Monday, July 27, 2009

Along South Bay bike trail

I'm just getting from point A to Point B. On my bike, there is time to notice stuff like this.

Painted on the side of a building along Bellingham's South Bay Trail route. Near where the alley becomes the trail. I ride a different kind of bike however.

Update. This artwork is still along the trail, but on the side of a large apartment building. The art was preserved and given a new home almost where it was before. It's on the side of a new building.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The two most important things to remember for health care reform

Here are the two big things.

Promoting healthy lifestyles to lower overall cost.


Creating a sliding scale system of premiums to tax higher income people and subsidize insurance premiums for lower income people. The "income transfer" component.

A healthier population can mean less burden, cost wise for the entire system, be it public or private. Promote healthier lifestyles in social planning. Bike-able neighborhoods, less smoking and better diets for instance. This will make it easier to extend coverage to more people without bankrupting society.

The other thing to remember is to create a sliding scale system so lower income people can still afford the coverage. This most likely means (no matter how we wallpaper it) income transfer.

Yes, the gap between upper income and lower income people has gotten so wide that universal coverage is no longer possible (or at least no longer probable) unless there is some sort of tax on the wealthy to subsidize the sliding scale for lower income. The tax would probably also hit upper middle class, but it's essential for universal coverage to be a reality.

We already have this "income transfer" to some extent. For instance, hospitals "cost shift" by charging folks with insurance, or the ability to pay, more than the true cost of the procedure. This margin helps to make up for the loss caused by providing uncompensated care to those who can't afford to pay, or don't have insurance.

Since cost shifting is already happening, it could be done more rationally. Low income people often are made to get their care from the emergency room which is an expensive part of the health care delivery system.

If we don't have some kind of income transfer / cost shift, low income people are likely to just be turned away from health care. We could head into an environment of euthanasia for lower income people. At least those who have both low income and high medical expense.

Other aspects of reform can wring savings out of the system, I'm sure.

Things like tort reform, but the two main things, in my opinion, are healthier lifestyles and some kind of sliding scale for premiums.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dancer crossing

Sign seen near a dance studio. Dancing can be good exercise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One small step moon walk co-incidence for Sound Transit light rail in Seattle

On the 40Th anniversary of the moonwalk, Sound Transit light rail starts regular operation in Seattle.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

40 years after first moonwalk, large telescope will open

Hand it to the Mexicans, Spanish, Europeans, University of Florida and other partners. I think Gran Telescopio Canarias is going to be the largest optical telescope in the world. Inauguration on July 24 2009, just days past the 40Th anniversary of Apollo 11's first moonwalk. Space exploration is still making strides. Continued below.

I kept front page of Spokane Chronicle from the day after "that day" in July 1969. Chronicle has not been published for years, long before the current Internet shakeup of newspapers.

There was some science aboard that moon mission, but nothing as sophisticated as the science pouring in from today's satellites and observatories. Far from turning our backs on space, the news keeps getting more exciting, at least for those of us who follow it.

I remember newscasters talking about 3 experiments that astronauts set up on the moon that day. Maybe there were more, but I remember 3.

Mirrors were placed near the lander to reflect lasers beamed up from McDonald Observatory in Austin, TX. It was to measure distance between the Earth and moon within inches.

Interesting to measure something that far in mere inches. Quite a feat for those days. Since then, the lasers have been improved for more accurate measurement. Maybe those mirrors are still in use, I'm not sure. They were employed for years after 1969.

Astronauts also set up a seismograph on the moon, from what I remember. Or maybe that was later missions? A seismograph to measure moon quakes. Starting to probe the moon's interior.

Then there was that sail thing. Not the American flag. It was another "sail thing." Something like tinfoil which was rolled out to catch solar wind; a mystical stream of particles coming out of the sun.

Quite exciting for science in those days, but still kind of small compared to discovering planets around other stars in our galaxy; for instance.

The science of astronomy keeps getting better as instruments become more precise and "high tech." Amazing discoveries are now being made from telescopes that never even leave the ground. Other observatories are way out in space.

Apollo 11 was a great achievement, an engineering feat and a media event. A giant leap and there are still giant leaps being taken today.

Yes, it was a great step forward and I was riveted to the television, that day, along with the estimated 300 million (pretty impressive percentage as world population was less in 1969) viewers.

It was the summer before my freshman year in high school.

Maybe I was riveted too much to the television as just before Niel Armstrong took his steps down that ladder, our TV went dark. It was a flash and then the screen was dead. No sound either.

A vacuum tube burned out.

I had our TV on all day watching the coverage. The tube just chose that moment to burn out.

Remember vacuum tubes?

If your cellphone used vacuum tubes today, it would probably have to be as large as the Saturn 5 rocket which carried those astronauts to the moon.

With our set down for the count, the family piled into our Rambler Station waggon and headed to the Stevenson's house and another television.

We arrived after the first steps, but still got to see countless reruns.

On an interesting note, Stevenson Dorm complex at WSU in Pullman was named for Mrs. Stevenson's husband who had passed away earlier.

Looking out over Stevenson Complex from an old postcard.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My letter to President Carter's speech writer, 1979

Not long out of college, in spring of 79, I was following energy speeches by then President Jimmy Carter. Thinking that the word "sacrifice" was too negative, I suggested it be replaced by the word "change."

Put a more positive spin on the transition our culture needs to make. So I wrote to Carter's speech writer.

Now it's the 30Th anniversary of Carter's famous malaise speech; the one that never even used that word malaise. It was the speech that pundits gave that label to after the fact.

When I wrote, I suggested putting a more positive spin on the transition we need to go through to save energy. Sacrifice doesn't sound positive enough. Change was my suggestion.

Today, the word transition is used. There's "transition," "transformation," "evolution," "a new world dawning." All that "new age" talk. Bicycle for you're figure and all that fun stuff.

Speaking of a more optimistic future, we've really experienced a technology revolution since those days. Putting a futuristic spin on low energy living.

No more going back to the cave. Ipods (which they didn't have back in 79) are lower impact than automobiles.

Carter's chief speech writer wrote back a nice letter. He said my ideas were good and thought the President would agree also.

This was before the famous malaise speech of July 15 79 that historians are remembering today.

I'm not sure my ideas got through to the President as I think sacrifice was still the dominant theme.

Still I got letters from both James Fallows and Hendrick Hertzberg.

I wrote to Fallows thinking he was the speech writer. This was before Internet days so it was the most recent address I could find at the public library. Some reference book on the US Government, no doubt.

Fallows forwarded the letter so nice reply's came back from both men.

It was spring 1979 before Carter's now famous speech.

Did my letter have an influence on that speech?

Hard to say. Maybe not. The speech was of a type to still inspire the word "malaise" for a label.

Now I wish I'd kept the envelope as the return address simply said;

"The White House."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Planned Parenthood T-Shirt

Someone gave me a free t-shirt from Planned Parenthood to walk with a group of organizations in Bellingham's GLBTA pride parade. A bright pink shirt.

It made a good connection between issues for me. Population, the environment, economics, alternative lifestyles, change, gay rights. So many of these issues and solutions all fit together in my book. Or maybe I should say in my blog.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Is property value in Washington chasing Boeing out of the state?

Local radio talk shows have been buzzing since Boeing purchased South Carolina based Vought Aircraft. Vought is a Boeing supplier and the purchase is said to streamline some production bottlenecks between the two companies.

Purchase also fans the flames of speculation that Boeing may be looking to other areas for development of a new production line.

Boeing slowly leaving the state?

Dori Monson, at KIRO was pointing fingers at state government a few days ago. Taxes, regulations; the normal litany of complaint. Dori has libertarian leanings.

I have a different twist.

Property values.

Yes, Washington State, especially central Puget Sound, is expensive.

If Washington remains economically successful (in the traditional definition of success), we may have to brace ourselves for over a million new residents moving to Puget Sound area in the next decade or so.

Not the fault of government. It's just the price of our kind of civilization. Maybe we've just been too popular.

A friend of mine just moved back to South Carolina where she grew up. In S.C. she could buy a house for under $50,000. Out here in Washington State, it was a struggle to make enough money for house, or even rent payments in her case. She worked at Boeing for a while, but it was a long commute from where she could begin to afford to live. The commute became too wearing.

Anyway, it's fitting together better for her in SC. Job, housing, logistics. She says traffic is getting worse there, however. I don't think I would want to live there, from what people describe.

I'm lucky living in Washington in an affordable niche. The little room I live in is reasonable, but it's not the way most people live.

As for Boeing, who knows what their future plans are. So far it's just clearing up bottlenecks with suppliers, from what I read; aside from the ranting and raving of talk show hosts.

It's not Washington State government, necessarily that prices industry out of our area.

Still, government is kind of a reflection of our society. Washington State is a popular destination. Prices go up. When things get expensive, government gets expensive also. Think how much it costs to buy land for building a new road.

Then we have regulation. With the crush of new people always moving into this state, we have our raft of regulations that are sprung from concerns. We have growth management, storm water runoff, watershed preservation, farmland preservation rules and so forth.

You get the drift. We could "de-regulate," but would we want to?

Then there's the whole union and right to work state issues, but I'll leave that for other bloggers to talk about.

Sure, some regulation is stupid, but there is also a cost to success and a cost to popularity. It's our society, not just our government.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bike lane also helps protect water resource

This part of North Shore Drive near Lake Whatcom is an innovative road that was recently repaved. Now that it's finished, I decided to ride out there.

It's in our drinking watershed because houses and development have been grandfathered in around the lake for years. Actually over a century.

Idealistically, no one should live in the watershed, but you know. How can they do that?

Next step might be to try and make road surfaces pervious, rather than impervious.

Pervious means rainwater can percolate through. Impervious means water just washes off.

Around the lake, pervious means cleaner runoff. If water can soak through surfaces gradually, it can be filtered. On the other hand, when water runs off a hard surface too quickly it brings more crud to the lake.

Why can't they make the whole road pervious?

Well, I don't know, but my guess is it wouldn't hold up to the pounding of cars and trucks.

Cars and trucks can be awful heavy.

That's where the shoulder (also a bike lane) can come to the rescue. It doesn't need to be so hard since it doesn't normally get as much pounding as the car lanes.

Make the shoulder softer so it can serve as a buffer between the car lane and the surrounding environment.

Another good excuse for a bike lane.

Even the sidewalk can be that new "pervious" stuff.

Another great innovation in planning.

I also rode up onto Stewart Mountain which resides along the north shore of Lake Whatcom. Much of that route is under these ominous looking power lines.

Big inter-tie between power grids of BC Hydro and BPA. Another link between US and Canada.

Lake Whatcom below. Bellingham Bay in distance.

One really hears the hum and crackle; especially from one set of lines.

Power for millions of people passing through our area like Interstate 5. The interstate for electricity?

Happy Fourth Of July. Humming, crackling, booming and sparking. Hopefully not arcing power lines through me.

Ka-blam. I plan to watch fireworks from the top level of a parking garage in downtown Bellingham.