Wednesday, March 28, 2007

CAFE Standards, A Waste Of Effort?


Car flipped over. I saw this one day walking downtown with my camera.

CAFE stands for "corporate average fuel economy." Trying to get car makers to increase the gas mileage in the cars they make, but the whole effort could be a waste of time. Better to just get people to drive less, rather than bother with trying to regulate the auto industry in this way.

One way to make a car more efficient is, of course, to make the car smaller and lighter.

Well, I can see why people still buy the bigger cars. Who wants to be crushed in a little cracker box during an accident? And thousands upon thousands of people die each year in accidents.

Why do people go for larger vehicles? A bit of extra gas is a lot cheaper than hospitalization. It makes sense.

There may be some other magical "technology fix" that improve gas mileage, besides reducing car size and or weight. Maybe CAFE standards can "drive" some innovation in this technology, but we keep looking for that magic potent. We keep looking, as if the corporations are God. Do the corporations really have a magic wand that they just don't want to use out of belligerence?

Well, what about the stubbornness of the American people who insist on driving?

I recently heard Congressman John Dingell (from Michigan) say, in a radio interview (if I remember correctly), that Europe doesn't have CAFE standards.

Yes, Europe doesn't have CAFE standards?

Interesting.

They put higher taxes on gasoline, rather than bothering with CAFE.

I guess that would be "Europe as a block" or most European nations?

Europe doesn't bother trying to regulate auto efficiency. Instead, they put stiff taxes on gasoline. When gas is more expensive, the market favors more efficient cars. Also (I might add) the market uses more public transit, bicycling and walking.

Here in USA, fuel prices fluctuate. When prices go up, fuel efficient cars become a short lived fad. Auto makers start tooling up for the new market reality; roads filled with tiny vehicles.

Then gas prices drop before factory retools can even make it off the drawing board! Big cars with more padding and safety come back into style. Our roads become a scary mix of gas conscious tinderboxes versus road hogging monsters.

When it comes down to survival of the fittest, who wins? Not the gas conscientious.

Well, maybe I win when I am riding a Greyhound bus.

On my bicycle, I am usually out of the battle, for the most part, if I can find a shoulder. Maybe that's not as safe as Greyhound, but it's much better than being in the traffic pattern on a motorcycle, for instance.

Most of the time, gas is still a bargain in USA. Gas is an amazing bargain when compared to the costs of hospital stays and health insurance plans.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Curbing immigration?

It doesn't look like our nation of immigrants can curb immigration. America is a nation of immigrants.

The underlying issue is too much world population growth.

Now that we have more Democrats in Congress, I hope there can be a more friendly attitude toward domestic and international family planning agencies.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Did Iraq have anything to do with September 11 terrorist attacks?

Yes.

Here's one connection. I hear, in the news, that Osama Bin Laden was mad at USA, in part, because our troops were occupying holy land in Saudi Arabia during 1990 - 1991 Gulf War period. It was Desert Shield followed by Desert Storm. Apparently this situation is one of the things to cause Bin Laden and followers to turn against US with a vengeance.

Why were our troops there?

There's a connection. We were in Saudi Arabia trying to deal with a problem related to Iraq.

We're always trying to "fix" the Middle East. Maybe we would have been better off learning to live without Persian Gulf oil. Or at least we would have been less likely to piss people off.

Of course, some folks are always pissed off, but we can try to stay out of it. Let the pissed off people quarrel amongst one another.

Unfortunately we're a bit pissed off also. We're a bit spoiled by cheap energy.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

4th anniversary of Iraq War?

Or is it the 16th anniversary?

16 years since 1991 Gulf War that may have not really ended, but left Saddam Hussein in power. Much of that time folks in USA must have felt guilty about leaving Iraqi people caught between Hussein and UN sanctions.

Or back even farther?

When we gradually became more and more dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Rainbow Flag over Western


As I was biking through Western Washington University campus, I noticed the rainbow flag flying proudly. On top of a tall tree in front of chemistry and biology buildings.

Interesting.

Must be a story behind that, but I haven't heard the story. Not sure if it's "official" or not. Rainbow banners have been official along Davie Street in Vancouver, BC and they look nice.

Rainbow flag related to gay community.

Then a friend of mine is traveling in Peru, South America. A rainbow flag flies high over the cathedral in Cusco. It's the official flag of Cusco long before it became an international symbol for gay parades.

Just a coincidence.

He says Cusco is talking about changing it's flag.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mercator Projection. The Cold War. The War on Terrorism


Our "world view," influenced by how we map the world.

Is George Bush a member of the "Flat Earth Society?"

The Mercator Projection is a type of map that was common when I was a kid. Hung on the classroom wall, it made the world look flat. Also distorted reality, as every world view does.

A world view is always limited. True reality is beyond perception.

Showing a round globe on a flat map is problematic. Map makers have several different types of "projections" that they use to try and do the trick.

Due the trick at least part way.

Sometimes the globe gets cut up into slices; like apple slices.

The Mercator Projection was very common. Didn't slice the world, or distort the border shapes. Looked nice and flat on a map; on the classroom wall, but it distorted the size. It distorted the size and possibly the importance of certain nations.

Nations near the north pole look a lot larger than they really are. The old Soviet Union shown in red. That was way north, not far from the north pole. The Mercator maps made it look massive and ominous.

The "Evil Empire "

Then there was the little guy, like in "David and Goliath." The good guy USA. Blue, like the pure sky. The foothold of hope and freedom.

USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and a few frontier outposts like Japan, South Korea and South Vietnam were blue.

Blue and red were faced off.

The red was a growing blob, a menace of totalitarianism, slavery, marching from China to Eastern Europe.

The "Soviet Block."

We had to hold the line in Vietnam, or where ever. Prevent more nations from turning red like dominos falling. The domino theory.

It's true that the Soviet Union was largest country in the world, in land area, but Mercator map made it look even bigger. Bigger than Africa.

In reality, the Soviet Union was around 8 million square miles while Africa is over 11 million square miles. Doesn't look like that on a Mercator map.

Then China has the biggest population in the world. It all looked "bigger than life" due to the Mercator Projection on the classroom wall.

Scary.

Now we have "Red States" and "Blue States," but that's a little bit of a different game.

What about the rest of the world? South America, Africa, The Middle East? They are all white or nondescript in color. Potential for one side or the other. Pawns in the battlefield.

Then there's Antarctica's ice. Look how big that looks. Close to the south pole. Many Mercator maps just excluded Antarctica.

Why are there bands across Greenland? It's part "freedom" because it's owned by Denmark, but mostly it's useless ice. Look how big Greenland looks on the map.

Now Greenland plays an important role in the "global warming" discussion, but that's another story.

I drew this map to try and capture the "feeling of geography" in my grade school classrooms. Grade school classrooms during cold war times.

Yes, that was quite a compelling world view. Lead to such concepts as "The Domino Theory."

"If one more nation falls into the Soviet Union's iron grasp, more will follow." "Evil Empire will slowly unravel the world."

"Vietnam was the "finger in the dike."

It is a convincing world view. Scary.

I can see why people "bought it."

Some students even hid under desks during air raid drills, but that world view started to unravel.

China and Soviet Union started quarreling with one another; as early as the late 1960s. The block softening?

By the mid 1970s, when we gave up on Vietnam, the domino theory didn't happen. Instead there was conflict between Vietnam and Cambodia. Two different brands of evil?

Eventually even the Soviet Union crumbled under it's own bureaucratic weight?

The US had less land area, but what people call a "beacon of freedom" brought a climate of innovation.

Could the Soviets invent the Internet?

Is control of land and resources the only road to prosperity?

Is there a similar "world view" influencing our "War on Terrorism" today?

Should we be calling it a war, or might it be better thought of as an issue of law enforcement?

Is there an "Evil Empire," an "Axis of Evil" or is there just a potential for crime and terrorism to break out anywhere in the world, including at home?

Who is best equipped to fight terror?

The military?

The police?

Intelligence?

Charity?

Anger management?

Just some ideas to think about.

Speaking of innovation, does the military even have enough nerds to study foreign languages for good intelligence gathering?

Oh, many of them were kicked out by "don't ask don't tell" policy on gay people in the military.

Link to Youtube video about Mercator Projection I found posted on Facebook. Added Jan. 2014.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Condo Conversion In Reverse?

In some cities, there is a worrisome trend of converting apartment buildings into condominiums thus reducing the number of rental units available. Making housing less affordable.

Then I hear that a lot of condominium units are not "owner occupied." The condo owner is renting out the unit to tenants.

Would this be "condominium conversion in reverse?" "Condo" actually used as "rental."

There was a recent article in the Herald about local condominiums that are not "owner occupied." A large percentage of them.

Could be good news for renters.

I don't think we have a problem with condominium conversion here in Bellingham. They are building a lot of condos, but it is "new construction" for the most part. Elbow room. Some people don't like seeing new construction, but at least it can create "elbow room," or "breathing room," if one would rather say that.

Especially as population keeps growing.

They say some condo owners have bought early before retirement. They bought before they actually plan to live here. They don't want to leave their "real jobs" yet and come to Bellingham where there doesn't seem to be much enterprise beyond "education," "retirement" and "retailing."

That gives us locals some breathing room. The scary stories about skyrocketing rents and condo conversion from other locations isn't too bad here yet.

A somewhat soft economy, in terms of wage scales, has some benefits. It's a bit more mellow. Maybe not quite as much of a "rat race" even though it seems like a rat race at times, especially looking at the traffic.

I feel like it's kind of a treadmill that goes nowhere.

"Treadmill to nowhere," that's what a lot of the commercial economy is about, everywhere. Especially noticeable here where we don't have a lot of enterprise outside of local retailing.

Few big export industries.

There's always so many gift shops, massage therapists, restaurants, dance studios, opening up and then struggling. Selling to one another's employees. Lots of "preaching to the choir" here, it seems like. Running on that treadmill trying to get ahead, and then closing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Box Store Dodge Ball

Bellingham, Ferndale, Whatcom County, Lummi Reservation. The game is on to avoid being hit, or to catch the ball - box stores.

Bellingham dodges with a ban on box stores, but the ball is still in the air.

Ferndale temporarily dodges and so does Whatcom County.

Now it looks like Lummi Reservation may be poised to catch the ball, or a Walmart Superstore at least.

Who's winning? Who's loosing? Why are people playing?

The automobile plays. It plays a big role in box store economics. Plenty of space for parking.

Then there's also the "one with the most toys wins" cheer.

Volume discount.

That's why people are playing, to a large extent.

Next question.

Is anyone winning, or losing?

In Washington State, dodging a super store could mean losing lots of tax revenue. We don't have a state income tax, so our state and local governments derive a large percent of their "revenue score" from sales tax.

On the other hand, catching the ball can mean traffic, other problems.

Traffic crosses jurisdictional lines as well. Can the referee do anything, call a time-out?

Sitting in the grandstands, I am not too worried. I just try and go where the traffic isn't, or at least there's a wide enough shoulder to cushion my bicycle.

Dodge ball with the cars can be deadly.

I haven't used Slater Road that frequently, since they built Silver Reef Casino, out by where there's talk of a possible Walmart.

Years ago, I cycled along those lowlands, where birds flew, but traffic changes the scene. Yes, there's a shoulder on Slater, but a trip on parts of I-5 is better. A wider shoulder. If Slater is going to be busy anyway, might as well take a trip on I-5's wider shoulder.

Narrow shoulders on Nooksack River bridges can be a problem.

As for catching a few "trail building" dollars, there is a new bike trail, near that area, which is quite delightful. Along east dike of Nooksack River south from Hovander Homstead Park, near Ferndale.

Part of the score is in how our people play the game. Try to live a sustainable lifestyle.

What's that? Read on, my blog.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Global Warming and Antarctica, does that argument hold water?

A radio talk show host was questioning global warming by saying that Antarctica's ice is getting thicker as we speak. It was on a Dori Monson show over KIRO in Seattle.

That's no argument against the existence of global warming. It just might mean that precipitation is increasing in parts of Antarctica. Much of that continent is considered desert anyway. An increase in precipitation would mean thickening of the ice. When the normal cold temps, toward the center of Antarctica go below -112 F., the ice could still be thickening, even if the center of Antarctica gets a bit warmer.

A bit warmer, like say -106 F.

Increased precipitation would still be snow at -106 F. It's still "warming." -106 F. is warmer than -112 F., but it's still ice.

If the ice thickens, maybe it will "hold water" and prevent some of the rising ocean levels.

Get it, "hold water." Still, that argument doesn't hold water as a dispute of global warming.

Global warming could just mean a slight rise of a few degrees in much of the world. Just that little bit is still enough to melt many of the mid latitude glaciers that we depend on, such as here in the Pacific Northwest where much of our hydroelectric power comes from glacier fed stream flows. Also slight changes in global climate can wreak havoc on those colored bands that I used to see in world maps at my grade school. Colored bands for different climates like, "Mediterranean," "West Coast Marine," "Steppe Breadbasket," "Continental Moist," "Taiga Forest," "Tundra" and so forth.

The positions of these bands have been fairly reliable in our the past. A foundation for much of the global economy.

If those color bands start moving around, it could be at least a "bad stock market day."