Sunday, December 31, 2006

Often Bellingham's fanciest displays are on almost dead end streets. In keeping with subdued excitement

One of my readers informed me that her sister saw Bellingham's Erie St. featured on national television and she lives in South Carolina.

I went looking, on my bicycle. What a good way to see Christmas lights, by bicycle. Last time I did this in someone's car, the windows kept fogging up. Couldn't see much.

Erie is in an area with lots of dead-end streets. Kind of hidden away and not that many people pass by. They went through a lot of work in that neighborhood. I wonder what the birds think.

There are many lit up homes around Bellingham. I can enjoy them without having to do it myself.

Some people worry about the energy used, but I wouldn't be surprised if it still takes more energy to heat the average American home.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Executive Workout

I always thought "executive workout" means just using the sauna at a gym and not any of the gym's exercise areas.

I do so much bicycling that I get lots of exercise without going to a gym. I usually go to the gym just for the sauna and steam room area. Around here, the term executive workout gets used for that.

When I do a Google search another concept comes up.

Executive workout can also mean a quick workout that executives add to their busy lives. They stick it in on top of all those other things that are piled into their lives.

That's not me. My lifestyle is more leisurely.

Never owning an car means not having gained that 2,000 lb "love handle made of steel" commonly referred to as an automobile. Walking, jogging and bicycling is second nature for me. One can literally "run their errands," or at least jog them.

Occasionally I do aerobics at the gym. This is not because it's a workout, but because the music is good. More positive than the negative stuff they play in Bellingham's scuzzy bars. The workout can be a byproduct of a good time.

I call my workout a "playout."

Aerobics is like dancing. More fun than running on a treadmill. Treadmills remind me of corporate America. "Keep running faster, faster and you don't go anywhere."

Some people go to a sauna after the workout to soothe muscle aches. I can just go for the social aspect of the sauna as my muscles seldom ache. They are toned from the gentle, steady pace of a bicycling lifestyle. Little strain or injury. Not like competitive sports.

I didn't even bother using a sauna after bicycling 60 miles to Vancouver, last autumn. There was a sauna where I was staying, but eating was a bigger priority. The sauna is social and warmth for me, not "pragmatic therapy after a workout."

After 60 miles, I was hungry. Went over to Davie Street and quenched my hunger with the largest bowl of soup I have ever eaten. It was full of crisp
broccoli and just the right touch of meat.

One waitress in an Asian restaurant said, "eat lots of vegetables and a little meat to stay healthy."

"Lots of fruits, vegetable's and a little meat."

That's not going to the extreme of being a vegetarian, it's just a meal with some balance.

After the big meal, I was ready for a short nap back at my hotel. Then a fun night of dancing at a bar called Numbers on Davie Street. That place really does have good music, in my opinion. Old disco tunes. Good energy music.

I have never made a New Year's resolution, but maybe I should. I could brush my teeth more often, but eating lots of
apples has helped. It seems like less of a chore than brushing. Apples taste good.

There is an old phrase that goes, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Sounds like a good New Year's resolution.

Friday, December 29, 2006

More gruesome news from the Middle East

Now it's the execution of Hussein who himself executed many.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I don't remember ever believing in Santa Claus

To my scientific mind, it didn't seem practical that anyone could get to all the rooftops and go down all the chimneys in one night.

There are just too many of them.

Then, one special Christmas eve, my dad drove us out to the Pullman airport to pick up my oldest sister who was flying in from Seattle. There was a red glow in the sky. It did looked convincing.

Was this Rudolph's nose reflecting off low clouds and fog? It was a hopeful sign. Maybe there is a Santa Claus.

Then my brother pointed out that the airstrip's runway lights were casting unusual glows on the clouds.

*Picture wasn't actually taken at airport, but has similar look.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Lights On My Bicycle

For the season, but mostly for safety.

Why not put colored lights on your bike where people will see them? Who would see a Christmas tree in your apartment?

Then leave the lights on till Spring, like the city of Bellingham does by keeping it's lighted stars up in the downtown till around February.

Why not have showy lights for safety?

There are cyclists who go through the trouble of welding together those high bikes, you know with the seat and handlebars way up off the ground. That's good for special events like parades, but why not something showy to enhance bike safety?

I used a product called Spoke Brites. A pack of three sold for $9.95. Colored light emitting diodes that are powered with button batteries. Motion switches turn them on when the wheel is turning; especially if there are bumps in the pavement.

Problem is, they don't turn off for daytime riding, unless one removes them from spokes. This isn't a big problem in our long periods of winter dark and the batteries last a long time.

Spoke Brites don't seem to be available in the local bike shop I checked. Lance Armstrong must have not used them. I found some in a Fred Myers on Bakerview Road. It's one of those big box stores that has variety.

There are some other glowing LED products designed for wheel spokes. One friend has them in his wheels, but I am not sure where he got them. Some kind of mail order place.

I also retrofitted another type of light that can be more easily found in bike shops. Two LED blinkers that people normally wear on clothing, or place on the back of the bike. I used clear plastic tape to stick these in among the spokes for red lights that move with the wheels. They have switches.

If you are trying this, make sure to mount them so they don't catch on the frame or brakes as they go around.

So far, no one has stolen them. They look kind of tacky in their wads of tape, when turned off.

I get a lot of comments as I ride. Picture may have not turned out as good as they look in motion.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Downtown Bellingham Building Heights Controversy

Drilling for coffee? Image shows drilling rig set up at drive-through coffee place.

Is it local production of that "brown liquid" from the ground? "Buy local, mine it local?"

No. I think it is drilling to explore firmness of underlying rock. A six story condominium building is planned for that lot. That's the corner of State and Magnolia.

Then there's the next block south. That's the block where two parcels sit side by side along State Street.

At State and Holly, a new bank is proposed. The Key Bank that sits there now would be replaced with a newer version of Key Bank.

Some people fear that the bank plans would not be tall enough for that location. They say that downtown Bellingham needs a more dramatic "first impression" as one comes down Holly Street, but just next door, there is another story.

That's the proposed Bay View Tower. 23 floors of mostly condominiums, give or take a few stories. To be Bellingham's tallest building, but there are people who fear that it would be too tall.

"Not tall enough" and "too tall," just with-in the same block. I guess one can never please everyone.

Some people would like to impose height limits in downtown Bellingham.

On the other hand, I like the diverse architecture that one sees in places like downtown Seattle or Vancouver, BC, where tall buildings can sit next to small structures and mini parks. It gives a city that exciting and diverse look.

As an observer, I don't mind seeing some of the many changes happening around me. Population growth and prosperity are underlying issues that could be questioned on the global scale, but the architectural fruits of growth - the urban landscape - provides an interesting drama. I enjoy watching things unfold.

When I was a kid, my dad used to keep tabs on all the construction projects around town. We lived in the college town of Pullman, Washington where major buildings were being added to the university campus. Pullman is home of Washington State University.

Speaking of dramatic architecture, the corner of High and Holly Streets, in Bellingham, holds a new facility of note. It's part of Whatcom Educational Credit Union. That credit union is getting so big, it's like an empire.

Ceiling kind of looks like an inverted pyramid.

Interesting, and it's true, "education is big business." Big business, especially in towns like Pullman and Bellingham.

With all these things going on, it looks like quite a few people have money.

Money has never been a big goal of mine. My lifestyle of "living in one small room" remains intact however.

One small room with a computer and a bicycle.

Mainstream "professional and middle class America" lives differently than me, but my lifestyle seems to work okay right along side mainstream culture.

People say my lifestyle is unusual.

Unusual because I don't even drink coffee.

Several years ago I read that Bellingham leads the nation in the number of drive-through coffee locations, per capita. The most coffee places for it's size.

There must be a lot of coffee drinkers here, or more likely a lot of hopeful entrepreneurs. Merchants wanting to sell to coffee drinkers. Local businesses and also the chains.

Just about everyone seems to be in the act. It's called aspirations. Coffee kiosks on so many street corners. Drinking, driving. Not the kind of bad drinking and driving that comes to mind, but still. It's people and their hurrying lifestyles.

Coffee, cell phones, driving.

My aspirations are a bit different. I don't drink coffee, or drive an automobile, but chocolate milk, that's another story. Chocolate milk is an addiction as I bike.

Here is something else to think about. The Key Bank plans some drive-through lanes as an important part of it's design. What happens if people actually do cut back on driving cars? If gasoline goes to, say $10 per gallon?

Walking or biking past Bellingham's construction sites is entertaining. Interesting, but also a bit worrisome. Rent increases, related to prosperity, can push "non moneyed" people out of cities.

I hope our city can succeed in respecting it's diversity of incomes and lifestyles as well as it's ever evolving diversity in architecture.

At least for now, it looks like construction creates a lot of "available living space."

Also I hear that some of the tall buildings may never get built. It's aspirations, but there is also the need for a foundation of financing and buyers.

Like the many coffee places around town; there are a lot of "for rent" and "for lease" signs. That's kind of reassuring for renters, like me. Construction can create the "elbow room" needed for keeping life affordable as population and the economy keep growing.

Someday, people still need to talk about lifestyles and population.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Power Outages: another argument against sprawl

Power outages that have plagued western Washington after the December 15 2006 windstorm could be used to illustrate a problem with sprawl. It's a problem with low density development where houses are spaced far apart among a lot of large trees. Power lines have to be strung long distances to service each resident.

It seemed like most of the denser, more urban neighborhoods didn't suffer outages, or the outages were shorter lived. In denser neighborhoods, lines are less vulnerable to large trees. Also there can be more redundancy in lines so if one goes down, power can be rerouted over an alternative path; sort of like how the Internet works.

This is another reason to encourage more compact development.

Image from my mimeographed newsletter of 1981.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time Magazine's Person Of The Year 2006 - You

Dethroning The Celebrity

I am reminded of a controversy over Time Magazine's person of the year in 2001; New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Who had the biggest impact on news in 2001?

The thought of giving such an award to Bin Laden for orchestrating those 911 events was disgusting. Giuliani was a safer compromise. More heroic, but not necessarily the person making the biggest splash to shape our memory of 2001.

That's the problem with "top dog" celebrity, "winner take all" contests.

It looks like Time's 2006 pick has dethroned the whole idea of being top dog and given the award to all of us.

I am pleased with this turn of events.

The Internet can empower all of you.

We can all share a tiny fragment of being "person of the year." There really isn't one centralized "person of the year."

I have often thought that too much emphasis is placed on the winners and celebrities in society. We all have stories to tell. I am happy to see all of us share in the 2006 award.

Hope no one has to do something really ominous to be heard.

See comment on my web site that I wrote several years back about Time's person of the year.

One year, the computer, rather than a person, won that prize. I think it was sometime in the 1990s.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two Comments On The Weather

Wind and rain on the window pane, but this is actually a swiped image from some web cam. I doctored it with my cheap image editor.

Traveling lightly in an urban core

It's been winter with wind, rain and snow.

My little room has been quite cozy in this downtown area.

Lights seem to never go out here. An advantage of living among dense development. Not that many trees to fall on power lines and there are a lot of redundant circuits. If one goes down, they can usually switch to another.

In the last wind, we did loose power, for about 5 seconds.

5 seconds is all.

I was at work which is just a few blocks from my residence. Outage wasn't even long enough to remove the afterimage of the brightly lit lobby from my eyes.

Before the wind, I shut my home computer off at the strip. It doesn't need to be on 24/7. My web sites run on servers that are located back east and in California. These hosting corporations have fortresses with everything they need till Armageddon.

Shared hosting, kind of like communal living.

Yes, technological civilization has a certain amount of redundancy and resiliency.

Agility is a good attribute as well. Being able to get around on foot.

Living in a dense urban area, there were lots of restaurants and stores to choose from. Quite a few things did close during the snow, but there were enough places that I could always find something open.

One time, I had to walk out to Lakeway Drive for a decent meal. That wasn't too bad. I needed the exercise anyway.

My little rented room doesn't have much space to stash things.

I can't really afford to be a survivalist.

With practically no food stored at home, I rely on my agility to get around and the fact that there are so many restaurants and stores in this downtown area.

Hard to imagine them all being closed.

Being single makes it easier to get around as well.

That's my lifestyle, traveling lightly in the heart of an urban core.

Some other folks stock their homes with lots of food, auxiliary generators and so forth. Sometimes things like generators can be more of a hassle. I hear of problems with fumes and even fuel storage fires. Still, it makes more sense to try this in rural areas where services are farther away. It wouldn't make sense with my lifestyle.

I do have a portable radio with batteries. My bike light and camping gear could work for a short while if needed.

The radio can go with me where ever I go. It has been interesting listening. KOMO radio's "neighbor to neighbor" coverage has been good.

The most recent wind was a lot harsher just south of here.

I have to count my blessings. The storms have just been interesting things to watch and follow on the news for me.

That's my lifestyle. Not having many things to worry about, having a lot of agility and being close to a lot of urban services.

Green House Catastrophe?

Conservatives might laugh during the snow and say, "where's the green house effect?" Liberals might say, "it's really climate change and some areas, like northern Europe could get colder."

Well I say, it's just a normal winter.

We have gotten wind, rain and some snow, other years. It's just that we have had quite a string of "milder than normal" winters recently.

Maybe the milder than normal winters have been related to global warming so when we have a normal winter, it seems abnormal.

A perception incubated in global warming.

Really, there is never a normal year for weather. That's because "normal" is only a "many year" average. Random weather fluctuations are always either "warmer than normal," or "colder than normal," or "wetter" or "drier."

It's a random thing.

One can be philosophical about the concept of normal. Most things aren't really normal.

Things are always unique. "Normal" is only the sum total of things over a long period.

Normal is, basically, abnormal.

Remember, that is true for people as well. Us, abnormal folks, (abnormal in many directions) are really the majority.

I've probably lost you all by now.

Anyway, hope you are surviving the winter.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Last Gavel

I am so glad that the Republican Congress has come to an end.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

First year in new Pullman High School 1972 - 73

See more images

It's a bit blurry, but I just dug up this photo. It was taken inside my old high school; Pullman High.

This picture was taken during the 30Th reunion as the class of 73 was touring the building.

Class of 73 was the first graduating class from this innovative building. There was a lot of open minded thinking, even back then.

Pullman is a college town. That school even had an award for "most individualistic student." They gave it to me in spring of my freshman year.

The art teacher, Vic Moore, was quite a character. One spring his students piled gooey stuff around a sink to create something that looked like an elixir spring in the art department.

A burbling elixir spring.

He would then bottle water in glass jars and label it with things like "pen and ink," "watercolor" or "felt pen." He took these jars around the school pretending to be selling them; like a "snake oil salesman."

Students enjoyed the stunts, or thought he was a bit weired.

It was that same teacher who staged a "pep rally" for some paintings that were being entered into a competition.

If PE classes get pep rallies, why not art?

I once suggested that modern school needed a throne.

A throne, like where a king would sit. Something to make that new school look like the Gothic building we had just moved out of.

This wasn't a serious suggestion, but some students built one. The students scrounged up farm implements and combine parts from wheat ranches around town.

Rusty old farm implements.

They welded a "junk throne" together. It went on display at the school. That art teacher sat there and pretended he was commanding students from the throne.

This was the same teacher who built a castle out of old car doors, washing machine lids, bed springs and, of course, farm implements. It was located on a country road out of town.

Soon the throne went on display to a circuit of art galleries around the region.

Quite an "art happening."

I also remember that art teacher asking students to ponder this question.

"In the hamburger of high school, what would art be? Would art be the relish, the bun, the patty?"

Those were nice memories.

A small "college town" that felt safe and creative back in the year 1972-73.

That was back when the Watergate scandal was starting to make news. Political science classes followed Watergate hearings and people used to laugh at Richard Nixon.

Maybe we were too harsh on our poor president.

I think Pullman went for McGovern in 1972. Surprised some folks being that we were in the Palouse region of eastern Washington.

It is a college town.

In history class, the teacher once called Pullman,

"The Athens of the Palouse."

Athens of the Palouse. Slogan must have never stuck.

I was planning to go into broadcasting, back then. Even took a TV production class in the school's shining new TV studio.

They were proud of that facility.

Radio was really my big interest.

Never imagined I would get a web page. Web pages hadn't been invented back in 1973.

A classmate brought me back to Pullman for the weekend of the 30Th reunion.

See more images I took from that trip to the reunion.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's A Lost Cause

Lots of news on the radio about how badly the war in Iraq is going. It's a lost cause.

This may be a bit simplistic, but the "religious right," in this country, is wrong. Maybe our "religious right" put too much faith in deeply religious people of the Middle East. Maybe they thought the religious folks of that region would co-operate in a fledgling democracy. "After all, aren't they moral people with deep religious convictions, albeit Muslim?"

Well, the intolerance of that region has turned to sectarian violence and civil war. Religious fundamentalists will do that.

Here in America, it took our so called "good people;" often religious people, several hundred years to craft the liberal democracy we now enjoy. In the "good old days," we nearly exterminated the American Indian and made their religions illegal, until more recent times. We've had slavery and our own civil war.

It took us several hundred years and we are still learning the lessons of tolerance. Still learning how to celebrate diversity. If the Middle East learns these lessons in 50 years, it will be moving faster than our past history.

We have come a long way as a liberal democracy. We even have liberal and accepting religions.

We need to tend to our own needs better, so as to become an even greater example of civilization to the world. Continue to put our own house in order.

Just think, what if all the billions spent on "military in Iraq" could have been used domestically, on things like alternative energy. Our foreign policy could advance past the ulterior motive of keeping oil flowing.

That would be "domestic spending;" not the priority of most Republicans. It would also be idealism. Daring to dream.

Some would scoff, but look what so called "realistic thinking" has brought us - a lost cause in Iraq and a black hole for large sums of money, not to mention all the lives lost.

Right at the start, it looked like getting rid of Iraq's dictator had some merit. I admit, I was a fence sitter (undecided) on the question of yes, or no, back in 2003.

Now it looks like the various religious fanatics in that region are making any positive outcome improbable.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why Retrocausality Can't Happen

Clock and intercom unit at my old high school in Pullman, WA.

In my opinion

What is retrocausality?

It is something being able to change the past. For instance, going back in time and shooting Aldof Hitler before he takes over Germany.

At least that's my understanding of what the term retrocausality means.

Why can't this happen?

Here are some results from the time I spend in contemplation. Yes, I get to do a lot of contemplation time working as a custodian.

Some physicists talk about the theoretical ability of going back in time. Photons being able to go back, or what ever. I guess this makes some sense in theory. In popular media, it brings up questions related to whether the past can be changed, or not.

Well, I would say that the past could not be changed, even though something might be able to travel to a past time.

The past can not be changed.

Why not?

Einstein talked about space and time being the same thing. (At least my understanding of Einstein indicates this, help me if I am off base).

He talked about "space/time."

If this is the case, then I would say that traveling through time would be similar to traveling through space. One can go forwards, backwards or even sideways through space.

As for time, our common experience always goes forward, but theoretically one should be able to go backwards as well.

When traveling backwards in space, we don't automatically expect that we will revisit the exact experiences that we encountered on our last visit to that spot space.

For instance, I recently traveled back to the space of my old high school, but I didn't expect to find my old high school experiences. I did not expect to find those same experiences just because I was revisiting that space.

The experience I did encounter was different. It was my 30th high school reunion.

My reunion wasn't being in high school again, even though I went back to the space of my old high school. No I couldn't retake a test I took back then and get a better grade.

Well, can't the same thing be said about traveling back to a place in time?

One can go back to 1973, for instance, but all the things that were located in 1973 are now "moved on." They are moved on to the present.

Going back to 1973 might not be that much different than going back to the space of my old high school. The space is still there, but the experience is different. The high school students have all moved on, gotten jobs and so forth.

When I went back, the students had all changed and the space was filled with the 30th reunion experience.

Now going back in time might bring the same idea. The year is still there, but the experience is different. Our universe is no longer residing in 1973. Going back there might mean leaving this universe. Yes there is still a 1973, but this universe has moved on. Maybe there is another universe experiencing 1973.

The space where my old grade school once stood is still there. The space is still there, but no school resides at that spot anymore.

That spot is now occupied with apartment buildings.

So, if we can go back in space and not encounter the world as it was when we visited that space last, why wouldn't that happen in time as well?

I would say that one could not go back to Germany in 1935 and shoot Hitler. Maybe one can go back to Germany and one could go back to 1935, but Hitler would no longer be there.

Maybe I am missing something? Help me out. What is wrong with this idea?

Now I know that traveling to my old high school space is not really visiting the space that my high school was in back in 1973. The galaxy is moving through the universe, so it's always in a different space. It is the same space in relation to the surface of the Earth. That is the point of reference I am using for this contemplation.

Anyway, am I missing something? Or, does this make sense? Your comments welcome.

The reason why I wrote this is because of some interesting articles that someone recently sent me about a professor Cramer, at University Of Washington. He is doing research on these issues. Check out this interesting blog article on that research.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Shopping: Your Patriotic Duty?

Scenes from my bike trip down the coast.

Red and white stripes of the American flag fit well with horizontal lines of these laminated beams in the store ceiling. I am not much of a shopper so I notice other things, like the architecture of the store building.

Saw this interesting ceiling in a store on my 2006 bike tour down the California coast. I think it was in Manchester, CA.

Makes a good image as people do the Christmas Shopping Season.

Not having kids, I am not much of a shopper.

I remember when I was a kid, I felt cheated if I didn't get as many toys under the tree as my older sister. She got more packages because she had friends up the street. They gave her stuff as well as the stuff we all got from mom and dad.

Now that I am older, I realize that friendships are valuable even if it doesn't necessarily mean more toys.

There is more to life than shopping, but a kid might not comprehend that as easily.

Amazing that shopping is a pastime for many folks. Not much else to do in "small town" America. Not much that's social at least.

On my trips, I keep seeing places that sell hot tubs. They are always selling hot tubs, but there is practically never a place where people gather to use the hot tub.

Imagine what the world would be like if all those hot tub stores where actually places where people went to relax in a hot tub and enjoy conversation with one another. I find the best philosophical conversations in places like saunas and hot tubs.

Places for deep conversation are rare in our society. We usually just find places to buy the hot tub and bring it home as another piece of clutter around the house.

Something more to need maintenance. Something more so the "house can own you."

I can think of more enjoyable ways to meet people than shopping. More intelligent conversations than just repeating the question over and over again, all day,

"Would you like that in a paper or plastic bag?"

Does the store clerk really feel connected after discussing that topic all day with hundreds of folks?

By the way, in answer to that "paper or plastic" question, I surprise some environmentalists by preferring plastic bags. They hold up better in the rain while walking or bicycling. Since mainstream society drives cars, they might not notice the propensity of paper bags to deteriorate in the rain.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Someone's bicycle buried in snow

I took this image back in 1996 during a large snowstorm. Went out walking with my camera. That was a bigger snow than our recent one. In 1996, we had over 3 feet of snow.

Today it is around 8 inches in town and 15 inches in parts of the county. Still a lot of snow for Bellingham as some years it hardly snows at all. Most cars are not prepared with snow tires in this area.

Glad I live within easy walking distance of my job and errands.

The freeway had a big slowdown headed northbound. I was in my cozy room listening to the radio. They were directing people to some back roads, like Colony Road and Ershing Road. Callers had no idea where said roads were. Those are roads I often take on my bike. I guess I know back roads better than people who seldom leave the freeway.

Being able to walk to work, I helped tidy up another co worker's area who wasn't able to make it in yesterday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stanley Park. Open space near the dense city

Density is a good way to accommodate large populations especially if planning is used to provide open space for breathing room. Stanley Park is a great example of urban open space. I took these images from the Lion's Gate Bridge looking east over Stanley Park toward downtown and the densely populated West End of Vancouver.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Customs house on a lonely road

On my 1995 bike trip to Northeastern Washington State, I came back through part of Canada. Entered Canada at this lonely customs house in the west part of the Okanogan Country. This isn't even the Okanogan's main "Highway 97" crossing. It is along a road between Nighthawk, WA. and the Chopaka area of BC.

The pressure strip made a "ding." The agent looked up from his book, or maybe woke up from a nap, when I arrived.

Like an old filling station.

Yes, Canada is a big country with lots of open space and they are trying to keep it that way. I get a few questions while crossing the border. These questions are mostly aimed at making sure I have plans to come back home to USA. They like to know that my job is waiting for me when I get back.

"Thanks for reminding me folks, I thought I was on vacation."

They say, "Go on through" as they ascertain that I am just planning to visit, not stay.

This remote crossing is different than the multi-lane crossing at Peace Arch. That is along I-5 which is just about becoming one city all the way from Olympia, WA. to Vancouver, BC.

A city with some gaps in between.

Bellingham is just another wisp in that "I-5 corridor swirl" which has been called Pugetopilis before.

As I peddle my bike in this "close to the border" area, many thoughts come to mind, including the subjects in yesterday's post.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Inuit hunting lifestyle may require more geographic space to be viable than typical American lifestyle

Is the world too crowded? Over populated?

Depends on how you want to live.

If every one's lifestyle was similar to that of the Inuit people in northern Canada, the world would definitely be too crowded. Living on the seal hunt, fishing and nomadic lifestyles takes lots of open space. Plenty of elbow room.

If the Canadian north were as densely populated as, say, the state of California, it wouldn't work. There wouldn't be enough fish and wildlife to go around. People would starve.

Some lifestyles, like those of the Inuit people, take up lots of space.

Folks might say the Inuits are "space hogs" even though they don't do that much harm to the environment.

This brings up an interesting point.

Someone can need a lot of space without necessarily harming the environment.

Many of the traditional living patterns on this planet haven't had that big of an impact on nature, but at the same time they need huge amounts of space to survive.

On the other hand, the stereotypical American "drive to the mall" lifestyle does have a big impact on the environment. It has an impact, but the typical American may need less space to survive than the typical Inuit.

Imagine that. Less space.

Yes, it does take some space to drive to the supermarket, find a parking place and pick out the fish from a fish counter, but if the fish is raised in a fish farm it might take a lot less space than if it were raised in some wild stream.

Imagine that. Less space needed for the typical American?

That's counter intuitive.

One hears that if the entire world were to live like Americans, we would need 7 planets the size of Earth. Yes, it is true. Our industrial society does have a big impact on nature. Land used for oil production, parking, subdivisions, agriculture, garbage, timber, mining, whatever.

Still, thanks to technological advances such as high intensity agriculture, we can cram more people into smaller land areas and still survive.

My guess is, traditional cultures like the Inuit of the Canadian North, need a lot more space than we do, even though their impact on the environment is less. They just need the elbow room, so the world is too crowded for them.

How many Earths would we need if we all lived like Inuits; all 6 billion of us on this planet?

That's a good question.

For just about all of the world's history, there were less than one billion people on this planet. When most of the world's people lived as some natives do today, there were very few people.

Then along came agriculture.

How many people can survive off one acre?

That's another "geographical" question.

It depends on the way people are living. Technology and high yield agra-industry can produce more food, per acre, and allow more folks to live on the planet. Things like high rise apartment towers can hold many folks while minimizing impact on the environment.

High rise residential tower and greenery in the well planned West End section of Vancouver, BC. One of the more densely populated parts of the world, but the West End holds its people quite comfortably.

"Car free West End living" could fit more people onto the planet than "sprawling auto centered American lifestyles," or, for that matter, "nomadic centered native lifestyles."

How many people can survive per acre?

It also depends on what type of acre you are talking about. Arctic tundra, or Iowa farm country? Cold ice, or fertile farmlands.

One has to hand it to the Inuit people for being able to survive thousands of years in arctic conditions. It's not like they are living in an area with hundreds of bushels per acre. It would take real talent to survive in the arctic.

So, land use and over population are interesting subjects.

People often debate whether the world is too crowded, or not.

Just remember one thing.

Some people need huge amounts of land, "elbow room," even if they don't have the technology to exploit that land the way modern Americans do.

The world may already be too crowded for these people.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bellingham Logo Scrapped

I read that Bellingham's new logo has been scrapped. It got lots of flack from citizens. Now it looks like the old mayor might be remembered for the logo fiasco. Kind of too bad as he wasn't that bad a mayor. Good on pedestrian and bike issues.

Problem with the logo is that it was too "professional." Tried to boil Bellingham down into a simple design. Slick design elements. This isn't easy to do. Bellingham is a very eclectic city and doesn't lend itself to one theme.

Maybe a place like Ashland, Oregon, famous for the Shakespeare Festival, could have a unifying theme, but Bellingham?

What would it be?

Mount Baker? the waterfront? the university? the folk music scene? Walmart? the freeway? Old Fairhaven? retired folks? students? tourists? greenways?

Or maybe just some simple design elements that don't really reflect any city in particular. That's the problem. It was too professional. With "professional" comes the price tag. $25,000, or so.

Too professional and clean.

The blue shapes in the background were supposed to represent mountains. Maybe the lines were too straight, too clean. They did look like buildings with consistent 45 degree roof lines. People kept saying they looked like condominium towers with a puddle in front. Mountains would be jagged, fuzzy, foggy, furry. With trees, holes, gaps, uneven.

One hears the term "fractals" when trying to get a computer to represent something natural like a mountain. Throw in the random element.

That's eclectic.

Anyway, it's now "water under the bridge." So much for imposing the concept of "branding" on our eclectic world.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Finding the sin absolutely fascinating

Former Congressman Mark Foley, the former mayor of Spokane and now Pastor Ted Haggard - conservatives in the news with gay sex issues.

I once had a good talk with a pastor friend of mine. He was a liberal pastor. We were discussing the fundamentalist Christians who say, about gay people, that they, "love the sinner, but hate the sin."

Well, my pastor friend said, kind of jokingly, "what they really mean is this."

"Hate the sinner, but find the sin absolutely fascinating."

He was a liberal minister, himself. Not a fundamentalist.

On another, somewhat related note.

Hurray Democrats

I think everything, I voted for, passed this time. I voted a winning ballot for a change. People voted my way on the initiatives and also all the candidates, here in the 40th legislative district of Washington State.

Hurray Democrats.

Usually, my vote is against the tide. This time it was with the tide.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hope the Democrats can take back Congress

Enough with a culture of greed and all those campaign ads about "keeping your money;" as if money was everything.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Downshifting. My life has always been there

Scroll down for funny sign.

As the pace of the corporate workplace gets faster and meaner, more and more talk of downshifting appears. Life in the slow lane is taking on a greater appeal.

Well, I have lived all my career in the slow lane. Basically, I was never qualified to be in the rat race.

The deadly rat race didn't accept my application!

First I was idling through school. Not doing great, but not doing bad either.

Nearing graduation, I realized that a BA in Geography wasn't a big deal. Many go on to graduate school, but I decided to try the work world for the first time.

Realizing that job experience is important, I decided to start out with what I could qualify for; being a janitor.

The city of Bellingham, where I graduated, has a very competitive job market for professionals. People moving here from all over USA with many years of experience and advanced degrees. They just take what they can find.

This is a place where your waiter will likely to have a masters degree in library science, or something.

I applied for a few "full time" custodial positions and only found "part time" work. It was in a restaurant named Pizza Haven. A custodial position that was actually kind of fun. The boss was sort of a clown. Pleasant to be around.

All my meager bills were paid. In all my working career, I've never even had to collect unemployment!

Around the time I found that part time job, I also found an upstairs neighbor who talked about the virtues of "job sharing."

Part time work. The great balance between being a bum and working to death.

She was a tired secretary who had been in the high pressure world and was mostly burned out.

Was looking for a healthier balance.

She convinced me that my part time schedule was okay.

I had that balance.

Didn't need much money to live on, so the bills were paid, but I also had time.

Lots of free time.

That is when I really got into bicycle touring.

Working part time, I had many free afternoons when I could ride out Mount Baker Highway. Discovered I could go all the way to Heather Meadows and back after my short morning shift.

See below.

Sign near heather meadows says "no swimming or picnicking." Duh, a frozen lake. Sign was there for the 2 or three months per year that the lake thawed. Lake is at Heather Meadows near Mount Baker. Sign no longer exists, last I knew. Picture didn't turn out that well, but a bit of editing helps.

I worked 7 days per week, but some days were only a 2 1/2 hour shift. Other days were closer to 6 hours, but total for the week was seldom over 30 hours.

I applied for full time work a few more times, but even for custodian, the competition was fierce. People with years of experience, training and preference points for veterans got hired. The university, school district and city put you into large cues behind several hundred applicants for only a handful of openings. Other places, in town, tended to be just part time retail outlets.

Still, I was enjoying part time, so I didn't bother applying for more work after a while.

Not only did I get into cycling, I also got into the various art and correspondence projects that eventually lead to this web page.

Eventually, I did worry about not having health insurance, but I was healthy.

Some folks are made sick by the high stress job that they feel they must take, in order to have health insurance.

What a catch 22.

Anyway, that part time job lasted 11 years; just about till the restaurant went out of business. My health outlasted the health of the business.

Before the restaurant closed, I was offered the full time position I have now.

I am on the custodial crew of a YMCA just an easy walk from where I live.

Even has a health plan and a retirement fund.

Still low stress and practically no commute time. It's full time, but a good and fairly laid back environment. Also lots of vacation time. Even the ability to arrange leave of absence, which is good for bike touring.

So my life has always been down sized.

Still, except for some retirement and savings, I have no equity.

No home ownership.

Even when starter houses cost less than a quarter million, I never made enough to qualify for monthly mortgage payments.

Now there are quite a few "homeowners turned millionaires" moving to this area. It's even fueling the local economy as folks can now live off their home equity for many years. This means there is still spending, which props up local retailing even though there doesn't seem to be much local industry.

Luckily there are still affordable rental units around town. A building boom is leading to fairly high vacancy rates.

The little room I live in is much cheaper than most Bellingham units for sure.

This city is becoming a retirement haven.

Our economy equals:

"Go to school, then retire."

How's that for the "work ethic?"

I've been partially retired for years.

One room and no car. No kids, no pets. A bicycle and a computer; that's about all I have.

Who needs more?

People moving here are now seeking what I must have had all along. Still many of them are trying to live in the big homes.

Some end up having to sell and move out when they realize that their home might be their only income source.

It's down sizing and I have been there all along.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vancouver Weekend

Picture shows some colored lights near old BC Hydro Building on Burrard Street.

Just a bike ride away, but it's in another country; Vancouver.

I biked up there on this last weekend before Halloween. Took me around 7 hours from Bellingham. Stayed two nights and went out dancing at some of the gay clubs. The music is much better than I find at bar type places here in Bellingham. I don't go to those kind of places often, but if the music were better down here, I might go.

Places like Numbers on Davie Street have good dance music.

Storefront along Davie Street.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cold Turkey Vacations

Overworked Americans are now grappling with a new problem encroaching on their ever too short vacation time ... e-mail and cell phones that bring office duties to the beach and hotel room.

Articles abound calling on folks to go "cold turkey." Leave that cell phone at home, don't check e-mail while on vacation.

This might be one way to deal with workaholic behavior ...

Going cold turkey, but what about maintaining a "common sense balance."


It's not the end of the world if technology can help us blend work and vacation a bit. An ideal job should be almost like being on vacation. Some would say an ideal job is sitting out on the beach, with a laptop, writing a great novel.

If our work could be a bit more leisurely and creative, then we wouldn't mind this encroaching, a bit, on vacation. Overworked Americans ought to find ways to relax and make working less stressful.

Work ought to be less about "the bottom line' as society should be less materialistic.

These ideas could also lead to shorter workweeks and longer vacations.

At the same time, people might be expected to do a few tasks, even while on vacation, like answering one or two e-mails.

During my long "bicycle tour" vacations, I enjoy checking back home with friends, and often co-workers. After bicycling all day, 60 mile days, the time spent at a computer inside some library, where the carpet looks and smells like the carpet of the building I work at, provides a nice break. It provides a bit of variety and balance.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dance with age diversity of whole room rather than locked into one couple

Pictured above are Ken Freeman and Laya, who I often dance around at something called the Purple Church. Ken is past 70 as of 2006. Celebrated 80th birthday 2014. He still can look like a bright billboard proclaiming what fun dancing is. Ken basically started the dance gathering that is now called Purple Church. In the beginning, it was Fairhaven Undisco.

Pictured below is another friend who is on the younger end of the age spectrum. He goes to the dance also, at times. I joined him for a bike ride out to North Lake Samish where he's pictured threading the wire of an MP3 player to his ear for music.

It is nice to be able to dance with people of many different ages and interests; rather than being confined to one partner; as in a couples dance. Great when the big group is dancing together, or everyone is by themselves dancing around one another.

When I was a kid, I remember the old roller skating rink, down in Lewiston Idaho, that my scout troop used to go to. There was a "couples only" light that would go on every fourth song or so. We had to sit on the sidelines during those periods.

I was never very good at skating anyway.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Shed several thousand pounds. Loose your automobile

My weight loss program could have you losing several thousand pounds your first day.

Get rid of your automobile.

If this can be done, you may find yourself walking, bicycling, jogging more. A fitness program that is integrated into daily living is easier to stick with. Not to mention shedding all those car payments, insurance bills, gasoline bills, parking spaces.

Also quite a few people have a lot of junk in their cars; spent hamburger wrappers, paper cups, books, clothing, tools, what ever.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trimming whos government fat?

I noticed the Bellingham Herald endorsed Mike McGavick (R), rather than Maria Cantwell (D), for US Senate. They say it was a difficult choice. I find they lean toward Democrats fairly often, but also toss a few endorsements in the direction of Republicans.

McGavick was seen as someone who might restrain federal spending more than Cantwell since some organization rated Cantwell poorly in that area. I forgot what organization.

If anyone, especially Republican, says they want to cut the budget, I don't believe it. I've heard it all before and I just don't believe it.

Our populace has become too addicted to federal spending, whether it is things like veterans benefits, or more lanes crossing the border.

If people really want to cut the budget, there is a candidate for that same Senate seat who would push for that.

Bruce Guthery, the Libertarian candidate.

Now Libertarians would really cut spending; for better or for worse.

Most Libertarians would bring troops home from the Middle East, reduce spending for such things as the federal "war on drugs." They would privatize and really trim a lot of things, but I am not sure if this would be the best idea either.

It seems like Americans have become addicted to our government programs. Look what's happening in Seattle at even the thought of closing extra schools. Just the thought has a few citizens going so far as to throw punches at the school board meeting.

I think I would vote for Cantwell if, for no other reason, putting Congress back into the hands of the Democrats might place a check on some Bush administration excesses.

Remember, it has been said that Bush "spends like a drunken sailor," and supposedly Republicans were the party of fiscal restraint.

Well, maybe Bush couldn't help it. On his watch were 911, Hurricane Katrina and a whole bunch of other things creating need for federal response.

The early Bush years also saw low interest rates. This makes borrowing easier and ever so tempting. Much easier than raising taxes or cutting programs that (let's admit it) people depend on.

Slashing the budget is not likely to be a comfortable thing to do. I doubt I would even recommend it, but if anyone were to do it, they would probably have to be the Libertarian candidate.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Congressman Rick Larsen in the living room

Sometimes you might wonder if your congressman sees your message. They do get lots of mail, but it can still make a difference.

With November 7th election coming up, Larsen has been visiting his district, including the living room of two friends I have.

It was the "OCTOBERFEST & FUN-RAISER! 42nd Legislative District Democrat's pre-election celebration and attitude adjustment party," hosted by Janis Walworth and Michele Kammerer on October 6.

Also on hand were state legislative candidates for the 42nd district Kelli Linville, Jesse Salomon, and Jasper McSlarrow.

Even though I live in the 40th district (Bellingham's environs straddles the line) I was still welcome.

Rode my bicycle out to the gathering.

On my way back, the moon was full and my LED lights were flickering like a discotheque. Good to have flashing lights for night riding.

Michele is active in Stonewall Democrats.

It was impressive to have all these "big political people" gathering in that living room rather than always thinking of them in far off "Washington DC." type places. Also a big step for Stonewall Democrats who were represented among the crowd as well.

I sure hope the Democrats can regain Congress and also make headway in state legislatures this November 7.

Maybe Democrats aren't totally ideal, but they are better than Republicans, in most cases.

As for third party candidates:

Someday it would be great if we could get "instant runoff voting." I think that's the type of voting where you can have a "second best" choice if there are more than two candidates running for a position.

It would sure reduce the problem of third party candidates becoming the spoiler.

Anyway, be sure to remember to vote.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bush painted himself into a corner on Iraq

Bush says, "stay the course" like someone painting the floor who didn't think of an exit strategy; the door.

Painted into a corner, he can't get to the door with out stepping across wet paint.

Some people might have thought the war, not the door, was a good idea.

Finnish the paint job that was never complete after Gulf War 1991 that left Saddam still in the painting.

Others think that paint job should have never been started.

It's an oil based paint.

Just think, if all that money, spent on the war, could be used for opening new doors; alternative energy, alternative transportation, alternative lifestyles.

imagine the look of that floor.

Idealistic? Maybe.

Things like those horrible events on 911 cover the idealism; like faded and irrelevant mahogany painted over with blood.

It's time for someone to try a new chore, not painted too far from the door. Rescue us from this horror.

Maybe the Democrats.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Foggy snow field in early autumn. Bellingham gay men's hiking group

Quite a bit of snow sticks around all year near Artist's Point up at the end of the Mount Baker Highway. Several weeks back, the Bellingham Gay Men's Hiking club did a trip to Artist's Point. It was sunny in Bellingham, but foggy and mystical up there. June 2005. Consolidating some blog entries.

Wading through wetlands. A partially submerged boardwalk along Cedar Lake. Pine and Cedar Lakes in the Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham were a recent destination for the newly forming Gay Men's Hiking Club. More information on these monthly hikes is posted in this newsletter as they are planned.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Not Quite Naked Bike Ride Day, Quito Style

A friend of mine recently wrote from Ecuador.

Since Quito is too inhibited to passively allow a nude bike ride
protest, they did the next best thing; attach billboards with nude cyclist posters on their bikes. Even these "nude" cyclists on the billboards are discreetly shot so nothing shows.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Air inversion day from top of Sehome Hill

Smog from Vancouver, BC and other places like Bellingham. One doesn't normally think of smog here, but we have it too. In reality, this layer looked a bit browner than in photo.

Cars, wood stoves, forest fires, you name it.

An air inversion can trap the crap against our backdrop of mountains. This happens occasionally. Image shows inversion layer from Sehome Hill in Bellingham. This is looking north across Fraser Valley with it's backdrop of mountains.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Cute Congressional Pages

Maybe they are making a bigger deal out of former Congressman Mark Foley's sexually explicit e-mails than they should.

On the other hand, it is kind of fun to watch the Republican power structure crumble over this; and just in time for November's election.

What should the reaction of a page be to such an e-mail?

How about a simple, "It's kind of flattering but I'm not into it."

Yes the nation, and it's media, wants to make a big deal over this. It's interesting to watch the Republicans crumble.

This, on top of a whole bunch of other things that are troubling parts of the Washington, D.C. scene; like Woodward's book revealing so many mistakes that the Bush administration made in Iraq.

Yes, it may be a "media frenzy," but I'm glad I was never a Republican.

Now I must take that back.

For a very brief time, while I was a freshman in high school, I said I was a Nixon supporter. This was mostly to gall my older sister who was set against the Vietnam War.

While long hair was the "peace activist," look I came home from the barber with a crewcut. Walking in the door, I found my sister talking on the phone to one of her "liberal" friends. She nearly dropped the phone in the cookie jar as she exclaimed, "my little brother just got this ugly haircut!"

My days as a Nixon (just to get back at my sister) supporter were short lived. This was all before anyone had even heard of Watergate.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hearing news about Congressman Mark Foley's resignation

Conservative Republican, sexual emails. Reminds me of a recent case involving the former mayor of Spokane, WA., Jim West, who has since passed away. He was a conservative Republican also.

Back in the 1970s, I saw a cartoon that showed some skeleton in the closet. The caption read:

"She waited too long to come out of the closet."

It was in a lesbian magazine.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Images of me near end of my 2006 bicycle tour

Leslie took this shot of me as we were eating in an outdoor cafe in Santa Barbara.

Saying goodby to Leslie after a nice visit.

Still working on the pages around doing other things, like work for instance. Yes, I earn a living, working as a custodian. Time to think about what I plan to write.

Meanwhile I was interviewed on the radio. A show called Around The World on KZSB in Santa Barbara. Show will be rebroadcast again at 10 AM Saturday Sept. 23. The segment about my trip is at the end of the hour around 10:50. Anyway, it's 1290 AM from Santa Barbara and on the listen live link at Also syndicated some places, including stations in Australia.

Even if you see this and miss my interview, it seems like that station has a lot of interesting and locally produced shows. Not like so many stations that turn out to be just local transmitters for the big national shows.

I remember, back in the 1980s, when it seemed like all one could get on the radio was "Talk Net," with Bruce Williams. He was all up and down the dial from all over, including here in Bellingham.

Anyway, that was the 1980s, now it's today, with more and more Internet and media diversity, in terms of programming at least, all the time.

Above photo is me, taken by my friend Leslie, who brought his bike up to Santa Barbara on the Surfliner Train. He came up from Los Angeles for dinner. Image was taken at a Santa Barbara bike path.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Walmart Expansion in Bellingham?

Some say, "let the market decide."

If the market were like me, Walmart would not be a lucrative business. I've never been to a Walmart, basically because I don't drive.

Walmart is not easy to get to, for me. No, I am not even boycotting that corporation. Maybe I should check out a Walmart, someday, just to see what it's about. On the other hand, who wants to bike through all that traffic!

If people were less addicted to their cars, the market would behave differently. Walmarts cater to parking and freeway exits. If those things were less crucial, in a business plan, even mighty Walmart would be different.

Bellingham City Council has passed a temporary moratorium on large retail development in the city. Sort of a cooling off period as Walmart plans to expand it's local store into "super store" status.

Many support the moratorium, but others say it was a bad move. Some fear the corporation could just relocate in Ferndale. Others are dubious about the council's foray into what they feel should be a market driven choice.

I don't have a strong opinion either "pro" or "anti" moratorium.

Some feel that as long as the expansion is in an area that has already been "trashed" by sprawling retail, don't worry. Bellingham's Meridian area is already "strip mall city." At least it isn't devouring more prime farmland.

Also the city and Walmart can, and have worked out some deals that could improve circulation in the area, if the store were built. Like extending Deamer St. (I think).

One problem that "Meridian Strip" faces is a lot of "dead end" suburban streets that just lead to the hopeless and traffic clogged arteries. Attempts to retrofit the area into something closer to a gridiron street pattern, with more streets going through, could help a little, at least.

Still, if less people were addicted to their cars, things would be different. If the marketplace was driven by pedestrians and bicyclists, the city council would not have to go out on the "politically unsafe limb" of moratorium land.

Market economists might say that the people vote for Walmart with their feet. Problem, they are not voting with their feet, they are voting with their cars.

Folks, you just got to cut back on your car use if you want a better world.

As for Walmart's lack of health insurance for employees?

A very common problem in all of the retail / service sector; even the beloved "mom and pop's."

We need something like "single payer" health insurance basically handled by the state.

Big changes need to come in the way people live and do business on many levels.

Comment on Walmart Superstore, Richland, WA.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Obligatory 911 comment

Tomorrow is the 5 year anniversary, but I think there is too much fanfare over these events. Notoriety and glory is one thing that the terrorists want.

Last Friday, I heard a great interview on KUOW's Conversation show with the author of a new book called "What Terrorists Want," by Louise Richardson.

It sounds like one of the big things they want is notoriety.

Maybe we should shuffle news of these crimes onto the back pages. Shuffle the news behind stories about many more lives that are lost each year to drunk drivers, for instance. Don't give terrorists so much notoriety.

Just let the CIA, Military, FBI, and so forth, quietly do their jobs catching these perpetrators.

It seems like our President has been taken over by terrorists. This is the Presidency that is defined by 911. Bush plans to travel to Ground Zero, Lay reefs, also head to Pennsylvania for that plane crash. It seems like every time Bush opens his mouth, it's about 911 and reaction to terrorism.

Why is he wasting so much of his time, and energy? What about affordability of health care?

Of course, Republicans are usually not very good at putting effort into a domestic issues. Republicans usually talk about getting the government out of domestic affairs. Reduce government so the Walmarts can take over.

Did I say Walmarts, or should I say the marketplace?

Leaving domestic affairs up to "market forces."

It is Republicans who focus on foreign affairs and national defense issues. Democrats are the ones who to get the urban transit systems going. Democrats discuss issues like affordable housing and health care; what ever attempts to make the lives of ordinary Americans work.

We need transit systems to help us become less dependent on that volatile Middle East, for oil.

Will our reaction to terrorism destroy us? Bankrupt us? Distract us from the things we really need to do for energy independence and security?

Maybe we should relegate terrorist crimes to the back pages where they belong. Put them behind the murderers and drunk drivers who take more lives each year.

Would I display a flag for 911?


I would rather display the flag for something positive, like the anniversary of Americans landing on the moon.

Can someone do more stories about the Apollo PAC for clean energy?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Santa Barbara, CA.


The thing labor needs most?

A long and wonderful vacation.

I am back home from my 2006 trip down the west coast. This was my 5th west coast tour over the years.

Came back by train.

Above picture taken from observation tower atop Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Downtown Santa Barbara has a lot of classical architecture and pedestrian malls.

A similar view was featured in the popular book "Bicycling The Pacific Coast" by Tom Kirkendall and Vicky Spring, (at least in an earlier edition). I remember pouring over that book before my first west coast trip in 1987.

Cyclists are still taking that book with them as they do this trip. (Probably later editions).

At the end of my trip, the radio said that California has just passed a strong piece of legislation designed to roll back state wide greenhouse gas emissions. Roll these back to 1990 levels by 2020.

That will be a tall order as one must remember, population is also increasing.

Just "treading water" (keeping same percapita consumption levels) means increasing consumption if population is increasing.

This will require some major changes.

Or, maybe the goal can't be achieved with conservation? Nuclear power anyone? How about solar? Hydrogen Fusion?

All of the above.

Ironically, southern California seems more bicycle friendly than northern California. More people and more money for infrastructure. Also the need is clearly evident.

Things like bike paths and the southern California Surfliner train are great.

Now, back hear in Washington State, the Dave Ross Show, on Seattle's KIRO, does a segment about how to make roads safer.

Labor Day weekend is a deadly weekend on the roads.

Many kinds of suggestions come in. People suggest things like making truckers only operate at night or having the driving test become harder.

No one mentions making the nation less dependent on automotive travel. Maybe I should have called.

Looking forward to adding photos and stories, from my 2006 trip to these sites in the next few months.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wouldn't be as good as a dance floor

I am passing through Garberville, CA. on my 2006 bicycle tour down west coast. Have enjoyed the huge redwoods. Riding quietly through the big trees on a side road called Avenue Of The Giants. Much nicer than the more "pragmatic 101, where most commutes and trucks go.

Biking is a quiet way to see the trees.

Meeting some other cyclists at the campgrounds. KOA in Eureka had a hot tub. $20 to camp, but worth if for the hot tub. The bike area is big, behind the main building away from the RVs. Most of the time I am in state park "hiker biker" sites. No hot tub, but only $3 per night thanks to Cal state park encouragement for bicyclists.

I passed one big tree that someone wanted to chop down back around 1910. They wanted to use the stump for a dance floor. That idea was nixed and the tree still stands. Would have been too small for a dance floor anyway, but the tree is huge; and I like dance floors. It's just that the tree wouldn't have been a good one. It's better as a tree.

Lots of groves have been preserved in this area. Avenue Of the Giants, and other parts of the Redwood parks are quite extensive. A joint California and federal park system.

Tomorrow I head back to the coast on Cal Highway 1. Headed toward fort Bragg. Then San Francisco, in a few days.

Friday, August 04, 2006

My 2006 bicycle trip has started

Headed south down USA west coast. Every once-in-a-while, I will put details here. Later this coming Autumn, there will be a write up, with photos, on my web site. Past trips are already there.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Inclusive Neighborhoods


Photo looking up into Bellingham Farmer's Market clock tower. Light fixtures.

There is a lot of talk about Inclusive zoning these days. Allowing a mixture of housing types and price ranges with-in a neighborhood.

That, instead of places where only (expensive) single family homes are allowed while, across town, a ghetto of apartments is kept in one area. Like, "keep those apartments from escaping."

Inclusive zoning means a mix of housing types and income levels. Also a mix of land uses in one neighborhood. That means one can take a stroll, near one's home, and pass houses, a park, a church and an ice cream parlor.

That's more inviting than some boring "subdivision mile" with nothing but garage doors visible.

It brings diverse income groups together. More trust and understanding between social classes.

Also allows people to live closer to services and activities. Cuts car dependency.

I recently saw a good article about this concept in the July 26 06 Cascade Weekly. Written by one of our city council members, Joan Beardsley. She talked quite a bit about the good effects that "inclusive neighborhoods" have on schools.

In the past, people have spent much effort bussing kids across town to bring various elements of our society together. Well, another way to bring us together can be in how we plan our neighborhoods.

Bring various income classes together, for instance.

After pondering those encouraging words, I had a conversation with a friend in Ecuador, South America.

A conversation via Skype Internet phone.

My friend, in Ecuador, spoke of a negative consequence when the gap between wealthy and poor gets too wide. Latin American nations are noted for wide gaps between income classes.

Something that could be in USA's future, if we don't watch out. The income gap keeps getting wider.

He said single family homes are loosing popularity for the middle class in Ecuador.

Loosing popularity because the crime rate is so high that detached homes are vulnerable to break ins, robberies, even armed robberies.

It's like class warfare.

So the middle class is turning to high rises.

Condominium projects, rather than detached homes.

A condominium complex can provide centralized entrances for security and things like "windows high off the ground," away from the break-in zone.

Interesting observation.

It seems like bringing American income classes together, to lower the crime rate, might help us save the single family home.

Ironically, we may need to be less exclusive about our single family neighborhoods to save them.

Save them from the ravages of societal breakdown.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Being a homeowner is too lucrative for economic good, it can be considered a vocation

Highest paying job in the economy?

Being a homeowner.

It seems like home ownership is the highest paying occupation. I don't have statistics to back this up, but it's a good guess.

One of the strange distortions of our economy that results from the incredible real estate boom, over much of USA, in the last few years.

Does the occupation of home ownership produce anything useful?

Growing food produces something useful. Manufacturing plywood produces something useful. Educating students, writing software, it's all useful.

What does the occupation of "homeowner" produce for others in the economy?

A question to ponder.

As population grows and land gets scarce, home values rise. At the same time, industry gets more restricted. The economic base seems to be shifting away from employment and toward using land as a wealth generator.

One also notices lots of retail and service jobs.

Where do people get the money to shop in all those stores?

Imagine, our economy based on home equity loans.


Now I hear about a New York Times article on middle aged men dropping out of the workforce. The jobs they find pay much less than what they had in the past.

Many have been laid off or down sized. Quite a few of these folks are coasting, for now at least, on their home equity. Others are on disability and so forth.

It's an interesting article in Today's NY Times business section.

"Men Not Working."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Good human rights discussion in Irshad's blog

Irshad Manji has a great blog.

I sometimes feel like the world would be better off if the Middle East didn't exist, but realize there are a lot of decent people caught up in all that mess. It would be callus to just write everything in that region off, but it's hard to know what the best strategy is for helping innocent people caught in bad circumstances.

Ideas and discussions presented on this blog, and other places can help.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Silver Lining?

US involvement in Iraq and the greater Middle East may have just made things even worse. Fanned the flames more.

If there is any good to come from this, it could be the total discrediting of right wing politics in USA. It may have taken this to discredit much of the religious right and the Republican agenda.

Hopefully, at least much of Congress can change in November.

Many folks keep holding signs that say "impeach Bush," but it is really Congress which has that power. Voting in November may be a step in that direction, but the process is fairly slow. Bush's second term, in the White House, will be over before long anyway. Likely before an impeachment process can unfold.

My, how time flies.

Also, of course, it isn't just the American right wing that's discredited. Fundamentalism looks bad all over the world. Whether it is the "Christian Right," "Islamic Fundamentalism," or what ever, it all looks perverted.

I hope more liberal and tolerant voices can be heard from all corners of the world. Liberal religions and so forth.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wandering Around


Grand reading room in Wilson Library at Western Washington University, here in Bellingham. Just an easy walk from my home.

Seems to invite one to slow down.

The only countries I have been to are USA and Canada.

Still, I see many different things than "main stream society" because of the unusual way I travel. Most people go by car and jet.

I bicycle, walk and use public transit. It's almost like seeing a different world.

In 2003, one of my bicycle tours took me through Los Angeles. I described that trip as "leisurely." Others are surprised by that adjective for getting through Los Angeles. Remember, they are going by car, or changing planes at the airport. I go on the bike paths and back roads.

They gripe when it takes several hours.

I have a different perspective and don't mind that it took me two days, from one end of the metropolitan area to the other.

Glad I had enough money for the expensive motels, however.

In USA, it costs more to "stay put" than it does to keep moving. No wonder we have a "rat race" society.

Still, expensive motels are just in the cities. On most of the rural California Coast, state park camping was only $3 per night for bicyclists.

An advantage of being a bicyclist.

I don't seem to feel any need for going overseas. Not that I hate jet planes, or anything. I just feel that most people don't really take the time to be in their local environment.

Here in USA, we will need to pay more attention to our local environment so we can figure out how to make it run with less oil. That might mean actually learning the local bus schedule.

Some folks know more about overseas resort towns than they do about how to cross their own home town with out getting on the freeway.

Travel to a different perspective.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Imagine a world with-out the Middle East

It seems like most of the bad news comes from the Middle East. Maybe the world would be better if that region didn't exist. Then again it might just mean other trouble spots would rise to the limelight.

Not only is the Middle East the source of most bad news, it's also a big source of oil; that addictive substance in civilization. Like pure sugar, it's bad for us.

I sometimes think that if sacred places and buildings in the Middle East were destroyed, the world could stop fighting over them. This may be an irresponsible attitude. Certainly there are innocent people and places there.

Normally, I like historic buildings, but maybe we could do with out many of those religious places that people keep fighting over. If those buildings turned to rubble, the world might do better with out them. And I believe in God. I just think too much fuss is going into sacred places that are man made.

Maybe the world could learn a lesson from this high school girl, I met, while she was working at an AM / PM Mini-mart in upstate New York.

This was during my 1991 bicycle tour across USA.

The little store was a world of throwaway items and plastic counters; in Upstate New York which is a bastion of American history. It was just an Exxon station, or something like that. All modern and sterile.

Across the street were some apartments with the number "1772" over the main door.

I was intrigued and ask the woman, "Were those apartments really built in 1772, or is that number just the street address?"

She just gave a quick laugh and said, "Built in 1772, I wouldn't be surprised !" "Those apartments look pretty old and crappy to me."

Then she was ringing up the next customer, like that history didn't really matter.

Maybe they had a crummy landlord also.

Smelly carpet?

It was my first time in Upstate New York and I thought "buildings built before the revolutionary war are kind of neat." We don't have things like that here in the state of Washington.

Of course many of the old temples and places of the Middle East are far older than that.

I don't feel like saying this often, but at times one needs to say (about old memories and baggage)

"Get over it."

This is especially true if it causes people to fight.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Monica Lewinsky topic revisited

Americans becoming more socially isolated in recent years?

Maybe, Bill Clinton's biggest mistake was kowtowing to conservatives with white lies. He should have publicly embraced the concept of friendship and support outside one's primary relationship.

Friendship and support, at least.

Of course there is the worry of venereal disease with sexual relationships, but the line between friendship, support and eroticism can be blurry. Clinton could have handled his yearnings for contact, outside the primary relationship, in a better way, for sure, but said yearnings have validity.

Maybe he should have lead the nation into a dialog about these issues; including polyamory. Imagine, such a discussion starting from "The White House."

It was a missed opportunity, but I know it would have been political suicide.

Yes, we do have lots of workshops, seminars and therapists that provide contact outside the marriage.

It's a whole industry.

Massage workshops, retreats. Even things addressing sexual issues such as the "Body Electric" workshops, for instance.

These types of seminars serve an important function of breaking isolation, but some might criticize them as being "manufactured intimacy."

Yes, "manufactured."

"Just pay your $480 fee and feel connected."

Now I read, there is a study, from Duke University, that says Americans have fewer friends outside of the family. They say American's circle of confidants has shrunk dramatically in the past few decades and the number of people who say they have no one to discuss important matters has more than doubled. This study also indicates that social ties are more family based than before.

Study is called, "Social isolation in America: changes in core discussion networks over two decades."

While I can't provide a detailed review of the study, I can present my own thinking, as inspired from these news items.

It seems like people are desperately clinging to their marriages and shrinking circles of "nuclear family" ties. It's almost like "clinging for dear life" as the world washes away around us. Increasing mobility means neighbors no longer know one another. Longer work hours, longer commutes means less time to nurture friendships outside of the primary relationship.

This trend is in the wrong direction. Most people need more than just the nuclear family.

Even the nuclear family, which is being held so tightly, is on shaky ground. It's influenced by the same mobility forces that brake up friendship networks.

Often it seems like people are loosing wide circles of friends and clinging more tightly to marriages and the marriages are becoming "war zones." Marriages are more apt to end in divorce, these days.

I fear that folks are getting their "variety" from something called "serial monogamy." That is going from one marriage to the next through life.

It's serial monogamy, for variety, rather than wide networks of friends, relatives and neighbors.

I also hear that the nuclear family is more isolated, these days, than in past history. In the past, extended families of grandparents, uncles and aunts provided support networks. Today, these broader "extended family networks" are more scattered.

The nuclear family is isolated and subject to what one could call "cabin fever." When one gets board and seeks variety, it often breaks up.

Serial monogamy leaves a painful trail of broken relationships in its path. It's a sad story.

Putting more energy into a diverse circle of friends is better than putting everything into one's marriage until cabin fever strikes.

Yes, a national dialog on the state of our relationships and the dynamic between "primary relationships" and "outside friends" would be healthy.

Former President Clinton was struggling with these issues along with just about everyone else.

There is a lot of rhetoric about trying to make marriage last. Most Americans seem to talk a lot, while not really living this value.

One can, at least, praise the Clintons for staying married. Through all the news of Clinton's extra marital escapades, that marriage has held together.

These days, people talk about fidelity, but don't practice it. As soon as a rough spot hits, like some extra marital affair, folks bail out.

At least the Clintons demonstrate that old fashioned value of staying together.

I remember someone calling a talk show accusing her husband of winking at another woman in the supermarket. He wasn't having affairs, just winking.

The talk show host had a good answer. She said, "your husband is only married, he's not dead." "He will have feelings."

Expectations can be real high these days. Even winking can become a problem. The bar is set so high that a slight hint of adversity can end things.

This situation must be caused by advertising. It's advertising that constantly pounds people with the message "you deserve better."

The nature of business and advertising raises expectations to unsustainable levels. At the same time, mobility and things like the Internet make "greener pastures only mouse clicks away."

Then there are lots of people, like me, who can live without partners. For single people, friendship networks take on an added importance.

Yes, I think it would be good for people to back off a bit from clinging so tightly to the marriage concept.

People should seek broader networks of community. Relax, "let go" a little and, ironically, even the institution of marriage might benefit.

I guess it was Hillary Clinton who coined the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, I say, it takes a village, and more than just one's "nuclear family" to satisfy our needs.