Thursday, December 26, 2013

Light dusting of snow in Bellingham

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and all that. For folks who got my snail mail card and others, here is a link to my 2013 summer bike trip again.

My New Year's Letter.

Path from WWU to Jersey Street on Sehome Hill.

Bellingham Food Coop sign on Forest Street with Sehome Hill in background.

Snow is rare in Bellingham. Some years hardly ever, other years a few storms. Rarely it's deeper and stays longer. This early December snow was a typical light dusting. Lots of people come out with cameras and post to Facebook when it happens.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Privatizing Medicare and abandoning the less fortunate?

If we were to privatize, or at least not subsidize, Medicare, being elderly would be considered a preexisting condition. Coverage would be either real expensive or non existent.

I heard an urban legend that some Eskimo tribes had their version of Medicare which was basically leaving folks who were too ill to keep up with the tribe behind on an ice flow to pass away, or onto the "next life." We could end up having a system similar to that if we don't pay our taxes and watch out. Hopefully we will not migrate into that kind of a system even though, in some cases, people passing away and not suffering some circumstances of disease might be more charitable than just being strung along.

Compared to private insurance, Medicare tends to be the most efficient means to provide healthcare in terms of the ratio of administrative overhead to dollars spent on actual care. I hear that for some private insurance companies, 20%, or more, of the premium dollar goes to insurance company bureaucracy rather than healthcare. In Medicare, it's around 3% for administrative costs.

One of the things that the Obamacare program is trying to do is cap what percent of insurance company revenue that is spent on administration rather than healthcare.

Still, the Medicare program is more expensive than insurance plans that serve younger people even though only 3%, or so, goes to overhead. Why is that true?

Older people, as a population, tend to have higher medical expenses than the younger people who make up the policy holder pools of private insurance companies. This has to do with the people being served, not the administrative costs.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Why I've never driven a car, but if I were in the Millennial generation, I'd look forward to having a car eventually

In a conversation with some folks from the millennial generation, we got to talking about cars and bicycles. I mentioned that I never learned to drive in part because of environmental worry, but also because I was afraid of my own absent mindedness and I didn't want to cause an accident at 60mph.

We discussed how appalling it is that over 30,000 people die each year, in USA, due to car accidents to which they responded. "Let's hear it for the Google self driving car." Thumbs up and high 5ves all around for the Google car. Someone mentioned that the only accident it has been in, so far, was in a parking lot while a driver was over riding the automatic controls. I have hope that in the future, the highway death toll, that we take for granted today, will be much lower.

Hopefully cars of the future will not be the global warming nightmares of today. For instance hydrogen fuel from solar energy.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Inflating our way out of debt

The most likely way we will resolve the national debt is to inflate our way out of the debt. It isn't the best way, but its probably the most likely way.

This is bad news for people with savings such as seniors with fixed income from retirement savings plans.

Our accumulative national debt, as a percentage of the total GDP, was higher right after WWII than it is today. Imagine that. The total numbers are bigger today, but as a percent of GDP, today's debt is smaller than it was right after WWII. The GDP is just much larger than it was after WWII.

Part of that larger GDP is economic growth since WWII and another part of that GDP is inflation. Inflation is a big factor. I remember when one could easily buy a house in Seattle for under $20,000 That was just back in the 1960s. Today, the same lot could cost a half million. That's inflation.

WWII debt is still with us, but it's no longer a big deal compared to today's economy. The kids of tomorrow will be using $10 bills as we use $1 bills today, but they will be used to it. Just move the decimal point and go on from there. The debt we have today will look smaller in their economy. That's how we deal with the debt. We just inflate our way out of it so it isn't as big by comparison. Moderate inflation over the years. Why worry about it? It's bad news for savers who are alive today, but it's not necessarily stealing from future generations. People who haven't been born yet will just start with the higher numbers; such as using what we consider to be $10 bills as their $1 bills. By then more transactions will be on the computer, rather than dollar bills, but I'm using the concept of dollar bills to explain things.

I do feel for folks who have savings, including myself with my modest retirement plan. The lack of value in these savings will likely mean more need for government spending to subsidize housing and so forth for seniors; thus necessitating more debt and the need to print more money. A vicious cycle.

Raising taxes on the rich to pay for some of this government spending, rather than just printing money for it, can take some of the bite out of this economic predicament. Remember, the predicament effects our current generations of savers more than it will effect future generations who haven't been born yet. That is my guess at least.

Seems like Republicans create a lot of unnecessary anxiety over the debt. Too much of that anxiety is unhealthy. Yes there are problems, like the erosion of people's savings, but savers are already used to savings being battered by years of rock bottom interest rates. I ahte to say it, but a lot of people have most likely given up on saving money.

Also, with inflation, there is the problem that not all prices, in the economy, go up together. Wages have tended to fall behind prices for things like housing. Some products don't go up in price while other things inflate. This creates affordability gaps in the economy.

Inflating our way out isn't the best way to resolve the debt, but it's what we seem to be doing. The best way is collecting enough taxes so the government doesn't have to have long term debt. Balance spending and taxes, but that isn't easy to do. Balancing the budget is the ideal "Plan A," but we are most likely stuck with the less ideal "Plan B;" inflating our way out of debt. Maybe we can reduce the need to resort to plan B in the future, but plan B isn't necessarily the end of the world. It's just not the ideal world we would like.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Has pent up medical demand been taken into account with the ACA?

Due to pent up medical demand, I wonder if there will be a lot of cost overruns adding to the deficit from the Affordable Care Act come early 2014? I support the idea of the ACA for including more people under Medicaid and so forth, but if there are cost overruns the Republicans will create a lot of noise. I guess one should say, "as if the Republicans haven't been creating a lot of noise anyway." Pent up medical demand could be an issue.

My own dental situation is a good example even though it's dental, rather than medical. When I first got onto a dental plan (I'm lucky to have a dental plan) I hadn't been to a dentist for any preventative work for 30 years. I had a few cavities filled, but no cleaning or preventative work for 30 years. The dentist did a lot of catch up work during the first year of my dental plan. I paid part of it out of pocket, but the plan had to pay a lot more, in it's first year, than it does now with just ongoing retinue prevention.

I remember my boss jokingly asking me if my dentist was buying a new yacht when I told him how many appointments I had that first year. Of course, my boss wasn't out any money from that cluster of appointments since it was covered under the insurance plan. My employer just paid a fixed premium, but it cost the insurance plan more, that first year, for more than a normal number of dental appointments.

They must have taken this into account for the new enrollees in Obamacare, but I wonder. In the long run, it's better, and even cheaper, to provide prevention, but it may cost more in the short run. Republicans will scream.

Monday, December 02, 2013

On being an Obamacrat

I still consider myself an "Obamacrat." I must have heard that term somewhere, but I don't remember where. Seems obvious enough that I wouldn't have been the only one to make it up. Like Obamacare, Democrat, Obamacrat.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Socks on display

A specialty store selling socks in downtown Bellingham has a warm display on this November day. Rainbow socks included.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas declares war on Thanksgiving

Some right wingers claim that there is a war on Christmas. Can't have Christmas trees in public schools, must call them "holiday trees," for instance.

Well, I like what one of our local county council people said instead. He said in a Facebook post:

"It looks like Christmas is declaring war on Thanksgiving."

This reference to the creeping forward of "Black Friday" as some stores, such as Walmart, planned to start their Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving.

People question whether any time can be sacred from consumerism and the profit motive anymore.

Yes, Christmas is a very commercial time of the year. It's not that commercial for me as I don't have kids and family ties to shop for. Consumerism tends to go hand in hand with the "American family." I get along well with my brothers and sisters, but we don't do Christmas shopping for one another. We live all spread out across the country. I have no family that is geographically close to me except for friends and community potlucks.

The holidays can be a lonely time for folks away from family, but thankfully there are things like community meals and, while we're on the subject, more and more businesses stay open on the holidays.

There are two kinds of business opening strategies for the holidays. One is the creeping forward of Black Friday which isn't that good. Taking employees away from their Thanksgiving for holiday shopping specials seems kind of repugnant (or maybe Republican?). Another kind of business opening makes more sense to me. Some restaurants open on Thanksgiving realizing that not everyone has a family meal to go to.

Bellingham's Old Town Cafe has a long tradition of free community meal on Thanksgiving Day. Staffed by volunteers and serenaded with live musicians. It's become a great tradition. The Old Town Cafe can be a bit crowded, but some other places offer a meal as well. A meal that one pays for. It's nice to have some choices for the holidays.

Speaking of family, one of my brothers criticizes the Black Friday store openings that invaded Thanksgiving this year, but he also noted that it's nice to at least have some grocer open when one realizes, at the last minute, that they forgot the cranberry sauce.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bellingham BC meaning Bellingham before Canada. On the way to Canada

Bellingham, BC (before, on the way to, Canada) was a phrase that came up in a brainstorming session I dropped into about promoting tourism and the local economy way back in the 1980s. It's happening.

New hotel at Northwest and Bakerview and another about to open a bit to the west along Bakerview. There are plans for (from what I read) two more? Airport traffic. Lots of Canadians from Vancouver Metropolitan area seem to be choosing to fly to their "stateside" locations from Bellingham International, rather than Vancouver International.

Then there's the people who come down here to buy gas. All those gas cans on the road are starting to worry highway safety people.

Milk is a more benign substance than gasoline and Canadians are coming down to buy lots of milk as well. Milk from Costco and other places by the truckload. There are rumors that Canadians like to bathe in milk, but it must be that they are just making milk runs for the whole neighborhood.

US subsidizes dairy prices so that's part of what's driving the milk flow.

Does Bellingham really like being this kind of bargain basement? It does bring a lot of service jobs. Store clerks, motel maids and so forth. Still, people say it's hard to find; especially, meaningful work in Bellingham.

As for the mood of the shoppers, some folks complain that we are being overrun by aggressive Canadian shoppers. I haven't noticed this anymore than being overrun by aggressive American shoppers. I guess shopping can be a rat race and can bring out bad sides in people. Maybe people should come here to dance or join intelligent discussion groups. Then we would get a better impression of the folks in our midst.

Pictured above: Marriott SpringHill Suites.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My take on the broken promise flaw in Obamacare

The much talked about broken promise in Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) seems to only effect a small percent of the population. Folks with high deductible bare bones plans who are also high enough income to not qualify for the Obamacare subsidy of premiums. Some of those low cost high deductible plans are now not allowed under the new laws, I guess. (I listen to NPR a lot so I follow these things while other folks think about sports). This may have been a mistake in the Affordable Care Act. To outlaw many of those bare bones, cheap high deductible plans. Regular health plans that are more comprehensive are more expensive. Everyone (I guess) that makes over 400% of poverty level for their family size will be eligible for the premium subsidy. This includes single people as well as families as the poverty level is set by family size. Higher income folks may have to pay more. It isn't a perfect system, but there is a "broken promise" that the press will, of course jump on. Yes, the press jumped on President Bush also.

Basically, I like the fact that they are trying to improve healthcare access in USA so I tend to lean in favor of Obama's efforts. On the other hand, I realize that the whole thing could implode and increase the deficit depending on how it pencils out. Americans seem to want more healthcare than we can pay for, or our healthcare system is charging too much, or all of the above.

Still, it's better to have a regular physician than to wait till the emergency room for all one's care under our present (unreformed, nonsensical system). Even with having a doctor, I think people need to learn to live healthier lifestyles. I know not everyone is blessed with the best genetics and so forth and I hate to dump blame on folks from the seat of my bicycle.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

At Edison School in Pullman, WA. when Kennedy was assassinated

Just another "where were you" Kennedy assassination story, but you're probably sick of them by now.

50 years ago, I was in the 3rd grade when a surprise assembly was called. We went to the gym and sat in the place marked on the floor for our class. Other classes were gathering in their little squares on the floor. The principal was pacing back and forth on stage looking real upset. We wondered, "what happened?" He would stand at the mike and walk away several times. Then he was finally able to say it. "The president has been shot." The room of little kids gasped. Eventually we went back to our classrooms and the teacher in my classroom was crying. She said she didn't know if she could teach the class because she was so upset. Then a messenger came down the hall with a memo from the main office. School was dismissed for the day. I found my older sister, who was then in 6th grade, and we walked home thinking Kennedy might recover from the gunshot. At home, our mom greeted us with the news that he had died.

Much of the rest of that weekend news came to me through the radio as I think my parents were wise and thought too much television might just be "too much;" so to speak. My memories of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot are from radio rather than television. Maybe not hearing it as it happened, but I did hear replay after replay on the radio news. I think my folks wanted us to try and continue living life in a somewhat normal way. Our black and white television was used a lot during the funeral, though. The flag draped coffin lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the horses, the somber music and so forth all made an impression on me.. I was scared of the dark for a long time after that and my folks had to let me sleep with my bedroom light on.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Can pricy Seattle area retain Boeing jobs?

Overlooking part of Renton assembly plant on my 2013 bicycle tour.

Land values and housing costs keep going up in the Seattle area adding to the cost of living. Also the cost of doing business as higher wages are needed to retain a similar standard of living that workers could have for less money in cheaper areas.

This is one of the factors that could be pricing Boeing aircraft manufacturing jobs out of the Puget Sound area.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has recently pushed for a special session of the state legislature to reinstate some big tax breaks for the aerospace industry. To try and assure that the 777 jetliner will be built here. Inslee is fairly left leaning and not likely to be thought of as a proponent of huge tax giveaways to corporations, but Boeing has long been an important locomotive in our local economy. The prospect of those jobs being lost with all their ripple effects through the rest of the economy is frightening to lawmakers and the public alike. The special session was called and the deal sailed through the Legislature only to run into a roadblock set up by the Boeing Machinists Union. Part of the deal called for significant concessions from the union, but rank and file voted 2 to 1 against the pact.

Who knows now what the future will bring, but Boeing is looking at other states, such as Utah and South Carolina, to see where the best deals might be.

I say it's too bad that tax deals have to be cobbled together like band-aide solutions rather than Washington State automatically being the best place for Boeing. Behind the debate about union or non union, there is a deeper issue of the cost of living. If the cost of living, in Seattle area, was more comparable to other areas, there would be lots of advantage for Boeing to stay. Seattle has it's skilled and educated workforce an well as the years of experience of having Boeing in this area. Lots of local institutions, including institutions funded by state tax revenue, add to the quality of life. I read, in one column, that the proposed Boeing tax deal would have been bigger than state funding for University of Washington. U of W has seen big cuts in the state portion of its funding in recent years.

Seattle's prosperous economy has been buoyed up with many corporate entities such as Microsoft and Amazon. Boeing once was the main game in town, but other players could be starting to crowd it out.

Lowering the cost of living seems desirable to me, but it isn't an easy thing to do. When housing prices start coming down, affordability should go up, but that's not the only thing to happen. Homeowners become "upside down" in their homes where the mortgages they owe are higher than the current value of the home. It's a difficult situation, as people learned in the 2008 crash.

Planning for more affordable lifestyles is very important, but often overlooked in the race for prosperity. Such things as affordable housing, density and transit come to mind along with affordable healthcare. Affordability should be the key to keeping industry in any region, but it's often overlooked. Affordability is a more sustainable solution than the continuing race to the bottom of tax cuts between regions.

Planning for affordability isn't just something we should do to be nice to our less fortunate citizens. It's also important in sustaining our economic viability.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We've just had a TEDx in Bellingham

Not far from where I live. TEDx just took place today. 11/12/13. Also a significant date 11/12/13. This was a small event, audience size, as the TED organization wants new TEDx events to prove themselves before being allowed to get too big. Organizers plan to, most likely, have a bigger one next year.

This event was streamed live on the web and I saw a bit of it, but will look forward to the archive when it becomes available. Then I'll pick out topics that interest me rather than just seeing what happens to be live at the moment.

TED Talks are often quite interesting and the local stepchild TEDxs are coming to many communities.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Veteran's Day

I've often wondered what it would be like to be a veteran. Must take a lot of courage to make it through basic training, military life and then back to civilian life. I've led a pretty sheltered life, myself, I'm thankful for the somewhat sheltered environment I find myself in for whatever reason that environment exists be it our relatively stable society, versus living in a place like Syria for instance. Or maybe it's also my own tendency to try and avoid conflict where ever I go personally.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Supposed to say loose gravel, but the L is missing

Sign seen on bike paths near Birchwood Park. I first found out about this when one of my friends on Facebook posted a similar picture. Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New construction in Barkley

As I was out for a short ride to the Barkley area of Bellingham, I was impressed with this large new residential building under construction. Bellingham does have a housing shortage so maybe this, and other things, will take some of the pressure off the market; pressure that causes rents for existing domiciles to rise.

Temporarily draped in black. Image added Nov. 5.

Then, on the way back, I was impressed by the glowing sight of Youngstock's Nursery. A small open air produce stand all lit up on that grey day.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why the Tea Party can't stop deficit spending either

Dick Cheney recently surfaced again in interviews. While he doesn't say he's a card carrying Tea Party member, he does have sympathy for what the Tea Party is trying to do. Radical measures to reduce deficit spending which always seems to elude Washington. My own theory is that cutting deficit spending is unlikely as long as so many Americans, including a lot of Tea Party members, are dependent on things like military spending, veterans benefits, Medicare and so forth. Think of Cheney, himself, as a poster boy for the Halliburton style military industrial complex. And then there's the part of the government that's the tiny sliver; the discretionary domestic (non military) spending. That too is needed for things like roads, education, basic research and priming the pump to keep the economy rolling.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bicycling out to and around Lake Samish in the autumn

Sunset dappling through the trees as I climb the hill on Old Samish Highway just north of the lake.

Sun, fog and autumn colors around the lake.

Then a not too macho promotion at a Viking volley ball game in Carver Gym at Western Washington University as I passed through campus on my way home.

Friday night before my ride, Bellingham Herald sign pierces the fog in downtown Bellingham.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rich folks talking about austerity for others isn't a very good strategy to accomplish what could still be a legitimate need

A bunch of rich folks telling the public that we have to cut back on so called "entitlements" does not go over well. Thus the strategy of "Republican style" austerity crashes and burns. Beyond the dust of the politics, mathematics is still hard to deny, however. There always needs to be adjustments and flexibility in spending as it relates to how much revenue is coming in. These adjustments would be easier to swallow if people had the general feeling that we are all in the same boat, or at least all in similar boats. Having such wide gaps of income classes in society makes a mockery out of the concept of everyone pulling together and doing what needs to be done so it all pencils out and works. As Obama often says, the rich have to be part of the solution also.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bellingham's drinking black eye

A drunken riot happened last weekend (October 12) around Indian Street in Bellingham. When police tried to break up one large "college style" party, the participants went out onto the street and merged with revelers from other parties. Around 500 people were cursing and tossing glass bottles at police who eventually used means, such as pepper spray, to disperse the crowd. Media coverage of this riot has embarrassed local residents who say this is not a good image of Bellingham. It's Bellingham's drinking black eye.

It isn't usual for such a riot to happen, but whether we like to admit it or not, there is a lot of drinking in Bellingham. Bars and house parties are big spaces for social connection in our city. Other cities and towns have similar drinking scenes so Bellingham isn't necessarily any worse, but we do have our problems like the rest of them. This was our city's turn to be in the limelight of cities where drunken riots have taken place.

I remember the news about a riot in the frat house district of the town I grew up in; Pullman, WA. That was back in the 1990s (if I remember correctly) and it was a similar embarrassment to the town and local university officials. Bellingham's riot also involved a lot of non students, however. For all I know, maybe Pullman's riot had non students as well. Both towns are dominated by their student populations; especially Pullman.

One would think there are other kinds of social settings than just mindless drinking parties. For instance, why don't more people sit around in the nude in saunas and have intelligent conversation? I'm not an anti alcohol, anti fun person. Moderate drinking isn't the end of the world, but if I had to make a choice between public nudity and public drunkenness, I'd chose the nudity. Also it's ironic that alcohol is a big industry while so many other recreational drugs are strictly illegal.

Here in Washington State, the voters have taken steps toward making marijuana legal which is long overdue. Compared to alcohol, I hear marijuana is fairly mellow.

There are a lot of things that people can do to interact and even push boundaries a bit, but drinking is most common. Think of all the bars in downtown Bellingham. It used to be there was hardly anything open downtown after 9 pm except bars. More recently, that situation has improved as quite a few late night restaurants are now open. One dilemma of small towns is that the bar is sometimes the only business in town. Bellingham is bigger than that, but bars are still common.

Drinking and bars are okay in moderation, but lets use our imaginations. There's got to be more variety of things to do.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Talking about my bike trip on The Joe Show

Bicycling from Bellingham to Pullman, WA. for my 40th high school reunion made for a great conversation starter as I mingled with former classmates. Not only that, it also got me onto The Joe Show, Bellingham's progressive noontime talk on KBAI Radio.

By the way, gorgeous autumn colors along the way as I peddled past Bayview Cemetery on my way to the studios.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Obamacare is good, but could implode on it's own if it goes way over budget

If The Affordable Care Act, also know as Obamacare, is really as bad as so many Republicans think, it still makes no sense to shut down the government in a last ditch effort to stop it. If it's really that bad, it will implode on it's own after implementation. While I like the idea and it will be much better for lower and moderate income people than the high insurance premiums of our current system, I still worry that it may face cost overruns which cost the government more than expected. If that happens, it could implode.

I hope it succeeds and for sure, future lawmakers can adjust it. There are also lots of budget savings in Obamacare, over the present situation, so it might just work. It might even not bust the budget.

Whatever system we have, it's still up to us to try and live healthy lifestyles as much as possible. No matter what, we can't afford unlimited care. I hope Obamacare's improved access to preventative care and lifestyle / diet counseling can reduce the amount of expensive emergency room care that so many folks rely on now.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Gerrymandering. Didn't the courts used to step in and stop that when it went too far?

One hears that the gerrymandering of voting districts has gotten so bad that districts are either solid red or solid blue. There are few districts with real races anymore. Politicians from the districts are becoming so polarized that they don't work together and even don't speak to one another for the most part. Gerrymandering is usually done by state legislatures as they apportion congressional and other districts in their states. In the past, I heard of several times where courts stopped the gerrymandering and ordered a better way to divide up the districts more randomly. Courts can take that power away from the politicians and appoint demographers (population specialists) and other types of folks to redistricting commissions. Now the problem with gerrymandering is so bad, I wonder where are the courts today? They need to put a stop to this in each state.

Friday, October 04, 2013

World Space Week kickoff October 4

My attempt at a graphic depicts "think outside the box" implying the earth as the box. World Space Week is said to be kicked off October 4 on the anniversary of USSR's Sputnik launch in 1957. Pictured in my graphic is not Sputnik, but Voyager 1 spacecraft along with Earth.

Humans need to think outside the box and expand our horizons beyond this limited earth.

Exploration and scientific discovery is a good start. Maybe someday mining asteroids and more? Also, the images of Earth, that we have gotten from space, has given us a new perspective of our limited spaceship - Earth.

As we keep expanding, we need to protect Earth. Maybe we need to learn how to stop growing? This seems unlikely, but we can learn how to achieve sustainability. Reducing population growth, the most important factor.

We can use technology and miniaturization to cram more social sophistication into limited spaces, but eventually we will likely take more steps beyond Earth. Miniaturization can be done with changing culture and technology, but even doing this is inspired by looking at the "big picture," so to speak. Getting beyond small minded thinking. A big part of what inspires big picture thinking is the view of our entire earth from space.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Are the wealthy and business hoarding their money because too many restrictions or not enough market or both?

This article makes a lot of sense. If the wealthy were to invest more in job creating activities, rather than just hoarding money, the economy would work better.

I'll add that people on the right tend to blame government and environmental restrictions. These things can prevent business expansion so the wealthy and corporations just sit on their money; rather than investing it in expansion. That could be true, but do we want to repeal restrictions? Some restrictions are there for good reasons like for safety and protecting the environment. It's one of the factors living on a limited planet.

Liberals tend to say that the lack of demand for products prevents business from investing in increasing the supply of goods and services. Workers can't afford to buy things anymore. Less middle class means less market demand. Also a valid point. To some extent, less demand can be good for the environment, but hard on an economy that is dependent on growth. An ultimate goal is to grow the economy in a way that does not harm the environment. At least grow the economy to keep up with population growth, but try to curb population growth as well.

Also, I might add, when the wealthy just hoard their money, they often put it in so called "safe haven" investments. One of the primary safe havens is US Government debt. So the rich are investing in US government debt and then many of them are turning around and complaining that the government is borrowing too much money. Go figure.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Republicans are fighting the best plan, so far, to provide health coverage to more Americans

That's my take on it. Why would anyone want to stand in the way of improving healthcare coverage for a large number of under served Americans? Cost? Other reasons?

The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) isn't perfect, but so far, it's the farthest we've come toward trying to improve health coverage for a large portion of Americans.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Both the pope of the Catholic Church and the president of Iran are sounding better

Two religious leaders have been in the news recently starting to soften their stances. The pope of the Catholic Church and the President of Iran.

The pope seems to be putting church opposition against gay people more into the background and not emphasizing it. At least he's starting to put more compassion for all of humanity into the foreground.

The president of Iran is starting to talk about Jewish people in a positive way and a Jewish person even came to New York as part of the Iranian delegation to the recent UN conference. He's trying to improve relations with the US and other western nations as well. Hopefully, these are steps toward a more accepting and peaceful world.

Some folks might say that the president of Iran isn't a religious leader, but since Iran is basically a theocracy, I would qualify him as a religious leader also.

Seems like both the pope and the political / religious leader of Iran are starting to move toward more acceptance of diversity within the institutions that they lead. I'm cautiously hopeful.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Birthday to my father

Happy Birthday to my dad who, by co-incidence, was born on September 11th. He passed away before September 11 2001 so, in this life at least, he knew nothing of the terror that unfolded on that date. My dad's initials were USA. Ural Steven Ashworth. I hear that my grand dad picked out the odd name of Ural so the initials would be USA. Growing up, I often associated the name Ural with the Ural Mountains that are said to divide Europe from Asia and are located in Russia. If my dad were alive today, he would be over 100.

He was quite modest and didn't like tooting his own horn that much. He lived his life and contributed greatly to this country, but he didn't wrap himself in the flag very obviously. I still have a lot of respect for his quiet and steady style.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Is there a better response to genocide or maybe there is no good response

I haven't said much about Syria recently as it seems to me like it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. There may be nothing we can do, but watch as people are slaughtered.

Getting involved and trying to curb the various genocides, as Obama is trying to do, is problematic. We (the entire world, not just the US) may have already waited too long if getting involved could have worked. Possibly, early in the Syrian Arab Spring uprising, the world could have lent a hand with a lot of humanitarian and some military aid. If there are (or were) some more moderate rebel groups, we could have helped them hold territory and possibly protect the less hate filled people. The world could have tried to help some rebel groups provide safe haven's within Syrian territory. Currently millions have escaped to places like Jordan and Turkey which are now being taxed to the breaking point by the refugee problem.

To a large extent, the world has been hamstrung by the United Nations veto power of basically amoral powers such as Russia and also to some extent China. Russia is now all but declaring war on it's own homosexual population under the so called guise of morality, but I see little moral in Russia's behavior. For moral societies, I'd rather look to countries like Canada in both foreign and domestic policy. When I think of Russia, I think of corrupt oligarchies. Maybe I'm drifting off the topic of Syria, but a lot of this problem has to do with the hatred that various groups have for one another around the world. Religious hatred in places like Syria between various faiths such as the Sunni and Shiite sects within Islam. Russia's hatred for it's own homosexual population comes to mind like a canary in the coalmine.

I think Obama now wants to do more than just stand by and watch the atrocities happen, but it's hard to say if just dropping a few bombs to punish the Assad Government for use of Chemical weapons will do any good. If we can find ways to protect innocent people caught up in this configuration, I'm i favor of that, but I have little idea what would work best at this point. I hope things can get better, but I fear there may be little we can do; except, of course, humanitarian aid for those lucky enough to get out of Syria. Maybe there is more we can do, but I don't have any easy yes of no answers on our involvement. Remember, it's not just how we feel about Obama and the USA. It's the entire world hamstrung in gridlock and every so often witnessing the mass genocides in various parts of the world.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Warning to travelers and sending a message

Message I recently sent to
I'm hoping the State Department can put out some kind of warning about the situation in Russia regarding gay people and folks who support gay rights. Russia should be put on some kind of advisory or warning list alerting travelers to the danger. That would also send an important human rights message. Russia isn't safe for gay travelers or anyone else who might advocate gay rights, or be accused of doing so.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pictures from my 2013 bicycle trip across Washington State are on line

Mount Rainier from Chinook Pass. The sun was out for a change.

See photo set from this trip on Flickr.

Rode to Pullman from Bellingham in 6 days for my 40th high school reunion. Then came back in around 8 days visiting Chinook Pass among other things. Also took bike trail to Troy, Idaho and visited my sisters in Pullman, WA. Took a tour of Northwest Public Radio studios in Pullman.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Another bike tour

Across Washington State again. My 2013 tour is complete and I will start digesting photos for posting. My friends on Facebook have already seen some previews.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Snoqualmie Tunnel

My 2013 summer bike trip has begun. So far, from Bellingham to my 40th high school reunion in Pullman. Cross Washington State in about 6 days. One highlight, the John Wayne / Iron Horse Trail. Used to be Milwaukee Railroad with it's 2 mile long tunnel under Snoqualmie Pass. Now part of the bike trail. Stay tuned for more images as I gradually put a few up.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I'm surviving the hot real estate market so far

The housing recovery could mean another real estate bubble in the making, especially here in Bellingham where property values are starting to soar again. The house where I was living just sold for approaching $400,000. Luckily, by coincidence, someone moved out of a nice apartment in a business building that is owned by my employer. I have a good place to move to so I moved. Rent is not bad given the size. They want stable tenants there.

At my old place, I hear the new rent for the rooms may be nearly as high as what I am now paying for an entire apartment at my new place. Will they get that much? Who knows. They are planning to remodel at my old place. The local market is starting to take off again, but there is a lot more money in the ownership market than there is in the local job and wage market. Property values tend to be far ahead of local wages; especially in bubble times.

After living, since 1987, in a room with small bathroom I've documented that life and my non fossil fueled move of one block to my new place. See images on Flickr.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rainbow flags were flown at Bellingham City Hall

Rainbow flags were raised at city hall after a 7 to 0 vote by Bellingham City Council to fly the rainbow flag and proclaim the weekend of July 11-14 for gay pride. First time the rainbow flags were flown at city hall. A historic step. See my photo essay on Flickr of Bellingham's 2013 pride parade and festival.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I'm often a little airborne while dancing

The camera captured me airborne while dancing at the kickoff for Bellingham's Gay Pride weekend. I jumped a lot and watched the flash hoping it would capture at least once in the middle of being airborne. It did. Photo by John Phillip. Marian Beddill in background.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tour De Peace

At Food Not Bombs, someone was giving out T-shirts for Tour De Peace. I'll have to look it up and see what it's about. The bicycle with peace symbol wheels. Looks like a good cause. I'm posing at the Village Green in Fairhaven District. Food Not Bombs takes place every Friday in another part of town. Around 4:30 PM near old Federal Building at Cornwall and Holly.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Some murals in the woods

The local artist who painted a mural on the back of the Alamo Apartments has some other murals in the area. Small world. A few years ago, I remember chatting with this person when he was working as a clerk at the Grocery Outlet. His work is now starting to appear around the area. Artist name Shawn Cass.

Underpass where trail to beach goes under railroad at Larabee State Park.

Below at Sehome Hill Park in Bellingham. Above at Larabee State Park.

At an abandoned reservoir on Sehome Hill.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

How about lowering corporate tax rate by raising taxes on wealthy people?

Uncle Sam balloon promo at car sales lot.

Some folks, especially on the left, lump corporations and the wealthy together. Corporations and wealthy individuals are different entities when it comes to how the economy works. Taxes paid by corporations tend to be just passed through the corporation and come out as higher prices for the corporation's products and services. They can also come out as disincentives for the corporation to invest in assets and employees within the taxing jurisdiction. The corporation isn't really a person, contrary to popular belief. It's just a go between. Corporations are a go between among various people in society such as consumers, shareholders and employees.

Some economists call for lowering corporate taxes in USA because this country is said to have a high corporate tax rate. A high tax rate creates disincentives for corporations to do their business in America leading to outsourcing of a lot of corporate assets and jobs. Of course corporations do get out of a lot of taxes by taking advantage of loopholes, but there are quite a few economists who believe that lowering corporate taxes would help the American economy. It would help by allowing vast amounts of the money that US corporations hold overseas to be brought back home. Some of this money would be paid in taxes during a windfall period as the money comes back home providing a temporary boost to the treasury. More importantly however, a lower corporate tax rate could create a greater incentive for companies to do business in America. More domestic jobs as business activity comes home.

Seems like most of the proposals to lower corporate tax rates are just more tax cuts so I say, how about accomplishing this goal in a more revenue neutral way? Lower corporate taxes while increasing taxes on wealthy individuals. Unlike the official corporate tax rate (aside from the loopholes) wealthy individuals are getting away with real low taxes in USA compared to other industrialized countries. Taxing wealthy individuals more and business less would create an incentive for the money to be invested in businesses, rather than just being hoarded. It could encourage wealthy people to invest their money in American business so that money could work in the economy. The money could go to creating jobs and business facilities in the US rather than just lining the pockets and overseas bank accounts of wealthy individuals. Let's have the economy spend more money on producing goods and services for the public rather than just buying things like luxury yachts and summer homes for the wealthy.

Problem is, so many of the wealthy and their pundits want it all. The seem to want nothing but tax cuts rather than accepting some tradeoffs.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Two bicyclists sporting just married sign in Vancouver gay parade, 2003

Hurray for this historic day when the US Supreme Court made two significant rulings in favor of marriage equality. Overturning California's anti gay marriage Prop 8 and also overturning the national DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). Significant cultural progress is being made.

Pictured above are two bicyclists sporting "just" and "married" signs on their bicycles. Image taken in 2003 at the gay pride parade in Vancouver, BC Canada. Canada has been a few steps ahead of USA as gay marriage has been legal for several years in Canada. Hopefully USA will be catching up.

In recent years, USA is at what some futurists would call a "tipping point" about the issue of gay rights. A tipping point is when change starts to happen in a certain area quite rapidly. Change happens slowly, but occasionally there are tipping points when things are ready for change to happen rapidly on certain issues. Society evolving into the future.

While I don't think I'm the marrying type, myself, I am a strong supporter of marriage equality. This is a historic day.

Remembering the 9 volt battery before there were that many smoke detectors

In the olden days, we used to use these type of batteries to power our transistor radios and other portable electronic devices. Now days, these batteries are often used for smoke detectors. The 9 volt battery.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I'd make a clickable band switch for AM, FM and Internet Radio

If I was to invent a style of radio today, I'd try to bring back the concept of the slide rule dial. Possibly using LCD technology. I'd also use the concept of bands. "AM," "FM" and "Internet Radio." Yes, Internet radio would be a "band" also. It would be selectable from a click able band switch.

AM and FM would work and could be used in areas without WIFI or internet access, or if people are trying to save on things like cellphone minutes.

The internet radio dial could look like a regular radio dial with stations strung along a set of numbers, but it would have to be handled differently than a regular radio dial since there are so many stations. Possibly there would be two dial systems for the internet band. One would be a search engine concept for choosing stations for the presets and the other could be the slide rule dial for tuning the stations after the presets had been developed by the radio user.

A fourth band for HD Radio could be included also, but it seems like HD radio isn't really taking off as a technology that well. If HD was seamlessly included in more radios, it might gain more acceptance among the public.

That's what we need for radio. A seamless radio experience that uses bands for tuning AM, FM, Internet and possibly HD as well.

Pictured above. 1960s, or 70s style portable, tabletop, transistor radio with slide rule dial.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My gallery for our 2013 WNBR clothing optional ride in Bellingham is posted on Flickr

Follow link to my Gallery on Flickr. Photos rated "G" will show and Flickr members can turn off safety filters to see photos rated more "R."

The ride was a great success with an estimate of around 120 participants. It was "low carbon footprint" fun. Protesting the shells that hide us in more ways than one. The automobile being one of those shells.

Above photo taken on Holly Street soon after police tried to politely ask riders to cover up certain parts. During the last few years, ride has been allowed until, supposedly, the first citizen complaint is called in. As culture evolves, quite a few cities, such as Seattle, are starting to make room for this event. The solstice parade, in Seattle's Fremont Neighborhood is becoming a major tourist draw.

In our society, eroticism is used to sell beer, cars and then weight loss diets. Why not use some of that energy to advocate healthy and low carbon footprint lifestyles?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Unwanted privacy

After enjoying Bellingham's clothing optional ride where exposure is cherished, I found a troubling message on my answering machine. It was from one of my sisters who lives in another part of the state. The message went:

"I haven't seen you on Facebook recently." "The last post was May 31." "Just wondering if you were okay."

I returned the call to assure her that I was still alive. My Facebook wall had gone dark to everyone except me. Turns out I had accidentally hit the wrong button and set the default on my posts to private. Privacy settings are close to the log out button so it's easy to get into that screen by accident. Everything I had wanted to share, since May 31, was met with deathly silence.

My sister realized that she may have overreacted. Wondered if I had mysteriously disappeared, taken ill or had an accident on my bike. She did mention that she had found a few more recent posts on Google Plus so she was less worried after that. She comments that she enjoys my posts.

I reset my privacy option to "public" and then re posted the things I'd wanted to share all along. So much for helping to promote the naked bike ride on my wall.

It might have not made that big a difference anyway as most of my local friends already knew about the ride from other means. Lots of folks were networking it all around town on their various social media tools, including Facebook. This was also a year that major media, such as Bellingham Herald, Cascadia Weekly, KISM and KBAI Radio spread the word. The ride was a great success.

Privacy isn't always a good thing, if one wants to have engagement with the community, promote a business or share one's opinion. As for the economy and business, this was the first year that Bellingham's naked ride got contributions from local businesses. Raffle prizes, ice cream and other things that promoted the businesses and helped with expenses. The ride is getting more established as a new part of our culture; like the naked painted bike ride in Seattle's Fremont District.

See below.

Art I recently found on Facebook.

I have nothing against privacy, however. It's just that I haven't been that worried about it while the rest of our nation broils in controversy about the NSA data mining. I've been more worried about not having a voice. One can say, "if the government is listening, I've got some opinions."

When my Facebook wall went dark, I wondered why people suddenly stopped liking and commenting on my posts.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Bellingham's naked and clothing optional bike ride 2013 was a great success

Over 100 people participated. The biggest turnout, so far, since the rides started in Bellingham. Rides in other parts of the world can be huge.

Lots of painted cyclists, signs and costumes. Fun dancing at the end of the ride also. I plan to share more as I sort images and ideas. Meanwhile here's a great sign that was part of the ride.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Yes, maybe we could cut "other" things; like those uneeded military tanks

Oklahoma Senator Coburn wants any disaster relief bill to be offset by cuts in other government spending. He even includes disaster relief that could come to his own state of Oklahoma. At least he's consistent, but I know one place they can cut which many in Congress aren't likely to support. Congress seems to be pushing a bunch of tanks on our military when even the military planners say they aren't needed. Republicans, from Ohio and other states and even a few Democrats are anxious to keep the tank factory in business even when the military admits it has enough tanks. Ohio is a swing state.

Friday, May 24, 2013

I-5 Skagit River Bridge needed wider shoulders

This is just my speculation, so far, but maybe the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River collapsed because it didn't have enough room for bicycles.

Allowed on I-5's wide shoulders in that region, bicycles must exit at George Hopper Road just before narrow I-5 Skagit River crossing.

Quite a few posts on social media have been comparing the I-5 collapse to the famous I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN. which prompted national debate about our nation's aging infrastructure. Republicans and low tax advocates have come under fire for our crumbling infrastructure, but they'll come back with a defense.

"It was an errant truck, rather than poor infrastructure that's to blame for the I-5 bridge collapse."

Even though investigation is just starting, it looks like an over sized load hit one of the bridge trusses causing the bridge to fail.

Maybe I should say errant trucking company, rather than errant truck. The route must have not been researched properly as the load was prepared for shipping. This is what I can gather from media coverage so far.

So, does an over sized load let our infrastructure off the hook?

According to an article in Bellingham Herald, bridge was listed as "structurally sound, but functionally obsolete" including narrow shoulders. My speculation is that the truck didn't clear the top girders where they are rounded down toward the narrow sides. If there had been wider shoulders, the fit wouldn't have been so tight.

That's my speculation, so maybe one can say, "if there had been shoulder room for bikes, the bridge would have had better clearance?" Bicycles are allowed on many sections of I-5 where there are wide shoulders; especially in more rural areas including most of Skagit County; except the Skagit River crossing, last I knew.

The only picture I can contribute to the blog / social media buzz about this event in our region is the "bikes must exit here" sign at George Hopper Exit in Burlington. This is last exit headed south just before the shoulders got too narrow on that I-5 crossing.

Most of the time, I use other roads besides I-5 through Whatcom and Skagit Counties anyway.

Bicycles must exit and use the Highway 99 "Riveside Drive" crossing. Now it looks like cars and trucks must exit and use Highway 99 as well.

Highway 99, has a nice new bridge even though it's not designed for all I-5 and 99 traffic. Another interesting tidbit of history. Steel trusses from old Highway 99 bridge (torn down before the new 99 bridge was built) have been used to construct Depot Market Square, where the Bellingham Farmer's Market is held.

Also, though not an afterthought, I'm glad no one was killed. Reminds me of the airplane that crash landed, a few years back, on the Hudson River, in New York, but all the passengers survived. A happy end to that story.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Naked and / or bare as you dare bike ride planned for Bellingham June 7 2013

Screen shot for top of page.

I've been helping Zack to create a web page with ride details.

Gathering to start around 1:30 near West Holly and I streets, follow signs. Ride, itself begins at 4 and hopefully ends with a dance.

They also have an organizing page on Facebook.

See more of my writing and photography from past rides under this blog label. Scroll down at that label.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Republican style argument for immigration

I listened to a part of the Larry Cudlow radio show. He tends to lean Republican and conservative, but some Republicans are changing their stereotype image on immigration reform. Larry sees immigration as a growth issue. People come to America and start businesses, work hard and that's growth. He's pro growth.

I'm kind of for growth also, but I think we also have to think about the limited natural environment. I'm not against immigration, but I think we need to learn to live with less carbon footprint. Like, come to America if you agree not to drive fossil fuel burning vehicles.

Larry pretty much dismisses much of the worry about our growing carbon footprint. He's a grow the economy person. I think we have to find ways to grow the economy without harming the environment and also find ways to curb world population growth; that is until we're ready to start colonizing outer space.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cutting Pepsi with unsweetened ice tea reduces sugar

A simple way to reduce the soda pop sugar problem. If the soda fountain at a restaurant has unsweetened ice tea, I get that instead of the sugary drink. Then I top it off with a little of the Pepsi or Coke. Just enough to cut the somewhat bitter flavor of unsweetened ice tea. It's sort of like Pepsi lite. Less carbonation and sugar.

If the soda fountain isn't self serve, I get the restaurant staff to mix the drinks for me, or quite often, I just have water. Water is healthy, but it's kind of boring. The unsweetened ice tea with a touch of soda pop is more interesting.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Austerity doesn't really work without deflation

In our economy, I don't think austerity would work without deflation. "Deflation" meaning the lowering of things like property values, salaries and so forth. This started to happen during the crash of 2008, but it didn't get as far as it could have. Also deflation brings lots of "adjustment problems" like people being upside down in their homes. In reality, deflation hasn't really taken hold that much. Housing prices are starting to climb again and rents have never really dropped that much. Health care costs, executive pay and many other "costs" in our society continue to climb.

One might think that austerity could work under the philosophy of "starving the beast." Just cut the flow of money and things come down. One might say that austerity could trim everything from people's unrealistic expectations about life to fat union contracts as things adjust to an environment of less money. Well, it hasn't really worked, or at least it hasn't work very evenly. Also, not that many people work under fat union contracts anymore. Instead, austerity has led to vast unemployment. This actually adds the costs to society that are associated with long term unemployment.

In spite of attempts at austerity, the cost of living, that most people face, continues to grow. Health care costs, for instance, have kept growing. Maybe slowing a bit, but not slowing enough. Many of these costs are driven by the continuing and relentless rise in salaries of corporate executives; for instance, I'm remembering the recent Time Magazine article discussing hospital costs and hospital administrator salaries.

Austerity doesn't really work unless there's true deflation and true deflation may not be desirable. One might say, "be careful what you ask for cause you might get it."

By austerity, I mean (for the most part) governments cutting back on spending. Government tends to prop up consumer spending, these days. With out it, we'd be spending less, but spending less needs to go hand in hand with deflation; especially for the percentage of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck and aren't living very extravagantly. For instance, people can cut down on the size of their housing, but in some areas, just a one room apartment can be costly. One might say, move to a cheaper area, but does that help our economy's efficiency's; especially considering where jobs are and the commute distances?

Without deflation, austerity just tends to add to the gap between the wealthy and the average person as the wealthy aren't willing to practice enough austerity themselves.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A relaxed time on the tea bus

I'm pictured, sitting in the background while a local musician is in foreground. We're having tea and conversation on the Tea Bus while it was parked at Farmer's Market in Bellingham. Pictured on the tea bus's blog. It was serving tea and community. I met some interesting people including the owner, Guisepi Spadafora. Tea Bus was also at Western Washington University where it made headlines in Western Front.

See about Guisepi's visit to Bellingham on his blog.

Posted earlier on April 13

Parked near the Saturday Market in Bellingham last week was a portable tea house in a van. The tea is free. It's a way to meet other folks and promote conversation. A slower pace of life. I stopped in and met a few folks. Nice idea. It doesn't have a fixed schedule. It will just come back "sometime." Makes its way around the country to various communities and events. The owner lives on less money than most people require. There's a donation jar, but it's hard to find. He is working on plans to run the vehicle with waste oil from restaurants. It was a nice place to relax and meet some other folks. Good conversations.

Interesting web site also Free Tea Party.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Summer is on it's way

And these displays have appeared in the windows of a local shoe store.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Public radio offers many choices in Bellingham

Mostly due to translators (or, should these be called "repeaters?") there are a lot of public radio choices in the air over Bellingham. I remember, back in the 1980s when there were nearly none.

We now have a translator for KOUW, Seattle's big non commercial news and talk voice. It's at 90.3; KQOW. KUOW also has "KUOW2" with similar programming. There's a lot of public radio stuff out there like "The Ideas Network" from Wisconsin Public Radio, for instance. In Bellingham, KUOW2 is on 90.7 and no need for a digital receiver here.

Then we also have 2 voices from Northwest Public Radio. That's another NPR station based out of Pullman, WA. NWPR offers classical music on 91.7 and news/talk on 104.7; KZAZ.

We also have a translator for KPLU in Tacoma. It features jazz, but I'm not much of a jazz fan so I tend to forget about that one. At least I'm not much of a KPLU jazz fan. Some jazz is more interesting, but the jazz I've heard on KPLU sounds monotonous to me.

Near downtown Bellingham, one can get KMRE at 102.3, the voice of the radio museum. Mostly old time radio music, but has a few features; like the Chuckanut Radio Hour; a locally produced drama.

I tend to forget we also have the voice of Western Washington University, KUGS at 89.3. It's mostly rock music, or maybe they don't call it rock anymore. Hip Hop, Trance, Rap, Techno, whatever. I haven't tuned in for a while.

We are close to Vancouver, BC so some of their stations reach us with ease, like CBU Radio on both AM and FM with differing flavors of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Mostly news and talk on 88.1 or 690 AM and mostly music on other FM frequencies out of Vancouver and Victoria.

For the most part, it seems like commercial broadcast radio is dying across the USA. Especially on AM, it seems like the hedge fund managers who have bought up nearly all the stations think that all listeners care about is sports. Who needs radio for that anyway? One can go directly to the game you want on the web.

While commercial radio seems to be dying, public radio seems to get stronger. In San Francisco Bay Area, a commercial station called KGO was top rated news talk radio for years until more recently when it began slipping in the ratings. Last year it was bought by a company called Cumulus which took off most of it's talk programming and sent it even deeper in the ratings. Meanwhile, PBS's KQED is said to be top in Bay Area ratings with thoughtful shows like Forum (run by a former KGO host) which I enjoy via podcast.

Monday, April 15, 2013

PBS TV over the air in Bellingham area

After years of not bothering to have a TV, I discovered that there is a PBS station that can be picked up from the air in parts of Bellingham. Folks with a line of sight view to the top of Mount Constitution, on Orcas Island, should be able to get it. Much of Bellingham sees Orcas Island across the bay.

We get the Bellingham area booster for KBTC out of Tacoma. It's in full digital HD on channel 28-1. KBTC also brings along WLD world news at 28-2 and TVW at 28.3. These sub channels are lower resolution, but still okay. WLD even rebroadcasts Al Jazeera News as parts of it's international news schedule. TVW is a C-Span channel for Washington State originating from Olympia.

In the past, just about all the Bellingham TV antennas could get was Channel 12. Channel 12 and maybe a few Canadian stations. Well, now there's more. Channel 12 is still on and it also brings along something called "Cool TV" at 12-2; rock videos.

Canadian channels abound also as I have a line of sight view to mountains north of Vancouver from my downtown Bellingham location. There's CBC, CTV and OMNI TV. Bellingham has a shopping channel and a Spanish station as well.

My antenna works inside my apartment so the signal gets through the wood walls at least.

I don't watch much TV, but having these choices made it worth while for me to go out and buy a 14 inch cinema style HD screen. Cost not much more than $100. My "old" TV is almost small enough to fit in a pocket. It's digital also since I purchased it in 2009. That screen is so small, I decided to upgrade.

I remember when my parents bought their first color TV back in the mid 1960s. They said it was nearly $400; in 1964 dollars! Electronics is a real bargain in the modern world.

Cable may not be such a bargain, but I just use my antenna. I still don't plan to watch that much TV, I'm not really a TV kind of guy. I'm more into radio.

Making the antenna is part of the fun. I found directions on a web site for my first antenna. Made from coat hangers and chicken wire. It worked for a while, but came apart due to my lack of things like a soldering iron to weld it together.

Next I bought a more professionally made antenna of similar design from Radio Shack; Only around $35.

Then I made my own reflector with aluminum foil. I taped the foil to the antenna and then laminated it with clear packaging tape so it wouldn't tear so easily.

Home made aluminum foil reflector improves reception. It also looks better against my wall, in my opinion. Entire antenna is around 3 X 2 ft.

Behind reflector is the guts of the antenna. Cross beam style elements like in my old antenna made from chicken wire, only this holds up better. The two connectors are hooked to a small 300 ohm to 75 ohm transformer which is available at electronics stores. Coaxial cable runs to my TV.

I don't watch enough TV to justify cable. My internet comes from DSL over the phone line. Only around $54 per month broadband including telephone service.

It is nice to at least have TV. 12 channels isn't bad. More than I remember, in the Bellingham of years ago. We're living in the digital age.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

North Korea gets in the way

Unfortunately, just as momentum is mounting to cut back on the US military, life gets in the way. N. Korea all but declares war on USA making cutting the military harder to sell. Still, do we need all those new 100 million dollar fighter jets they're planning to buy? I forgot the numbers, F-22's? F-35's? After while it's all just a blur.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Unofficial addition to Bellingham Art Walk

During the monthly Bellingham Art Walk, my friend Kevyn invited people on a tour of art in the halls at Mount Baker Apartments where he lives. A few of us met him at the door so he could let us in. Others lived in the building. Art from various sources displayed in the halls including some left in apartments after tenants moved out. See more images here including a view out over downtown Bellingham from the 8th floor.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Stopping at the red light can be meditative

Several nights ago, when I was biking back from a friend's house, a taxi driver called out to me from his window. He said I was the only person he had seen that actually stopped at the red light. I took it as a compliment. I assume he met the only bicyclist that stops. I hope its an exaggeration as it's pretty bad if bicyclists don't stop at red lights. I know quite a few run red lights giving bicyclists a bad name. I usually try to follow rules and I don't mind stopping for the little breaks in my travel. The pauses are meditative.

People will pay thousands of dollars to go to a meditation retreat. Not having that kind of money, I try and just make living less of a rat race by doing things like just taking the pauses for red lights.

Occasionally, tho, when I'm walking, I walk when it says don't walk. That's just because there are often more cars turning on the red than going through the intersection.

Most of the time, I don't mind stopping cause it's meditative and I'm not in a hurry; not to mention for safety also.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Weekend bicycling in Whatcom and Skagit Counties

Seed processing plant in Ferndale, WA.

And what a wonderful weekend it was, weather wise. I may have put 90 miles on the bike over the past 2 days. Saturday, to the Blanchard area of Skagit County and then Sunday to north Whatcom County. Pictures from rides around Northwest Washington over the years.