Thursday, April 28, 2011

Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor. Second to last shuttle flight planned

Glad that Congresswoman Giffords is recovering enough to watch the launch and President Obama will be there, but the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is the most exciting payload on board. Looking for anti matter, dark matter and other strange physics from the vantage point of space. May bring some interesting knowledge.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tweets ice cream sign in Edison

Ice cream shop in Edison, WA. that had closed for the day, but I got a picture of the sign. Then got a pastry from an artisan bread place. It was a beautiful day for bicycling to Edison and back.

While climbing Bow Hill, the Saturday Night Fever show was boiling out of my radio from KVI; now an oldies station. Disco is oldies, but sounds so joyous. Energy for the trip home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The park I found on Facebook

Hidden behind showboat homes is Bellingham's Northridge Park. I discovered it from a message thread on Facebook where people were wondering why they never noticed it as they drove by. Someone mentioned walking the trails so I thought, easy to miss in "car-centric" culture. Maybe I can find it biking.

Thinking "trails" instead of "roads," it's more accessible. There's even this neat tunnel for a trail that goes under Barkley Boulevard near the top of the hill. I knew about the tunnel, but never bothered to venture north into the park, until yesterday when I read about it on Facebook.

Why not call it Facebook Park?

Yes, there's quite a bit up there. Trails, wetlands bridges.

Turns out, according to what I saw on Facebook, a lot of those neighbors in the showboat homes are reluctant to have the park be that accessible. You know, people like that can be paranoid. The land was bought in early 1990s and Bellingham Parks Department has discussed providing more obvious signage, parking and even restrooms. Some of the neighbors have resisted that idea so the park remains somewhat obscured. Meanwhile trails have been developed and I saw quite a few users in the park. Folks out walking and some joggers from nearby Squalicum High School.

Learn a new thing every day.

Kind of hidden from those who zoom by on Barkley, but not so hidden to trail users. Tunnel below.

Larger entrance sign hidden on a dead end street called Woodside Way at north end of park.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A question the wealthiest one percent of Americans should ask

Is it better to have 5 vacation homes in a troubled world where you must have elaborate security to protect it all, or only 3 vacation homes in a healthy world where people can trust one another and feel safe?

The one percent can't really live in isolation from the rest of the population. The health of our entire community affects the one percent. If we allow the gap between haves and have nots to get too wide, the quality of life for everyone in society deteriorates; including the quality of life of the one percent. Having to live in fear and needing to hide behind the wall of gated communities doesn't seem very desirable to me.

Quality of life, rather than total number of assets, should be the bottom line.

Obama spoke well today about the common threads of community that everyone should be concerned about. He suggests cutting some federal spending, but also raising taxes on the wealthy. Currently, income taxes on the top brackets of taxpayers are lower than through much of recent American history.

Back in President Eisenhower's time, for instance, the wealthy paid higher taxes as a percent of their total income.

Some folks fear that raising taxes on the wealthy will slow job creation in the private sector. They feel the private sector is the best engine we have for job growth. If that's the case, from what I hear, Bush Tax cuts, in early 2000s, didn't do that much for job creation. The economy was actually growing faster under Clinton.

Economics is complicated and affected by more things than just tax rates. We now live in a global economy so what the American government does is diluted by world economic circumstances. Giving American consumers tax breaks might have just help China's economy as we go out and buy imported products.

During Clinton's time, the economy benefited from being able to grow into a new frontier. That new frontier being the Internet. It was kind of a tech bubble which may have not been all solid, but there was the feeling that a lot of new products and services could be created. New products and services means new types of jobs.

In the past, we've expanded into new territory. Building cities in the west and so forth. During the tech boom of the 1990s, we had no new land to expand into, but new technologies opened up opportunity to sell products and services that past generations had never heard of. Search engines, for instance.

Some might say that the new technology comes from people being able to keep all their wealth. Actually, it comes from a lot of sources. Government sponsored research is part of the picture also. If it wasn't for NASA, National Science Foundation, State universities, public education, and I guess I'll have to say even the military, would we have had the tech boom? Remember ARPA Net?

Basically, there are a lot of factors that affect the economy. Frontiers opening up, availability of resources, world trade and the timing new technologies all play their parts. I'm sure there are many other factors as well.

It seems like tax breaks are only one of many factors. Meanwhile, the overall quality of life in our communities should be of interest to everyone including the wealthy. If we starve a large percent of our population so there are many workers who no longer can afford housing, healthcare and education, everyone will be affected. Too wide of a gap in incomes is detrimental.

We also need to have adequate funding of public sector for things like scientific research, roads, public safety, public health, education and at least somewhat of a feeling of common good.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ryan budget proposal might inspire more discussion of pulling the plug on grandma

The Republican House proposal to cut the deficit focuses a lot of cuts on Medicaid and nursing home care. This will likely bring back a "pull the plug on grandma" discussion, which pestered the Obama people during debate about health care reform. This time, the discussion can come back with a vengeance. It can pester Republicans and possibly soften the illogical alliance between fiscal conservatives and right to life groups.

Within this discussion are also real questions about the value of life under certain circumstances. Is life really worth living, if one is confined to a nursing home bed and will most likely be dead soon anyway? What about the cost of keeping babies with severe birth defects alive? To add even more fire to the discussion, what about the cost of taking care of all the children that can be dealt with in a more cost effective way through abortion?

I'm not necessarily proposing anything here. I'm just saying that these questions are part of the discussion.

Ideally, end of life decisions should be left to the patient and those close to the patient such as family members and doctors. Carefully crafted right to die legislation has passed in several states such as Oregon and Washington. These laws are compassionately written with the goal to reduce suffering. Republicans often oppose these measures.

Questioning the value of being alive does, of course, put one on a slippery slope. Some fear that it's treading too close for comfort to thinking that the Nazis had.

Still, this line of discussion is happening and like it or not, the economic situation will add to it. If nothing else, it is likely to make Republicans, especially those with ties to right to life constituents, very uncomfortable.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Accident involving bike rack on bus

I think the bike was okay, but rack was a bit crumpled. Accident happened April 8th on corner of Magnolia and Cornwall. I was standing there, actually hugging someone at the time and heard a crash in the street behind me. Looked like no one was hurt. Damage mostly to the bus's bike rack and the truck.

The rack worked kind of like a cushion.

Article in Western Front.

I brushed out licence plate number to protect privacy of whoever was driving that truck. Just something I thought of doing while uploading this. I took this picture after bike was removed from bus.

I'm glad I'm in the slow lane. Accidents not impossible, but less likely to happen. Still good to be watchful. So far, so good for me.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Flowering cherry is in bloom again

Adds color to biking and walking.