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.