Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hurray for ADUs, but some folks would just want less population growth

I like talking to many different kinds of people and I often change my tune, a bit, depending on who I am talking to. A while ago, I mentioned to a friend that Bellingham City Council passed the ordinance allowing auxiliary dwelling units to built in more single family zones. I was happy, but this friend was less enthused. He expressed regret that there was a blanket change to all residential zones. Rather than trying to defend the ADU vote, I changed my tune a bit and said that if population growth were to significantly slow down, there would be less need to build more homes. He agreed with that. He also liked hearing my slightly tongue in cheek comment that if more people were gay, we wouldn't have as much growth.

I'm glad there are more and more single and child free people here in the western world at least. The third world still has more population growth which we get some of via immigration.

Some people think it's selfish to embrace single living, but ironically, the best thing we can do for kids of the future is to leave them a world that isn't overcrowded. We also can do better to accommodate the population, like allowing more auxiliary dwelling units, in my opinion. Also there are lots of new apartment buildings being built in Bellingham's denser zones. Multi family zones. Lots of people keep wanting to move to Bellingham. There are several ways to solve this problem. Less population, yes. More density, yes. Maybe all of the above.

Friday, May 11, 2018

My friend who pirouetted from intel to retirement in Bellingham Washington



Here's a unique video. It depicts my friend Mark Allyn pirouetting from Intel to retirement in Bellingham Washington. Also I've included my own description of this journey based on the stories he tells.

Mark worked for Intel Corporation in the Portland area. His retirement plan was to move to Bellingham.

While his Bellingham plans waited, he continued working not sure exactly when he was going to say goodby. Around the time when he learned that the rent on his Portland apartment was scheduled to go up, he decided to set the date. This, among other reasons was a good time to retire so he gave notice to both his landlord and his employer.

Part of his plan was to ride a bicycle from Portland to Bellingham. He had his processions shipped to his new home ahead of time.

As an avid bicyclist, he had been commuting from his apartment in Portland to work at Intel's Jones Farm campus which is out in the suburban city of Hillboro. The last commute to work was to be the first leg of his bike ride to retirement in Bellingham.

Looking forward to this adventure, he showed up for his last Monday on the job. It was the start of his final week. When he arrived that morning, he noticed a few buses parked in front of the campus. When Mark got inside, he quickly found out that Intel was in the middle of a massive employee layoff. All the conference rooms were booked processing layoffs. The buses were there because they were still hiring a few folks and there was no space for new employee orientation as the conference rooms were being used to process layoffs. On that day, new employee orientation must have been like, "welcome to the company." "Now Get on the bus, don't look." "We'll take you someplace else for the welcoming."

On that last week, Mark could have been the happiest person in the company as he was planning to retire anyway. Thus this video. Dressed in clear plastic he did pirouettes down the corporate hallways. People might have been envious, or maybe they were wondering what kind of fool was this? They may have thought it was something to lighten the somber moment during layoffs.

His last day of work was the first day of his trip to Bellingham. That day started with his normal commute, but he was leaving his apartment for the last time. No need to return to the apartment where rent was scheduled to go up. Ready to leave the job where the layoff was in progress. Looks like the work-a-day world, he was leaving behind, was starting to deteriorate.

After the goodbys, he bicycled toward Bellingham making it as far his first motel stop in Longview, WA. It was a dreary, rainy afternoon as he left Hillboro and headed up Oregon Highway 30 along the Columbia River. He entered Washington State via the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Longview. As he ceremoniously walked across that bridge, clouds parted and the sun came out. A large rainbow appeared. It was truly a "we're not in Kansas anymore" moment.

His ride to Bellingham took several more days which turned out to be beautiful and sunny.

Since then, he's enjoyed doing lots of creative things and volunteering at places like the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Jobs and the economy can expand to accommodate immigration, but is there enough housing?

Trump wants to deport a lot of refugees from Central America and so forth, but this reduces the number of workers and consumers in the economy assuming most of the refugees are worker/consumers. Could make reaching his targets for economic growth more difficult. A larger population adds to the economy. On the other hand, it can also exacerbate the housing shortage. Seems like the economy can grow to accommodate more people as there are more consumers and jobs. It has a harder time providing the housing. Part of that is NIMBY ism. Good planning can address this problem. A larger economy can also add to the carbon footprint. That's where planning for a green economy comes in. Growth of world population is starting to slow down, but growth is still a reality.

Trump's new economic advisor, Larry Kudlow is a pro growth economist who has been a radio talk show host. He's been pretty much pro immigration differing with his new boss on that one issue. New workers and consumers add to the American economy. On his radio shows, he seemed to never discuss the housing shortage. He also never talked about climate change. I would guess he wouldn't be friendly toward ideas such as shorter workweeks or reducing the rat race of life. Personally, I think much of the economy is like spinning wheels on ice. I like to see progress in technology and so forth, but we can have less rat race. Again, the key is good planning.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Nobel Peace Prize often just goes to the famous, like even maybe Donald Trump?

Tidbits from a conversation I had with a friend at the Co-op. He's impressed that the Korean War may be coming to an end. Something disrupted that long gridlocked pattern.

I mentioned that there were people, at a Republican rally, saying that Trump should get the Nobel Peace Prize. My friend hadn't heard that. The thought was kind of horrific, in a way. Who knows what actually lead to the possible end of this standoff between the Korea's My theory is that Trump's somewhat reckless and off the wall comments could have been like the surprise thing that disrupted the gridlock? Who knows. It could have been a very risky move that just happened to turn out right; like tossing a rock, but having it land in the right spot as if not from skill but from chance.

On the other hand, Obama was very cautious, circumspect, not noted to try off the wall or much in the way of risky things.

Then the thought that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, a few years back, came up. I mentioned that I think there's a bias toward celebrities getting the prize so US presidents are likely candidates.

My friend, who's liberal, pointed out some of the darker things that people criticized about Obama. Drone killings and so forth. My friend would be more of a Sanders guy.

I said that possibly no recent US president deserves the prize. How about a good person who's less famous?

I do feel that people who get into power can have good intentions, but get pulled into making unfortunate compromises. Then I mentioned Canada's "darling on the left" Pierre Trudeau who's still backing expansion of Kinder Morgan oil pipeline. His image is becoming tainted on the environmental front. Then I said that the best way to stop pipelines is for consumers to become less dependent of fossil fuels. To become less money minded, maybe less addicted to middle class comfort values?

He said we can still do middle class living if we look to the sun. Solar power, electric cars and so forth. I mentioned my brother who has solar collectors on his roof and powers his car that way. My brother says he gets around half of his energy needs, including his car, from the sun. The friend I was talking to at the Coop has worked in the field of solar energy installation.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Two different connotations of the word "entitlement" confuse the discussion about things like Medicare and Social Security

Seems like there are two connotations for the word entitlement. One definition is something that one is entitled to; like if you deposit money in a bank, you are entitled to your money. The other connotation is the attitude of entitlement. That's more like someone being spoiled having an attitude of entitlement or the stereotype of the ugly American.

The word entitlement is big in today's news. People, on the left, don't like that word being used to describe benefits promised by our government such as Medicare and Social Security. Based on the first definition of entitlement, these things actually are entitlements as they are things people are entitled to. Promises the government has made to its people.

Someone can earn an entitlement by paying into the program, such as Social Security, but also an entitlement can be there based on a promise made by the government, such as for people considered disabled. This can be confusing as well, but they are both promises made by our government. Promises made to maintain civil society; rather than turning our backs on folks unable, for various reasons, to work enough to pay for the benefit. It's like insurance.

I think interest on the national debt can be called an entitlement as well. When people loan money to the government, they are entitled to the principal and interest that was agreed upon.

Due to economic circumstances, tax cuts and the large deficit, it may be hard for the government to meet all the entitlements it has promised. Scary.

The other part of the budget that isn't entitlements is called discretionary spending. The military is the biggest item in discretionary spending. It keeps expanding also. Other things the government decides to do like road improvements, new parks, science, or whatever, are also part of discretionary spending. Many of these things are vital, as well, to keep the country going and improving.

On the military side, I think veterans benefits are more "entitlement" than "discretionary" spending because they are a promise that has been made to people.

The attitude of entitlement (second connotation) complicates this issue as people on both the left and the right get these ideas confused. It's easy to have an emotional battle over this as the so called "spoiled" attitude of entitlement is very different from the idea that someone is truly entitled to something.

Since it is hard to keep all these promises, people may end up loosing things that they are truly entitled to. This becomes fertile ground for conflict and misunderstanding as the second connotation of entitlement; meaning spoiled, haunts the discussion.

Spoiled or not, we may not get everything we've bargained for. Hopefully we can still survive and even thrive with a quality of life. Let's hope society remains intact.

Our attitudes will have a lot to do with this. Less of the second connotation of entitlement meaning "ugly American."

I'm not saying that people should lay down and take being robbed, so to speak. Voting against ill conceived tax cuts and bad economic policy will help.

Still, in spite of our intentions, we may not get all that we bargained for. The numbers look ominous. I hear 10,000 Americans are becoming eligible for Social Security each day. Yikes. The Baby Boom generation, which I admit I am part of. It's a scary big number, but this is also a big country.

It's just money folks. Maybe we shouldn't take money too seriously. Live more for intangible qualities of life. New generations may be better at figuring this out. They can rise to the occasion.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

I consider myself a liberal who often doesn't use standard liberal talking points

This concept works as a sound byte so no more writing needed in the body of this message, I guess.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lust for wealth may have to wait until greener technology can be widespread

I think if people want to stop things like Kinder Morgan pipeline, we should become less concerned about material wealth. Less yuppie, I guess. This would take pressure off the social system; at least until green technology can do more to take the place of fossil fuels. Trying to stop the pipeline, while the economy is still dependent on the money it would bring, is more divisive.

Most of this pipeline is in Canada, but a branch comes into Whatcom County to our local refineries; a source of "family wage" jobs.

There's a plan to expand pipeline capacity from Alberta to a port near Vancouver. Major controversy and some even say that it's becoming a "national unity crisis" for Canada.

Expanding this pipeline would bring lots of foreign revenue to Canada and help fund the government, which Prime Minister Trudeau says can be used to fund the transition to green technology. Trudeau has been a darling to the liberal side of politics, tho this stance has soiled his image among environmentalists.

I thought of a cartoon with Trudeau dancing in the gay rights parade tarnished with an oil stain.

This issue is also creating a rift between two provincial premiers who are both members of the liberal NDP Party in Canada. The Premier of Alberta wants it built while the premier of British Columbia opposes it.

Seems like the battle is over the road to take for weening ourselves off of fossil fuels.

Trudeau and the Alberta government say that the road needs to be financed, to some extent, with revenue from the fossil fuel economy including the new pipeline. A transition strategy.

Others oppose the pipeline.

Seems like the need for revenue is a big problem. Maybe we should learn to live more simply if we don't want the pipeline, at least until other alternatives can get going on a bigger scale.

I think of issues, like the oil pipeline, as being symptoms of a bigger picture. Each symptom isn't as important as the big picture. The big picture is our dependency on fossil fuels.

I don't see Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as a monster for supporting the pipeline as he is walking a tightrope compromise. It's based on what he thinks is necessary to keep the economy going while also getting a carbon tax passed in Alberta and pushing Canada toward a longer term goal of green energy. Here in USA, we have Donald Trump who's rallying cry is to not care about climate change and basically only care about wealth.

We also have our tightrope walking politicians, here in the US, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Rather than being snagged by the divisive details, like a pipeline here or a compromise there, I tend to look at the evolutionary changes that society needs to make. The bigger picture.

Biggest danger, tho, of leaders like Obama or Trudeau is that of average people being lulled into complacency. A liberal who is still basically compromising to powerful business interests can lull average liberal minded people into thinking things are okay while the people loose track of news, go shopping and even forget to vote.

More important than nice furniture and clothing is still the future of our civilization and planet. The long term evolution of our civilization to a more sustainable economy.

Some people may think my lack of total alarm over one pipeline is throwing the indigenous people's, who are dead set against the pipeline, under the bus. There are actually quite a few of the indigenous people's who are for that pipeline, or even another pipeline, I have read about, called Eagle Spirit Pipeline.

Powerful corporations, such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline outfit, from Texas, have a way of manipulating the situation of divisiveness to their advantage. Human tenancies toward divisiveness and greed create fertile ground for certain corporate interests to manipulate the game, keep the people arguing and then giving up to go shopping while the long term issue gets forgotten.

The best vehicle for change is the consumer demand and voting power of the masses. Also the advent of post fossil fuel technology.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Facebook luxury liner continues to voyage through rough seas. I plan to remain onboard.

The Facebook luxury liner continues to voyage through rough seas. I plan to remain onboard, tho I know there are other smaller lifeboats; such as Google Plus. Google Plus is actually a very good social networking system, but it doesn't have the big number of friends. What I call inertia. There's another term for that which I've heard IT people use in radio interviews; "the network effect." Facebook's biggest draw is that it's where one finds everyone else.

I got the screen today about apps that might be using my information. It was interesting to take the time and learn a bit more.

Only a few apps showed as I don't do things like games. Just about all my apps seem to be behaving except for one which I did decide to remove. Something called Angry Birds. I wasn't even sure what that was and I usually avoid "angry."

Doing a search I found it and realized that it was the thing that put some cookie on my computer which causes my firewall to block it's access. A screen pops up every once in a while saying something was blocked.

That app is now gone from my list and eventually I'll figure out how to remove that cookie, or whatever, from my PC. It isn't that serious a problem. What they call a "first world problem."

Facebook privacy isn't a big worry of mine as I use that vehicle to literally "broadcast" my writing and photography. Things that seem to play well on the interactive environment of Facebook then go to this blog which also appears on Google Plus. Facebook is where my trial balloons go and then a few things get archived here or in my Flickr albums.

Google Plus does have a less commercially cluttered wall, but far less interaction, in my case. It can be a lonely world out there. Then there's also Ello which I signed up to a few years back to try it out. For some reason I haven't taken the time to go back. Eventually I may. Warning: it keeps sending me promo emails.

I am glad that Congressman Paul Ryan plans to not run again

I'm glad to see Paul Ryan go. He isn't running again, so he says. I guess it's easier to cut taxes than it is to cut the spending that he tried to cut. Of course cutting the spending means cutting things that voters need like Medicare and Medicaid. Those are lifelines for a lot of people. I think Medicare is the biggest slice of the Federal spending pie. I'm glad that lifeline remains intact. The second biggest slice is the military which is also a big piece. Republicans vote to increase that. Yes, we could probably figure out a way to spend less on medicine, but not the way the Republicans are trying it. This may sound simplistic, but I never heard Republicans say, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." That's a sound byte I heard in grade school.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bellingham City Council considers allowing auxiliary dwelling units in more of its residential zones


Entrance to city hall.

I am in favor of the idea to allow more neighborhoods to have legal Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs). This issue applies to many cities; especially growing cities. After a public hearing at City Council, I wrote some of my thoughts. It was a hearing I had to leave early from due to my work schedule so rather than speaking at the mic with a long waiting list, I write. Photos and writing on Flickr.

My impressions after the public comment period.

My own letter to the council.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Property taxes go up to help pay for McCleary court decision on school funding

At various social gatherings, people are commenting that their property taxes are going up. It's a consequence of the McCleary court decision. It's the Washington State Supreme Court ruling that our state wasn't funding K-12 education adequately. This year, they finally kind of fixed that, I guess, by raising property taxes for the most part.

Washington has no income tax, so it relies on things like sales and property taxes. The money has got to come from someplace.

Property values keep soaring so there's more and more money there, but property owners don't necessarily have the money to spend. It's all tied up in the property.

As property values soar, the cost of living soars so teachers, especially first time home buyers and renters, need more money to be able to afford to live in the communities where they work.

Prosperity has it's downside. The spiral of keeping up.

Some people question how much is spent on schools now. They often say that there are too many high paid administrators. Seems like that's a problem in just about every organization. I notice whenever they raise salaries for top employees, they always say that they have to keep up with pay scales in other areas; like California. They also say that the private sector pays more for similar jobs so if they don't pay these salaries, their top staff will leave.

It's the brain drain problem. The spiral of keeping up. It's like the NFL draft. A bidding war between institutions and corporations. A graduated income tax could help to cool off that vicious spiral.

Our governor, Jay Inslee, wanted to have a carbon tax to help pay for McCleary and reduce carbon emissions, but that didn't get far in the legislature. We do need carbon taxes, but like just about any tax, it's politically difficult.

The news can be a bit confusing, as usual. I do a Google search and find headlines like this. Governor Inslee signs 391 million statewide property tax cut. I guess the taxes went up this year to "fix" McCleary, but they expect the booming economy to generate more taxes next year so they can fix McCleary and also cut some of the tax hike; like walking and chewing gum at the same time (famous quote about former President Gerald Ford).

These same type of issues play out all across the country and to some extent around the world. A bit differently in each region. Washington State isn't just local. Each state is a microcosm of the big picture. Keeping up with the Jones's.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Face to face communication benefits from something I call the captive audience effect

What does face to face interaction have over online conversation?

Non verbal communication may be overrated, but here is something favoring face to face interaction that most people wouldn't think about. Something I would call the "captive audience effect." When folks meet in person, there are usually not that many people in the situation. A room full of people is pretty limited. Folks in a small group setting are usually forced to hear each other out versus scrolling on. Maybe "forced" is too strong a term.

On the internet, there's a lot more choices. There's information overload so people can just swipe to the next and to the next down the line. In a smaller setting, interactions are often a bit more focused and in depth. There isn't as much information bombarding the situation.

When you meet someone in person, you are sometimes surprised to find the person more interesting than your first impression. Online, your natural filtering works differently. For instance on dating sites, people often filter via numbers such as age, weight and so forth. In person, the stats seem to be less absolute.

I'm sure there are some cases where online interaction can be more in depth than in person. One problem that both online and face to face interaction have is distraction. Conversation and focus is often interrupted with distraction, in both cases.

In the big and fluid world of online, only a few household names rise to the top; like there's only one Facebook, one Google, one Amazon and so forth. In the brick and mortar world, lots of little outfits can survive as they serve their more limited geographic areas. The captive audience effect. With the whole world at one's fingertips, only a few household names, like Amazon, can rise above the fray of voices from millions all over the world. In the brick and mortar world, that fray is more limited. In the quieter fray that just comes from a limited neighborhood, more names can rise to the level of being noticed. More can be noticed even if they aren't "top in the world" as they aren't competing against the whole world.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Slowing down. A way to immunize one's self against fake news.

Slowing down is beneficial in many realms. Not only in physical space, but also mentally. Given the recent hubbub about manipulated news on Facebook and other places, the slow lane approach can be very useful. When one sees something shocking or preposterous in the news, be it a political scandal or whatever, it's good not to react too quickly. Give the news time to let the fact checkers work. Give it time to let the dust settle, so to speak. On my Facebook wall, I tend to not think of it as a breaking news service. I'm less interested in getting the scoop. I write more about long term issues. Taking a slower approach can be useful.

In many cases, if it can fit on a bumper sticker then it doesn't tell the whole story.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

How my original career plans got changed and I ended up in Bellingham

Planning for a career in radio, I wrote to some broadcasting schools during my junior year in high school. A fast lane into the field versus the more "scenic" route through college. As brochures arrived, my sister, Lillian looked over the stack and noticed that several of those private schools boasted of faculty trained at Washington State University's school of communications. Her comment was, "why bother with these schools?" "Go to the source;" meaning WSU in Pullman. Communications at WSU has a very high reputation across the country. Home of KWSU Radio and TV where my sister went to school toward the end of her college days. The WSU campus was next door to our childhood neighborhood.


Part of Edward R. Murrow College of Communications.

Interest in the fast lane of vocational training quickly dissolved to where I was making plans for WSU. Who could beat the Murrow program?

My mom still suggested living in the dorms, rather than at home, however. She valued that "going away for college" experience even if it could end up being dorms over looking our front yard. More likely she would have recommended dorms on the other side of campus tho.


Image my brother Bill took from the dorm over looking our house in the mid 1960s when he worked on campus.

Spring break of my junior year, the family took a trip to Walla Walla where my other brother Jack was attending Whitman College. That summer, he was living in a tree house; so to speak. Jack was the caretaker of an estate for a woman named Mrs. Studebaker. Her family owned of some local radio stations. If I remember correctly, the stations were KUJ in Walla Walla and KRLC in Lewiston, Idaho.


Bandstand in Pioneer Park, Walla Walla. Looks kind of like the Studebaker Estate.

We got invited into the "big house" for a cup of tea. Not the Walla Walla Penitentiary, but Mrs. Studebaker's main residence. Learning of my radio interest, she suggested I go to the heart of the matter. Follow the money. Get a start in advertising.

Following her inspiration, I signed up to be on next year's sales staff of Pullman High School's newspaper. It would be my senior year, but after that summer, I decided I was too shy and would not be very good at selling. I backed out of sales first thing my senior year when I signed up for newspaper staff. Had a very good senior year, tho, in the new Pullman High School building. I wrote a few articles for the newspaper.

Planning on college at WSU, I also applied to what is now called Western Washington University in Bellingham. It was a backup strategy just in case WSU didn't accept my application. Western was my "plan B." It responded right away accepting my application. WSU remained silent.

My senior year, I also thought about doing an internship at WSU Communications. It would be for the second semester, but jumping in that quickly was kind of a scary prospect. I backed out of that plan for several reasons including wanting to stay at the high school for my entire senior year. It was a very special year in Pullman High School's new building. I didn't want to miss out.


Pullman High School's very creative art teacher sitting on a student built throne in spring of 1973.

Back in those days, the concept of being gay was pretty much under the radar but I had an erotic fascination with slim men who had long hair. The anti war, hippie scene was intriguing. When I did come out, so to speak, my family and church were supportive being from a liberal college environment.

My sister Judith was a student at Fairhaven College; a division of Western in Bellingham. Ground zero for hippie culture. The thought of being among all those hippies; swimming in the campus pool and showering in the locker room was alluring. Pullman had its hippies as well, but not to the extent of Bellingham. Also the thought of going to WSU, was becoming more intimidating. It's a big school with a fairly rigorous reputation. Maybe I could start at Western, be among lots of sexy looking people, get my feet under me and then go back to WSU. Western was smaller and was starting to look more inviting. That thought started haunting me more and more. Meanwhile, the letter of acceptance from WSU had not arrived yet. Maybe I'd have to go to Western anyway.


Group pose for early World Naked Bike Ride in Bellingham. 2009 before the city agreed to allow more nudity.

Still thinking about WSU, I joked with my mom that I might get to know the organist at our church, First Congregational in Pullman. Besides playing the organ, his main job was head of the WSU office for academic probation. Probation is what they put students on when their grades are too low. Confidence was never my greatest talent.

Pretty soon that letter arrived from WSU. Accepted, but by then the scale of my preferences was starting to tip real strongly toward Western and Bellingham. A few weeks later, I made the decision and enrolled at Western. Figured it would be a good start for my Freshman year and then I could come back to Pullman and tackle Communications at WSU.

My thinking had evolved quite a bit. Having nervous problems through childhood, I first thought that staying in Pullman would be easier than going away for college. I even mentioned that on my application to WSU. Later on, my thinking evolved to the idea that it might be easier to go away for college, rather than staying in Pullman haunted by childhood memories. My childhood was pretty good, but I have suffered from an anxiety condition all my life. I was beginning to think that a move to Bellingham could be a new beginning.

After the summer of 1973, My parents brought me across the state to start fall quarter of my freshman year. Checked into the dorm. Being from a college oriented family, I had a fairly good understanding of campus life.

I changed my name upon coming to Bellingham. Not officially, tho. My official name has always been Robert, but in Pullman, people called me Bobby. I also went by Bob. Being a late bloomer, the Bobby name stuck among classmates clear through high school. In Bellingham, I'd start using the name Robert. It was getting to where I didn't like the name Bobby.


Name tag from a reunion with senior picture from the Annual.

More recently, I enjoy hearing people call me Bobby at High School reunions. It's fun to come back to the reunions after, say 40 years. I've come back by bicycle.


After bicycling to Pullman from Bellingham for my my 40th high school reunion, I was a guest on the radio in Bellingham. I was on a show called "The Joe Show" that used to be aired on KBAI, 930 on the AM dial. Progressive Talk. More recently that station has converted to a music format.

When it came time to register for my first freshman year classes, there was a glitch. Administration placed me in a program called Vicoed since I had shown interest in communications. This happened even though I had written on the form "communications, but not Vicoed." Vicoed dealt more with classroom media, film projectors and so forth for Ed majors. Rather than being able to choose classes, Vicoed students had a prescribed program.

My assigned advisor was a somewhat tired looking man named Dr. Shwam; chairman of the Vicoed program. His first comments were, "if you want to do communications at WSU, you should go there." "Western would just be a waste of time." "You should go back to Pullman so you can get in on the ground floor."

Well, I was at Western. It was a bit late to heed that advise.

I went to the class registration center and told the entry clerk that they had put me in the wrong cue. She said, "you can go on in and register for your classes now." "You don't have to wait to go in with the Vicoed students."

Back then, registration was done with stacks of cards. Computers were employed, but the card stacks were submitted to administration for computer processing. You'd get your class schedule in a day or two. Registration was a big scramble on the basketball floor of Carver Gym.


Part of Carver Gym during a recent remodel. Image taken 2017.

The schedule turned out okay. My sister Lillian commented that I'd learned the ropes pretty fast figuring out how to get out of Vicoed.

A few days after class started, a dorm mate ask me, "when does college start?" I said, "have you registered for classes yet?" He said, "Register?" I suggested he go to the administration and explain his situation.

I wouldn't be surprised if he did okay after that.

I tried to be easy on myself taking mostly electives my first quarter. One of the first classes I picked was introduction astronomy. Turns out I got onto something called the "College President's List" my first quarter due to high grades. College started with a bang, but my grades degraded, so to speak, after that.

December of 1973 brought the end of fall quarter and my 19th birthday. Lillian, arranged a great birthday gift. A personal tour of KOMO Broadcasting; home of KOMO TV and Radio. Tour was led by my sister's friend and well known newscaster Bill Brubaker. It was very interesting, but afterwards I had a strange feeling. Did I really want to work in a place like that? KOMO seemed a bit like an ant hill to me. Start at the bottom, not much room for creativity until one rises pretty high in the ranks. Lots of stress and deadlines.

As I walked back to meetup with Lillian again, I thought that maybe broadcasting wasn't right for me. What should I do? City planning came to mind as well as other creative endeavors. A lot of broadcasting does come off the national networks so opportunities for creative work are limited at the local level.


Back then, KOMO was in a fairly bland looking building. More recently the studios moved to Fisher Plaza pictured in this 2005 image.

Memories of an earlier tour of Spokane's KHQ comes to mind. Coming home from Spokane, one summer during high school, I was with my dad. We stopped by the old KHQ Radio TV building on Regal Street. One of the station's administrative staff greeted us at the door and ask what specialty I was planning to go into. News, advertising, engineering?


KHQ brochure from around 1972.

I hesitated as I wasn't sure. Basically I just wanted a general overview, but didn't think to say that in time. My dad beat me to the answer and said, "he wants to be the company president." The person leading the tour was a bit taken aback, but the tour was interesting anyway.

Eventually, geography became my major as it was the subject of most of my elective classes. I took a scenic route through college and graduated from Western in spring of 1978.

Since then, my life has had a low footprint for the most part. Being afraid to drive, my travels have been mostly by bicycle. I've bicycled across the America. As for a career of self expression in the media, I'm fairly prolific on the web and Facebook. I'm at www.theslowlane.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Facebook is a public forum for me. Privacy is less important in a public forum.

I tend to not worry about privacy on Facebook since I use it as if it's a publishing outlet. Basically everything I put on Facebook is stuff I would broadcast in the newspaper, so to speak, if the newspaper were willing to publish it.

Political manipulation is a big problem, but I think we can immunize ourselves from it. The responsibility lies on us as readers to be careful what we react to. As readers of any media, we should try to not fall for emotional and divisive things. We should give our reactions time to due fact checking and so forth. As the old saying goes, don't believe everything you read on the internet, or for that matter, the mainstream media as well.

Little folks, like me, don't have columns in newspapers, TV shows, or Twitter accounts that start national conversations every time they utter something; like in the case of Donald Trump. Facebook has become a public forum for me and it has the inertia of friends which provide feedback to my writing that is not available other places. I use it as a publishing outlet so I'm basically not looking to it for privacy.

I often float ideas on my Facebook wall and then put some of the things on this blog. The things that seem to play well there given feedback and so forth.

As for other social networking sites, I use Google Plus, but practically never hear from anyone on it. It can be a lonely world out there. I use Google Plus because my blog has a tab that allows me to share posts there. A few friends are signed into my Google Plus account that I seldom hear from. Also it does have one feature that I don't think Facebook has. It allows one to set the privacy all the way open to the entire web. One does not even need to be a Google Plus user to see the posts (if one uses that setting) so I guess they can even be cataloged in Google. I think, with Facebook, the wall can't be visible unless readers are logged into Facebook; except for fan pages.

There's also a service called Ello. Several years ago, I signed up for it, but haven't been motivated to look at it ever since. I'll admit I am part of the inertia issue that keeps Facebook on top. Only so many hours in the day. Ello keeps sending promo mail to my email address, but I get so much promotional and impersonal email that I don't open most of my email unless I think it's from a real person. Maybe I should give Ello more of a try. At least to try and turn off their frequent promo mailings if nothing else. Facebook is kind of the go to for real people. Inertia at work.

Friday, March 16, 2018

My thoughts after listening to interesting interview with Robert Reich on KQED Forum

Interesting interview on KQED Forum with a former U.S. secretary of labor under the Obama Administration. He talks about the decline in the feeling of common good. Rise in cynicism I guess. He basically blames greed, corporations and mostly right wing politics, but while I was listening, I thought about some problems on the left as well.

Here's the blurb from KQED web site.

As economic inequality has surged over the past half century, trust in government, corporations and democracy in general has dwindled among Americans. In "The Common Good" Robert Reich argues that to save democratic institutions, America must restore its morality and rise above spreading individualism. He joins us to discuss how this transformation can happen amid such political divisiveness.

Some of my thoughts about labor unions and so forth below.

Rising cynicism from things that are often thought of as from the left as well. Maybe the right is worse, in my opinion, but the left has its share also.

Here's an example. Idealism of the Great Society led to construction of large housing projects for low income people. Urban renewal. Much of this became crime infested places that, in some cases, had to be torn down. Today's planners realize that those big housing projects, which concentrated lots of poor people into big buildings in one part of town, were a bad idea. It's better to mix variety of income levels into smaller, more human scale structures.

Reigh talked about the value of unions. They have their good points, but problems as well. Seems like back in the 1970s some union workers made very good salaries but the unions didn't care that much about the people who were outside their union. It was hard to get into those good paying jobs. Apprenticeships were hard to get and so forth. The unions shot themselves in the foot politically as outsiders outnumbered union members. Now practically no one is in a union, but the few who are left do seem to care more about the general welfare of workers. Modern unions do care about minimum wage, universal healthcare and so forth beyond just looking out for their own members.

Another problem with unions was the rigid contracts and work schedules. Today's workers and economics call for more flexibility of work hours.

Gentrification is pretty rampant in left leaning cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and even Bellingham where the rising cost of housing is a problem. Also there's the problem of nimby-ism as well as the issue of hippies turned to yuppies.

I can go on, but those are just some thoughts that entered my mind listening to the podcast during my custodial shift.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

My take on the gold standard, debt jubilee and so forth

For discussion, a friend of mine posted a link on my Facebook wall wondering what my take would be on these topics. His comment and then my response below.

Robert, I'd be curious to know what you'd say about this. I think it is quite a lucid piece. It's interesting to see a right wing critique of wealth inequality. There are two things I wonder about: would staying on the gold standard really have helped ordinary people enjoy the fruits of their productivity? And is there a way we could do a jubilee that wouldn't wipe out the savings of people who really need them?

It strikes me that maybe he's creating a myth of a perfect America under the gold standard. But maybe the gold standard could have helped ordinary people enjoy the fruits of their labor. Can you see any way it would?


Here's my response.

Pretty interesting, but I think he is exaggerating the negative. It sells his book. I read most of the article (till into the book sales pitch) on my sleek tablet computer using WIFI at a laundromat. He was talking about how American workers have not benefited from America's wealth. I don't buy that idea in total as we are benefiting from so much new technology. The products we use today, such as tablet computers is one example. The internet brings great wealth. Even our public spaces, the parks, bike paths, schools, museums, public broadcasting is rich, in a way, than my childhood. I hear the average supermarket had around 4,000 items during my childhood. Now it's around 40,000 items (specific numbers may not be exact, but the idea holds). In many ways the world today, here in USA, is abundant and makes the world of my childhood look spartan.

The problem is that it seems like most of this wealth is not really accounted for very well. Much of the wealth we get from the internet is free. It's a benefit to the consumer, but how does one pay the worker when the product is free or at very low cost? More mundane things that have been thought of as necessities for years have gotten much more expensive. Important things like housing, healthcare and a college education. Part of that problem does relate to the practice of printing money. As the author of this article does point out the sloshing around of new money inflates the price of assets and hasn't done as much for wages.

Printed money is part of the reason why houses that went for $25,000 during my childhood now go for over 1 million dollars in Seattle at least. While assets like houses have inflated like crazy, the cost of a Xerox copy remains around the same as it was during my college years. This makes it hard to keep up with asset costs if one is working making things like Xerox copies or other products and services.

I'll have to admit I am not an economics expert, or like a friend of mine has says about himself, "I know enough about economics to make me dangerous." That being said, I think remaining on the gold standard would prevent the printing of money, but it would cause many other problems. It's kind of a pick your poison trade off. I think the gold standard is too confining for a growing economy and what we have now allows for more flexibility.

I may be suffering from biases created by NPR Radio. There is a lot of educational talk about the gold standard in the show called Planet Money. I heard one of the shows with my radio while biking around Lake Samish a few months back. Doing a Google search, I found several of those podcasts. Planet Money has done a whole series on the virtues (maybe) and drawback of the gold standard.

Going back to the gold standard would probably create as many problems as it solves, or maybe even more problems, I would guess. Instead, I think we just need to manage things better. Figure out how to better channel money to workers and less to assets. Taxes on the wealthy and more generous domestic spending can help; in the opinion of us liberals at least.

Part of the problem is when the Federal Reserve prints money, they try to aim at a balance of stimulating the economy without causing run away inflation. Problem is that they are looking at inflation across the whole economy and don't seem to be seeing that there are pockets of high inflation; like house values in many cities, while overall inflation remains low. People are hurting because certain things, like house values, go up while wages stagnate. When the things that are inflationary are necessities, it's a problem.

Better safety nets would help, but also the Fed may be pushing the gas peddle of creating money too much because they aren't looking at the things that are inflating. Maybe they should back off the accelerator to try and tame house value and other asset bubbles. The problem is that backing off the accelerator means lower economic activity and lower employment. That is why unfair distribution of wealth is a big part of the problem. We should have a better way to survive a slow economy. Better than tossing people out into the street.

In an ideal world, maybe they would back off the accelerator and let economy slow down. I am a fan of lower workweeks and striving for quality of life; rather than just material wealth. This could also help the environment. We, as a society, need to learn how to thrive with less consumption. Still have improving quality of life, however. It's how we organize society, wealth distribution and so forth that matters the most.

Today we have many things, like tablet computers, which have vastly improved quality of life, but they are not counted as wealth in the same way that a place to live is. Lots of quality of life things aren't even counted at all by economists. The time parents spend with kids, for instance. Too much of society takes money too seriously.

Debt Jubilee.

Speaking of taking money seriously, the concept of a debt jubilee is interesting. Things like this may have to happen and it would be hard to have a large jubilee without ruining people's savings on the other side of the equation.

In a way, there are small jubilees happening whenever there is a bankruptcy. By coincidence, last night during my custodial shift, I listened to a podcast about the post bankruptcy era for the city of Vallejo, California. 10 years ago, that city government declared bankruptcy which is kind of like pushing the reset button. It may have to happen in a lot of cases. Now Vallejo is getting back on its feet and thriving in many ways. Little bankruptcies can be absorbed in the financial system without too much disruption for most people's savings, but something big, like the US government going bankrupt, would cause the loss of a lot of savings. It can happen, I would guess.

I have some retirement savings in the YMCA plan. It would be sad to loose lots of that, but if everyone else was also loosing, we would all be in the same boat. Could mean cost of living drops also.

I don't know what the author recommends as I haven't bought the book, but my own idea is to cherish the life I live now and the life I have lived in the past. My bike trips across USA, for instance. I'm banking some on the future, but realize that the future is unpredictable. I've had a pretty good life anyway. I hope I have a good retirement, but part of my strategy is to enjoy the life I have today. Much of my good life has already been lived. Already in the bank of life experience, so to speak.

My friend comments again.

Thanks, Robert. Good reflections!

That helps me to understand how monetary policy can distort the economy in some ways.

I read an economist some years ago who said we should discourage home ownership. He said speculation in real estate is always behind all economic crashes, in some way at least. Real estate should be highly taxed.

But when I mentioned his theory to a lady at church, she said "somebody has to own the houses." Why not ordinary people?


My response.

I hear that in Germany there is much tighter controls on windfall profits from selling real estate at least. More controls if real estate has inflated significantly. Condominiums near central Berlin are a lot more affordable than in London, UK where those controls are not in effect.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Can life in British Columbia still thrive if Alberta cuts back on the oil tap?

Under the radar, here in USA, but I often listen to Canadian radio. This is big north of the border. Will oil rich Alberta turn off the supply to consumers in British Columbia? The threat is pushing up gas prices around Vancouver. It's about the expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline brings oil from Alberta to Vancouver area. There are plans to expand it, but those plans have run into fierce opposition in BC. Alberta's Lieutenant Governor is miffed. There's talk of cutting back the existing flow of oil if expansion is not allowed. This brings up my basic philosophy about dealing with oil consumption as a consumer. It's one thing to try and stop a pipeline, but if the threat of cutting back on oil supply causes one to quake in their boots, it's time to think about the role the consumer plays in this whole question.

I know, it's kind of easy for me to talk cause I ride a bicycle. Yes, I consume products from oil as well. Still, I think we need to figure out how to make society less oil dependent. Stopping a new pipeline may have consequences to the way our current economy is structured, on both sides of the border. It's up to consumers and voters to really make the changes we need in society.

Speaking of both sides of the border, there is a branch of Trans Mountain that comes to Whatcom County. It's part of the supply chain for some of our largest local employers; the two oil refineries just north of Bellingham.

Good discussion on my Facebook wall after this post.

John: All this macho posturing in support of massive corporate profits. Never mind that the oil sands are creating a landscape that may never recover, that thousands of folks are poisoned by the runoff from those open sores on the land, or that this is the dirtiest oil on the planet. We see clearly the power of corporations to manipulate governments to do their bidding, and the people be damned.

Nathan: It's a bit worse than that. A lot of the oil the new pipeline would move is already being moved by train. As scary as pipelines can be, oil by train is terrifying. No municipality in North America has a plan in place for dealing with an oil train getting wrecked beyond "run like hell and let it finish burning." Canada already had an entire small town obliterated by one wrecking. So as long as consumers demand the product, it will keep being moved, just in a far more dangerous manner. Stopping the pipeline is not stopping the oil, it's stopping a major safety upgrade. Consumption needs to be targeted, not pipelines.

John: True, but there is the transgression of First Nations lands...and that needs to stop.

Nathan: I agree we need to treat them, their heritage, and their lands better. But that oil is already going through or near their land. Shutting down the pipelines is increasing the danger to their lands unless consumption is reduced to stop the need for oil trains. Robert riding his bike does far more to protect native lands than all the protestors burning oil to drive out and protest what are essentially safety upgrades.

John: While I might agree, it doesn't change the fact that those oil sands should never have been exploited for environmental reasons and anything that can possibly reduce their acceptability may not be a wasted effort. Reducing consumption is definitely a possibility, but not until alternative energy sources are found. Not everyone can ride a bike everywhere and while Robert is truly an admirable individual with a gentle wisdom about him, his solution is unique to him and cannot be pushed as a universal one. The war against environmental destruction must proceed on many levels.

Nathan: Then there needs to be efforts to stop what allows those tar sands to be developed, and the pipeline is not one of them. The trains, or the oil fields themselves need to be targeted. Shut down the pipeline and you still have made no impact to production, and the only impact you have made to distribution is to force a far more dangerous method of transport. The current tactic is like protesting car culture by trying to ban seatbelts.

Below, my response to the thread.

Robert: With oil trains and trucks rumbling through native lands in many cases and the exploitation of tar sands, it is important to reduce oil consumption. Approach this from many angles such as voting in favor of things like carbon taxes. City planning plays a big role as we should strive to reduce the commute time to work and errands. Making density more affordable is a key as, these days, I think there are a lot of people who would love to benefit from urban living in neighborhoods like Vancouver's West End, but can't afford it. If places farther out could be built like the inner city; transit, walking and biking would be more viable. Short of drastic changes in our culture, the biggest driver of change may have to be technology. Something like solar power creating hydrogen fuel.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Hardened schools like missile silos or prisons. A bad idea for education.

Someone at NRA says schools should become the most hardened target in America to prevent school shootings. There are a lot of real hard targets in USA; like nuclear missile silos and prisons. Do we really want our schools to be that? On the other hand, vocational counselors often call for our schools and universities to be more open to people and input from various fields of work. Schools should become less like ivory towers so they can be permeated by the expertise from the larger community. Bring in experts from industry and other walks of life to help build that bridge to the world beyond school. That's not being hardened. We need to find better roads to school safety. Less compartmental thinking.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Why it's hard to cut federal spending. It's the lifeline for a lot of people.

Congressman Paul Ryan being grilled by a Fox News commentator about the huge deficit. Spending is still high. Of course the military got a big increase. He considers the recent disaster relief bill to be "temporary spending." I would say there's always disasters every year, however. He would like to reduce spending by cutting things like Medicaid. I would say that people are dependent on those things, like the 49% of pregnancies that are on Medicaid, so I read. Maybe they should just distribute the morning after pill since it's cheaper than bringing a child into this world.

I don't think they can cut the spending. Things like Medicaid and Medicare are the life blood to a lot of people. Life blood to a lot of constituents. There's always some disaster that they can't just turn their backs on; possibly more disasters, going forward, due to climate change.

Domestic spending is the price we pay for public safety and a civil society. They will need to stop kidding themselves and plan for it. Less tax cuts for the rich.

Maybe society can live cheaper, but Republicans don't talk about what really needs to be discussed, like the morning after pill. If medicine is too expensive, get more people to ride bicycles and eat better diets. Go to the doctor less. The private sector doesn't provide health insurance for a large percentage of our population which means its up to the government to provide for the needs of a lot of people.

Tax cuts for the rich? For the most part I would guess that is not helping the economy. It mostly goes to the idle rich. A few entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk, do invest in things that can help; like Elon's idea to help Puerto Rico turn the lights back on after the disaster by going around traditional power distribution and using more decentralized solar power. Hey, Republicans, I guess we have to do things differently. The old American way of doing business is at a dead end.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Even arming just some of the teachers is a costly solution

A discussion between our Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and President Trump is making news. I would guess that some conservatives are turned off by Inslee's seemingly preachy comment at the end where he tells Trump to spend less time tweeting and more time listening. That sound byte hits the headlines coast to coast.

Deeper down, Inslee made some important points about problems with the strategy of arming teachers. Cost is a big factor. Who's going to pay for the training? Inslee said, "I have listened to law enforcement who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law-enforcement agencies, which takes about six months.”

Yes, the cost of security, military and prison services tend to be among the most expensive functions of government.

I agree with Inslee. I think other strategies for curbing gun violence, in society, are better.

I'm kind of a news junkie so I hear lots of obscure things in the news and then add them to the discussion. Speaking the cost of armed personnel, it looks like the town of Colfax, here in Washington State, is having trouble affording it's police department. If municipalities are facing this problem for their regular police, imagine this extra burden on the budget of school districts.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

There should be a moderate alternative to the NRA

I've often wondered if a moderate organization of gun owners could ever gain traction at the national level. Could an alternative to the radically obstructionist NRA form? It would be an organization that supported the needs of gun owners for education, safety and so forth. Unlike the NRA, it would either advocate more moderate political stands on gun ownership, like supporting moderate curbs to the Second Amendment, or it wouldn't be as involved in politics. If such an organization were to gain a big foothold on the national level, it would most likely split the NRA as I think many more moderate gun owners would prefer the milder group. Maybe there is such a group, but it doesn't seem to get much publicity. Gun owners could still have an association with it's certification and educational benefits. They could even get the things, like discounts at hotels and so forth, that come with membership in large groups.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Schools should be part of the community not hardened targets

A terrible idea. NRA's Wayne LaPierre Says ‘Schools Must Be The Most Hardened Targets’. Make schools like nuclear missile silos or even more hardened than prisons.

In many communities, schools are community centers. Rather than being isolated from the community, they are integral parts of society. Lots of functions happen at schools and also, of course, universities. Instead of turning these places into hardened targets, we need to learn how to make society as a whole safer.

A school building at the heart of community. Memories of an event in 2010.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Carbon tax is a good idea, but politically it is even hard to raise enough gas tax to maintain the roads

A carbon tax is a good way to reduce global warming. A few places are starting to get carbon taxes including some provinces in Canada.

Governor Inslee would like to see a carbon tax in Washington State which the legislature is discussing. It's a hard sell, politically. For gasoline, it would be like a gas tax. I got to thinking that it's politically hard to even raise the gas tax enough to keep the roads and bridges in good repair.

Sometimes I gain insight from what Republican lawmakers say. A Republican state lawmaker, interviewed on Pullman Radio, said that she didn't feel the gas tax would go over well if people didn't even see road improvements from it. Kind of like a tax for what?

Most carbon tax proposals would pay out not necessarily in road improvements, but other areas such as cuts in other taxes like the high Washington State sales tax. Another idea would be Governor Inslee's plan to use some of that money to fill the gap created by the State Supreme Court ruling for funding education.

A tax is a hard sell, even if it goes to very visible and tangible road improvements. Ideally, maybe it would go to "transportation improvements," rather than just roads. Public transit, bike paths and so forth. Such a tax did pass, a few years back, here in Bellingham. Bellingham prop. 1 transportation improvement tax which went to bring back Sunday bus service and do other improvements with some emphasis on bicycles. That did pass within the fairly liberal city limits of Bellingham in 2010.

We do need infrastructure and how is that to be paid for? More deficit spending? How about taxes so it can be pay as you go? How about combining the justification for a carbon tax with that for infrastructure? Raise the gas tax and call it a carbon tax. Get better roads and bridges. Use some of the money for bike paths and public transit. Some car drivers will complain about even that diversion of funds, but better transit does mean less traffic thus helping the cars also.

I guess a true carbon tax would also include other forms of fossil fuel besides gasoline; like, for instance, natural gas used in electricity production. Well, we need infrastructure improvements to the power grid also. How do we pay for that? A carbon tax.

Another big use of fossil fuel is heating and manufacturing. I guess agriculture as well. Okay, we need to fund environmental cleanup. Where does the toxic waste "super fund" cleanup money come from? In Washington I think some of that comes from a tax on our oil refineries.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Republicans tend to be against both gun legislation and mental health funding

Looks like a few of the mostly Republican lawmakers are kind of on the defensive about the problem of mass shootings. They are starting to realize that just offering prayers and saying there's nothing they can do might not be enough. Also seems like quite a few high school students are organizing and rallying. Reforms are being pushed in two areas. Better regulation of weapons and also better funding for mental health. People argue as to whether it's about mental health or gun regulation. Looks like it's both. Yes, mental health needs more, dare I say it, domestic spending.

Friday, February 16, 2018

My photo included in Earth Magazine of environmental science



Photo I took at the 100th Meridian in South Dakota has been included in an article in the February edition of Earth Magazine. Article is about the 100th Meridian being thought of as a line of demarcation between the humid east and the dryer inland west of the United States. Interesting history from reading that article. Now days, it looks like the dryer regions are expanding to the east so possibly the 98th Meridian is more the dividing line due to climate change.

Photo was taken during my 1991 bicycle trip across USA. My first cross USA bicycle trip. I have a large collection of photos that are posted on Flickr. They are donated to Creative Commons License. Various publications will occasionally use photos and possibly ideas from me. This spreads my legacy farther than just my own web site or Facebook page. My major, in college, was geography so this is kind of fitting.

Below graphic from linking to that article from my Facebook Wall.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Should compost able plastic cups go into plastic recycling? The answer is NO.

Working as a custodian, here's something I wondered about so I did a Google search. Here's one of the articles I found.

Apparently, it is better to put them in the regular trash if there isn't a green compost bin. Recycled plastic goes into making new plastic, or building materials such as Trex decking. The compost able cups are made from a different material that contaminates the plastic recycling process. Best to put composting cups into the compost able bin with food scraps, but if such a bin is not available, I guess the regular trash. Lots of people wouldn't know this.

Learning to be good at the game of creating a more usable waste stream. Intentional living. Here is a set of bins at Bellingham Food Coop with examples of what should go where. Still, the compost plastic is not mentioned. Here, it would go into the compost bin along with the fork and spoon which, in this case, are made from a special kind of cornstarch that can be composted. Most plastic utensils are not for compost. Many recycling stations don't have a compost bin. They only have recycling or trash. In that case, I would guess the compost plastic is better in the trash.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Call Me By Your Name film sticks it to up tightness in society

Many friends of mine have been talking about this film. Tho I seldom go to the movies, I wanted to see this. Very good and thought provoking.

Spoiler alert. It's the story of a love affair between an American professor, visiting Italy, and the 17 year old son of the host family that the professor was staying with.

In some ways, it seems like this film is giving the finger to up tightness in our culture as the thought of falling in love with a teenager is frowned upon. However Call Me By Your Name is well on the road to receiving Oscars and is much acclaimed. It was my first time seeing a film at Bellingham's giant Barkley Cinema multiplex.

In the end, the professor heads back to America. It's a bit sad as the 17 year old son will miss him. A memorable part, to me, is the attitude of acceptance that the father, in that Italian family, showed during a father to son talk. He said, to the son, that the love experience the son had just been through was very special. Something many people would never experience. To be cherished.

I contrasted that attitude to someone feeling the son had been manipulated or molested. Different than someone calling the police.

There was lots of nice scenery in the film, not just the actors, but the landscape of the Italian village. A different value and pace of life than sterile productivity, I guess.

Some people comment as to whether there will be a sequel so the story can continue, or take a new turn. Who knows, but my imagination makes one up.

At the end of this film, the professor calls to report that he is getting married to a woman back home in USA. The son misses the professor, but the family congratulates him. In my sequel, they come together again and form a threesome including the professor, the Italian boy and the professor's new wife. I can see that freaking some people out, but it could be a nice continuation.

Trailer.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

In the competitive market of romance, even someone with the stature of an Elon Musk might not have all the right stuff

Human romance can be tricky. Even such a successful and highly regarded person, such as Elon Musk, has trouble finding the right mate. In this long and detailed interview in Rolling Stone (that I admit I haven't read all the way to the end) are some telling things about Musk's personal life.

From article, in one part, Musk discusses the breakup for a few more minutes, then asks, earnestly, deadpan, "Is there anybody you think I should date? It's so hard for me to even meet people." He swallows and clarifies, stammering softly, "I'm looking for a long-term relationship. I'm not looking for a one-night stand. I'm looking for a serious companion or soulmate, that kind of thing."

In another part, The New York Times has called Musk "arguably the most successful and important entrepreneur in the world."

I found this Rolling Stone article from another shorter piece that came up in Yahoo News from Business Insider.

Personally, I sometimes think society's vision of success is a prerequisite to the competitive world of romance, but this is not necessarily so. Success in one area doesn't necessarily imply it in another.

Being a workaholic can distract from human connection, of course.

Also, on a personal note, I must admit that I don't feel lonely most of the time. I'm not in a relationship and I seem to like living by myself. For me, connection to other people is still important tho. Connection to the broader community. This includes my erotic feelings as well which is another whole story. Similar issues apply whether one is talking about straight relationships or gay relationships.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The federal debt may not be that much of a problem

Looks like Congress may finally be able to pass a budget deal that lasts more than a few minutes (I mean weeks). This time, pushing the snooze button on "debt ceiling alarm clock" might have more sticking power. That alarm was a bit annoying and actually made things worse; like tossing sand in the gears. This deal might give everyone some candy at least. Tax cuts, more spending for the military, Medicare and so forth. It's easier to get agreement when one can provide, rather than take stuff away from people; especially when many of the needs are real. We can just add to the long term deficit which, so far, seems to only cause minor consequences. I guess Federal Reserve can print money to cover, if need be. Inflation is a consequence, but overall inflation has been low for a long time. In certain metro areas, housing inflation has been strong and that can spread to other parts of economy as wages go up, though.

People worry about future generations being buried in debt, but future generations will do just fine. If inflation is a problem, they can just move the decimal point over in their money. The dime can become the new penny. Maybe even the dollar will become the new penny. Future generations can start from there and will not likely know the difference.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Low interest rates enabled some bad policy during Bush JR term as well

Hannity blaming everything on Obama. The cheap money of super low interest rates are a problem, but this was happening for the Bush Administration also.

Federal Reserve policy, about the money supply, is pretty much independent of the president. Low interest rates have persisted, mostly to try and push up employment. Maybe shorter workweek and somewhat more modest expectations are better? It's America's addiction to money. Wealth is good, but so is balance. Cheap money has pushed up house values and the cost of living. It's enabled government spending making it easier for whoever is president. This isn't necessarily all bad, but can be problematic. Now, the prospect of wider spread inflation is knocking at the door.

Stock market takes a hit. Blue region economies don't need red region strategy of stimulus. Parts of economy may already be overheated.

Stock market drop, February 5 2018. Trump and Republicans loose a talking point.

There's lots of different opinions as to why the market is dropping. I've got my take also.

People say the market is nervous about the threat of inflation. Inflation could mean interest rates would need to go up to curb inflation and that is often depressing news for stocks.

Yes, inflation is becoming more widespread, but us in "blue state," or more accurately "blue cities" America have known about inflation for a long time. Housing costs have been soaring in many of our metro areas. This creates pressure to raise wages; such as here in Washington State where minimum wage is now up to $11.50 per hour. After all, workers do need to be able to afford to live. What a concept. This does, however spread inflation farther. The cost of a burger and fries will go up as the employees, who serve it, get paid more. Maybe their wages will start to catch up with the cost of housing, healthcare and even college. It's like "what goes around, comes around." The blue cities have been dealing with inflation and prosperity for years.

Red State America is where most of the politicians come from and, for the most part, they don't even care or listen to what's happening in blue state America. The economy tends to be more stagnate in red regions so they still think we need to stimulate the economy. They push tax cuts.

Well, now we're dumping money into the private sector with tax cuts, but for the most part the economy is already booming. It's booming in the blue metros at least. Unemployment is down. Is this the time to be doing stimulus? Maybe not. Too much stimulus is inflationary.

Now investors have two big worries. Growing federal debt and an overheated inflationary economy. Interest rate hikes may be needed to keep a lid on things.

Liberals talk about stimulus also, but they usually talk about government spending on infrastructure for stimulus. When the economy gets rolling, then even writers, like Paul Krugman, do talk about cutting back on the stimulus.

I hate to oversimplify by saying liberals think this and red state people think that so bear with me. I know it's more complex, but this is a Facebook post (I first posted this on Facebook). How many bites do I have left?

Even though the economy is starting to boom and unemployment tends to be low, there is still trouble leading people to keep wanting stimulus. Stimulus like tax cuts or more government spending. It's sort of like we are an addict needing yet another "money fix." Reason for this problem is that even during prosperous times, many people can barely make ends meet. The income gap is leaving lots of folks behind in the dust of prosperity. In blue states, we tend to realize that inequality is a big problem. We need more than just prosperity, we need a more sustainable and fairer economy. In some cases maybe even more taxes for things like affordable housing and healthcare. A more balanced deal.

Friday, February 02, 2018

My first time at Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon



Outside the Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon. Autumn 2015 during one of my bike trips in the area.

First time I was inside Lincoln was November 2017 for the Betty Desire Coming Home Show when friends brought me to the show by car. One of our group got this image. I'm third person from the left. Memories from a few months back.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

But few people really understand what clean coal would be

In Trump's first state of the union speech he mentioned "clean coal." I got to thinking that very few people know what clean coal is. Practically no one, on the big national stage including Trump himself, explains clean coal. There is such a concept, but whether clean coal is economically viable, or not, is a very good question. Clean coal may still not compete with solar energy. In other words, solar might be lots better.

Clean coal basically means sequestering the carbon dioxide back in the ground, rather than having it go into the atmosphere. It means still using coal, but capturing the carbon dioxide from the flu gases and figuring out how to stash it away without it going into the atmosphere to cause global warming. An expensive prospect, but I think there's people in the energy industry, doing research on this.

Of course, there are still lots of people who don't believe global warming is happening anyway so that taints Republican ideas for sure.

If clean coal were to work, we could still use our vast coal deposits for energy, rather than having them turn into what's often called "stranded assets." Stranded assets are deposits that the energy companies own that they can't use. It's something lots of big companies would like to do as they have lots of coal and oil deposits on the books.

Still, it's more expensive than just letting the carbon pollute our atmosphere. It may even be more expensive than just developing solar power.

People are easily confused because true clean coal would do the difficult job of sequestering the carbon, but there's other types of coal power that are often called clean coal. Those types of power just scrub the dirty particulate matter out of the flu gas; the dust, and stuff that cause health hazard. That's fairly easy to do and is often called clean coal, but it doesn't take out the carbon dioxide, which is the greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide isn't poisonous to us and it's invisible. We can't smell it, but it causes global warming. Just taking out the particulate pollution is not really clean in terms of global warming.

Trump's speach pulls at heartstrings, but are the policies good?

Listened, on radio to Trump's state of the union message. He and his handlers, do know how to tug at the heart strings. Common for that type of speech. The way North Koreans treated that student who they detained and who later died was despicable. His parents in the chamber. Can bring tears to my eyes.

I'm sure there's plenty to criticize about the policies. I'll await various pundits discussing on tomorrow's NPR shows such as The1A and On Point.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Brain drain worry. Keeping up with peer institutions make college less affordable.

My earlier post is about memories of an era when college was more affordable.

Many people are wondering what happened. Why is college so much more expensive these days? Lots of theories, I guess.

I think a big part of the problem is another manifestation of growing income disparity. So many jobs that are low wage compared to the higher paid professional jobs. I remember a period, in the 1980s and 1990s, when there was quite a bit of worry that faculty pay at universities was falling behind pay in other states and other types of business. There were attempts to boost pay scales for the sake of talent retention. This added to the cost of running the school and, at the same time, the states were basically lowering the percentage they paid for the cost of running state colleges. Tuition had to carry a higher percentage.

Even though, I guess, total numbers are higher now, percentages are different. When I was in school, I think a full 70% of cost for running the college came from the state. Now it's more like only 40%. More total money from the state, than before, but lower percentage which makes a big difference.

Also it seems like the split within universities is more pronounced with college presidents and top administrators making a lot more while entry level and adjunct faculty barely get by.

Mounting costs for certain things, like healthcare and housing, add to this problem making living expenses for students more expensive while rising healthcare costs eat into state budgets; part of the reason why today's percentages are different in state budgets. The growing income gaps are not serving us well.

Below is a chart I found in a PDF file from WWU. It shows decline in percent of budget from state quite well. This isn't taking into account the figures for money from grants, Western Foundation and so forth. If that was figured in I don't know. Maybe less than 40%? It does look like the percentage from the state is making a comeback in most recent years.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Can we still afford the curriculum of general university requirements?

I think if I were in my 20s today, I wouldn't go to college. My confidence in the marketability of my skills isn't that high so I wouldn't want to incur a huge debt. Some other people have a clearer vision toward a lucrative career, but without that, the debt may not be worth it.

Back when I did go to college, the costs were much lower. My parents were able to pay my way so I graduated with no debt. They were only slightly upper middle class. If I couldn't have my way paid today, I doubt I would go. Instead I would live my life, kind of like I am living it now, looking for quality of life things that are low cost. I'd be spending some time at the university anyway, attending free discussions. Also I would be taking advantage of educational things in the community and on the net. Listening to a lot of NPR podcasts as I do now.

My mom was a strong believer that college should be about more than just preparing for a job. It's the virtue of being an informed citizen. She believed in the balance of humanities and sciences. Her own major was physical education, but she never used it vocationally. She did lots of volunteer work and was married to my dad who was a science professor at WSU in Pullman. I feel fortunate to have been brought up in that family; a situation made possible by affordable education.

While I was going to college, I did have my own struggle with humanities requirements. I was never much of a reader. I'm definitely not a speed reader. Some of the general education requirements seemed irrelevant to me back then. Kind of distant and theoretical. I had my own humanities issues dealing with campus life, coming out as a gay person and so forth. My own life situations spoke so loud to me that I had trouble putting my life experiences aside enough to concentrate on the classics. I knew that there are insights one could get from that study, but it was hard for me to make that connection.

Fortunately, when I got to college here at WWU in Bellingham, they had just done a major revamp of their general university requirements; the GURs. They were starting to put aside a fairly rigid GUR curriculum and were adopting more of a smorgasbord system with a lot of choices to fill each GUR category. They offered choices in several categories of sciences, humanities, and ethnic studies. Ethnic studies was a new addition, I think. The definition of a well rounded education keeps evolving. We had a certain number of classes required from each category. Lots of choices. I tried to avoid classes that had a heavy reading load. The system worked pretty well and I made it through. That was back in the mid 1970s.

Back then, WWU was facing a very different situation than it is today. When I entered college, the student enrollment was going down. Imagine that today as these days they turn away students and face enrollment ceilings. Part of the reason for the shortage of students was their rigid system of humanities requirements which is a big reason why they were adopting the more open "choice" system. Demographics effected enrollment also as the Vietnam war was winding down and the push of people going to college for draft deferment was basically over. They had more faculty than the enrollment could justify so they were under some pressure, from the state, to boost enrollment and also lay off faculty and staff. They had a program called RIF meaning "reduction in force." People nicknamed that "ripoff in force." Eventually, as I got toward graduation, enrollment was going up again and the situation was stabilizing.

There's been lots of history since then, but I thought I would share my own college experience. I think I did get a good education with a variety of topics. A broad based education, but also a lot of choice within the parameters as I tried to take classes that interested me. I was glad to be able to take lots of electives. Took me 5 years to get a 4 year degree. I was able to go "the scenic route" so to speak.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Open house at Granary Building on Bellingham's waterfront



Screenshot photo from my Facebook post after the January 17 open house and planning discussions. It was good to see the inside of that building they have been working on. What I wrote and my photos are also in my Granary tag on Flickr.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Yes, I guess the Democrats are flilibustering, but there's a way around

Republicans are blaming Democrats for the government shutdown because Democrats are basically filibustering the debt ceiling bill until it includes relief from deportation for the Dreamer people. President Trump kind of started this problem by using executive action to try and deport Dreamer people until legislation can be passed to resolve the issue. I would guess that an easy way out of this impasse, now, is for Trump to delay, or totally scrap, the executive action on deportation. Maybe delay it by a year or even half a year? That should take the pressure off that issue so the government can reopen. Then Congress can continue to try and resolve that issue. He's probably afraid that Congress will be run by Democrats next year.

Friday, January 19, 2018

If federal government were drowned in a bathtub, the west coast blue states might form their own country?

Some conservatives say that they want to shrink government down to where it can be drowned in a bathtub. I got to thinking, if the Federal Government capitulates the the states can form their own countries. Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada are a big cluster of what are called "blue states." That would be a great country. Things like Social Security could be handled by our state, or "left coast" country.

Maybe the US is too big to govern; especially if any one political party totally dominates. I wouldn't want to see USA break apart, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all.

As for the red and blue political divide, that situation wouldn't be solved, tho, as there is a lot of red and blue in each region. Rural areas tend to be more red, urban areas, even in Texas, tend to be more blue.

The idea of red blue divide is pretty stark as I know folks who could be classified as red that are basically nice people even though I'd be mostly classified as blue. I tend to not wish to divide people too much. Still, just the size of the country is a factor. Aside from the red blue divide, it could be that smaller countries work better anyway.

Who would pay off the federal debt? Everyone would just walk away from it. Sounds tempting, but I know it wouldn't necessarily be that simple.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shithole countries sounds like a comment some people would say after a few beers

This column, by Rex humppke in the Chicago Tribune, lays it on pretty strong. He might not like my first response to Trump's "shitholes" comment either, even though I am not a Trump supporter. My response is that the shitholes comment sounds like something a few people, I know, might say around the water cooler, or after they'd been to the bar for a while. I think there is lots of off the cuff, derogatory talk among people in general, but we aren't used to hearing it from the president of the United States. Ideally, it would be nice to strive toward civility. Authenticity and honest expression of feelings can be a virtue, but there is an awful lot of negativity going around.

T shirt for I ❤️ Shithole Countries. Seen at Bellingham Peace Vigil. Things like T shirts come out fast these days. Focus of my camera isn't the best in low light, in a hurry at least.


Friday, January 12 2017.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Paying the rent by selling xerox copies, or other things, more an improbability in today's economy

Interesting how the price of a xerox copy hasn't changed much since my college days in the late 1970s. Around 5 cents. Back then, making copies usually met putting nickles in the copy machine. There were a lot of them located in Wilson Library at WWU. A few places were more expensive. The copy machine at the City Library was 10 cents a copy.

Late 70s early 1980s saw the advent of retail copy outlets. Buying in bulk could get the price lower; like 3 cents a copy. There hasn't been much inflation in the world of xerox copies and many other goods and services that make up our economy and provide wages. That's probably why wages tend to be lagging behind inflation. For large segments of the workforce, wages are based on the price that businesses can get for the goods and services they provide. Technological advance, outsourcing, and competition tends to keep prices down. In some fields, like computers, prices drop.

Meanwhile prices in just a few sectors of the economy have gone up. For instance housing. When I was in college, I rented a room in Bellingham for $55 per month. That was a pretty good price even back then, but it would be unthinkable today. Healthcare is a lot more expensive also. Another big change is tuition at colleges. No wonder people who work providing inexpensive goods and services have trouble affording these things.

Somehow, we need to deal with the growing gaps in our economy. The discrepancies between various sectors. This isn't necessarily the problem of inflation or stagnation.

Seems like part of the problem is that we look at the economy as if were one monolithic block. Then we ask does it need stimulation or do we need to damp down inflation? Problem is, the economy is not one monolithic block. One set of gas or brake peddles no longer makes sense. Today's problem relates to the vast and growing discrepancies between different people and sectors of the economy. That needs to be addressed through various means such as graduated taxes.

This problem has many implications such as battles over where to set the minimum wage where one side wants to raise it so people can afford to live while the other side says it will cost jobs since businesses may not be able to raise their prices accordingly. This especially may effect small business and businesses where the top executives don't make huge salaries. Of course in the businesses where the top makes huge salaries, they can redistribute within the business, but not all businesses are in that position.

Another implication of this problem is environmental. People often feel that the road back to being able to afford the cost of living is increasing prosperity. Just sell more stuff. Problem is we are drowning in stuff and revving up the economy has serious implications for things like the carbon footprint. Serious implications for our psychology as well if life becomes a rat race filled with overtime work. We really need to figure out how to have quality rather than quantity when it comes to prosperity. Part of quality is less discrepancy in wages, prices and so forth within the economy.