Friday, April 30, 2010

Better on a bicycle, not so good as a car bumper sticker

Saw this bike parked downtown.

Better to see this sign on a bike than on the bumper sticker of a car even though I wrote earlier, in this blog "if we keep consuming oil we might as well drill for it in our own territory."

I wasn't against Obama's plan to open up more offshore areas to drilling, even though I've never driven a car. Domestic production is still better than imports, but better yet is less consumption and more alternatives.

Oil well blowout in Gulf of Mexico is "rough seas" for the politics of oil drilling. Here in this area, people of Anacortes, WA. are still morning the loss of 7 workers in the Tesoro Refinery accident.

Even though it's better to produce locally, it's still best to figure out how to consume less fossil fuel.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Laura Bush killed a guy

Car accident in 1963 where she ran a stop sign, and the driver of another car going through the intersection was killed. This and more in former first lady Laura Bush's new book, "Spoken from the Heart." It's now in the news.

Makes me think of the horror stories hidden in so many people's lives about auto accidents. Some folks famous and powerful, others ordinary. So many have been traumatized that I think Americans would be too shell shocked to drive, but this isn't the case. People go right on driving, for the most part.

Roads have gotten safer over the years, I hear the highway death toll in US is down to a bit over 30,000 per year when it was closer to 40,000 several years back. News reports even come out saying it's the lowest it's been since 1954; co-incidence, the year I was born.

Safer roads, better drunk driving enforcement and safer cars have helped, but the carnage is still too high. Back in the 50s and 60s, seat belts weren't as common, but now we have distracted driving from cellphones and the like.

If this many people kept dying in workplace accidents, or terrorist attacks, imagine how outraged the nation would be. Car accidents are still a silent slaughter.

I just think people and society would be more traumatized by this. So traumatized that folks would be afraid to drive and there would be more planning around alternative transportation.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hubble celebrates 20th anniversary

I say, "even if you don't live in a big fancy house, you can still say you live in a fantastic universe."

Descriptions below reprinted from Hubble web site.

Hubble's 20th anniversary image shows a mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)


A brilliant white core is encircled by thick dust lanes in this spiral galaxy, seen edge-on. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and 28 million light years from Earth.
Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Last few posts, I've been on a "space roll." Just found out that this is the 20th anniversary of Hubble. Thursday was Earth Day and Wednesday was "first light" for a solar observatory.

I was a custodian at the Bellingham Yacht Club when Hubble was launched back in 1990.

Back then, something called "a spherical aberration" caused images coming back from the Hubble mirror to be blurry. Not as easy to fix as cleaning the mirrors in Yacht Club bathrooms with Windex.

Still, scientists were able to figure a "work around" and some good science came from Hubble, even in the early years.

Then Shuttle astronauts went on that repair mission in 1993 and solved the problem; not with Windex, but a set of mirrors, called COSTAR- "Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement."

Worked like a charm. COSTAR has since been replaced because Hubble's newest cameras have the feature built in.

Then there's "Coinstar."

When I get a jug full of nickels, dimes and pennies, I go to the supermarket and pour them into a vending machine called Coinstar. It tallies the coins for me. Much easier than counting out all those pennies by hand. Ah, technological innovation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Today is Earth Day

This image of Earth from NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day, March 25 2007. Taken by Apollo 17 crew back in the 1970s.

Yesterday, I had a picture of the Sun. Also from NASA. They've got a lot of good stuff.

I'm going to an Earth Day dance.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Looking at the sun with our new eyes

Today was what they call "first light" for a huge new observatory that's looking at the sun with ten times the resolution of high definition TV.

Image courtesy of:

This video is fun to watch and the guy's cute also.

Here's a BBC news report.

I've been following SDO since it's launch in February.

Most people take the sun for granted, but it's quite something.

Just think, the Earth only gets a tiny fraction of the sun's energy. We're like a gnat just intercepting a tiny fraction. Most of that energy just pours out into space in all directions from the sun. Accountants would be horrified. All that energy going to waste. At least it isn't entering our defenition of "being employed" if it doesn't reach Earth.

There's certainly a lot of abundance coming from the sun. Most of it just radiating out into the vastness of space.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rainbow in window at Garden Street Methodist

Biking past window on Magnolia St. side of Garden St. Methodist Church.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Great Unleashing Event by Transition Whatcom

Parts of Bellingham High School housed "The Great Unleashing" last weekend. Sponsored by a network called Transition Whatcom.

Workshops, speakers, music and events revolving around how to live in a future with less fossil fuel.

Bellingham High School reminded me of an arcology that day. Arcologies are "city in one building" structures. This could be a "mini arcology."

I pictured that building full of apartments with the commons (pictured above) being an indoor "town square."

What a concept in our rainy climate.

It's normally just a school cafeteria, but a nice looking one with natural light. BHS was remodeled recently.

Wouldn't it be neat to live in a place like that?

I've often thought schools, malls and college campuses could make nice arcologies.

My thinking is a different direction from many other folks in the transition movement who talk about people growing food and going closer to the land.

Some folks have a rural vision, I have a more urban vision of the future.

I ask, "can the farmland hold all the people?"

Just one of many discussions that can get going.

That weekend turned the school into a "virtual city of thinking people."

I was ask to be on a panel for one of the many workshops. A discussion about "car-less in Bellingham and beyond?" I've never driven a car and survived so far.

We met in the "Staff Room."

Way back when I was in high school, wasn't the staff room where faculty snuck off to smoke?

There were many other events including a few keynote speakers in the theater.

Was a full house not that long before I took this picture.

Several bands brought music to the cafeteria where folks mingled and impromptu conversations broke out.

They say around 800 people attended Unleashing.

Cafeteria was closed, but Food Not Bombs had their table set up near the "food service" sign. They were one of many participants in the Unleashing.

Each Friday, Food Not Bombs rolls this table to the corner of Cornwall and Magnolia streets where people gather around 4-5pm for the Bellingham Peace Vigil. That corner becomes another place for mingling and conversation.

Transition Whatcom is quite successful in bridging on-line with face to face experience. It has an active social networking site, like a local Facebook, but also sposors events where people meet in person.

Both the on-line and face to face experiences enhance one another.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Xerox copy price remains stable for decades

Around 5 cents. Even when the machines were first introduced in March 1960.

I remember 5 cents per copy in the 1970s during my first experience with copy machines. Some machines were 10 cents per copy. Coin operated at the WSU library where I grew up in Pullman, WA.

Meanwhile, house prices in Seattle, WA. have soared from around 20 thousand dollars in the 1970s to approaching one million dollars for the same house today.


Diverging rates of inflation.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Friday, April 02, 2010

Large Hadron Collider and the slow lane

Riding my bike and working as a custodian gives me lots of time to ponder questions like "where did the universe come from?"

March 30th was that historic day of first proton collisions in Hadron at 7 TeV.

It's interesting to follow the news and watch some of the videos from Cern Lab as they celebrate this event. Brings back childhood memories of the TV when Apollo astronauts first landed on the moon.

Nice to see scientists all over the world cooperating on something that provides more grist for pondering of cosmic questions. Much better than using their technical minds for waging war. Also more interesting than building shopping malls.

World universities turn out lots of educated minds and at times it seems like there's a glut of educated people for the job market.

After the Soviet Union crumbled, there was a scramble to try and find gainful employment for lots of physicists to keep them from having to find work in more destructive fields such as oil funded terrorist mills of the Middle East.

Keeping the Soyuz space flights going helps. One took off today for the International Space Station; for instance.

Some people grumble that these scientific efforts take lots of energy.

They do use energy, but not anywhere near as much as billions of people all over the world trying to live the "typical USA drive everywhere lifestyle." Look at the millions of "show boat homes" all over the place.

It seems like people don't want life to be mundane. If we start living in smaller places and use less energy, life does present the hazard of becoming more boring; especially if people start suffering withdrawal pains from previous lifestyles of driving and jetting around the world.

Pondering cosmic questions, by just reading interesting things on the Internet, can put more spice into our lives, even if we don't all live in showboat homes.

It's like a spiritual quest, wondering what's being discovered next about the laws of physics and the origins of the universe. One doesn't have to have lots of money, or be something more than "just a custodian" to enjoy that.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

As long as we (USA) keep using oil, we might as well drill for it in our own territory

Obama's decree to allow drilling off more of our coastlines doesn't bother me. As long as USA is so dependent on oil, we might as well extract more of it locally.

On the other hand, I like working so locally that I can walk to my job. I never owned a car. Transportation accounts for 2/3 of our oil imports according to part of this blurb that a friend sent me the link to.

Some environmentalists feel that restrictions on oil drilling can force us to kick the habit, but that strategy hasn't seemed to work. Instead, it's like squeezing one part of a balloon that bubbles out another direction. Drilling for our consumption just goes overseas.

If we really want to cut back on oil consumption, as supplies diminish and the price goes up, we need to make living without a car more doable and affordable. I can do it, but my rent is affordable living near the heart of town. Some people can't afford to live where they can do their errands without driving.

We really need to think about affordable living, density, lifestyles, transit and urban planning. Also, of course, greener energy sources, but these transitions take time.

If we have a clear direction toward change, we can still get to a greener future, but since we've floundered on these things over the last 30 years, we've been burning more and more imported oil.