Friday, October 30, 2009

Ghostly building in downtown Bellingham

Scroll down for pictures of fire in 1976 Western Front.

Top floor burned in the 1970s and has remained vacant ever since. Bottom floor is a tavern. Can you guess which building this is?

Happy Halloween weekend.

Leaving my art class at WWSC (now WWU), I saw a massive column of smoke over downtown Bellingham. Running down the hill past my sister's house, I knocked on Judy's door. She came running also, toward the fire.
Continued below:

Western Front newspaper, November 1976.

Watching from across the street, we got there just as the roof was caving in and a fireball rose to the sky.

Then, Judy started walking back home and I wondered why she was leaving the drama. She said she just remembered leaving her front door wide open as she ran from the house. Went back to shut the door.

I stayed till smoke turned to hissing steam.

Now the embers long cooled, that place sits quietly as downtown Bellingham scurries around it. Few pay attention to those upper floors that are like a carcass left over from that violent event.

Bellingham fire department has a coffee table book of local fires with a picture of this fire also.

Happy belated Birthday Arpanet

Precursor to Internet, Oct 29 1969.

This was not Arpanet (probably) or me. From my early 1970s high school annual. A teletype at Pullman High School connected to the Washington State University computer that was across town. Notice the rotary dial for phone connection.

Back then, I thought computers were just for mathematicians.

Pictured is a math whiz who's name I forgot, but I think I remember he'd moved to Pullman from Orofino, Idaho.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My new TV

Yep, I got a TV. Haven't had one since the late 1980s when I needed a TV as a monitor for my Comadore 64 computer.

Might as well have one. It's "footprint" is small. With pocket TVs, and entire record collections fitting in an Ipod, one can be homeless and still have their "home entertainment system" in a backpack.

And the cost. Only $200, but this was on sale for $169. When I was a child in the mid 1960s, our first color TV was in the neighborhood of $400!

That was 1960s dollars. They've sure come down in price.

Back then, the whole house and yard was around $25,000, so the TV was a big chunk of the price of making a home.

Now days, houses are in the half million dollar neighborhood depending on where you live and products? They're so cheap they're practically throwaway by comparison.

Just think how many TVs a retailer must sell to pay the rent these days. It's insane.

Can't let the grass grow under your wheels.

Well, what about watching the TV, after all, that's what it's for. Is there anything to watch?

I'm not on cable. My computer is connected to DSL through the phone line.

In Bellingham, on air channels are limited.

There's channel 12 where I could watch COPS, if I wanted to. Also, it looks like Dr. Phil and some other things. There's KBCB; the shopping channel.

Two commercial Channels out of Vancouver BC as well. All in high resolution digital.

There's still some analog TV out of Vancouver as well. Canada hasn't totally converted yet. With a bit of snow (remember that stuff on a TV screen) I can get TV in Punjabi and TV in French.

The CBC is nice, but it's really snowy.

I'll have to plan a trip to Galbraith Mountain. It's our local mountain biker's paradise.

Why? Not for the trail rides, but a trip up the logging road just to see what more TV channels I can get out of Seattle and Vancouver. Channels from the top of Galbraith Mountain.

No, I don't plan to spend much time watching TV, but what the hell, it was way less than most people pay for one month's rent.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top wages has been more of a problem than excessive profits

Good to read that the Obama Administration is starting to try and reign in executive pay at the banking organizations that are using bailout monies.

I also read (buried in an article on healthcare reform) another good idea.

Limit the amount of money for the salary of an executive that an insurance company can claim as a business expense on its corporate income taxes.

Yes, often the worse ripoff that corporations do is not profits. It's salaries for the top workers.

Rhetoric of the traditional left rails against corporate profits, but a more sophisticated analysis of this issue is due. In many cases, a corporation isn't making a profit. It's even going bankrupt, but still someone is making huge money. The money is bloated salaries to "workers." Not all the workers of course, just the top executives.

On the books of a corporation, executive salaries can be listed as business "expenses" rather than profits. I think in many cases the executive salaries can be treated as wages.

A tricky way to basically steal money. That's what so many corporate executives and real high paid professionals are best at. Weaseling their way into big money. Figuring out how to play the system to their personal advantage. Smooth sellers.

Even though I'm no expert on corporate finance, that's what it looks like to me. I'm glad to see at least some attempt to address the issue of overpaid executives.

Monday, October 19, 2009

He posed by my bike,

but he arrived in this area by jet plane. Visiting from Ireland, he and his partner were looking for gay community, hiking groups or what ever in this area. My resource guide comes up on the net and there happened to be a hike that Saturday. The Gay Men's Hike that Carl organizes.

I was able to direct him to the hike by email and they had a great time. Weather was sunny, which is iffy in this area. They lucked out. The hike happened to be that weekend, and the weather cooperated.

He played Irish flute near an alpine lake by Mount Baker. The other hikers loved it.

I wasn't able to go as I work nights and can't get up in the early mornings for the hike. Next day, I did meet him at Front Runners (running/walking club) by Lake Padden. Some days, I can almost get up for that.

They were planning to fly back to Ireland on Tuesday, but there he was, sitting at Swan Cafe in the Co-op on Wednesday.

Turns out they miss read the ticket and the flight back was Thursday, not Tuesday.

An extra 2 days to enjoy the trip.

He wanted to walk along Bellingham Bay so I joined him. Brought my bike so I could ride back home after our walk. He was staying with friends in the Fairhaven area.

It was a leisurely stroll along the bay with lots of good conversation. That's where he posed by my bike.

Back home in Ireland he only works part of the year. Has the other part of the year off.

He has time to be with friends, go to faerie drumming circles and enjoy a quality of life.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

From the glass milk bottle

Luxurious chocolate milk from Twin Brook Dairy near Lynden. Glass bottles returned to Food Co-op for deposit. It's addicting.

Whole milk, at least in the chocolate. Maybe Twin Brook should offer low fat in the chocolate like they do in the regular milk.

All that sugar and fat, but another addiction of mine can cancel out the first addiction... Dancing. Burn it off.

I like having addictions if they cancel each other out.

Some of the dancing costs a bit of money. I've found a studio on Cornwall Ave. that can be around $10 a session. Still it's quite a release. Moving to music around interesting people.

The instructor added to the last experience with a suite case of memories. Rocks of special meaning, a heart shaped burl from some tree. Healing and sharing. One can see people crying at times, but also dancing and laughing the next moment. More than just fitness. It's an experience, but it does cost a bit.

The milk costs something also. Still my addictions don't cost too much and they often cancel each other out.

Then there's also dancing at a place called the Purple Church.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Solar streetlights along bicycle path in Moscow, Idaho for blog action day

My post for Blog Action Day 09 topic of climate change.

Paradise Trail along Paradise Creek in Moscow, ID. and it was Paradise. My 09 bicycle tour was lots of fun. Feels good bicycling and staying healthy. 1,300 miles in 31 days.

Glad I get lots of time off work. Vacation is possibly the best thing about my job.

The technology of solar power and the less "rat race" form of travel. For protecting the earth, what more could one ask for.

Technology can help us reduce the carbon footprint. Years ago, I couldn't have brought a computer with me on my bicycle. Too heavy and bulky. Now there's several types of computers that can fit easy in the pannier.

Computer for WIFI stops. Brings more variety when all one can carry is what fits on a bike, or possibly a bike and trailer.

Microelectronics: Also makes it easier to live in a small dwelling year round. Who needs a big house or sprawling residential area.

Nice to be "child free" also. Percent of population raising family could diminish thus allowing a more livable world for the lower number of children. A world of less rat race where progress is measured in quality of life and technological advance rather than total amount of material consumption. A less obese world in many ways.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are today's explorers nicer and more civil than yesterday's

Yesterday was Columbus Day, but many say Christopher Columbus exploited native peoples. Explorers of past were often plunderers after the gold, many were warriors, capitalists and empire builders.

Today's explorers could be a different lot. Astronomers, for instance.

Astronomers, quietly exploring the universe.

Some of them sitting in faculty offices at universities applying for time on research telescopes.

Image at right: I'm exploring around Penticton Radio Observatory during my 2009 bike tour.

Many of today's explorers are writing grant proposals, cooperating with scientists all over the world, dealing with NASA, learning how to navigate vast bureaucracies. Not necessarily planting their flag on the lands of native people's and claiming territory for Spain or Great Britain.

Some of them are helping students and patiently sitting through faculty meetings if they are at university settings.

Not seeking a lot of gold from Inca tribes even though some astronomers may have fairly high salaries.

Most of them are likely to be writing articles and attending conferences, not blazing trails with shotguns.

They often donate money to the United Way, their local NPR station and the food bank.

They spend time at libraries, think through puzzles, sit in front of computers.

At times they might even listen to harpsichord music.

Maybe today, they're a bit on the yuppie side, but explorers of today seem kinder and gentler than many of past centuries.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Die quickly. US Rep. Alan Grayson's comments were a good soundbyte.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who said late last month that Republicans' health care plans amount to wanting sick people to die quickly, hit the nail on the head.

Of course Republican's would deny this, but fact of the matter is, large segments of the population can't afford serious illness without some kind of subsidy. It's an ugly truth that Republicans kind of sweep under the carpet.

No matter how we paint the pig be it insurance reform, single payer or whatever, serious illness is just too expensive for lower income people. Either the premiums for insurance to cover it are too high or the money just isn't there. Without some sort of "tax the rich" income transfer there's no coverage.

Maybe we should divide the problem of paying for healthcare into two parts. Serious illness and "low end" medical expense.

Private enterprise can cover low end medical things.

Here's where Republican style ideas of health insurance savings accounts might even work. I'm not a Republican, but for low end expense, savings isn't a bad idea. Savings means incentive for staying healthy and also using medical care wisely. It can pay for preventative care, checkups, less expensive prescriptions, minor things like broken arms; even dental care.

Major illness is too expensive. If someone has a catastrophic illness or a long term chronic illness the government usually ends up paying the tab anyway. Serious illnesses are often disabling anyway.

Serious illness basically all but kills the idea of being able to work for a living, let alone paying premiums.

Maybe the government should pay for serious illness and then allow a system of more private solutions to evolve for low end care. Savings accounts and less expensive insurance can cover minor things as well as preventative care.

Medical savings plans do have insurance for catastrophic illness, but even that can be costly. Really, the government should be the catastrophic plan.

Republicans have an aversion to any "tax the rich income transfer," but with major illness it's either that, or go ahead and push the so called "right to life" folks overboard. Advocate "dieing quickly" for folks with major illnesses that couldn't have afforded insurance.

I'm not a right to lifer, but the idea of pulling the plug is repugnant to me also.

Instead of repugnant, call it Republican.

The conflict between right to life and "no tax let the market decide" is glaring.

Hope this contradiction sinks the Republican Party.

Still, some "so called" Republican thinking has a bit of merit. Most healthy and reasonably employed people could still participate in things like affordable insurance and savings plans that would provide access to minor care, but also have incentive to use it sparingly.

If major illness hits, "plan B" has to be subsidy for lower income people.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Put single payer on the table

A friend of mine named Haggrid held this sign at a protest for health care reform. I held the camera.

Yes, single payer would reduce the morass of contradictory claim forms that have to be waded through. I hear maybe 20 percent of doctor staff is there just to deal with the forms.

There's always a side effect to any change, however. What will happen to all those form handlers? Could they be employed doing something else?

Some march signs reflected in windows of Bellingham Herald Building as marchers walked up Chestnut Street. Many signs said, "put single payer on the table." Yes, that would reduce much of the convoluted complexity of contradicting insurance forms that patients and doctors must wade through now.

I think single payer could be very good, but even if it doesn't happen, something needs to be done.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Travel on my 2009 bike tour in the Northwest vicariously

At Othello Tunnels near Hope, BC.

Trip included a short walk to Saturn.