Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sold my old turntable to a member of the millennial generation

I never got into records, but inherited the turntable my parents used in their hifi system. My friend from the millennial generation is fascinated in older things. Vinyl records, tweed jackets.

To him I explained the concept of a stereo component system. There's the turntable, which doesn't make sound. Then you have to have the amplifier, that usually had an AM FM tuner included. Then the stereo speakers; all hooked together with wires. It took up loads of room on a bookcase along with my dad's record collection.

I haven't used stereo systems, myself, but have recently jumped into the MP3 world. My entire music collection is on a chip smaller than a thumbnail.

That old turntable got good use from my parents, however, who bought it back in the mid 1970s. It was the replacement for an older stereo system that they had which dated back to the early 1960s. That old system was a Heath Kit. One that you built yourself from parts. Various parts soldered together by following instructions. It even had vacuum tubes. With Heath Kit, one got both a hifi system and a learning project for the family.

Money for the project came from a big award that my dad won in 1962. I was only a second grader when my dad won something called the Borden Award; an award for scientific achievement in his field of dairy chemistry. My dad was a professor at Washington State University in Pullman.

Award proceeds bought our family a train trip back to Washington DC for the awards banquet which was held at the convention of the American Dairy Science Association. Proceeds also bought us that first stereo system.

Many hours were spent in our basement soldering together the amplifier. My dad and older brothers took part. When the system was complete, my dad tested it with a new record called "Stereo Action Unlimited." It was exciting, with each speaker operating independently.

My oldest brother was less impressed with that record. He was starting college studying classical music which made him somewhat of a musical snob. Stereo Action Unlimited was trash to his musical taste. It must have been plagiarizing and then ruining music from some of the great composers.

I remember one afternoon when my brother tried to out shout the hifi while debating musical taste with my dad. My dad was somewhat of a modest man and didn't try turning the volume past 3 out of 10, however. If we would have turned it up to 10, it would have blown out the speakers not to mention possibly cracking a few windows.

Less modest were the dorm mates of my 1970s college dorm. It was a cold war on the floor. A constant battle of power among different people's hifi systems. Down the hall were George and Ed with their massive system. George said if the dorm ever caught fire, he'd be running out with giant speakers under each arm. Each one costing around $200 apiece.

I didn't compete because I knew I'd be a looser. My system was only a cassette tape recorder. The cassette was at the heart of my first foray into collecting music; that is before I got my MP3 player. Sound quality wasn't good, but at least I had music. Classical music that I recorded from my parents stereo the summer before heading off to college. Music was recorded by dangling a microphone in front of one speaker.

The summer before my freshman year, I painstakingly recorded many tunes for my little cassette hoping it would become a defense against the onslaught of heavy metal music that I anticipated would await me in the dorm. My cocoon of nice music worked, sort of.

By the time my sophomore year rolled around, my dad had bought a new stereo system; the one who's turntable I just sold. The new system featured a jack where one could output directly to a cassette recorder, bypassing the need for the mike dangling in front of the speaker. Quality was much better so I spent another tedious few weeks rerecording all that music again.

For most of my adult life, I haven't used the cassette recorder very much. Instead, I prefered listening to the radio.

Now I've got my MP3 player and armed with quick downloads from places like, I'm getting a larger music collection that I've ever had before. It can all fit on a flash card.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Among urban high rises, often the best bicycling

Bike route sign among high rise towers in Vancouver, BC.

Archive of essay that was on front page of my web site a while back.

Bike paths among the high-rises can be more tranquil than having to commute long distances by car in rural areas. Vancouver, BC, just north of Bellingham, has a lot of good planning for density and car free lifestyles.

In the future, it is likely that density will be used to lower the carbon footprint for large populations. Cities can preserve farmland by keeping most people out of the farmland; thus protecting it for true farming. When the farmland isn't too full of traffic, it's better for biking also.

I'm living in the slow lane, but my lifestyle is not rural. It's more urban. I live in downtown Bellingham. My residence is a small space, mostly one room.

Slowing down isn't necessarily "low tech" either. If a whole library can fit on computer chips, one need not use up lots of space for book shelves. Living in a small residence can work.

Much of my thinking is about lowering the footprint and slowing down, but doing it in an urban and high tech way. This may be a rare perspective since most of the environmental sites seem to talk about living rural and returning to low tech.

I think high tech and urban will be the future, for most people at least. Hurray for car free living.

Some Vancouver bike path pictures.

Friday, September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace at First Congregational Church in Bellingham, WA.

Whatcom County's 9nth annual International Day of Peace. Held at the Congregational Church in Bellingham. Celebrating 45 years for the peace vigil which takes place 4-5pm at the downtown Federal Building. Vigil is now oldest continuous peace vigil in USA.

We saw a video that was made about the vigil. Video honored Howard Harris who is now 94 and one of the last remaining conscientious objectors from World War II era. Right here in Bellingham.

There is also a peace vigil in Skagit County, at Mount Vernon and Jerry Summerseth started it, I think. He was in the audience at the Bellingham service tonight.

First Congregational Church supports marriage equality for all including gay and lesbian couples. Vote yes on Referendum 74 in Washington State. A yes vote is for marriage equality.

I grew up in Congregational Church of Pullman, WA. Always appreciated the accepting atmosphere for diversity and peace activism. Bellingham Congregational Church built a new sanctuary recently. It was interesting to see since I haven't been in that building very often. One need not be a church addict to be welcome.

Looking up at the ceiling. — at First Congregational Church.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hard to curb deficit without something on table, even veterans

A veterans employment bill was recently killed in the Senate by some Republicans using (I think the filibuster procedure). Even veterans are not exempt from attempts to reign in the budget deficit.

I'm not a Republican, but I do recognize that deficits are unlikely to be curbed if every spending priority is taken "off the table." Senior citizens, veterans, you name it. Pretty soon it's most of the American people. That's basically a big dilemma that Republicans face. They can cut with a meat axe, but a lot of what they would cut are basically big chunks of the American voting public.

That 47%, now made famous by Romney's comment, includes a lot of his supporters.

Democrats can make political hay from this situation since it looks like Republicans are turning their backs on our deserving veterans. Also, democrats can ask, why most Republicans still refuse to put current military spending (big fancy weapons systems and so forth) on the cutting table? Also they can ask why all tax increases are off the table?

Both Democrats and Republicans face the dilemma about the deficit. It can't be curbed unless something lands on the proverbial "table" and putting anything on the table tends to be political suicide for either party.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romeny's 47% slip

It wasn't a good campaign idea for Romeny to write off the so called 47% Americans depending on government non wage income (I assume that's what he met). Much of that 47% are things like Social Security and Medicare. Another big chunk is veterans benefits. In that 47%, there are quite a few folks who still vote Republican. I'm glad Romeny seems to be sinking in the polls. It's still a long time till November, but if the vote were taken today, it looks pretty good for Obama.

Not excited about 3rd party candidates

Short of putting myself in as a write in candidate, I can't think of any politicians that think entirely along my lines. No one , either main stream or third party thinks exactly the same as me. I might as well vote for what I see as the best mainstream candidate, at least for president. Third party works better in primary elections and some local elections where a third party can, maybe, start to get a foothold.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Two rovers now working on Mars

Strange mystery spheres on Mars baffle scientists.

Opportunity rover is still going strong after 8 years on Mars. Now we have 2 rovers working on Mars. Opportunity and the big new Curiosity which landed last month. Mysteries still being probed by the old Opportunity rover. Imagine what interesting findings await Curiosity as it's just getting started.

Photo By NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ USGS/Modesto Junior College.
Opportunity's twin rover Spirit lasted until 2010.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lynch mobs are at it again in some of the Middle East

Innocent people die just because some bigoted people in the US made a bad video. The killing mobs are basically lynch mobs. It's all stupid. The video, the mobs and all the conflict in the name of religion.

Then Presidential candidate Mitt Romney put his foot in his mouth as well. I'm kind of glad about that as it may help him loose the election.

You've probably read about the Romney issue already. Romney accuses Obama of being weak since he thinks Obama criticized the video on first opportunity after the killings in Libya. Actually, as you've probably already read, staff at the US embassy in Egypt (I think) put out a criticism of that crummy video, before the killings and not involving the White House. I guess they were supposed to clear all statements with the White House, but they didn't. Still one has a right to say it's a bad video. Obama and any private citizen has that right. Maybe the embassy staff doesn't officially have that right due to the job description, but that's organizational protocol versus citizen rights.

I haven't seen the video in question, but I guess it's pretty negative; like trying to offend Mormons by putting the Book Of Mormon in urine, for instance.

Romney is Mormon.

While there is freedom of speech, freedom also means one can criticize such videos. Nothing wrong with Obama weighing in on the topic, if he so chooses.

I guess Romney is upset because the White House isn't rushing to defend a crummy video? Of course, crummy is a matter of opinion, for the most part. It's all part of free speech, but Romney looks kind of foolish now. He does have the right to put his foot in his mouth also.

Obama looks pretty good at the moment, at least. Cool heads and moderation seems the best course. Not judging everyone who happens to live in a particular country with the same brush whether that country be the USA or a country where the majority of people practice Islam. There are moderate, sensible people who practice Islam as well as Christianity and other religions.

Seems like it's the hot headed and mostly the fundamentalist folks that we have to worry about in any religion.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quantitative Easing versus Moore's Law

I wonder if inflation can be viewed in terms of a balance point between these two factors. Quantitative Easing and Moore's Law? When central banks do Quantitative Easing, there is a tendency for inflation to increase as more money is created to chase the same number of goods and services. On the other hand Moore's Law and other technological advances has the effect of pushing down prices in many sectors of the economy. Increased efficiency of manufacturing and new opportunities for creating value at low cost; such as things like "crowd sourceing" on the internet keeps inflation low in other sectors of the economy.

Prices and wages fall in some sectors of the economy due to the "Moore's Law" type forces of technology and globalization. At the same time, central banks, such as the Federal Reserve, create new money to try and stimulate the economy. Does this new money really help or does it just go into inflating assets such as house values?

Seems like our economy has been splitting into different inflation realms for many years now. Wages and the prices of many products remain stagnate while things like housing bubbles take place making the cost of living unaffordable for large segments of the workforce.

Inflation can no longer be viewed as a monolithic threat. Some sectors of the economy are subject to inflation while the forces of technology and globalization hold down prices and wages in other sectors. Possibly this is one of the factors contributing to the growing disparity of wealth in the US as well as the rest of the world.

I bring up these worries in light of the latest round of Quantitative Easing announced today by the US Federal Reserve. Assets that the Fed plans to buy are said to be in the housing sector such as buying up mortgage backed securities. This may bring house price inflation back. A strong housing market does create some jobs in real estate and construction and house furnishing industries, but is it really the best way to boost our economy?

Wouldn't it be better to try and more directly fund stimulus type investments in public infrastructure and research? Don't we need to invest in more sustainable technologies for laying new foundations to economic growth. Investments in new types of technology such as solar energy can help us maintain economic growth without so much worry about global warming.

Of course Congress, especially the Tea Party House of Representatives, doesn't really believe in these type of investments so maybe there isn't much else the Fed can do to stimulate the economy in the face of high unemployment.

I bring these questions up, but admit that I'm not really an expert on economics. I'm awaiting the vast amount of analysis and comment that will appear in the media, on Facebook and so forth following today's news from the Fed.

One example of Moore's Law type forces at work:

Flashlights based on light emitting diodes. I've retrofitted this LED shop light as a bike light. The first one I got from several years back was $20. This summer I found a barrel full of them for around $8 apiece with even a better switch. Lots of products are just getting cheaper and better in spite of things like quantitative easing, but some things are getting more expensive. In the future, will the majority of people be able to afford housing and healthcare? How much will corporate executives make compared to most workers? It's the splitting of society.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My 2012 bike tour photos are now on line

The face of Cougar Dam east of Eugene, Oregon. I passed it several times on my 2012 travels in Oregon.

See in my photo stream.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Last day of my trip

Biked from Longhouse Gathering just east of Redmond, WA. to Everett. Plan to take train back to Bellingham from Everett.