Saturday, November 28, 2015

Digester building being torn down

I've posted a few pictures of this process on Flickr as well as here. Waterfront. A friend of mine says that every once in a while they tear down some more buildings to make it look like progress is being made. Redevelopment of Bellingham's central waterfront is kind of a slow, many years project. Maybe not as long as the building of a Medieval cathedral.

See more images on Flickr.

Scroll down.

Bellingham Herald video. Toppling of bins atop digester tanks.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My thoughts on Black Friday

When I was in grade school, I was more materialistic and wanted nice toys. I was more simple minded than today. Our family Christmases were fairly modest, however.

By the time I got to college, I understood more complex concepts. My mom liked to say, around Christmas, "it's not the presents, it's our presents that matters," when we were home for the holidays.

Now I have no local family ties so I don't go Christmas shopping. My brothers and sisters still enjoy keeping in touch on line, but no need for gifts or the rat race.

Monday, November 23, 2015

So we aren't allowed to learn from other cultures? Political correctness gone to far?

Political correctness going too far? Free Ottawa yoga classes scrapped over fears that the teachings could be seen as a form of "cultural appropriation."

Isn't part of respecting another culture the realization that we can learn from that culture? How can American (or in this case Canadian) society value and learn from the cultures of India if we are afraid to do anything, like yoga, for fear of not getting it perfect? If we are told we shouldn't practice anything from outside our own culture because we will never really know what being in that culture is like, then we will never learn from other cultures. How can we respect other cultures if we are afraid to learn from them because our learning isn't totally authentic or perfect?

I think it's a case of the perfect being an enemy of the good.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A realm beyond space/time?

Interesting speculation, in this article, that there could be a realm beyond space (or even space/time) that we think of as such a rock solid foundation to our reality.

I like pondering these type of things.

As for finding evidence to fit our current scientific paradigm, one small part of this speculation could be tested fairly easily. The concept of the Kaleidoscope discussed in the article. If we are in one of the glass pieces of the Kaleidoscope, who's image gets repeated, we could see if there are parts of the universe; like distant galaxies, that look exactly the same as other parts of the universe. Like mirror images.

I would guess our current astronomical technology is not refined enough to totally rule this out. I would guess that we see distant galaxies that look alike, but we can't yet see the finer detail as to whether they are mirror images, or not.

We do see mirror images of the same galaxy in different parts of the sky due to gravitational lensing, but that's a different thing which is explained another way, unrelated to the Kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope is just one aspect of this speculation, but the idea of something beyond space could stand separately. How to test for those things? Good question.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Climate change plays a role in Syria and the rest of the world. All of the world's governments and people need to do a better job planning

Climate change is playing a role in problems around the world; like the situation in Syria. Climate change is an increasing reality, but all is not lost. We can do a better job of planning. We need to do a better job keeping our connection to the environment in mind.

There's been a lot of bad planning around the world and in our own (USA) foreign policy for sure. Governments all around the world need to take into account the big picture. Things like population, sustainability, water resources and technology need to be taken into account.

I doubt we were thinking enough about sustainability when we invaded Iraq, for instance. Seems like when we invaded, there was a lot of promises given for providing a better life to Iraqi people, but not much was said about how that can be done with the resources available. Can the population of the entire world live like American middle class, or does that goal just become another broken promise?

There are also, I'd guess, lots of aspirations associated with Arab Spring. Some of them are material aspirations and others are for more social freedoms. More potential for broken promises, but if we plan around what's sustainable we (the entire world's population) might start to do better.

Material aspirations can be really hard to achieve for the 7 billion people of the world, but more sustainable technology, such as solar energy can help. As for social freedoms, I would like to think that social freedoms don't have to have material wealth as a prerequisite. They can be achieved if people learn to put aside age old prejudices, resentments and out dated religious ideologies.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who buy's Isis oil? Insight from article in link plus some of my thoughts

Interesting article from Financial Times that explains much of what's behind the Isis oil connection.

My thoughts below related to these issues.

Militias and farmers, who fight against Isis, still go to Isis run petrol stations to "fill er up." That's how they run the vehicles they fight and farm with. Buying from one's enemy; especially if there's no other supply available.

I've often wondered how Isis can sell oil for funding their terrorism. Who's buying it? Turns out a lot of that oil is sold locally, to the various farmers and militias in the area; even militias that fight against Isis. Oil doesn't necessarily have to get as far as the global market for this cycle to happen.

Kind of makes me think of how dirty the oil dependency cycle can become.

Reminds me of the situation where, people in my own country, buy oil from oil companies that they often deride. The big bad oil companies, but people still need the oil. Where else can one buy it from? The oil companies aren't violent, like Isis (so I may naively believe), but they can still be manipulative for sure. That's how business often works.

In the case of Isis, they sell oil to people who, in some cases fight against Isis. Isis has the bigger guns so they end up shooting the people in the end. It makes me think of arms merchants that benefit from selling weapons to both sided of a conflict.

Here's another thought. Maybe we (the western nations, not just Obama) should have done a better job, early on, supplying more friendly rebel groups with fuel (I guess oil) so they wouldn't buy from Isis?

Possibly the good news is that we are doing more to supply the friendlier rebel groups now. Also Isis isn't good at long term planning. According to this article, their oil fields are drying up without the expertise of international oil companies to rejuvenate their fields through fracking and other advanced technologies. The Isis oil machine may not last for long.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Larger safe havens for peace loving people, but how should they be created? Does the military have a role?

I can see why many people in Europe would be alarmed about the situation with hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to get into Europe from Syria and other troubled countries; especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I would guess that, by far the vast majority of refugees are totally decent people; like you or me. Totally non violent. It just takes a handful of people, for instance 1 out of 10,000, to cause problems and spoil things for everyone. It's a scary situation even though practically all of the refugees are good people. Scary situations can lead to backlash as some folks react out of fear wanting to close borders and so forth.

I've heard that the British are trying to pursue a policy of helping Syrian refugees in places closer to their countries of origin; such as helping Syrian refugees who have escaped to Jordan. In the short term, at least, this might work better than taking in large numbers of immigrants right now. Taking in immigrants over the long run can be good when there is time to do it wisely. Also societies will need to function so new populations aren't isolated into ghettos. Find ways to integrate into the diverse societies.

In the long run, taking in immigrants does bring more young people to a society; for instance here in USA our immigrant population is providing young workers to pay into Social Security as our post war baby boom bubble reaches retirement age. Europe's aging population could benefit from this also; especially if it happens gradually. The current situation is more of a shock to societies, however.

Even here in USA, where we have the benefit of being across large oceans from most of the world's trouble spots, people tend to be nervous about large numbers of newcomers. It's kind of a human trait. There are people, here in Bellingham for instance, who don't want Bellingham to take on new residents. Not just immigrants, anyone. There are people who don't want our city to grow. As long as world population keeps growing, popular towns and cities, such as Bellingham, are bound to grow.

Setting up safe havens for people trying to escape the trouble spots seems like a good idea. What role the military should play is being hotly debated, of course. Not just our military, NATO and so forth. Most of the military involvement seems to make things worse, but there could be some better strategy. Possibly the military could be used to take some territory for setting up safe havens inside former Syrian land. Maybe help the Kurds set up areas that are more tolerant of the diversity in that region. This might help take some pressure off Jordan as Jordan isn't very large. The Saudis haven't been that helpful for sure and they could be part of the problem.

I'm just throwing out some ideas, but realizing any strategy could be problematic. I can see why people are concerned. It's hard to figure out a proper strategy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Restaurant Association comes out in favor of increasing minumum wage, but here's a catch, in my opinion

Restaurant Association of Washington surprises some people by coming out in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Good news for the most part. Often restaurant associations oppose raising the minimum wage.

Still, there is kind of a catch to their logic, in my opinion. The cost of living and economic conditions vary widely from region to region; even within one state. The Restaurant Association wants a consistent minimum wage statewide, rather than the inconsistent patchwork of differing rules from city to city. Problem is, the economy is not the same in prosperous and expensive Seattle as it is, for instance, in rural parts of the state, like around Starbuck, WA. Yes, there is a Starbuck, WA. located northeast of Tri Cities. A statewide minimum wage would, most likely, have to be lower than what would work in Seattle. That's my opinion, at least.

On the other hand, they do have some valid concerns about trying to comply with different laws in different cities. Also the problem of restaurants loosing business when they are located near the border of high wage cities, for instance customers going out of high wage Seattle to eat in Renton where costs are lower.

These are problems associated with wide discrepancies in the economy. Discrepancies between income groups, regions and economic sectors. Another way to deal with this problem, besides trying to set an artificial minimum wage, is to bring back a steeper graduated income tax.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Income disparity makes it harder to determine where to set interest rates

I would guess that one of the bad side effects of income disparity is that it makes the job of the Federal Reserve more difficult. Harder to determine whether to raise interest rates or not.

Low interest rates are supposed to stimulate the economy for job creation while higher interest rates cool inflation. Like stepping on the gas or the brake in a car.

Problem is, in this economy, wages and prices are stagnate for some sectors of the economy while wages and prices are skyrocketing in other sectors. Skyrocketing housing costs in many cities, for example. Skyrocketing executive salaries is another arena of inflation. Some things are inflating while other things are remaining stagnate. In this environment, it would be hard to know whether to stimulate the economy or not.

What will the Fed do in December? These last few years, it's a harder call than usual, I would guess. Another reason to address the growing discrepancies in our economy.

Rising salaries for top income brackets leads to things like higher college tuition as institutions compete with one another offering higher and higher salaries to their top talent in order to keep that so called talent from leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere. This creates a vicious cycle between institutions and corporations which leads to higher costs. In the case of colleges, the cost is usually passed along as higher tuition. Higher tuition is magnified in state supported schools as tuition must bear a higher percentage of operating costs unless state support keeps up with that inflation.

Salary inflation is a big factor in medical costs also; for instance.

Housing costs often rise much faster than most wages in many of our metropolitan areas. Sometimes rents will double in just a matter of a few years pulling the rug out from under people. This varies from region to region as well making it hard to set economic policy at a national level.

Meanwhile there is significant downward pressure on prices and wages in many sectors of the economy due to things like globalization and advancing technology. For instance, the self booking of travel via web sites has cut significantly into the business of travel agents.

It's hard to tell if the economy is stagnate or inflating from a birds eye perspective. Depends on who one is talking to. Less discrepancy of income could make it easier to determine this.

I remember the term "Stagflation" from back in the 1970s. Seems like that term applies today when parts of the economy are inflating while other parts are more stagnate.

One possible remedy is to go back to a more graduated income tax rate. This could cool some of the run away inflation toward the top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is Halloween just for the young? HUB party stays fun for all.

Dance party at the bike shop.

Seems like lots of older people don't do Halloween anymore. I'm not young, but I still enjoyed Halloween at The HUB Bike Shop; a non profit repair collective in Bellingham.

Maybe the bar scene, where much of Halloween resides these days, chews one up and then spits one out so they don't do Halloween in later life. The older folks get jaded and don't do Halloween anymore?

When I was in 6th grade, I thought 6th grade was the last of Halloween. The end of trick or treating.

Then, in my college days, I found the Halloween parties and bar scene. It was funky and fun. There was a few years in the early 1980s when my only trip to a bar, during the year, was for Halloween. I was never much of a bar person.

As the years went by, "bar scene Halloween" got bigger and more corporate like. Competition for the best costume, big prizes, high cover charges, 90 minute waits to get in. I stopped going years ago.

Still, smaller events work; like the costume ride and dance sponsored by The HUB Bicycle shop. It was fun for the young and young at heart. The energy was pumping.

Dance happened after a spooky ride through town where the course was prearranged along routes not normally open for travel; like riding around in the downtown parkade. We rode on each of the echoing concrete floors with bikers hollering and a boombox playing.

Why am I writing this now? I didn't get around to writing it earlier.

Paining of repair person behind wheel looks real.