Thursday, December 29, 2005

Are Our Civil Liberties Being Eroded by Working Too Much?

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin.

That quote is quite popular these days. Floating all around the Internet as well as on various radio talk shows, letters to the editor and the like.

I recently heard one talk show host ask, "why aren't people more outraged?" "Why aren't folks marching in the streets?"

Well, this might not be your typical answer, but it's true.

People are just too busy, working full time, or overtime.

Folks are too busy just commuting to their jobs. Getting up early in the morning, fighting traffic, arriving at home real late. Were is the time, or the energy, for anything else?

It seems like many are willing to give up liberty in exchange for security and creature comfort. Nice homes, higher paying jobs, good retirement plans. Is the price our liberty? Is there any time left for living?

Of course some people love their work so much that doing the job can be pure liberation, but others spend much of their lives doing work just to pay the bills not to mention all that time spent sitting in traffic.

I recently went to a web page of Franklin Quotes. The first quote to come up was that famous one about essential liberty and temporary safety. The next quote to come up is this:

"Eat to live, not live to eat."

Have people sold out their lives to so called financial security? Are they working themselves to death?

There is a growing movement to "Take Back Your Time," or at least take back some of it. How about a shorter workweek? How about longer vacations? More time for family, friends and community and activism. More time for a better world.

Here is a link to this friend's new blog.

People For A Shorter Workweek.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Demise of the Bellingham Weekly?

Maybe I am "kicking a dog when she's down," but I must say I didn't read much of the Weekly while it was publishing.

Recent headlines in other media, such as the Whatcom Independent, have brought news of problems at the Bellingham Weekly. Financial difficulties and some conflict between co-owners.

A bit too complicated for me to try and contemplate. Maybe it will rise again.

I just know that there are a lot of alternative publications around town, not to mention (of course) blogs and web sites.

I think Bellingham Herald has been the largest over the years, but I once heard that Bellingham Weekly printed more copies. It was offered free around a large area of Northwest Washington, published weekly while the Herald is by subscription and published daily. The Herald has a good amount of it's content on-line for no charge.

Maybe one could view the Herald as the "big corporate owned ship." It's a ship around which the various alternative papers swim. Ironically, I still find the "mother ship" can be most interesting. Being daily, it has the most "elbow room" for printing letters to the editor and including lots local people in the news.

I have a big interest in the "city planning" news. That seems to be strong in both the Herald and the Whatcom Independent.

I got the feeling that there was an attitude, around the Weekly, (also around many weeklies in other cities) that the "world is going to hell in a hand basket." "Corporations and the military industrialists have taken over so we might as well head down to the local pub and drown our sorrows in the latest micro brew." Thus, weeklies will often lean toward arts and entertainment news. Rock bands at local bars and so forth.

Sometimes I find the club scene a bit alien.

Nothing wrong with it, however. Everyone has their own set of tastes.

Bellingham has a lot of publications including a glossy magazine called Entertainment News Northwest. One should also remember "The Betty Pages," put out monthly for alternative lifestyles by local drag performer Betty Desire. There are business papers and college papers and many other kinds of papers.

As for "elbow room" one finds plenty of that on the net. I sometimes wonder if "paper" media is becoming too limited, in this age when there are so many voices. Too many voices for the money and space of "paper" pages?

The Internet is sort of like "infinite space." There is plenty of room on the Internet, but does it make one "a lost voice in the wilderness?"

I don't think so.

Search engines are amazing things. Amazing at matching up ideas and enthusiasts. A way to reduce that "lost voice in the wilderness" thing. Search engines tailor the media to you.

Speaking of you, Bellingham used to have a paper by that name. That was before the Internet days.

Back then, I was in college, I lived at a rooming house on High Street. The new publication called "YOU," "You Magazine," or something like that was around.

It must have felt that it was "The News Tailored To You."

Didn't last long, however.

One day, my rooming house manager found copies of "You" arranged in a fan on the floor. It was in front of the main door. Someone had distributed the paper in a fan, rather than a pile. There was one copy for each room in the house.

The manager said, "What on earth is this?" because it was in the way.

I said. "It's YOU!"

She gathered up the fan and said, "We only need one."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This is one way to make a hydrogen bomb. Ask Thermo the magician

Thermo came to my grade school several times during the mid 1960s in the form of a magnificent film called "Our Mr. Sun." Thinking was different back then. Today's folks might shutter at what was presented in grade schools back then, but revisiting this film today has a comforting feel. Sort of a blast from the past, like they might say on oldies radio. Also very interesting script writing in this 1956 documentary about the sun covering history, religion, science even promoting solar energy.

See some other parts of my "time machine" experience (via ordering the DVD from Amazon) below.

Picture is one of my attempts at a screen shot before I remembered to turn off the flash. It's kind of neat. Hydrogen Fusion, the power of the stars.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Living with lower LOF (level of service) on Bellingham streets

Traffic planning lingo. Stands for Level Of Service. "F" basically means traffic jam conditions, at least during rush hours.

In this age of paperwork, Bellingham city planning staff is being ask to set LOS standards for various streets and intersections in the city. Level A would be the least congested.

The city is starting to accept the reality that many streets will become, or are already at, "level F."

This has citizen groups outraged; like they think city government can really do something about it. Similar to the Bellingham and Whatcom County's growth estimates, these are all guidelines that planners work with. The numbers become political footballs, as if governments can really control this.

The best laid plans are subject to market forces. One can talk city hall into adopting low population growth goals, but the market dictates anyway, if floods of folks keep moving in, having kids, and so forth.

Maybe we should adopt socialism, but I am not really advocating that.

So now there is a citizen ground swell against Level F, but I fear the city can't really do that much about it.

Adding more lanes to some arterials is one solution, but this costs tons of money. For instance, to widen a street, one often must "buy out" and tear down adjacent buildings. Since around 1975, the cost of buying property has gone up, possibly 14 fold. A $25,000 1970s house could be $350,000 today!

Taxes anyone?

Then there is another possible solution which I fear could be tried. Limiting the number of housing units built. Denying building permits. Creating a housing shortage.

Problem is, population keeps growing. Towns that limit housing units often become places where the billionaires are chasing out the millionaires. More realistically maybe the multi millionaires are chasing out the mere millionaires.

Is this the kind of city we want, where people like me, who never afforded home ownership, must leave? Currently I read that over 50% of Bellingham's people are renters.

Until socialism and nationwide population control comes (I'm not really advocating socialism at least) there isn't much the city can do about LOS F. Not much that wouldn't be painful at least.

It's up to the people, and market forces, to prevent traffic gridlock. The best way to avoid LOS F is for people to walk, bicycle or use public transit.

Also the city should, and is actually starting to, think about what kind of development is being encouraged. Building up, instead of sprawling out, makes it easier for people to avoid dependency on the automobile.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Our Mr. Sun, the movie revisited

It's quite the film and a part of my formative childhood years. I saw it in grade school several times back in the mid 1960s. It was a 1956 classic with Bell Telephone Company backing.

On Youtube. 56 minutes.

Such a film would not likely be shown in public schools today as it mentions religion, but only in some gentle ways. Such as saying, Science is one way of reaching for the light beyond.

Not being much into movies, I surprised myself by ordering the DVD after discovering it's available at Amazon. Haven't seen this for almost 40 years, but still remember it well.

A great story about two film makers trying to put together a documentary about the sun. They want some splash to make it interesting. The fiction writer conjures up a magic screen and invents some characters; "Father Time" and "Mr. Sun." These imaginary characters just about take over the studio as they argue with the film makers about how to proceed.

Mr. Sun does not want his story told as nothing but a bunch of facts, figures, charts and numbers. He's a romantic, says Father Time. The Sun's ego tells a story of being worshiped as a god. From the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks, worshiping the Sun God.

There seems to be even a hint of gay script writing. Remember this was 1956, but Mr. Sun liked the Greek perceptions of him best.

Apollo the handsome sun god.

It even showed a frontal nude statue of that god. Mr. Sun proclaimed, "Oh, that was for me, I loved it." Going across the sky playing beautiful music, but then along came someone to spoil it all. Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher who felt that the sun was not a god, but a hot stone. He was imprisoned for that belief, and Mr. Sun was not at all sorry for him. However man (remember this is before modern feminism) was starting to fall for his mind. Thinking began spreading like the measles. To the Arabs with their numbers and so forth.

As the story goes on, much of the interesting science is described, as much as they knew in 1956.

Hydrogen fusion, the mystery of chlorophyll.

Animation shows this fussy cook mysteriously using sunlight, to make sugar from carbon dioxide and water molecules. Proclaiming, "and the Russians didn't invent me either, I invented myself" Mr. Chlorophyll seems to not like being filmed.

Quite far sighted, for 1956, there is a discussion of world population growth. Also a segment about how we are depleting our storehouse of fossil fuels. Stored wealth that Mr. Sun has showered down on us over billions of years.

Like depleting a giant bank account there wasn't that much worry when the average withdrawal was modest, in the 1500's, but by 1975, look how large the withdrawal bags will be. We'll have to learn how to use Mr. Sun's energy more directly. Quite a few early solar energy projects are shown, including a solar heated home in Massachusetts.

History, science, religion and our constant sense of wonder are stirred into a great mix.

I feel very blessed to have had this in my childhood. Now it is a treat to see again after all these years.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Isolationism; a case for some of it

Here in America, there are folks who's minds are occupied by Middle Eastern politics, yet they don't know how to get across their own city with out going on the freeway.

They can argue the affairs of Palestinians and Israelis, complain about greedy oil companies, or talk about the need to maintain stable oil supplies from the Persian Gulf, but they don't know which bus to catch, in their own neighborhoods. They don't know what surface streets are good for bicycling or walking in their own back yards.

There are both "red state" and "blue state" folks who jet around the world, seek enlightenment from the mountains of Nepal, but haven't paid enough attention to finding that path right here in the good old USA.

Some folks have written off the USA as a hopeless rat race. They rejoin, reluctantly, after getting off the jet from some "third world" paradise.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Put your psychological energy into the world around you. Start your trip at your front door.

Ride a bike, take the bus, support alternative living in your own place. It's closer than Nepal.

This can also make a world wide difference.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Falling off the fence

Before the second Iraq war that toppled Saddam Hussein, I was sitting on the fence. Sitting on the fence as to whether it was an okay idea or not.

Now, it looks more and more like a bad idea to have started that war.

For many years, I have had a sneaking suspicion that this nation's fundamentalist "traditional values" folks have had a fascination with their "like kind" in other parts of the world. Our "Moral Majority" folks seem to be drawn to the affairs of similar folks in the Middle East. Our fundamentalists seem to have an interest in similar attitudes about family, religion and so forth in Islamic countries. Maybe they have some sort of respect for "bull headedness."

Trying to "fix" the Middle East is something that the US government has been involved in for years. To tweak it away from it's more extreme versions of fundamentalism; bring "democracy" there.

It doesn't seem to be working.

I hear that Saddam Hussein's brutal rule may now be replaced with a brutal Shiite theocracy.

We have played a role in bringing that on. It may be no better than Hussein. It could expand the influence of Iranian Shiite fundamentalists. Maybe we have helped to create another monster.

The "Christian Right," in USA, has entertained a fascination with trying to "fix" fundamentalist cultures in the middle east. The problems seem beyond our capability and each year high birth rates bring more and more angry young folks into the situation. Few are even discussing the "population" aspect of this situation. One can't expect fundamentalists to care about problems related to population. It's just not in their dogma, both here in the US, or abroad.

The problems just get bigger and bigger and eventually we could become overwhelmed.

Some say, "a fool is born each day." One can also say, "more terrorists are born each day."

We might be better off finding a way out of this growing quagmire.

One talk show host, I listen to, says "you can not occupy an Arab country." "It just doesn't work." He suggests withdrawing.

Also, to protect the USA, this talk show host suggests having a rapid deployment force that can still "take out" (so to speak) serious dangers if they arise in the world. Still being able to prevent weapons of mass destruction, or large terrorist camps, if they arise.

Of course, this means, for the most part, except for the possibility of a rapid deployment, we withdraw.

This could also mean a period of less stability in world oil supplies.

I think we are better off putting our efforts into making USA energy independent. We need to pay more attention to our domestic front. There are a lot of things that need improving in this society. We have enough of our own hang ups so we aren't in a very good position to try and solve all the world's problems.

We are like someone who can't swim trying to save someone who is drowning.

This may sound somewhat pessimistic, but here is a "light at the end of the tunnel" kind of thought. This war seems like another Vietnam. Remember what happened when we finally gave up on the Vietnam War?

There was a period of infighting between different factions of "Communism." Vietnam and Cambodia fought one another. Unfortunately, innocent people died, but after a while, the problems sorted themselves out. Vietnam seems to be at peace now.

Maybe we are just trying too hard to solve problems beyond our capabilities. There are a lot of things we need to do for our own country; like finding ways to more happiness with less consumption of world resources. Newer, "better" technologies, reinventing urban planning, alternative transportation.

Think of all the Americans who die each year in automobile accidents. Things can be better here.

If we pay more attention to our "home front," we might put ourselves in a better position to be a model to the world.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

County Connector buses, the 80X

Gate at downtown Bellingham WTA terminal announcing destination Mount Vernon.

Since September 05, there has been a transit link between Bellingham and Mount Vernon. Called the "County Connector," but maybe it's better to say "Tri County Connector." It's a co-operative service linking transit systems in Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties.

Only costs 50 cents from Bellingham to Mount Vernon! That's about 24 miles. Can't beat the price.
* (Now more expensive. This note added Jan. 09).

Takes around 42 minutes with only 3 stops in between. This state funded service was designed with students in mind, but it's becoming very popular among working commuters as well. Quite a few folks live in Whatcom County, but work in Skagit County, or visa versa. It has become more popular than expected.

Some "libertarian and free market folks" might object because they could see this as unfair "taxpayer supported" competition with private enterprise. Here, the private market has brought us Greyhound bus service between Bellingham and Mount Vernon.

Is government really less glamorous than private enterprise?

Yes, private enterprise brings us Greyhound; not top of most people's perception of glamor, but it works. I've taken Greyhound to Seattle fairly often. Usually gets one there in 2 hours. It's not bad for 90 miles.

Now that Whatcom and Skagit transit sytems are connected, it's possible to ride transit buses all the way to Seattle also; if one knows what they are doing. A friend of mine did it. He had to take buses, from several systems, and spend time waiting for connections. It took him around 4 1/2 hours going by transit. For going that distance, Greyhound is more direct, but my friend had plenty of time.

Linking the transit buses is also, of course, a lot less expensive.

One of Greyhound's problems is the bus being late leaving Bellingham. That's because it often starts in Vancouver, BC and gets delayed at the border. Sometimes more than an hour.

One gets penalized by border delays even if one is not crossing the border!

Still, that bus is usually fairly close to being on time. Greyhound is okay. It's still better than all those cars, one hears about on I-5, getting into accidents.

"Canada border B.S." doesn't affect County Connector buses which start their trips locally.

Another thing that's nice about government provided transit services is the bike racks. Each bus can take up to 3 bicycles. There is a rack in front of the bus.

Greyhound doesn't have bike rack service. One can dismantle a bike and ship it in a box. It goes as luggage, but this is much less convenient.

One would think Greyhound could look into bike racks on front of their buses thus making some extra money. They could charge for use of the rack space, like selling a seat inside.

Where is "innovation" in free enterprise when we need it?

That's one thing I like about government transit agencies. They are innovating with different services. Recently the WTA has gone to "3 bike" racks, rather than the old "2 bike" versions. And even bringing one's bike, it's just 50 cents.

* (Now more expensive. This note added Jan. 09).

Of course private enterprise couldn't compete with a taxpayer subsidized service on price, but Greyhound is still useful, especially for the more direct service to Seattle. It just could innovate a bit more. In this society, governments are often the best crucibles of innovation.

To learn more about County Connector, find it under schedules at the WTA web site.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Macho Flagpole?

Has a missile look. Macho flagpoles these days?

Not really.

It's just a thick pole that also serves as cell phone tower. These are quite common.

No the nation's not going crazy, or maybe it is. People drive too much while talking on the phone. Maybe they should stop driving and just keep talking.

Instead of "hang up and drive" we could say "park it and talk."

Macho folks might say, "but what does talk accomplish?"

One could answer, "talk burns few resources." Also, "talking can be less costly than fighting traffic, fighting wars."

Talk and walk rhyme. Say, "walk the talk."

Think about it. Walk the talk.

Or how about "walk and talk." Then there is "walkie-talkie."

Talk, even if you don't have a cell phone.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Toy Cameras

Some folks would say that all cameras I have had over the years have been toys. They haven't been "high end" cameras.

Last Sunday (Nov. 20) All Things Considered news magazine, on NPR, did a segment called "Loving imperfections of toy cameras." Good for them. Much of the segment dealt with the effects of light leaks.

I say, light leaks can be redefined as "serendipitous enhancements to the artistic statement of a photo." It can be seen as an alternative to "setting the bar so high" in that world of professionalism where everything becomes subjugated to refinement of technique and equipment.

This light leak photo was taken during my 1987 bike tour along Pacific Coast as I passed through Port Townsed, WA. Image of that ornate building was enhanced because my roll of film got exposed to some light as I took it out of the camera.

Oh no, I guess that doesn't qualify as a "light leak" since it didn't come from the camera itself, but maybe I should get a medal for having a sharp memory.

I remember the circumstances.

It was from taking the film out of the camera. My fingers must have fumbled so a few frames toward the outside of the roll got hit. Other images from that camera had no leakage, so it wasn't the camera.

I don't have a big collection of light leak photos even though this phenomena may become the next imaging fad.

I'm not a specialist in any one style.

What I do have is an eclectic selection photos and commentary from years of bicycle touring.

Pictures about interesting subjects.

To me, the subject is what really matters, not the various fads in technique or expense in camera.

See some of my Touring Album.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Aftermath of Chaos Theory ball drop when Bond Hall at WWU had an atrium

Do I really know what I am talking about with a blog post about chaos theory? Does it look impressive soon after one titled Is evolution intelligent design?

I wouldn't try to impress folks by discussing chaos theory, I really don't know that much about it.

Found a picture from the demonstration of said theory that was held last year. (Maybe two years ago).

Up at Western Washington University, just a few blocks from my home, there was a demonstration of chaos theory. Thousands of rubber balls were dropped in the atrium of a classroom building.

They fell and bounced all the heck around.

Quite a sight, for several seconds.

I was too shy, or forgot, to bring my camera, but another drop was planned in a few days.

Drops were in the atrium of Bond Hall. Some folks call it "Bondage Hall" after hearing about long homework assignments.

Next time, I brought my camera.

A drop was planned, but I miss read the time in the newspaper. As I walked across Red Square I heard the rushing sound. Thousands of balls bouncing around. I hadn't gotten to the building yet.

After that crucial moment, I stepped inside with my camera, anyway.

Got above image of balls strewn about the atrium floor. Maybe this image is just as good as the blur of bouncing balls.

Lots of cute college students were around to witness the event. Math majors and so forth.

Since those days, Bond Hall has been remodeled and the atrium has been filled in.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bus Rapid Transit

I found a Seattle Times from November 13 2005 with this great article about using dedicated bus lanes for mass transit.

Monorail has been voted down. Sound Transit light rail is proceeding so slowly that most of us will be dead before there is very much mileage. Dedicated bus lanes could be a magic, or almost magic, answer. Like walking, it may not be some "block buster" fantasy, but it is something; actually something quite impressive.

Often people will overlook the things right under their noses. It's our "throw away and start over" society. Building a whole new transit system from scratch often means we get "just about nothing" as the plans must be scaled back for cost.

Rather than trying to be so revolutionary and then falling back to nothing, it might be better to stick closer to what's already built; the massive highway system. It can be modified. Putting some dedicated bus lanes on a few cross metro area routes could make a real big difference in the not too distant future.

Here is a link to the web site for that proposal. Better explained than I could do.

The case for bus rapid transit

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is Evolution Intelligent Design?

Is Evolution Intelligent Design?
Also, is intelligent design evolving?

A rainbow can be described in different ways. It's a colorful rainbow, but it's also just light refracting through water droplets.

This analogy can apply to our bodies as well. Are we just complex electrochemical reactions, or intelligent human beings with consciousness and feelings?

Take this analogy farther and think about processes that developed the great variety of life on this planet.

Is it just stuff like interacting molecules, random chance and natural selection or is it intelligent?

I believe it can be both.

The rainbow is both "rainbow" and "water droplets." We are both "biochemical reactions" and "human beings." The natural processes that lead to our existence are both "mechanical," in some ways, and "intelligent" in other ways.

A related question might be. "What is intelligence?"

Some folks might wonder if those of us who ponder these questions are truly intelligent. Of course, being intelligent is not necessarily the same thing as being pragmatic.

Some people say that the Earth, itself, is intelligent. The Earth could even be conscious.

Why not? It's a complex system, like our bodies.

Can an ecosystem, or a forest, be conscious? How about a nation or economy?

Sometimes these things are said to "take on lives of their own."

How about the house remodling project you might be working on? These are often said to "take on lives of their own."

Where does one draw the line in calling something intelligent? Does a line have to be drawn?

Then there is the entire universe. Maybe it's intelligent.

Evolutionary theories and intelligence need not conflict.

This doesn't really answer the question about what should be taught in biology classes. It's just my thinking that what is currently taught, in it's mechanical workings, can also be intelligent. Possibly it's more intelligent than so called "intelligent design" curriculum; what ever that is.

I admit that I just took biology 101, but I was amazed at how the molecules in a cell just happen to be in the right places at the right times for the cell to work. It's truly amazing how this all fits together. No one had to mention a God for me to get the feeling of awe.

That doesn't mean I don't believe in something people could call a God. It's just that my biology class didn't have to mention it for me to be awestruck by the intelligence and the intricacy of it all.

Similar to seeing a rainbow. I didn't have to learn about that beauty in a Sunday school room.

Not that I didn't learn some valuable things in Sunday school rooms as well.

The whole picture seems intelligent, to me, but at the same time it seems to work like some machine.

It can be both.

Maybe the reality of this question can even be influenced by the observer's "frame of reference." Look at the rainbow from one angle and it's a rainbow. Change angles and it disappears into mere water droplets.

Reality, influenced by the observer. A difficult concept for most of our rigid minds to fathom.

This is talked about some, in relativity theory, but I am not going to pretend to be an expert on that.

Unlike what fundamentalists teach, understanding of truth can be flexible .

By the way, photo is a rainbow taken in 1995 on my bike trip through Colville, WA. Maybe not the most spectacular, but it was handy.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I-90 leading to Snoqualmie Pass down there in the valley

Seen on my 2005 trip from Iron Horse Bike Trail.

Today's news says pass is closed again. Another rock slide. This time just east of the pass. They don't know when highway will be reopened.

Last summer, during my trip, a rock slide closed west bound lanes just west of the pass. 3 people died when rocks crushed their car. I had no idea what had happened until I stopped in a store along US 97 which connects I-90 to US 2. Wondered why there was so much traffic headed north on 97 as I was going south. Turns out they were diverting I-90 traffic to Stevens Pass (US 2).

Except for seeing streams of traffic detouring over 97, my trip was not effected. I took the Iron Horse Trail across Snoqualmie Pass anyway, so I wasn't planning to take I-90.

That was September. Now it's happened again, only no one killed, luckily. Rock slide east of Snoqualmie Pass has closed freeway in both directions. I just hear about it on the radio.

Yes they do need to put money into maintaining highways. Hope Initiative 912 fails. It would cut gas taxes for our transportation system.

Of course I could be smug and say it doesn't matter. The Iron Horse Bike Trail is still available. Actually, I think that closes for winter.

While I don't drive or use gasoline, I do drink plenty of chocolate milk. Much of the hay that fuels our local dairy farms is trucked over the mountains from eastern Washington. Hay trucks use I-90.

It's all part of the interconnected web of our economy.

Approaching light at west end of 2 mile long Snoqualmie Tunnel. It's a part of the Iron Horse Bike Trail east of North Bend, Washington.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Libby Indictment. Some memories of Watergate

News of Vice Presidential aid I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby's indictment and resignation reminds me of an earlier time.

Mrs. Bertleson (I think that was her name) ran out to a car I was sitting in and proclaimed, "Ehrlichman and Haldeman just resigned!"

Excitement in her voice.

It was April 30th, 1973 and someone was giving me a ride home from Pullman High School TV Production class. Watergate was in the news. Careers in media were "the thing."

A TV was set up in our school's "people pit." It was tuned to Watergate hearings. Students could mill around and see American history unfold.

Great for civics class.

Even the people pit was an innovation. Steps that went nowhere. Carpeted steps for sitting, lounging. Architects noticed what students liked to do. It was a brand new building.

President Nixon was not popular in that school. The Vietnam war was dragging on.

There were still some conservatives. They would point out that people had better be careful not to trash the President too much. The Russians were still coming and they didn't allow any criticism of their leaders.

Now there is talk of threats from Iran. Threatening to wipe Israel off the map and possibly getting a nuclear weapon.

Does anyone remember the "Domino Theory?" That was a big worry during Vietnam War. "If we let down our guard, the Communists will take over Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, eventually America."

Stepping stones, but not the friendly carpeted steps of our people pit.

Did that ever happen? Did the domino stepping stones ever fall?

Not that I remember, but we did get "Domino's Pizza." And Russia got the Big Mac.

The communists started quarreling among one another and their empires crumbled. Vietnam invaded Cambodia, after we got out of the way, and the Soviet Union kind of fell apart from its own weight. Or did it take Reagan (Nixon reborn?) to push them over?

Will the youth of Iran throw out the old guard religious zealots? Do they need us to help them, or are they better off with out us? Are we doing more harm than good; in Iraq, around the world?

Is our empire about to crumble?

These are both exciting and scary times. Some glee and jubilation over the problems of Bush (I never voted for him), but also a lot of worry.

America did survive Watergate and Vietnam.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why Halloween is safer than Christmas

Halloween edition of our local Weekly in news stands. Gas can be ghastly.

If one isn't part of a family, one can feel left out for Christmas and Thanksgiving. People will "move Heaven and Earth" just to go over the meadow and through the woods to family gatherings. They often span many treacherous miles over icy roads.

Halloween is friendlier to a wider diversity of lifestyles. One is less likely to feel left out if separated from family; thus less travel.

There is the family side of it; kids tricker treating and so forth, but there's also a lot more.

People wear costumes at work, go to parties. It can be a wonderful creative outlet right where you live.

Some of it might get a bit too crazy, especially if drinking is involved, but possibly not as out of control as New Year's.

At least Halloween encourages one to celebrate where they are, even at work, for instance. There is less need to travel to family gatherings far away. This holiday can give one's "here and now" life a creative twist.

Of course, part of the difference may be that Halloween is not recognized as an official holiday. It doesn't provide enough time for folks to get as far away from their everyday lives in this society where family ties tend to be scattered across the globe.

An ASCII art Christmas tree and more comment.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

20 Story Building Planned For Downtown Bellingham. Bayview Tower.

Picture is a collage I pasted from photo of the site in it's current state and an image of the proposed building from October 20 Bellingham Herald.

It's okay with me. I look forward to watching construction.

It's density, in filling and so forth.

You've probably heard the arguments for density versus sprawl already.

I am sure some folks will be a bit rattled at the prospect of a 20 story building in Bellingham. Same paper spoke of two 18 story proposals for the old Morse Hardware site down State Street from this location.

Basically all condominiums. Some office and retail space as well.

Bellingham is popular.

I do worry about over population as a world problem. All those families, I see at places like the Bellingham Food Co-op; with baby strollers.

The people are coming. And the money is coming too. Quite a few retired folks are bringing their "home equity" to Bellingham.

Building up, instead of out, is better. Problem is we are likely to be building both up and out. That's what seems to usually happen.

One thing that will result is Bellingham getting a more urban skyline.

For folks that are worried about growth, that could be a blessing in disguise. Some of the flow of recent transplants is people trying to escape cities. Part of that flow might think twice about moving near a city with a skyline. A lot of sprawl is driven by hoards of folks wanting to move into rural settings.

So, the prospect of a 20 story building can be kind of exciting. I do hope the city and developers plan things well. One thing I look for is a building "giving back" something to the community. Not all just private spaces that most of us can't afford.

Tall buildings often provide things like observation decks that are open to the public for at least an affordable fee. One great example of that is the Smith Tower observation deck in downtown Seattle.

What new restaurants might be coming to town? Hope they aren't too snooty.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ever evolving gas tax debate

New twists could mean death nail to typical "Republican Party" thought

In the past, "no new taxes" mantra was chanted by Republicans. They said, "low taxes, keep business rolling in the private sector."

Now, some new types of people are chanting that mantra as well; folks that are uncomfortable bedfellows to typical Republicans. These new folks say, "don't raise the gas tax, we shouldn't be building roads." "Cripple highway construction budget." "Force traffic to gridlock and a standstill." "That will cut sprawl, slow growth and maybe force people to get out of their cars."

Yes, it's not the typical "no new taxes" argument, but it is a perspective that has increasing following.

The gas tax debate is said to be among the most divisive issues with-in Republican Party circles. Some party loyalists still cling to the "less government" mantras, but others are getting scared. Scared by their new bedfellows who typically hail from more left wing sides of the political spectrum. What some people might consider radicle advocates of mass transit and dismantling America's suburbia culture can join the "no new tax" bandwagon also. "Stop the sprawl, don't build roads."

These new bedfellows have actually scared a few Republicans into support of increasing the gas tax. Yes, government investment in infrastructure can keep the status quo rolling.

Since I am not a Republican, I enjoy watching this discussion unnerve the Republicans.

I still support the increase in gas tax (the NO on Washington State Initiative 912 position), but I see a lot of validity in the anti road building argument. I am just not willing to go that far as I feel mass transit and bicycling needs good roads also.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Over the hill at ten years of age

I have often thought "Over the hill at ten" would make a good book title.

What does it mean?

If someone wanted to be an Olympic class athlete, they would have to start refining that skill by at least age ten, most likely. That means, if you haven't started yet, and you are over ten, chances are you're out of the running.

Over the hill, already, at ten. That's sad.

It's a burden, but don't worry.

"Second best" is less stressful to obtain.

Second best can mean being physically fit and still having enough talent to do more good than harm.

Don't do what too many folks do. They throw in the towel because they aren't first place.

When I was a kid, I heard that every American can have the dream of being President.

On the other hand, people say when you type the word "failure" and click on the Google search button that says, "I'm feeling lucky," you get the biography of the President.

So much for being top dog, when people call you a failure.

Of course I haven't yet researched how Google's "I'm feeling lucky" search results are determined.

The word "excellence" is often bantered about.

What pressure.

Think schools, workplaces, resumes. Then think of the name for Rush Limbaugh's radio network;

"The Excellence In Broadcasting Network" (E.I.B. Radio Network).

Is Rush Limbaugh excellent? What "top drawer" and "excellence" means is debatable.

Don't throw in the towel if you can't make the top; what ever way the "top" is defined. Being reasonably good is ...

Good enough.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The world's largest lava lamp

Guess where they plan to put it.

Soap Lake, Washington.

See reader comments on my trip below.

This is one of many tidbits I learned on my 2005 bicycle tour around in the Pacific Northwest.

PS. Incase you don't believe me, about just the lamp, you can also visit

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Another Reason To Vote NO on Washington State Initiative 912

I-912 would repeal a hike in the gas tax which was recently passed in the Washington State Legislature to pay for road and transportation improvements. Here is a letter I had in October 2 Bellingham Herald.

Some people wonder why gas taxes go up, while traffic still gets worse. They seem to think state highway departments are frittering away the money. Few stop to realize that land is getting too expensive for building roads. It takes a lot of land to build a highway or add new lanes to an existing road.

Back when the interstate freeways were first being built, traffic congestion could be solved by just adding more lanes to the highway. That was when one could still buy a house for under $20,000. Now, many of those same houses are selling for prices closer to the million dollar mark. Few stop to think about what effect real estate inflation has had on the cost of land for roads.

Many folks sit in homes that have inflated significantly in value over the past twenty years. They still wonder why roads cost more than they did twenty years ago.

Since land values do not seem to be going down in the near future, we need to reduce dependency on the automobiles. Cars take up too much space in our crowded and increasingly expensive world.

That was the letter, but I can add a bit more here.

Some of the gas tax money goes to fund alternative transit. Enough that I noticed, from a quick look at their web site, that a representative from the organization Transportation Choices is urging a no vote. Remember, NO means keeping the gas tax increase.

In the past, some alternative transit and bike advocates opposed certain gas tax hikes as they had tended to be perfectionists. They didn't want to have more roads built for cars.

Another constituency, besides traditional "no tax" Republican types, to come out against taxes for infrastructure are some anti growth advocates. They say, "if we don't build the roads, people will stop moving here." "Just starve the growth and the economy."

That would be painful if people keep having kids.

Supporting the gas tax that funds a balanced system of roads and alternative transit is good.

The whole transportation system is interdependent.

Busses help cars by reducing the traffic, but road improvements for cars also help the buses to get through. Currently, much of our alternative transit is busses that share the roads with cars. Also shoulder improvements are good for bicycles.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Thinking About Bill Bennett Abortion Comment

Abortion is really a "red herring" issue. It deflects us from discussing the true problem that there are too many people in the world. Over population. Abortion is not a good form of birth control, but there are some deeper demographic issues under the surface of this discussion.

Demographics was touched on during Bill Bennett's now infamous talk show, but emotional baggage around abortion and racism flairs up into a war of sound bytes. Deeper issues of population and demographics get ignored.

Some interesting questions were touched on in that show (from what I read, even though I didn't actually hear the show).

The question of, "how many people are around to pay into the Social Security Trust Fund?" started that whole ball rolling.

Some might argue that we need more births in order to have plenty of younger workers to pay into Social Security as the post war generation retires. This is an interesting thought for demographers and economists to debate.

Then there is the question of whether just "numbers of people" is sufficient as a solution to this equation. What about quality of environment and economic conditions for the next generation that will be paying into the fund?

A book called "FREAKONOMICS" was mentioned. Important questions about the quality of life, for people being born into this world, was brought up.

What if a bunch of unwanted children were born into poverty? Would they add to, or further distract from society and Social Security?

It's an old "quality versus quantity" argument.

There is the contention that crime is actually lower because quite a few of the people who would have been born into problem homes were never born. Do we really want a whole bunch of unwanted babies? These are very important questions.

Then, along came Bennett's "kicker" comment. The one that's got everyone buzzing.

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Another valuable point can be discussed behind this comment.

Is there a danger that abortion can be used to "weed out" certain types of people that others might deem as undesirable? Would abortion be more prevalent weeding out children from poor, marginalized or minority peoples?

It reminds me of one day, when I was in college, sitting in the office of the Gay People's Alliance on campus. Someone from the so called "pro life" club got up the courage to wonder into our office with a very thought provoking question.

She ask, "if one could ever determine, before birth, that a fetus would turn out homosexual, wouldn't you worry that a lot of mothers would choose to abort their pregnancies?"

Most of the "politically correct" office staff blew her question off, but I took her question more seriously. We had a good dialog as most of the other office staffers left the room.

These are important ethical questions with out easy, sound byte answers.

It brings me back to my first point that there are too many people in this world, but abortion is a red herring issue.

Ideally, we should all be working toward the reduction of unwanted pregnancies. Birth control, lifestyle choices, family planning, even abstinence can all point to similar goals. Even more acceptance of "alternative lifestyles" can serve to reduce unwanted pregnancy.

In an ideal world, there wouldn't need to be abortions because unwanted pregnancy wouldn't be such a problem.

Abortion is, at best, a poor form of birth control. How one feels about whether it should be legal, or not, may not be as important an issue as the deeper demographic problems revolving around so many unwanted pregnancies.

I am reminded of a wonderful phrase that came from the early pro abortion rights movement. For some reason, the more recent abortion rights advocates hardly ever use this quote. Still, it transcends the contentious abortion debate to a deeper ideal that most folks should agree on.

"Every child should be wanted."

This phrase also can address the issues of neglect and poverty that so many children face in the world. For instance, one can say, "every child should have access to medical care."

Even some of the pro life movement can get on board with this ideal.

There is a similar phrase that President Bush has bounced around as he talks about education.

That phrase says, "No child should be left behind."

Of course one can certainly question whether the concept is working, or whether Bush administration policies will get us there.

Still, in an ideal world, we should be focusing on quality of life rather than just quantity of life. Churning out too many babies is a major world problem.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Iran Nuclear Power Cartoon Idea

Iran says, "We demand you give us a light water nuclear power plant."

USA says, "Gee, it's been 20, 30? years since I've built a nuclear power plant." "I'm afraid of that stuff, not to mention being a bit rusty at making those things these days."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I recently rode the old monorail in Seattle. It looks like the new, larger monorail is in trouble. Mayor and city council don't think the financing plan is realistic. A scaled back monorail plan is on the ballot.

Here is an idea for the monorail, as if they don't have enough suggestions already.

Turn the new monorail into a "feeder line" for Sound Transit.

Sound Transit is Seattle's other light rail proposal. It has had problems and cost overruns as well. Sound Transit has also had to scale back it's original plan. The original "phase 1" plan called for going from the airport to University of Washington, possibly even on to Northgate. It has been scaled back to a line just from the airport to downtown.

At least Sound Transit is starting to build that line.

The original monorail plan sort of paralleled Sound Transit. It went from West Seattle, (down the airport direction) through downtown and up to Ballard District. That's sort of the direction toward University Of Washington.

Why can't they merge the two plans?

Let Sound Transit build it's line from the Airport to downtown. Then have a scaled back monorail line from downtown to University of Washington (where Sound Transit had originally planned to go).

Another short monorail line could link West Seattle to the Sound Transit line that comes up from the southwest, rather than having to go downtown.

The monorail could become a feeder line to Sound Transit. They should share a downtown station so passengers can easily transfer from one to the other.

Both lines could gradually branch out from that hub and connect with metro transit bus routes.

People tend to forget, but Sound Transit already has another rail service that links both Everett and Tacoma to Seattle. It's called the Sounder Train. Runs on existing BNSF right of way.

Tacoma already has a short Sound Transit light rail line in it's downtown area.

All these things should start connecting up, but people may have to transfer from bus to train to monorail, for instance. One fare should cover it all. Maybe it's not a perfect idea, but it's better than sitting in traffic.

Part of the problem, with any transportation system, is the staggering cost of land in Seattle area. Houses that sold for $20,000, not that many years ago, now sell for closer to the million mark. It must be next to impossible to do any public works project, such as building stations, that requires buying land. This problem especially makes adding lanes to the existing freeway impractical. If one thinks light rail is too expensive, just try adding another lane to I-5! It would take up so much room and displace so many homeowners that the bank breaks.

So, Sound Transit and Monorail should get together. It's just another one of my ideas.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and Deficit Spending

While listening to the radio this morning, I briefly heard a comment by Republican Senator Trent Lott who's own house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The comment went something like, Being a fiscal conservative ends with a natural disaster. I don't remember the exact wording however.

Anyway, it looks like hundreds of billions of dollars will be added to the national deficit recovering from Katrina. Even fiscal conservatives, who had been preaching "limited government on domestic affairs," are admitting that this recovery is beyond what just the "private market" can accomplish.

We may be paying for some miss guided fiscal conservatism of past years. If more money had been spent on the levies over, say the past 25 years, much of this clean up bill could have been avoided. Those old phrases like, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and "hindsight is better than foresight" apply.

It is important to invest in America's domestic needs. Many of these investments, like levies, transportation and even preventative health care for low income people are often more likely to come from government than private enterprise.

Still, private enterprise plays an important role also. Cutting through red tape carrying out many of the tasks after governments have provided the funding. Subcontractors versus government employees, for instance. Also there is a role for private markets and investments, charities and "thousand points of light," to quote George Bush Senior. It's just that government plays an important role and deserves respect.

As for the deficit, I would guess that being a fiscal conservative is not easy. It seems like even most conservatives cave in to the continual bombardment that nature and circumstances throw at the lives of their constituents.

Politicians talk "low taxes" and "less government" while delivering lots of government services to their constituents. Just put it on the credit card, and there seems to be no consequence. High deficits don't even push up interest rates! The past few years have enjoyed, or suffered depending on how one views this, from low interest rates. Last year, I read that housing prices went up, here in Bellingham, by 23 percent. That's good news for many home owners cashing in on the flood of money that low interest rates create. It is bad news for folks trying to save money the old fashioned way in bank deposits.

Where does all this money come from? It's a mystery to me.

Republicans often say that tax cuts create more, rather than less, revenue for the government. It's counter intuitive. They say that economic stimulation created by tax cuts creates so much business activity that total tax collection goes up rather than down.

Here is an important question.

Would this mechanism of tax cutting ones way to more government revenue actually work if the government couldn't run a deficit? If every tax cut had to be matched with an equal amount of spending cuts, would the tax cut actually stimulate the economy?

That's an important question. It seems like the Bush tax cuts have stimulated things because the government could also continue to spend lots of money. Both the record spending and tax cuts combined can stimulate the economy so much that one does see a slight increase in overall revenue collection by the government. If the spending had to be cut, along with the tax cuts, it seems like that revenue increase would not be there. Possibly those kind of drastic cuts to eliminate the deficit would also bring on a recession.

Who knows. but that is a good question for economists to ponder.

So, here we go sinking farther into debt, but maybe it doesn't matter.

One thing I do know. Hurricanes, and life in general, put a lot of things on our government's "to do" list.

By the way, in case folks are wondering, I am back from my 5 week long bicycle tour. More news about that later.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pat Robertson's comment

Suggesting the assassination of Venezuela's President? Sounds like something a fundamentalist would say. Whether it's an Islamic fundamentalist, Christian or what ever. They're telling others to go to hell.

I prefer more open minded and liberal religious people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Like going back in time when there was more elbow room

I am on another bike trip. Just visited Wallowa Lake in North East Oregon. The Wallowa Mountains are obscure to most of the world, but quite impressive.

Out here there is plenty of space for the traditional American "family" lifestyle with big yards and ranch style homes. Not very many people. Folks drive trucks and there still isn't much traffic. They can get by with it here. In the big cities, such as in Western Washington state, space is so limited things have to change. Out here in Northeast Oregon, change is not as necessary. As people keep driving in crowded Western Washington, the traffic gets bad. Here in Enterprise, Oregon, there isn't much traffic because there aren't many people.

Lots of land for the number of people.

More elbow room allows for the more traditional American way of life. I see lots of horses.

Still, I like living in the city as I am a non traditional person. Enterprise is a nice place to visit, but wouldn't want to live here.

A few days ago I walked into a "supermarket" in Elgin, OR. that reminded me of my childhood. Low ceiling, no neon, plain shelves with canned goods. Not fancy. Like a throwback to the early 1960s before supermarkets became like Disney Lands.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I am on the road

Traveling by bicycle, as usual for my summer vacation.

Posts may be farther apart. Look forward to more updates when I get back.

As gas prices keep going up, I don't have to worry. Bicycle is a great way to go. Seeing parts of the great Pacific Northwest. Not just whizzing by everything. It's a great way to savor my vacation.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fragrance Lake Rocks

A few days ago, I rode my bike up to Fragrance Lake in the Chuckanut Mountains near Bellingham. An old logging road from Clayton Beach's parking lot is blocked to motorized vehicles.

Makes a nice bike ride. Also a popular walk. Up hill, basically, all the way.

I put my bicycle in low gear and tuned my radio to Classic King FM as I peddled up the hill. Past cedar and douglas fir trees.

At the lake, another choice of music greeted me. Rock sound from the ghetto blaster of some young folks.

Young slim males with their shirts off. A mild erotic pleasure to the eye.

I didn't mind. I just slipped into the lake and pretended I was doing water aerobic in the pool. It was an energizing experience.

Some folks would complain about that music piercing lake tranquility, but I went with the flow. I didn't mind having an "urban experience."

Fragrance Lake is a popular place.

Another road and parking lot allows people to bring cars closer to the lake than Clayton Beach Parking lot. It's a shorter hike from "parking" when one takes the old road that is still open to cars above the lake.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Should Whatcom County limit building permits?

August 6 Bellingham Herald has an article about this proposal from a member of the Whatcom County Planning Commission.

The proposal goes as follows:

Set quotas on home-building permits allowed in Bellingham's urban fringe to control the number of people moving into the areas year to year. Also to force even more of the in filling with-in Bellingham city limits, rather than in the adjacent county areas.

Clark County, where Vancouver, Washington (not Vancouver BC) is located, has enacted a ban on any new development until roadways are built to support the growth.

Traffic is the biggest complaint about growth.

I have a better idea.

Instead of total bans on housing construction, maybe people should consider my ideas for limiting car ownership. Subdivisions for people who can live with out cars should be considered. This would address the traffic problem by shifting car trips to things like public transit and bicycles.

My idea is presented in an earlier blog post. Also was in one of my letters to the Herald (July 15). It got a good response as someone picked up the ball and took my ideas further in a July 28 letter.

Reducing car use might also help address the concerns of folks like Building Industry Association of Whatcom County vice president Bill Quehrn who feels building permit limits would just push up house prices even more.

As homelessness grows, afford ability of housing is a big issue. According to the article, Quehrn is concerned about the 25 year old starting out with a new family.

There are places where first time home buyers, as well as most renters, can't afford to live.

I say, "wouldn't it be nice if people didn't need so much space in order to live?" I don't have a family or an automobile. Basically I just live in something like a studio.

Unfortunately, "across the board bans" on housing construction tend to hurt low income people by driving up prices and rents.

Often the owners of already existing houses will see their values skyrocket while renters and first time buyers get chased out.

Are these the kind of people we want to chase out of the area?

The proposal in Whatcom County does try to focus development inside Bellingham city limits, but this city is full of strong "anti growth" neighborhood associations. That task is not politically easy.

Bellingham should grow up instead of out, but there is just about always opposition to something going in next door. Currently, there is a lot of construction visible around town so the flames of opposition are fanned.

Will people, like me, with simple needs be squeezed out when rents climb to the stratosphere?

I don't have kids who cause population growth or an automobile causing traffic. Why should I have to move out just because I don't have lots of money?

So far, my situation remains affordable, but I worry about the future.

I know some anti growth advocates have proposals to tax high income folks and subsidize low income housing.

Sounds okay, but that might be politically difficult as well. Like the in filling of Bellingham. Politically difficult.

Rather than banning all development, as some would want to do, both in town and in the county, here are some better ideas.

Discourage people from having kids. Especially too many kids. Discourage people from driving cars. Encourage high density and "smaller floor space" housing.

Also think about what kind of people we are attracting to this area.

Maybe we should say, "it will not be an affordable place to raise a family." Parts of eastern Washington are still affordable for family living.

Instead, Bellingham could be seen as a place for singles, people with out cars and folks who are into voluntary simplicity.

How's that for politically difficult?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

If scientists believed their understandings of truth were infallible, we might still be using vacuum tubes

Some religious people think evolutionary theories are flawed because scientists often admit that they were wrong about an old explanation when a new explanation comes along. The theories keep evolving.

Folks can see evolving truths as a sign of weakness. They seem to assume truths must always be unchanging. Others see the admission that understanding of truth can change as a sign of strength.

Science is more of a process of learning and changing, rather than a set of absolute principles or dogmas.

In the 1930s, vacuum tubes were considered orthodoxy for amplification devices.

Then along came the transistor.

If scientists of the 1930s were like religious fundamentalists, we would still be using vacuum tubes.

Understanding of truth, in science is always changing and that can be seen as a virtue rather than a weakness. Scientists are often more humble than fundamentalist religious people. They are willing to admit that their answers are open to scrutiny and modification is possible.

Here's an interesting aside.

Some folks still claim vacuum tubes sound better in amplifiers than solid state components. Especially for electric guitars.

Interesting that electric guitars often hold onto tube technology when rock music was once thought of as "cutting edge rebellion."

Then there is spin as in advertising. What is actually "better."

When I was a kid in the 1960s, there was an encyclopidia article about how transistors were better than vaccuum tubes. My dad read that article to me as I sat on his lap. Maybe I was in second grade then.

"Transistors better than tubes."

I looked up at him and ask,

"Is that true, or is that just a commercial?"

Couldn't figure out why that question made my dad crack up laughing.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Picture before and after, Fairhaven Village Green. Also the Bellingham that was.

Not necessarily better than the Bellingham that is.

Village Green in Fairhaven District, before it was spruced up recently. Some miss the funkier old ways.

New Village Green in Fairhaven. A friend of mine read, in tourist guide books, that Fairhaven was kind of a hippy hang out. When he got here, he said, "where are the hippies?" They're in some guide books, but not really here.

In the Bellingham that was, my second day of college unfolded at Western Washington State College; WWU's name back in mid 1970s.

A sulfurous fog blew across campus causing mild eye irritation.

One campus newsletter was named, "Tuna Gas News" from the smell that often permeated the air from Georgia Pacific's pulp mill.

Pollution control technology all but eliminated that smell during the 1980s.

More recently, that pulp mill has closed, but it's air could be seen as a "preservative." It may have kept so many people from wanting to move here for retirement.

Not only are there more retirees now, but students are swelling the ranks as well.

Back in the mid 70s, Western's enrollment was declining.

Quite the opposite problem from today when enrollment ceilings must be imposed on the popular school.

Western grew in late 1960s with students seeking a deferment from being drafted. By mid 70s the draft was gone. Enrollment was going down.

Also the post war baby boom was graduating and a smaller generation of college students was arriving.

Faculty feared being laid off.

It was like a downward spiral.

Less students met less faculty.
Less faculty met less class offerings.
Less class offerings would attract even less students.

It was feared to be a spiral of decline.

There was a process called "Reduction In Force." Trying to trim the staff to meet lower enrollment levels. Someone nicknamed the whole thing, "Rip Off In Force," rather than "Reduction In Force."

It was easy for students to get in to Western, however.

The welcome mat was out.

One didn't have to have a high grade point. They were almost begging for students.

Soon after graduation, I rented a one bedroom apartment for $155 per month. It was a nice apartment. Could pay my rent from the few gardening and lawn mowing jobs I scrounged up. That was about the only work one could find.

Bellingham is now benefiting, or suffering, from a double boom in world population trends. Just as post war baby boomers look for places to retire, their kids are going to college. The welcome mat is being replaced with a "full" sign.

Things have been spruced up in town. Some fear it's been sanitized.

Downtown Bellingham was scruffier in the early 1980s.

It was "pragmatic." More traffic, before the mall was built.

Less trees.

Less desirable, but it got the job done.

Just past the bridge on prospect street, I remember noticing a view out over the bay. One had to squint between the bushes and a building to see it. Through tiny gaps among blackberry bushes, one could see a ship in port. Down below was an old sewage plant that is now Maritime Heritage Center.

A woman must have wondered what I was looking at as she sat in the building dispatching taxies. I was trying to find the best gap between the bushes for seeing out over that bluff. She had a puzzled look on her face as if to say, "what's he looking at."

Now, the area is a park and viewpoint.

The old garage, that served as a taxi dispatch and blocked the view, is gone.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

1965 or 66 view from Streit Perham dorms

Out over my paper route in the shadow of a university

View out over my childhood neighborhood in Pullman, WA. This image was taken by my older brother sometime in the mid 1960s. From a nearby dormitory. He recently shared some of his old slides.

I grew up in a college town. A compact little town of neighborhoods, sidewalks and back fences. Hardly any sprawl. There were tall buildings at the university that sprang up practically next to thousand acre ranches. One could really tell when one was "out of town."

The area shown was basically my "paper route."

Large Castile like structure in upper left is the Theta Ki Fraternity. It was on my route for a while.

One time as I went to collect the bill, it's halls were ankle deep in leaves. Leaf rakers were doing a "frat house prank."

Struggling for 2 and 1/2 years, I eventually gave up the paper route in 8th grade. Hardly made any money at it, but I wasn't a very good book keeper. I didn't keep the route book up to date and ended up delivering papers after people had dropped subscriptions and moved.

I fantasized that my little route would be the start of some big "communications enterprise" in my adult life. Little did I know said "communications empire" would be a web page.

Hardly an enterprise. It still doesn't make much money, but money isn't everything. I am not really that motivated by money.
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Friday, July 22, 2005

Gay Marriage Legal In Canada

Congratulations to Canada. Some conservatives fear that allowing gay marriage will lead to the breakdown of the family and society. So maybe Canada can be seen as an experiment. People have often called "democracy" and experiment anyway. One often talks about the "great American experiment."

So the experiment is running. We'll see if Canadian society breaks down. My bet is, Canada will do very well. Canada is also an experiment in something called "multiculturalism." All these different ethnic groups, religions, lifestyles attempting to live together in a civil society. There are some rough spots, but Canada seems a lot more civil than most places. Less violence than even here in USA.

Congratulations for being willing to experiment. Nothing wrong with that. Experimentation can be good. Remember; USA is often called the great experiment. In this case, the Canadians have us beat.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Scandals in Bush administration or where ever

Scandal news has now become background noise. When people say, "all politicians are crooks anyway," another scandal just becomes, "what else is new?"

But, be careful with cynicism, it can become like crying wolf.

I remember Watergate breaking new ground. A mood of trust in our public officials was breached.

Now there is less trust to breach.

Watergate was a watershed.

Since then, scandal after scandal has washed in. We are even unearthing affairs during the Kennedy years and (using genetic science) learning of Jefferson and a slave.

Ironically, the more vigilant we get about scandals, the more they are like background noise.

Then it becomes harder to make a big deal out of scandals or do anything about them.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Is it time to develop a car free subdivision?

Traffic calming circle near St. Joe's Hospital.

Is this a golden opportunity for some developer to plan a car free neighborhood in Bellingham, WA.?

Demand for residential real estate is at an all time high. People are concerned about traffic from new development. Even the mayor recently said,

"When people complain about growth, the're usually not talking about people." "What they are talking about is cars."
July 1 Herald.

I say, if a subdivision was planned for folks who don't want to drive, it would still sell in a hot market. That's my guess at least.

Just say "no" to the automobile.

Turn the streets over to people, bicycles, public transit, emergency vehicles and, maybe, deliveries.

Why not?

The market is selling so fast, even this "perceived inconvenience" wouldn't stop it.

If the real estate market was almost dead, it would be another story, but this market has plenty of "give" to it.

Of course the city would have to make some changes also. Zoning that requires parking would have to be waved, changed or worked around.

It's something to think about.

Is this a radicle idea?

Not really.

Bellingham already has one neighborhood where automobiles are highly restricted. Can you guess where that is?

It's Western Washington University.

Much of the campus is "roadless." It's a roadless area.

Like wilderness?

Not unless one is thinking of wild parties at the dorms.

Much of the campus is pedestrian plazas. There are some buildings you can't drive to.

High Street, which runs in front of the Viking Union, is blocked off during the day. Turned over to pedestrians, bicycles, transit, emergency vehicles, deliveries.

Parking isn't that easy to find on campus, but there are a lot of bike racks and Western enjoys the most frequent bus service of any area in Bellingham; except for the transit terminal that is downtown.

Western is hard to negotiate by car but it remains a popular place. So popular that an enrollment ceiling must be imposed.

Limited state funding, rather than anti growth sentiment, brings the ceiling, but lack of roads hasn't killed Western.

Some say this will work for young students, but older people must have cars.

I don't know about that. Many friends in my age range (around 50) still bike over mountain passes. Also there is the bus.

Another "less car" kind of planning has come to our city as well.

Some areas near downtown allow apartments to be built with less parking required than before.

Less parking per unit.

This is a new zone designed to help preserve historic buildings and promote living with less cars.

Some people gripe that these developments are causing "overflow parking" along nearby streets. They also gripe about overflow parking from Western.

I guess people never stop complaining.

Maybe these folks should just stop driving if they are going to complain about traffic.

Are you part of "traffic?"

I live on a busy downtown street and don't really notice whether people are parking or not.

They've always parked here.

I haven't noticed any difference since new apartment buildings were built nearby.

Of course retailers tend to complain if they think there isn't enough parking in an area.

Maybe someday retailing can kick the car addiction also.

It seems like nothing will keep houses from selling, but retailing is a different story. Competition for retail customers is fierce in this city. Parking might be harder to do without.

The housing market is hotter than the hamburger market. They've built so many restaurants.

Someday, even retailing can kick the car habit. Especially in areas of high pedestrian concentration, but for now, someone could propose a car free residential area, at least.

If people will pay a fortune for cracker box houses, maybe they will do with out cars. They're that desperate to live here and maybe they'll discover they can do it.
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

You sat in a logging truck on Earth Day?

A friend of mine didn't think that was "the politically correct" thing to do on Earth Day. He was kind of horrified, but I forgot it was Earth Day.

Senator Gaylord Nelson, credited for founding the day, passed away July 3 so lots of stories are being told. My story is about sitting in a logging truck on that day in 1991, and I don't even drive.

It was a bike ride to the Skagit Valley Tulips fields. A one day fitness class from the YMCA.

After peddling around in the tulips, I suggested dropping by the headquarters of Paccar International. Paccar was having an open house. Other class members liked the idea.

Often wondering what Paccar did, the open house would be an opportunity to find out.

It tests trucks, big ones.

We dropped in for the tour, free cookies also. It was another happening at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Paccar puts big trucks through the tests. Shakes them on hydraulic shakers, runs them around a track, puts all kinds of sensors in them.

Tour ended in the garage. A room full of trucks. Logging trucks, tractor trailers. Lots of trucks on display.

People were invited to climb into the cabs, look around, even honk the horn. Kids loved it.

I climbed into a logging truck even though I've never even driven a car. It felt powerful and yes the horn worked.

Then it was back to our bicycles for the trip to Bellingham where I got a phone call from a friend.

"What did you do today?" he ask. He was horrified and reminded me that this was Earth Day.

To me, it wasn't that inconsistent to be sitting in a logging truck. Earth Day was a great idea, but it's also symbolic. The one day each year that people think about environmentalism. Railing against logging trucks is another symbolic thing.

The true problem is consumptive lifestyles and overpopulation the rest of the year.

People who live in wooden houses, use paper products, depend on our economy might be able to appease their guilt by lashing out at the logging industry. It can be railed against, pushed out of sight, pushed overseas, but still exists as long as its products are in demand.

There is also the concept of "responsible logging." Yes, that industry is part of our lives, but (like so many things) dialog can be used to make it more responsible. That same dialog applies to our personal lives which create the need for the industries. Even though I had forgotten that it was Earth Day, I did spend the day bicycling. The bike trip was a great way to celebrate that day.

Some of the staff out at Paccar was impressed. They said, "you biked all the way here?" "Didn't know it could be so fun."

Liberate those loggers from their workaholic loads. Let's all work "part time." That's responsible stewardship of the environment. Just log part time for sustainable yield.

Picture: Display in Starker Demonstration Forest near Corvallis, Oregon. Seen on my 2004 bike tour. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fireworks over old Yeager's warehouse building in Bellingham

Seen from many parts of the city. One year, fireworks could be viewed above old Yeager's warehouse building. A few years later, that building burned for an unrelated reason.

On another note: Congratulations to NASA for the smashing success of Deep Impact mission to that comet.
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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Reflecting in old telescope mirror.

Reflecting in old telescope mirror. Taking picture of myself with a flash. Image from 1996 bicycle trip to Victoria, BC. Museum at base of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

What's Inside a Comet?

10:52 PM Pacific Daylight Time July 3 (+ or - 3 minutes), if all goes as planned. A probe from Deep Impact spacecraft smashes into comet Tempel 1 to kick up dust. Then the spacecraft can get a look at what kind of material is "deeper down" inside the head of a comet.

Tempel 1 is also being monitored by observatories around Earth such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Hopefully it will be a very educational blast. Learning more about comets may teach us about the first dust clouds that formed our solar system. Questioning more about creation, which to a large extent, we don't have a clue about still.

There's also, supposedly, the big bang which created this universe and many questions about how order and life evolved on our planet. Questions as to whether something like life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Religious dogmatists have thought they knew the answers to these questions for thousands of years. Many of them act like "know it alls" fighting over who's dogma is correct. Is it Islam, Christianity, Voodoo? Which interpretation?

Fighting over different religions, there are often blasts of another kind, car bombs, or bombing raids from military aircraft.

Religious dogmatists often repress those who offer new information, persecuting Galileo for instance. They thought they "knew it all" when the Sun went around the Earth.

In past times, comets could mean great fear. Signs from an angry god.

But, what about bothering to ask God? Not presuming we know it all. Not even knowing if God exists, or how do we define "God?"

Admitting that there are still more questions than answers can be seen as a sign of weakness, in the eyes of machismo warriors.

Questioning can also be seen as a sign of modesty, humbleness; true virtues.

It seems like scientists tend to be humble. Willing to question. To dialog. Scientists often using phrases like, "We need to go back to the drawing board." "Rewriting our understanding of..."

Asking the questions and not claiming to know all the answers yet. That is a quest which is pursued by scientists, among others.

Putting aside all the energy we spend on wars, arguing over who's right. Some folks are actually bothering to ask, "what's out there in the universe?"

If the deep impact succeeds it can be a blast. This blast for peaceful questioning of the cosmos.
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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Eminent Domain

I am not a property owner so recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain for a private development over a few "hold out homeowners" just passes me by. I don't really care, but it's interesting.

A conservative talk show host was railing against "big government," but this is actually "big corporations" using government as a tool. It's conservative's beloved "market place" in action. Big fish eat little fish. Office park versus gandma who lived there all those years in her little cottage.

Liberals might say this proves the point. Even government now serves corporations. The fox now runs the hen house. Republicans on the Supreme Court, in the White House and Congress.

I say it's not just government or corporations. It's "the people" in disguise. Marketplace behavior. There are small businesses, in that town, wanting to see the office complex built. Economic base, jobs, shoppers, survival. Teacher pay raises. Ruled by the almighty dollar. Some little people against other little people.

But be wary of "bigness."

I remember a line from former President Gerald Ford's 1976 state of the union speech, and he's even a Republican. Speaking about the year that had just past, Ford said:

"At the same time, Americans became increasingly alienated from big institutions." "They were steadily losing confidence, not just in big government but in big business, big labor, and big education, among others." "Ours was a troubled land."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Exchange Citizens

There are exchange students from foreign countries. How about "exchange permanent citizens?" A friend of mine came up with this idea.

Lots of people want to come to America. Many think they can still make a fortune even though this is getting harder. At the same time, there are lots of Americans who wish to get away from the rat race. Chill out in the slower pace of some foreign nation. Many retired folks who would bring their retirement incomes with them. In some cases folks can no longer afford to live in America anyway. Look at real estate prices, health care costs.

How about exchanging places with someone from Costa Rica? An American moves there to slow down while a Costa Rican comes here. How about exchanging places with someone from New Zealand?

My friend is suffering from what some people might call "blue state blues." Not happy with the current direction of American society under George Bush. The so called blue states voted for John Kerry. Some have considered leaving America. Going to Canada, for instance. Problem is, Canada can not absorb all that population increase easily. Immigration to Canada is very limited.

This friend of mine suggested the "exchange citizens" idea.

It is worth thinking about, but would have some bugs. Some countries would be a lot more popular than others. It's an idea worth considering as immigration policy and quotas are negotiated between nations.

Also, I hope most of the blue state people stay here. We need them to keep America from jumping off the deep end.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Snazzy Alternative Transportation

A few of the more colorful buses have been added to our transit fleet. That's snazzy enough for subdued Bellingham.

Down in Seattle, bicyclists go naked and paint their bodies in bright colors. It's part of the annual World Naked Bike Ride Day.

This year was cool and rainy.

Climate subdued the excitement, even in Seattle. I didn't go after seeing the forecast. Still, I read close to 63 participated. A few more than last year.

In 2004 some people tried to organize a similar event in Bellingham, but it was subdued, actually suppressed. There were more police than riders. See 2004

Protesting war and dependency on oil is a big motivation behind naked bike rides held in various cities. I like the images that populate various web pages after such rides. Just do a few searches.

The word "celebration" comes to mind rather than "protest" however.

Going naked doesn't really make sense as a protest of war, oil dependency, or what ever. Main stream America might look at this as the ultimate in silly ness. The connection to serious things such as foreign policy / transportation planning seems vague. Also, wouldn't riding a bike in the nude be uncomfortable? They don't make padding in bike shorts for nothing.

On the other hand, celebration does make sense.

Celebration, including mild eroticism.

To me, celebration makes more sense than protest. Otherwise, why go naked?

Cyclists tend to be erotically appealing. Effects of all that exercise on the body. This appeal can certainly be used as a motivation for getting more people cycling.

"You too can have a lean sexy body."

Think of the billions of dollars spent on weight loss clinics. Much of that ineffective. Diets, programs, therapy, multi step whatever.


Save that money and just go bicycling.

Libido is a powerful motivator, more powerful than the tiny "drop in a bucket" that one cyclist might have on reducing global warming.

Reduce one's own waistline. That's results one can see with out the whole world having to change first.

Being in the company of other attractive cyclists can be a motivator. Bike clubs, group rides. Better than hanging out in bars.

What ever it takes.

If more people get cycling, the war, oil dependency, global warming become less. Like the brightly colored transit busses. Most people like a celebration.

In case you are wondering, in alarm, I am not really advocating an orgy.

There have been some nude dance parties, I have gone to, that were guided by the phrase, "sexy party, but not a sex party."

One such party is done as a fund raiser for charity.

Someday it would be fun to go on a group bike ride; most likely a clothed ride. Then have it end at a hot tub.

Or how about ending a ride with "cool down stretching" at a dance?

Dance with spandex clad cyclists.

Painted? Shirtless? Maybe even nude? Unthinkable.