellingham are talking about it, of course. Everything is talked to death.

As the world gets more crowded, everyone's in each other's backyards and everyone's going to be in each other's business.

It's across town from me, so why should I worry?

I will say that the plans call for a 4 story building in order to economically justify the construction of an underground parking garage in that complex.

Things people must do to accommodate the almighty automobile.

If folks want to fret about the extra story, they should ride bikes or take the bus. Less need to justify expensive garages.

When chatting to a friend in Australia about all these issues, he says, "boy, I wish that's all I had to worry about." "3 or 4 stories in a building clear across town."

I say, "what problems are in your life?"

His reply, "other problems like having a life."

Like, "get a life man."

Some condominium owners might be upset about a changing view, but their condominiums changed the view also.

Then there's folks who say I'd be missing the point not worrying too much. It's a promise for some height limit that the city has made and then altered.

OK, I guess only a lawyer might pay that much attention to the process leading to the manufacture and then changing of height limits. I'm getting bored now not being a lawyer. Of course, we don't have enough lawyers, ha, ha.

Immigration, population, growth and peak oil

Immigration is really a population issue.

So, they succeed in slowing down immigration from Mexico. The growing population and economy in Mexico are using more oil each year. Mexico has been the second largest supplier of imported oil to the energy thirsty USA. I read that in 5 years, growth which stays in Mexico will use up Mexican oil production. A situation of no more oil exports to USA would effect life in USA even as Mexican population remains in Mexico.

They have as much right to their oil, if not more right, than we do.

Yes, we all need alternative lifestyles, alternative energy and so forth. I'm child free and I ride a bicycle.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Treadmill: what a strange concept

Electricity causes a belt to run backwards so you can go nowhere when you're walking or jogging.

Save power and just go somewhere by foot or bicycle.

Go dancing.

Happy New Year's.

Actually, I don't mean to belittle the "treadmill resolution folk." It's a step in the right direction and since I work as a custodian for a gym, it pays the bills. Dust can collect under treadmills.

The economy is kind of a treadmill also.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Traffic: Why they can't "build their way out of congestion."

Folks advocating alternative transportation often say, "you can't build your way out of congestion." Meaning if a city tries to ease traffic by building more highways or adding lanes to existing highways, it wouldn't work. It will just bring more cars in short order as people move farther from jobs and so forth.

Well, maybe this argument didn't apply back in the 1950s when the interstate highway system was first built. A big difference between then and now is the tremendous rise in property values. Maybe you could have built your way out of congestion when houses sold for around $20,000. Now it doesn't work anymore in this world of single family homes approaching 1 million dollars.

Why?

Because it costs so much to buy the land to build the new road, or lanes. Gas tax no longer covers it. Even if the land is condemned "imminent domain" they still have to pay fair market value.

Property values have shot up in the past few years compared to other things in the economy such as the gas tax.

So, especially with property values where they are now, you can not build your way out of congestion.

Ride the bus. Looks like someone's riding that house down the street.


Do they want to put a road through your house? Here's a house going through the road. I saw this house moving several years back.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stamp collage, byproduct of Mail Art Network


Christmas card I made back in the 1980s from throwing a bunch of cancelled stamps onto a photocopy machine. Back in the 1970s, my mom had a jug of stamps that she kept for some project at the church. She didn't mind if I grabbed a few.

Then I did quite a bit of international correspondence with part of a loose network of artists in the mail. This type of correspondence is often called Mail Art, or in some cases "CorresponDANCING."


Click on image for larger version.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lighting the winter, or if you're in the southern hemisphere maybe you have too much light already


Seen lots of lights as I bike around town. A few nights ago, I went out with my camera and got a few images. If it isn't raining or snowing, bicycling is a good way to see the lights. Slow enough to stop and look, but not so slow as to linger among dark houses when the lighted ones are spread out.

Also no windows to fog up.

They used to say, "cool the Christmas lights to save energy," but now there are so many new lighting technologies, such as LEDs that are cooler anyway.

So enjoy, guilt free except that some would say it's being too much of a "show off."


The way people often celebrate Christmas kind of discriminates against single people. "It's a family time" meaning you're often left out, or fighting crowded airports and roads to get to fragments of your scattered family across the landscape of our mobile society.


Why not celebrate the family of humanity that's close to where you live, rather than having to book that flight? Many people are lucky to even get one day off at Christmas time. Georgia Pacific workers, in Bellingham, will start a long Christmas vacation Dec. 21. A very long vacation. The mill's closing.


A friend says she doesn't feel real "Christmas like" this year. Political correctness has necessitated squeezing out all but the big shopping holiday. It's become kind of a materialistic ritual gone bankrupt.


Maybe Christmas should go back to it's roots. It's winter solstice roots. Include the broad range of solstice experience. I even hear that India has a festival of lights.


Fundamentalist Christians might hate that suggestion, but the liberal church I went to would say, no problem.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Remembering Georgia Pacific in Bellingham


More pictures below.

I didn't work there, but I remember the mill being a big part of Bellingham.

Just logged onto December 16 Bellingham Herald and saw that the last part of GP's Bellingham mill closes December 21. Closing of the paper mill.

The pulp section closed in 2001.

Rising cost of electric power is one factor leading to it's closure. Population in the Pacific Northwest has outgrown the inexpensive hydroelectric resource. I read that wood chips, used in the pulp making process are more expensive as well, in this area at least.


Economic backbone
Continued below.

It used to be that GP was a big "reason for being" in Bellingham. An economic reason for being at least. Kind of like "reason for being" is the work you do or the cog you fit in the giant system we call an economy.

When I came to college, I wondered what percent of the economic pie for Bellingham was GP, what percent was the University and so forth.

When GP closed it's pulp mill in 2001, I wondered if Bellingham's retail balloon would deflate. There seems to be a lot of stores in this area that sell to the local market. A lot compared to the number of businesses that bring money in from outside the local market.

Can all these stores survive selling to one another's employees? Can all these stores survive with little "fresh money" coming into the region from outside? Little money to offset all that money going out buying the products we consume. Products from outside the region at least.

I hope I haven't lost you yet.

It's talk of "basic sector versus secondary sector." Most retailing would be considered secondary sector.

The stuff I learned in my economic geography classes.

Surprise! The loss of GP payroll didn't "seem," at least, to deflate local retailing. New restaurants and shops keep coming. Some struggle and close, but others do a bang up business.

A growing market of retired folks have been moving to the area bringing money with them.

To some extent, the local economy can coast on home equity money; a phenomenon made possible by unprecedented growth in real estate prices over the past 20 years.

Many home buying consumers, in Bellingham, don't have to work. They often don't even have to pay a mortgage. Selling some previous home for a fortune means just being able to "write a check" for the new one with money left over. I have friends who have done this.

I'm sure there is more details on how the guts of a local economy works, beyond what I can fathom. New consulting firms coming to town, expansion at local oil refineries, the Internet.

On one hand, it's how people eat, but on the other hand, it's "just money."

Often it's mind boggling, but somehow the economy keeps going.


GP tours

Continued below.


I remember 4 tours of GP that I have taken over the years. They used to offer tours during summer months at regular times. I showed up for one in the late 1970s and got a souvenir box of tissue products.

In the 1980s, there was a computer club called "Bellingham User's Group." BUG for short. We toured GP and looked at the computers. That club had a lot of GP employees as members. It met in a drab old classroom at one of GP's administrative buildings.

Later in the 1980s a friend of mine worked as a tour guide. I took his tour.

Eventually tours were not offered anymore, except under special circumstances.

The last tour I took was sometime after pulp mill's closing. Local citizens went on a tour organized by Waterfront Futures Group.


Where were you on that day?

In 1987, GP had a chlorine leak the same day as the big 1987 Wall Street plunge.

Quite a co-incidence.

Wall Street plunge was early afternoon. GP leak was early evening. I'm sure I remember, it was the same day.

The music stopped in an aerobics class that I was in. Someone made an announcement kind of like, "don't panic, but we are evacuating due to a chlorine leak." First I thought it was a leak at the Y swimming pool, downstairs, but soon realized it was GP. Downtown Bellingham was being partially evacuated.

The crowd of people returning their key cards for the locker room was quite impressive. Milling around the service desk all at once. Now they don't even use those type of key cards at that gym anymore.

I took the short walk to my place and got a portable radio. Then headed up hill to Western Washington University thinking, "chlorine is a heavy gas that sinks." Figured the University would be like a "safe haven." "An ivory tower."

I didn't smell very much chlorine and soon after I got to campus, the radio issued an "all clear." It was OK to come back downtown.


New technology
Continued below.

Chlorine plant from years back. 1987 leak was not from chlorine plant itself, it was (if I remember correctly) loading bleaching formula from a rail car into the paper bleaching section of the mill.

People grumbled about GP using chlorine to bleach paper. In the last years of the pulp mill operation, I think I remember they switched to a new kind of "non chlorine" bleaching process.

When there's finger pointing, I often blame the consumer.

Part of that pure white paper, they produced, was used for photography.

Remember, pure white photo paper for snapshots?

Most of the rest was used in toilet paper of various colors. It used white as a foundation.

I remember writing a letter to the editor, sometime in the mid 1990s suggesting that folks who don't like chlorine ought to start using digital cameras. Bypass the need for photographic paper and so many chemicals used in film developing.

Back then digital cameras were new and still fairly rare. Now, it seems like old fashioned "paper" photography is also becoming a relic of history.

More of my memories about Bellingham with Georgia Pacific.

Picture of balloon doll of Uncle Sam?


Uncle Sam strives to keep economy standing. House prices have been inflated well past much of the rest of the economy. This year, they are starting to deflate. It's kind of like huffing and puffing into a big balloon.

Cars and other products have to sell so people can afford the mortgage, or if they are renters, so people can afford the rent.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A "take the plunge" swimming hole in Whatcom Falls Park


Probably not a good idea, though lots of people go there in the summer.

Local news has recently reported some law suite being filed against the city of Bellingham related to a serious injury that happened two years ago.

Supposedly, there aren't enough signs. Signs in real life, not above picture where I used photo editing software to replicate the sign.

Over the years, injuries have happened in this area.

It's another case of a law suite and I would think the city should NOT be held liable.

On the other hand, I can think of another argument for universal health care coverage. At least that way, medical bills are covered. I hate to be the Grinch that stole Christmas, so to speak.

Universal coverage would spread risk to the huge US population. Spread it thinner than just focusing guilt on one local government, company or what ever. Might reduce the take that so many lawyers get in our litigious society.

I favor universal access to health care. Sliding scale, single payer; what ever it takes.

Aside from these thoughts, I remember a 60 Minutes piece, or something like that (back when I had a television). It was about some town in California nearly shut down by the cost of liability insurance. Skating rink closed, bowling alley, swimming pool; just about everyplace where people congregated.

Law suites can equal astronomical costs for liability insurance.

They said that folks played in the street cause that was the only thing still open and the street is about as dangerous as it gets. That documentary segment was sometime in the 1980s. Now I even forget which town it was.

So I ponder what this city could potentially do to prevent people from entering some dangerous natural feature in the landscape.

Concertina wire?

Maybe getting close to risky areas could be as frowned upon as nude sunbathing tends to be in the places they call "family areas."

Still, lots of people rebel against being told NO.

In a different context, I remember seeing a sign in 2002, Yakima, WA. It said NO, quite a few times.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A carrot from the supermarket


I usually eat one each day. A moderately sized carrot from the supermarket's bin of loose carrots. Eat it like a candy bar. Nice and crisp, slightly sweet.

I only buy one. The store is an easy walk. More than one (or maybe two) can be a bit overwhelming.

That old Lays Potato Chip ad saying, "bet you just can't have one" may not apply to carrots.

Still, they are like candy in small doses.

When I was a kid, my mom was processing carrots from the garden. She also packed a lunch for my dad to take to work. One day, my dad picked up the wrong sack, but didn't discover it till lunch break. It was the sack full of carrots. Overwhelming, so I think he ate in the cafeteria that day.

I buy one carrot at a time as they tend to get rubbery in the refrigerator after more than one or two days.

Tip for being single and not having a garden; live close to the store.

Bagged carrots in the plastic wrap tend to get slimy in 3 days. The supermarket is only a short walk away where carrots always seem to be fresh and tasty.

Apples have longer shelf life at home.

Often, I start my day with a carrot, an apple and a carton of chocolate milk.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mall Shootings: Is it getting worse?

Out of 300 million people, it's bound to happen somewhere. Then the media brings a story to everyone's attention. Meanwhile, around 40,000 die in car wrecks every year and people aren't that alarmed.

Out of 300 million people, your chances of being the victim of something like a mall shooting are very slight. You'll more likely to die crossing the street.

The more people we have, the more times that roulette wheel gets spun and the more chances that somewhere in USA a big shooting will occur. Then, the media brings one incident to everyone's attention.

There might be a rash of copycat incidents for a while.

Is it getting worse, per capita? Worse than in America's past history?

Maybe.

The availability of weapons does play a role. Yes, I am for gun registration at least, but aside from that argument, there might have been practically no mass shootings back in, say 1800.

Why?

Back then, it would have taken too long to reload the musket.

Choose your grandparents wisely

Secrets to good health.

For most people, the lion's share of it is lifestyle choices.

Then, as if to keep people from becoming too self righteous, heredity plays a role. Some health problems are based on genetics. A friend of mine was ask what his secret to good health is. One of his answers says, to "choose your grandparents wisely."

Well, I guess there isn't a lot we can do about that one.

The roulette wheel also plays a role in determining health. Some things happen just do to shear chance. Most people know of at least one chain smoker who lives a robust 98 years. Maybe everyone knows that same chain smoker.

Also everyone knows one jogger who drops from a heart attack at 38.

To some extent, it's a crap shoot, but one can stack the odds in one's favor with a healthy lifestyle.

I think lifestyle is the lion's share for most people, so get out there and play. Go dancing, walking, biking. Keep eating those carrots and apples.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pictures at Cedar River Watershed Education Center

Near North Bend at Rattlesnake Lake.




Where's Rattlesnake Lake?

It's up a long hill outside of North Bend, WA. The center is run by Seattle Public Utilities. On the edge of a big watershed for Seattle's drinking water.

Why are the drums at the center?

Drums under downspouts to demonstrate water dripping off the roof over a long period of time. Less apt to flood. It was still gradually dripping on the sunny day I was there. Sounded like a "hippie drumming circle." That's what I thought it was.

Good idea, but how much will it add to the cost of construction?

How much land do all these catch basins take? Land is getting expensive.

Seems like a lot of trouble to slow the runoff from buildings. Why not just eliminate the parking lot? Impervious surfaces of pavement are terrible for runoff. Make people use alternative transit. Sure it's a change, but putting in all these roof gardens can be costly as well.

I hear that around 40% of the space in Los Angeles is devoted to pavement for parking and driving.

There is pavement that lets water soak into the ground below, rather than rush off.

There happens to be some of that pavement in my neighborhood. At the Whatcom Educational Credit Union.

Just ran out to take some images. Nice having a digital camera.



They've got the money.

I doubt this would work for heavily used thoroughfares and freeways. It would get beat up under traffic.

For parking lots? OK.

No problem for bicycle parking, of course. That's what I ride.

Autumn rainstorm after my trip. View of truck out my window.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Teddy bear in Sudan

Amazing that people would consider it immoral to name a teddy bear after the Prophet Mohamed. "Teddy" comes from Teddy Roosevelt. All teddy bears are named after one of America's great presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, from what I hear. Otherwise, maybe they should be called "stuffed bears."

Can someone, or something be named after God? In USA it would be rare, but possible. Being named God or after the Christian prophet of Jesus might be thought of as being kind of an ego trip, but other than that no big deal.

From what I hear Jesus is a common name in many Latin American countries.

Thinking in another direction, rather than contemplating naming a person or object after a God, maybe humans shouldn't be trying to put a name on God. The mystery defies fitting into those boxes and names, such as "God the father" that we confine it to?

Is God really male, or female? Does God really exist? Especially does such an entity exist in the terms that we confine things to whenever we try to conceptualize stuff.

I believe that there is something related to the order in the universe, I guess, but just how to define that "whatever" is something that I believe we still have to learn.

It's probably worse for religion to try and name and confine the "whatever" in our limited terms. Worse than someone naming a stuffed bear one of the names that people think relates to God.

Teddy bear is named for one of our past presidents.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Living in nature is kind of a dream

Maybe it's better to live in a mostly artificial environment and then preserve large tracts of nature in open spaces.

Publicly owned open spaces.

This big tree was nice, but they cut it down. They must have worried that it would come down in a windstorm. Houses and large trees don't often mix and usually the houses win. I wouldn't want a tree crashing into my bedroom either.

Still it's kind of sad to see a big old tree go. I walk in this neighborhood quite often.

Maybe there are ways to prune so the tree is less of a hazard, but often people just take them out. Take off the limbs and then chop up the trunk into small pieces; firewood.

In the dry hills of California, houses and dry brush don't mix either. Still reading about southern California fires.

Here, it's the wind. Tall trees can make people nervous even though they look nice.

It's important to have publicly owned forest land that's only a bike ride away. Land that isn't full of houses.

Dwelling units should be clustered. My soapbox for density in planning. Rather than trying to live in mostly unmanaged nature, it's more realistic to just visit there.

Preserve public open space and cluster the development. It might mean one is not following the dream of living in nature, but one can still visit there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mortgage crisis

This is really a deeper issue than just a mortgage crisis. Buying residential property has been a fad so prices have spiraled way out of whack compared to most other sectors of the economy.

Way out of whack at least in many regions.

How many TVs would it take to buy one house in 1965 versus today? It's almost like a split has formed in the economy. Most prices stable, residential property and a few other things skyrocketing.

Sub prime defaults simply means a lot of the people who got sub prime mortgages can't afford this market. The creative financing is an attempt to make something seem affordable that really isn't.

Renting has it's merits, but it's not the fad.

There's just too many people trying to carve up too little land and the slices are too big, for the most part.

Smaller dwelling units and more compact communities would be a help. Also, of course, reduction in the growth rate of population. Maybe there's too many dollars floating around from years of low interest rates. Something has caused house values to go through the roof.

That's not really a banking problem, but it's a deeper philosophical issue that can be missed by folks using "compartmental thinking." It's easier to just define this as the "mortgage / banking / financial crisis." That's really just a symptom of the larger issue. The issue of carving out a sustainable place to live on this planet for the millions and millions of "more people" who are coming.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday


Part of colorful display in a downtown store. Neon of restaurant across street reflected in window.

Art and color are nice even though I don't need to do Christmas shopping.

Have wondered if the term "Black Friday" was a Freudian slip. One of the biggest shopping days before Christmas, but also implies negative as in the Black Tuesday of crashing stock market fame in 1929.

Today, the radio says it means wishing to be in the black for merchants, rather than in the red.

One side effect of rising property values is the fact that retailers must move more merchandise to pay the rent and pay their employees so they can pay the rent.

Property values drives consumerism.

These numbers aren't exact but it's the general idea.

In 1965, it would only take 84 TVs, at $300 apiece, to buy a $25,000 house.

In 2005 it would take an amazing 1166 TVs, at $300 apiece, to buy that same house priced at $350,000.

No wonder the products must keep moving or else the house payments and / or rents aren't paid.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The marketplace of ideas


Messy image of an idea light bulb I made with a mimeograph machine in the early 1980s.

Children were taught not to take candy from strangers. Then when they became adults and started working in the publishing field, they were told:

"Do not take unsolicited candy from strangers who don't have literary agents."

Now the Internet has opened floodgates. So much candy, so many strangers.

Now there are newspapers with open access forums attached to each story, like the Bellingham Herald on-line. It's amazing how many ideas are out there. So many articulate and good discussions in the various forums. Also, of course, a lot of fairly thoughtless stuff, but it is amazing how much is good.

Good, of course, can be in the eye of the beholder.

Now it seems like just about everyone has a voice. Forums, blogs, groups, tribes.

Some miss the "common ground culture" we had before, like when just about everyone watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

Not everyone watched the Beatles. We have a big world and most of the time it has been silent. Also most people who are alive today were born after the Beatles.

Now that there are so many voices, one wonders if anyone is heard? Yes, even the concept of "heard" is questionable. Heard by who?

As long as you are heard by someone, I guess it's okay. I've heard people say, "if I can just make a difference to one other person, it's worth all the effort."

Audience fragmentation is on. Many voices, smaller audiences, but having just about everything defined by the big networks and publishers had it's drawbacks also.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What should Congress do on Iraq?

Friday's topic of "The Conversation" on KUOW Radio.

Hardly anyone mentioned the November 2008 election. Overlooking the obvious. Election is actually coming pretty soon.

It doesn't look like there is much Congress can do about Iraq unless the Democrats get bigger majorities in Congress, especially in the Senate. Also of course, the White House.

Maybe Congress just can't do very much yet. Republicans are still in a pretty good position to call the shots, but it isn't long till the next election.

Time flies.

In Iraq, most Republicans still see "light at the end of the tunnel." Where have I heard that phrase before? Vietnam days? If that's the case, it looks like Republicans will have till the next election to see if that light is really there.

A lot of things can change in the next election. It's never perfect, but an election can make a difference. 2006 was kind of a watershed year, but not that much has been accomplished yet. The Democrats barely have the Senate and there is definitely no "veto proof" majority.

No the Democrats are not perfect either, but more Democrats can make a big difference.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New crosswalks along East Holly Street in Bellingham


This one at Holly and Forest. More Yuppifying the city? At least this gives walking more appeal. Walking is a good thing to promote.


Fancier streetlights and stoplights replacing the old standards at Holly and Forest in Bellingham. It's okay, even though a lot of improvements are mostly appearance. A similar emphasis on appearance takes place in private enterprise. Think about store fronts and advertising. How about people who are into fashion? Eventually the old gray pole will be removed, I assume. Pragmatic conservatives might ask, "what's the matter with the old standard?"

Link added, summer 2012.

Crosswalks starting to wear out. Maybe rainbow crosswalks, like in Vancouver, BC at Denman and Davie Streets are better?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The wind was fun

It's fall again and time for exciting wind storms. Media made our recent wind sound big. It didn't seem that impressive. Just another typical fall storm.

Where I live, no power outages. There were plenty in other areas, mostly in the county. We practically never get outages in this densely populated urban area near downtown Bellingham, WA. Lots of redundant power lines and not too many pesky trees to fall on lines. Pruning helps. Life in the city.

The rain gutter was ripped off one building and wrapped around a power line. Still it didn't seem to hurt the line. It was an insulated "house current" line going into nearby buildings. The gutter made a loop over the line so as not to chafe off the insulation. Almost like it did this on purpose, but this was just how things landed. They closed off the ally as a precaution anyway.

I sometimes miss the power outages we had when I was a kid growing up, but it's sure nice to always have my computer.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Why CFLs might save more energy in summer than winter


Compact florescent lights.

An energy saving technology, but it might not be that big of a deal in the winter. Waste heat from old fashioned light bulbs can help heat the building.

The new "low waste heat" CFLs are great in the summer when you're not trying to heat the building, but winter? Maybe you want the waste heat from old style incandescent bulbs.

Savings you expect from changing light fixtures might be partially eaten up in higher heating costs.

I hear that a lot of big office buildings figure-in the waste heat from lighting, electronic equipment and even body heat as part of their energy equation.

In the summer, it's a different story. If one is trying to cool the space, a cool light bulb is better.

Brag, brag, brag.

Back in the early 1980s, I won the employee suggestion award for a chain of restaurants. Working as a custodian in the Bellingham location of Pizza Haven, I noticed people kept forgetting to turn off the light bulb in the walk-in cooler.

A hot light in that refrigerated space just means the refrigeration has to work harder to pump out more heat.

My suggestion was to put in a florescent bulb. Or, if not a different bulb, I suggested a spring operated timer on the light switch.

They didn't call them CFLs back then, but even in the early 80s there were a few types of compact florescent light.

Pizza Haven went with the timer on the switch instead of the florescent bulb. Back in the early 80s, the forerunners of CFLs were a lot more expensive.


Continued below.


Click to enlarge if you wish to see article. "A slice of life."

So think about how your lighting effects heating and cooling.

CFLs are great, but sometimes that doesn't matter. In winter, you may want waste heat.

I know some physicists would look at this even more in depth; like studying where the heat is being created in the room.

Light bulbs help to heat a room, but heat rises. If the light fixture is in your ceiling, it still might be better to use another heat source located closer to the floor.

On the other hand, it depends on whether you are heating a multistory building, or not.

Economists will consider the fuel used to create heat. A natural gas furnace might be cheaper than figuring-in heat from wasteful electric lights.

Fitness centers often figure-in waste body heat from a room full of exercising folks as part of their energy equation.

One could call this the "waist reduction waste heat equation."

A friend of mine suggested that his gym install generators on all the stationary bikes.

I told him that they already figure-in the heat of friction and body heat when heating the room. A generator wouldn't do much good as all the expended energy is ending up as heat in the room anyway.

Now in the summer, that's a different story. If the gym is air conditioned, generators might help run air conditioning.

I doubt generators would make that much difference. Is it worth the cost of the generator?

Some stationary bikes are set up to turn a fan. Remember the Schwinn Aerodyne? Circulate the air with your cycling.

Better yet, cool yourself riding a real bike across town. I've noticed that moving through the air keeps me cool even on a hot day.

I've never driven a car and I've always lived in a small space which doesn't require much energy to heat. Compact lights, yes, but what about compact living?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Concepts cast in rigid stone, holdover of a bygone era?

If God had given Moses the Ten Commandments in today's age, "flexible Wikipedia" might have been used, rather than "rigid stone."

"Cast in stone" is a phrase often used. One can say, "these plans are cast in stone."

Rigidity versus flexibility.

For some reason a lot of people think that God always goes the rigid route. Isn't that just another assumption?

Why wouldn't God use something like Wikipedia? Something which can be altered and updated constantly? Even altered by it's users? Like in a democracy.

Is that too flexible?

Framers of the US Constitution figured out a profound compromise between stability and flexibility. It's hard to amend the constitution, but it isn't impossible. There's even a system of courts to handle interpretation. Quite an ingenious concept. It's not mob rule, but it's not a total lock box either.

Maybe God wasn't quite as clever as the framers of our constitution? Back in the time of Moses, they hadn't even invented paper yet. Stone is a cumbersome medium of communication.

Is God dumb, or is it just people's assumption that a god would always have to write in stone?

People's thinking must be some holdover from the "Stone Age."

Then there's the concept of a law written on someone's heart. That goes way back also. An ancient idea of flexibility?

What is the heart? Some fuzzy concept? We know about the squishy heart that pumps blood.

What about the brain? Is that squishy also? A friend of mine once said he worked for a bureaucratic organization where the heads of the board of directors were filled with solid concrete.

More stuff to think about. If your brain isn't solidified yet.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The tire patch that could


West of Walla Walla, WA., on US 12, I ran over a machine screw just wrong. It put a big hole in my back tire.

See picture of KUJ Radio towers at bottom of post. Flat was near the towers.

This was during my 2007 round state bike tour.

I put in a spare tube, but there was still the hole in my tire. Right through the kevlar.

So I put a patch on the inside of the tire (not the tube since it was a new tube). Patch inside tire covered the hole so tube wouldn't protrude through tire. This fix is sometimes referred to as a boot.

Figured it would get me as far as Tri Cities where I could get a new tire at some bike shop.

Well, the fix is still going!

Lasted till I got new tire around May 2008. Note added.

I'm back in Bellingham. This fix got me through Tri Cities, Yakima Valley, Chinook Pass, Seattle and back home. Has also gotten me all around Bellingham. It's now November 4. Bicycle is my primary transportation. All around Bellingham, up to Lake Padden and so forth.

Green Slime in the tube has helped also.

See my bike tour gallery.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Today, I see a headline "Dow drops more than 360 on fears that interest rate cuts will end."

For many years, it seems like the policy of the Federal Reserve has been to try and maintain property values while not creating overall inflation. Hanging on tight, almost like being afraid of change.

Well, what does one expect. It's the "establishment."

Of course, many people have also participated. Basically "gone along for the ride," so to speak, or the long commute that is.

Notice how house values skyrocket while other prices in the economy just go up modestly. We have been in an economy where certain sectors, like real estate and health care costs, have been allowed to skyrocket while the lid has been kept on inflation in other sectors.

Eventually, the economy becomes dysfunctional as things like housing and health care outstrip everything else.

It's like "differing economies from different planets trying to co-exist."

Can this situation be maintained?

Now it looks like the Fed has reached the end of this rope. They say they can't cut interest rates anymore leading to todays stock market tumble.

Well, if they did cut interest rates more, maybe the rest of the economy would inflate the way real estate prices have been doing for the past many years.

Imagine the bottom rung of the wage scale being $25 per hour. Imagine $25 dollar candy bars.

Xerox copies cost the same as they did in the 1970s. What's wrong with house prices?

So, it looks like home values will have to drop more, or else the rest of the economy will need to catch up.

The hyper inflation we have seen in real estate may need to spread to the rest of the economy in order to bring back some balance. Otherwise we have people working 3 jobs and / or commuting long distances just to maintain a roof over one's head. How wasteful can it get?

It shouldn't have to be that way. House values are just too high compared to the rest of the economy.

Remember the phrase, "drive till you qualify?" That's having to get up at 4 AM just to commute to work from a neighborhood you can afford. A costly way of doing business. Costly, especially when environmental costs are taken into account.

Now energy prices are starting to spiral up again. This too, adding to the worry on Wall Street.

An economy based on "drive till you qualify" and cheap energy is and economy built on a house of cards.

Built on a house of cards.

I almost typed "built on a house of cars."

There needs to be some new thinking in our economy.

New thinking can mean new opportunity.

We need cities that allow people to live closer to the job. To achieve this, we need denser neighborhoods and smaller residences.

We need an economy that is less based on narcissistic "your house value" issues and more based on "quality of life" issues.

How many friends do you have time for?

Count your number of friends, rather than your number of possessions.

Also realize that "quality of possessions" can continue to improve. Quality of possessions can continue to improve even if consumption is lowered.

Look at the computer industry. Smaller can often mean better.

Maybe that thinking can apply to housing as well. Smaller houses, more compact neighborhoods, less sprawl, less time in commuting, more time for friends.

Get my point?

On a related question, how many millionaires do you think live in your city?

Hundreds? Thousands? Millions?

Well, it depends on whether one counts the value of their primary residence, or not.

Many estimates for number of millionaires leave out the value of your house.

If "value of one's primary residence" is included, the number of millionaires skyrockets. It especially skyrockets in places like the San Francisco Bay Area where practically every middle class home is a million dollar proposition.

There are a lot of millionaires out there that would have never dreamed they would become millionaires back when they were in college.

A lot of 60s idealists. Millionaires, greedy landlords?

Who would have ever guessed.

In past decades when a lot of post war baby boomers were getting their start, no one would have dreamed that real estate inflation would make so many folks millionaires.

Millionaires on paper at least.

Back then, people were starting out as school teachers and so forth. Buying houses for around $50,000. Who would have ever thought that those $50,000 cracker boxes would now go for $950,000!

So, there are more millionaires than people realize, but that wealth isn't doing much good. Most people just don't feel like they're that wealthy. They're just "house rich and cash poor."

There is something out of balance in today's economy. Real estate has just gotten too expensive. The rest of the economy needs to catch up.

Someone just sent me an article from the New York Times. That article is about how Halloween in San Francisco's Castro Street District has met its demise. Canceled this year, due in part, to rising violence and changing demographics in the Castro Street neighborhood.

Spiraling property values chasing out the "gay character" of the Castro. Also growing tensions and the gap between the halves and have-nots.

Well, the silver lining is that more and more gay people are moving out into other locations across USA. Moving out across USA bringing some of that openness with them. Openness that was once more confined to the Castro is now moving out into Main Street America.

Innovation: that's what will bring us into the future.

Life is kind of a race between innovation and desperation.

Also a race between innovation and the needs of rapidly growing population.

Yes, population keeps growing. Zero population growth, a slogan popular in the 1960s has not been realized. Maybe we are a few steps closer to that goal, but not close enough.

Especially not close enough when global warming is taken into account.

Growing population is one of the things that keep housing prices too high.

Maybe that's the most convincing evidence that we have a population problem; "median single family home prices approaching seven figures."

It's "population pressure against increasing concern for the environment."

Back when I first moved to Bellingham, no one ever talked about the Lake Whatcom Watershed. Sudden Valley and all those developments were going in out there and not thinking anything of it.

That's where we get our drinking water from.

Now they're worried.

They're worried and saying STOP.

Housing has got to go someplace else. In filling, or what ever.

They can't build new subdivisions as cheaply as they did back in the 1960s, for instance.

Remember the 1960s?

Wasn't that when there was a song about "little boxes on the hillside?"

I remember that song. It went, "little boxes made of ticky-tacky?"

Who sang that?

I forgot.

Anyway, those were the expanding suburbs and that's what made it affordable.

Wasn't that song about Daily City in California?

Now we have to find new and more innovative ways to accommodate the growth that our childbearing population is still bringing to this planet.

Some rough transitions are ahead, but also this means new opportunities.

Innovation versus desperation. Get ready for more change and don't hang on to things like house value too tightly.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pictures from a whole bunch of past bicycle trips


Old bell in Ding Dong Park, Sylvana, WA.

I decided to put a lot more pictures on the net. My favorite from trips I hadn't made web pages for. Flickr is a good way to show them.

For all my landscape photos go to album main page.


History of my bike trips

7th and 8th grade. Some trips that were 30 miles out from my home town of Pullman, WA.

High school, College trips around town. Camping trip to the top of Moscow Mountain near Pullman.

Early 80s Bellingham to Seattle.

1985 Bellingham to Pullman - didn't bring a camera.

1986 - 1989 Around Northwest and down west coast. In this collection on Flickr.

1990 Short trips around Northwest Washington.

1991 Across USA. On it's own web site.

1992 Washington and Oregon. In this collection on Flickr.

1993 Across USA. On it's own web site.

1994 - 1997 Around Pacific Northwest and parts of BC. In this collection on Flickr.

1998 - 2006 Variety of trips with their own web sites.

2007 Around Washington. On Flickr.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fire danger, another bad thing about sprawl


Woods are even too dry at Kamiak Butte in Washington State.

Radio is full of news about San Diego wildfires.

Too many people living in semi urban / semi rural environments where there's lots of flammable vegetation. It's better to live in denser urban environments. Then visit the woods without trying to live there.

Concrete doesn't burn.

They don't even allow people into Kamiak Butte County Park, near Pullman, WA. in late summer. Closed due to fire danger. Recently, it seems like it's always been closed in late August. Opens again by October.

They are trying to protect it. They don't want people "loving the woods to death."

Especially smokers.

It's better to embrace the city. Then visit the woods carefully. Let the woods be the woods.

New suburbs should be built like "new urbanism." Greater density and less flammable environments. Also shorter commutes.

Speaking of commutes, global warming is a factor. It seems like the entire western part of USA is having drought years more frequently. The southeast is having drought also, but drought just seems to be getting more persistent in the west as the years go by.

Are dry climates of northwest Mexico creeping north? Behind your tailpipes?

The rural fringe is kind of "fake nature" anyway.

Some say they love seeing Bambie the deer in their yards, but deer are a sign of "stressed environment."

I hear this interesting point from a friend of mine who is an environmental scientist. Deer are not a sign of living in a healthy environment. Bambie flourishes in the "stressed transitional environments" of the urban fringe. Deer are not as common in the real woods since they have natural predators.

When you see lots of deer, you are probably living in suburbia. Somewhat low density suburbia. That's what deer like.

Natural vegetation is often more flammable than things like imported ornamental plantings. If you're going to build your house anyway, might as well select non flammable vegetation. It's not really a pristine environment anyway.

Live in an urban setting and then enjoy the woods in the park, along the trail and on your time off.

Be careful, don't go to the woods if it's too much of a tinderbox; especially if you smoke.

Glad I don't smoke.

Remember smokers, car drivers, house builders, arsonists and all who come along for the ride with encroaching civilization.

Urban environments can be less flammable.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

If I was to vote on looks

I'd vote for Ken Mann, Whatcom County Council.

My camera got this image when he was one of a handful of politicians to show up for "Bicycle With Your Politician Day." That's an annual event sponsored by Mount Baker Bicycle Club.

It takes place in May.

Public officials are invited to ride along with the public on a bicycles. It's a tour through Bellingham. A ride to see the transportation system through "bicyclist's eyes."

Like that phrase, "walk a mile in your shoes," only here, it's "bicycle peddles."

Too bad I can't vote in Mann's district. I don't live in County Council District #2.

While one hears that you shouldn't vote on looks, there does seem to be some connection between looks, bicycling, health and a healthy community. If more politicians showed up for events like Ride With Your Politician, we would have a healthier society.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Heating District For Bellingham?


I wonder if anyone is asking these questions? Could hot water, and/or steam from Encogen be used for space heating in the new waterfront development on Bellingham Bay? Is this asset being thought of as a drawing card for locating on the central waterfront?

Update May 4th 2011, Bellingham Herald PSE Power Plant Could Heat WWU.

There is a co-generation plant on Bellingham's waterfront. The Encogen power plant currently operated by Puget Sound Energy.

At times, steam is still visible on Bellingham's central waterfront. It rises from this power plant.

Encogen was built as a co-generation plant; meaning waste heat from generating electric power can be used in nearby facilities.

In this case, the use was Georgia Pacific's pulp and paper mills. GP has closed both pulp mill and paper mills.
* Paper mill section closed as of mid December 2007.

Plans are afoot to redevelop GP's old site for other uses including, possibly condominiums, research facilities, other industries. There is even a branch campus for Western Washington University's Huxley College of Environmental Studies in the dreams.

These things, and more, are all in the discussion stage. No one knows the final outcome, but there has been a lot of community dialog so far.

Now, I wonder if the co-generation plant figures into any of these plans? It seems like a great opportunity. Waste heat from the power plant can be used in these other plans. If nothing else, at least for space heating.

This new waterfront neighborhood will just about have to be rebuilt from scratch. A good opportunity to plan around the distribution of steam and / or hot water from co-generation.

There are some historic buildings on the site. Old structures from the pulp mill that may be preserved. Many of them already have steam lines (I would guess) and also one would figure that a lot of utilities will be installed from scratch. Utility tunnels, pipes, wires, what ever. A good opportunity to plan around waste heat distribution.

Many power plants just send their waste heat up into a cooling tower. It isn't practical to use that heat, due to lack of uses near the plant. Also there is the cost of running pipes around for distributing hot water. It can cost a lot to retrofit an existing neighborhood. That's why a new neighborhood provides an opportunity. Bellingham's waterfront may be rebuilt from scratch and it has an existing co-generation facility.

I remember some people talking about piping waste heat from Alcoa Intalco Aluminum to Bellingham. That "pipe dream" was floating around years ago. Laying all that pipe would be expensive. Pragmatic people must have felt it would still be cheaper for houses and businesses in Bellingham to have their own furnaces, rather than piping the waste heat from Intalco.

That was pipe dreaming in years past. Pipe dreaming about the long pipe from Intalco. I love pipe dreaming, but using the existing co-generation plant for our brand new waterfront seems more practical.

I wonder if this hot water is even being discussed as an asset in our waterfront's attempt to lure new uses to the area?

I've done some looking around on the web, but haven't found much. Been to some waterfront meetings, but didn't think about this idea until more recently.

Where's the meeting when you need it?

I know a few people who have talked about this possibility.

Some people might think there is a conspiracy to turn the working waterfront into a "yuppie tourism wealthy condo / luxury yacht world."

Oh, well. I am not that much of a "conspiracy theory person."

What ever plans fall into place, or are pushed into place (however one looks at this), here is something to consider. Power plants are just about my favorite destinations when I am a tourist. So, it can be both a "people" and industrial waterfront. See my images of Grand Coulee Dam.

Maybe Bellingham's waterfront can become a showcase for co-generation and district heating?


Update ...

Toward bottom of article in February 1 2011 Bellingham Herald is news about studying the use of waste heat from power plant to heat parts of downtown Bellingham, Western Washington University or new development when it is built at old Georgia Pacific site.

Also toward start of that article is thinking about a small hydro power project at at end of industrial water pipe which comes to old Georgia Pacific site from Lake Whatcom.

Put windows in the co-generation plant? Like they have in the steam heating plant at Western Washington University.

Thinking out loud.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bellingham is debating it's party houses

Single family homes that are now being rented by a big group of students. Often noisy. I have thought that denser zoning might be able to improve this situation, ironically. Instead of "single family" zones, allow the big houses to be broken up into several studio apartments. It's harder to have a big party in a studio apartment.

Density is better for the environment, in more ways than one.

Studio apartments for studious students. How's that for a slogan.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A new Trader Joe's

I haven't been to the new Trader Joe's in Bellingham yet. Hear that it's been crowded due to being the "new kid on the block."

Not liking "rat race." I'll wait a while. Sometime in the future, I can explore the new store at a more leisurely pace.

Several people have wondered if Trader Joe's will take business away from the Bellingham Food Co-op?"

Well, the Co-op is expanding also. Plans call for a new branch of the Co-op to be built in Bellingham's north side.

Last Community Co-op dinner I went to was full of news about the new store. They were bullish on it's prognosis after a successful year at the Co-op's downtown location.

Two branches of the Co-op? We have two Fred Myers and a bunch of other things.

It seems like the retailing is always even a step ahead of population growth in this city.

When I first moved to Bellingham, I was amazed how many stores and restaurants there were. Of course, I came from Pullman, WA.; a town who's retailing lagged way behind the population. People went over to Moscow, Idaho to do their shopping.

In Bellingham, service sector seems to lead the city's growth. That's because everyone's got a dream, or at least almost everyone. A dream to open up their own shop, restaurant, practice.

I have said that, "every other person in Bellingham is a massage therapist."

That's an exaggeration, but it sure seems like that. Maybe every other person is either a massage therapist, psychologist or artist.

Can the market support everyone?

Maybe folks can forget about money and just get into a giant bartering "group massage."

A group massage. That's a better version of "I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine." Politicians are often accused joining the latter circle.

It seems like more Canadian dollars are rolling into Bellingham and Whatcom County these days. The Canadian dollar is stronger again.

I remember 1976 when someone said close to 60% of local retail dollars were from Canada bargain hunters.

Armies of bargain hunters with blue and white license plates.

Maybe that can't happen again as Canadian retailers are offering more bargains north of the border. They're getting smarter up there when it comes to marketing, if one calls that smart.

Just about everyone does have a dream and so many dreams are entrepreneurial in nature.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Less drive through


As the city of Bellingham plans to take out 4 parking places in front of Mount Baker Apartments to create a wider, nicer sidewalk, some folks are grumbling. Remove parking? The almighty automobile. And they say downtown may shrivel, but I notice "private enterprise" is removing "drive space" also.

At the corner of Holly and State, it was once Washington State's largest drive-in bank. Now being torn down. Bellingham National Bank had 8 drive-in lanes when it was built in the late 70, early 80s era.

Now, a new Key Bank is being built in it's place. Less lanes and most likely a bigger walk-in lobby.

The last years of the drive-in bank were sad. Only a few of the lanes working and the walk-in lobby closed. Windows blocked with cubicle dividers so folks would "get the hint." "Lobby closed."

Another Key Bank, down the street, served walk-ins at it's proud lobby in the vintage 1913 Bellingham National Bank Building. From what I hear, Key Bank plans to consolidate both branches to the old drive-in site. Hopefully, it's former home, the vintage 1913 tower will remain an office building.

Meanwhile the larger sidewalk, in front of Mount Baker Apartments will be welcome "elbow room" in that crowded block. 85 studio apartments, all in that block, plus businesses along the street. The narrow sidewalk got a bit claustrophobic.

"Move over," automobiles. Downtown Bellingham is getting a bit more pedestrian oriented.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Larry Craig and airport security

It looks like the conservative Republican from Idaho who had that police encounter in the men's room at Minneapolis Airport may have been a victim of tighter airport security.

Yes, there are lots more police around airports these days.

For the most part, for good reason; terrorist threat. At the same time, this society tends to be uptight about sexuality. Tighter airport security, which is needed to spur out terrorists can also be used to police potential sexual activity. Combination of tight security and sexual up tightness can create an Orwellian world.

2007 round Washington State trip on-line

By bicycle, of course.

It's posted a bit differently than my other trips. Photos on Flickr and this is my first trip with Youtube videos. Maybe the videos aren't that "Hollywood," but they are authentic. Haven't figured out editing software yet.

Flikr presents images nicely. Flickr Pro is just $24.95 per year. One can get thumbs, if in a hurry, moderate size with descriptions or click on the magnifying glass for large higher resolution. One can even try "slide show."

I'm still experimenting myself. Enjoy.

Individual trip menu no longer exists, but pictures are blended into all my pictures as cataloged by region, subject and so forth. Note added 2010.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Feuding fundamentalists

The president of Iran claims there are no gay people in Iran. Meanwhile President Bush opposes gay marriage. While both presidents feud among one another, they both have opposition to gay rights in common. Maybe Bush isn't quite as harsh as the Iranian President, but watch out when people who play lip service to fundamentalist religions feud amongst one another.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Stay Tuned as I organize photos from my 2007 bike tour


A barn in the palouse, somewhere between Spokane and Tekoa, Washington. Along the Palouse Scenic Byway.


Old Waitsburg Road. Alternative to Highway 12 between Waitsburg and Walla Walla, WA.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thin line connects Mount Baker to the bay


Logo from visitor's organization for branding Bellingham in the eyes of tourists. Emphasizes bay to Mt. Baker connection. A refreshing change?

Logo looks nice, but too bad there is only one highway connecting Bellingham to Mt. Baker. State Route 542 (Mt. Baker Highway) is getting busier and busier.

Mt. Baker Hellway?

Some of it is okay, but long stretches have no shoulder. Traffic gets worse each year. Too bad there isn't a more ecologically friendly way to go.

Plans for a Bay to Baker Trail have been discussed for years, but tight funds and private property issues slow its progress. One would think the logo should mandate the trail; a no brainier for bay to Baker eco-tourism.

Another trail system called Chain Of Trails is also in the works. It calls for smaller trail segments scattered around the Foothills area. Easier for funding sources to swallow. If placed properly, these segments could provide some alternatives to, at least, the worse stretches of highway.

WTA bus service now goes as far as Kendell, but that is only part way. The rest of the way it's a long thin line of cars and trucks. Reminds me of President Carter's 1979 comment about how our nation was too dependent on a "thin line of oil tankers stretching half-way around the Earth."


* Today's flurry of posts comes from reorganizing other parts of my site.

My faith based tax initiative: Raise taxes, then allow bigger charitable deduction

Raise federal income tax, especially on upper middle class and the wealthy, then allow people to cut their own taxes with deductions for charitable contributions.

Raise the amount allowed for charitable contribution.

This way, taxes could stay low if people are willing to give back to the community.

I think people owe a debt of gratitude for the fabric of the communities they live in; especially well off folks who reap so much benefit.

Maybe they don't trust the government to spend their money wisely so let private nonprofit organizations do it.

This could be a diversified investment in our communities. Some of these non profits may be faith based so that is why I call this idea my "faith based tax hike initiative."

Diverging rates of inflation is the real problem

Diverging inflation rates between, different sectors of the economy, is the real problem. Standard inflation figures do not show this.

Media outlets often talk about the annual rate of inflation that is published by our federal government. This figure is meaningless for the most part. When everything, in our diverse economy, is boiled down to one number, the figure does not say much. Some sectors of the economy have serious inflation problems while others do okay. A low inflation rate can be deceiving. When things like computers come down in price, it hides the fact that housing and health insurance go way up.

Our economy is shearing apart. It is splitting into high price and low price worlds. Many people, and businesses, get caught in this shearing. That is where the real problems occur.

Rather than basing so much news, and public policy, on the inflation rate, it makes more sense to follow what is happening between sectors of the economy. Housing and health insurance costs are in a different world than most of the rest of our economy. The annual inflation rate does not show this, but shearing between sectors is the real problem.

Land costs render Habitat For Humanity modle obsolete?

Gathering volunteer labor to build a house may not be the magic bullet to affordable housing in many areas. Land costs seem to be the biggest stumbling block to affordable housing in metropolitan areas; especially here on the pricey west coast.

Labor and construction expense is not as big a percentage of the overall home expense anymore.

Maybe organizations, like Habitat for Humanity need to (or already are starting to for all I know) update their strategies.

In this age of $500,000 lot prices, the pathway to affordability would be multi unit development.

Apartment buildings, condominiums.

In more rural settings, mobile home parks can be nice as well.

Maybe the Habitat for Humanity model of sweat equity can be applied in the multi family arena.

Also it could do more for single people.

There is a lot of thinking, in this society, that is too "family oriented."

When people think of condominium towers and high density, they often think of singles. Families tend to gravitate toward detached homes in the outskirts of town.

Sometimes people move to the outskirts to save on land costs while adding to automobile cost and environmental degradation in the process.

Often the needs of the growing population of singles and "child free" people are neglected by low income housing programs that focus on family living.

Is there a Habitat for Humanity for multi unit living?

Maybe there is.

The model of "bringing community together to build a home" is a nice Norman Rockwell ideal.

Maybe this ideal can also be applied to apartment and condo living not just during construction, but after residents move in.

Some people don't like the idea of "apartments" as they have bad visions of "strangers stacked in tin cans." It helps when there are incentives for neighbors to get to know one another.

Community life.

Also community management of buildings, such as ownership co-ops.

I am sure many of these things are being done, but at the same time there does seem to be a bias toward "detached family oriented living" in some of the low income housing programs.

This tends to drive people out into sprawling areas. Drive people to more driving.

Families in our culture seem to shy away from multifamily living.

In other cultures families often occupy multi family spaces.

As our population grows, American families could be too spoiled?

At the same time, our culture does have a growing segment of single and child free people who are often under served if they are low income.

I read, on the web, that there is a Habitat For Humanity condominium project in San Francisco. Considered a new innovation for that organization. Maybe it will be a future trend.


* Today's flurry of posts come from reorganizing other parts of my site.

Flaws in the brain drain theory of talent

I hope the Enron scandal challenges a prevalent assumption in this society. People assume that they must pay enormous salaries to attract high quality professionals for their top jobs. Administrator pay raises are often justified by the fear that the talent will go elsewhere. This is the so called "brain drain" argument. One must ask if Enron's high paid executives were really the cream of the crop? Were they the best personnel, when it comes to talent and ethics?

Enron's mess may be an extreme example, but I am not impressed with the quality of leadership in many American corporations and government agencies. Besides greed and corruption, there is also lots of poor planning.

Maybe an organization would be better off if it held the line on executive salaries. When leaders threaten to leave, it could be seen as a good thing. It is an opportunity to bring new talent and fresh ideas to the top. Some of America's best people can even be found in the volunteer sector. Money isn't the only motivation.


*Today's flurry of posts comes from reorganizing other parts of my site.

George Bush's free ride

The huge federal deficit looks bad on paper, but interest rates remain low. There seems to be no tangible consequences from being in debt to make life hard for George W. Bush.

The debt has not driven up interest rates, as some economists predict, by drying up available capital. In fact, rates are the lowest they have been in years, thus fueling real estate mania.

Who is suffering because the ledger books look bad?

On the other hand, lots of folks would suffer if spending was cut deeply enough, or taxes were raised, to right the ledger.

That's why Bush is said to be "spending like a drunken sailor," but it works. There never seems to be a shortage of capital to borrow or consequences from being in debt.

China giving us her money? Our own printing presses running? Money growing on trees?

Maybe it's just as well as huge cuts would be catastrophic.

Shorter workweek can mean improvement in our quality of life

Here are some interesting links to shorter workweek sites.

People for a shorter work week
Edited by a friend of mine.

Timeday.org
National take back your time site.

Workless political party
Has a great quote, "Workers Of The World Relax."

Other quotes I have seen include, "The duty to produce can destroy the desire to create." And "Work less, consume less, live more fully."


*Today's flurry of posts comes from reorganizing another part of my site.

Small can be better. Lesson from computer industry

Learn from the computer industry. Today's computers are smaller, use less resources while being far more sophisticated. Yes, we can still have progress, but it must be defined in new ways.

Can all the world's 6 billion people have two car garages?

Not even all USA aspires for that two car garage. A different vision is needed for what progress is about. Shorter work week, less consumption, more time with family and friends, smaller lot sizes, shorter commutes, still higher technology. We don't have to go back to the stone age for protecting this planet. With current population, we are less harm to the planet if we don't try living in the stone age again. Solar electricity or smoky fires?


* Today's flurry of posts comes from reorganizing another part of my site.

Was Iraq war justified? Probably not


The second Iraq War was "unfinished business" from the first Iraq War. Part of the American psyche must have felt guilty about how the first war ended with Saddam still in power.

The first war was mostly about oil.
Back in the 1970s, President Carter spoke about the danger of lifestyles and economies dependent on "a thin strand of oil tankers stretching half way around the Earth."


Above photo is display of old jet near Point Mugu base in southern California. Seen during my 2003 bicycle trip down the west coast.

Persian Gulf wars were being predicted clear back then. One of many factors that have lead to these wars has been concern over stability of world oil supplies. There have been some other factors as well.

If all the money we spent on war was put into alternative energy, transit and changing lifestyles, things might be much better.

Instead, in recent years, there has been a strong guilt feeling, among Americans especially, over the human rights abuses of Saddam Hussein. A feeling that we should have really, "finished the job and taken him out in the 1991 Gulf War" was pervasive.

Our oil dependency fuels our perception of being "the keepers of the Middle East."

"You break it, you buy it?"


*Today's flurry of essays comes from reorganizing other parts of my site.

Law of diminishing returns and military spending, also other things

There is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to security and defending our country. This law also applies to other things like reaching the temperature of absolute zero in a lab.

Scientists can come very close to absolute zero, but never right there. Those last few steps are increasingly difficult, the closer to perfection one goes.

For instance, maybe 60 billion dollars (just numbers I found in my hat for discussion) will stop 90 percent of the terrorist plots. 60 billion can buy a reasonable amount of airport security, beefed up CIA and military action against terrorist outposts. There would still be a one in ten percent chance that it isn't enough.

Another 60 billion dollars, or twice the original sum, can buy an added 5% guarantee. Now we are spending a total of 120 billion dollars. Double that figure again to 240 billion and the safety factor goes up to 99.5 percent. Of course perfection of 100% is seldom, if ever, achieved. It's sort of a mathematical improbability.

As one forges their way toward that 100 percent safety factor, there is a law of diminishing returns. Each final percentage point gained comes at greater cost. The burden, on our economy, grows until there comes a point when leaving those last stones unturned is less of a risk than bankrupting society in pursuit of that unattainable state of perfection.

Where are we on the diminishing returns index? Rather than provide an answer, basically I don't know, I just feel this question is worth considering.

A similar issue applies to health care. If your life depends on it, don't you want the very best? Or, can this thinking distort everything.

That law applies to other fields as well

Like security, the sports world is another "law of diminishing returns" thing.

Paying a thousand dollars to shave a few more grams off that racing bike?

Is one second that important? Maybe it means the difference between winning and loosing.


* Today's flurry of posts comes from reorganizing another part of my site.

Population Explosion in Iraq could mean Quagmire for US

Letter to the editor, I wrote November 9 2003.

I fear that President Bush's plans for turning Iraq into a showcase of democracy and prosperity have not taken an important factor into account. Population growth, is staggering in that part of the world. Unemployment has been rising in countries like Saudi Arabia. Wealth from the limited oil resource is being spread thin to more people. Per capita incomes are dropping. With out taking this problem into account, our efforts may lead to a hopeless quagmire.

The Bush Administration must have a blind spot for recognizing population issues. Many of its supporters come from our own "family values" movement. Marginalizing people who don't jump on the bandwagon of procreation can be a serious problem; especially in societies where traditions are strict, such as much of the islamic world.

Would distribution of condoms and safe sex information work in the middle east?

A friend of mine pointed out that middle eastern people might resent things like sex education; especially if it was coming from the "liberal" west. There may not be an easy answer, but population and resource issues need to be discussed when developing strategies.

There are many good things about life in the west, but we are not always shining examples of sustainable living either. Our population growth is slowing down, but per capita consumption of resources like oil is high. Are we willing to change our traditions as well?


* Today's flurry of posts is from reorganizing another part of my site.

America: best country compared to who?

When people say America is the best country in the world, they are usually comparing it with some horrible dictatorship. America doesn't have to be that good to be better than that.

President Bush looks like a saint compared to some tin horn dictator, but Bush doesn't have to be very good to be better than them.

America could be even smarter than it is. It doesn't look as good when compared to places like Canada or maybe Holland. We still have room for improvement in some "quality of life" issues. Things like the murder rate, the gap between the haves and have nots, percent of population covered by health insurance and so forth make us look bad compared to places like Canada.

Comparing ourselves to tin horn dictatorships or terrorist bands does us a disservice. It allows us to stagnate in our own status quo as we so often compare ourselves to folks who are worse off.

We are like C students who feel we don't have to strive for anything more because the rest of the class is all F students.


* Today's posts are essays moved from another part of my web site as I reorganize things.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Meditation on possible tall buildings in Bellingham's future


Food court at the base of huge tower. Pictures from the top.

Visiting Seattle on my bicycle trip, I stepped into Columbia Center for the first time. (It used to be called Columbia Tower).

Quite impressed.

Yes, it does have an observation space that's open to the public. Years ago, there was a rumor that one had to wear a suite and tie to go inside the "exclusive Columbia Center Club."

Kind of snooty.

There wasn't a public observation deck back then, so I heard.

I never really approached the building before. Just walked by thinking it would be nothing but a wall of security guards in the lobby.

Well, it's different now.

There is an observation deck on the 73 floor. It's open during business hours. Costs money, but not unreasonable. Maybe around $5. I got in for $3. They must have thought I was eligible for the student rate.

Columbia Center club is on up at the 75 and 76 floor level. That's the top, but 73 was high enough.

Somewhere in mid elevator ride, where one changes elevators part way up, there's a Starbucks. I even met someone, at the Starbucks, who was from Bellingham. We got to talking. It wasn't too "hurry up."

View from the observation lounge is fantastic, but that space doesn't wrap around entire building. It does go most of the way around.

On the ground floors there is a nice food court. Spacious. Lots of elbow room with a big fountain in the center.

Thinking about the proposed Bayview Tower in Bellingham, I hear that no observation floor is planned that would be open to the public.

Quite a pity.

Bayview Tower is proposed for somewhere around 24 stories. Mostly condominiums and the required parking. I hear that two ground level store fronts are planned as well.

Store fronts, but not quite a food court full of fountains and all that.

Normally, I like tall buildings, especially if they "give back to the community" by providing interesting space for the public.

I wish Bayview Tower luck, but it seems like the lot it would sit on is small for that kind of a building. Not a lot of "elbow room" to work with for providing things like food courts, or public space.

The parking lot that is there now doesn't look that big when I walk by. Density is good, but I have scratched my head while contemplating all the things that would need to go in that space. Maybe a slightly bigger lot could afford more "public space?"

I'm just offering opinions after seeing some interesting "public space" associated with tall buildings in Seattle. I had thought Columbia Center would be foreboding, but it turned out to be quite welcoming.

Hopefully Bayview tower will add some interesting space to Bellingham rather than just being a "vertical gated community."


From the comments:
can u help us to post this article and this link to your blog?
Meditation-stadium