Monday, December 31, 2007

Blunting the impact of Happy New Year

Looking down on tree from balcony.

Some don't celebrate in bars packed with drinking, driving, craziness.

Impact on the road.

It's also "peak demand time" so they charge high cover.

Dancing is just as fun on Saturday before New Year's. Lower cover, not quite as crowded.

Celebration on the Internet blunts the moment. Softens the impact.

When is the moment of New Year's?

It's 9 PM here, when I connect with my friend in Quito, Ecuador. Midnight Quito time. My friend in Australia has already celebrated.

Happy New Year where ever you are. It doesn't have to be right at the same moment.

Ebenal CH2M Waterfront building 3 stories or 4 stories?

I'm not a libertarian, but it's really none of my business whether this waterfront building is 3 stories or 4 stories. People all over Bellingham are talking about it, of course. Everything is talked to death.

As the world gets more crowded, everyone's in each other's backyards and everyone's going to be in each other's business.

It's across town from me, so why should I worry?

I will say that the plans call for a 4 story building in order to economically justify the construction of an underground parking garage in that complex.

Things people must do to accommodate the almighty automobile.

If folks want to fret about the extra story, they should ride bikes or take the bus. Less need to justify expensive garages.

When chatting to a friend in Australia about all these issues, he says, "boy, I wish that's all I had to worry about." "3 or 4 stories in a building clear across town."

I say, "what problems are in your life?"

His reply, "other problems like having a life."

Like, "get a life man."

Some condominium owners might be upset about a changing view, but their condominiums changed the view also.

Then there's folks who say I'd be missing the point not worrying too much. It's a promise for some height limit that the city has made and then altered.

OK, I guess only a lawyer might pay that much attention to the process leading to the manufacture and then changing of height limits. I'm getting bored now not being a lawyer. Of course, we don't have enough lawyers, ha, ha.

Immigration, population, growth and peak oil

Immigration is really a population issue.

So, they succeed in slowing down immigration from Mexico. The growing population and economy in Mexico are using more oil each year. Mexico has been the second largest supplier of imported oil to the energy thirsty USA. I read that in 5 years, growth which stays in Mexico will use up Mexican oil production. A situation of no more oil exports to USA would effect life in USA even as Mexican population remains in Mexico.

They have as much right to their oil, if not more right, than we do.

Yes, we all need alternative lifestyles, alternative energy and so forth. I'm child free and I ride a bicycle.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Treadmill: what a strange concept

Electricity causes a belt to run backwards so you can go nowhere when you're walking or jogging.

Save power and just go somewhere by foot or bicycle.

Go dancing.

Happy New Year's.

Actually, I don't mean to belittle the "treadmill resolution folk." It's a step in the right direction and since I work as a custodian for a gym, it pays the bills. Dust can collect under treadmills.

The economy is kind of a treadmill also.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Traffic: Why they can't "build their way out of congestion."

Folks advocating alternative transportation often say, "you can't build your way out of congestion." Meaning if a city tries to ease traffic by building more highways or adding lanes to existing highways, it wouldn't work. It will just bring more cars in short order as people move farther from jobs and so forth.

Well, maybe this argument didn't apply back in the 1950s when the interstate highway system was first built. A big difference between then and now is the tremendous rise in property values. Maybe you could have built your way out of congestion when houses sold for around $20,000. Now it doesn't work anymore in this world of single family homes approaching 1 million dollars.


Because it costs so much to buy the land to build the new road, or lanes. Gas tax no longer covers it. Even if the land is condemned "imminent domain" they still have to pay fair market value.

Property values have shot up in the past few years compared to other things in the economy such as the gas tax.

So, especially with property values where they are now, you can not build your way out of congestion.

Ride the bus. Looks like someone's riding that house down the street.

Do they want to put a road through your house? Here's a house going through the road. I saw this house moving several years back.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stamp collage, byproduct of Mail Art Network

Christmas card I made back in the 1980s from throwing a bunch of cancelled stamps onto a photocopy machine. Back in the 1970s, my mom had a jug of stamps that she kept for some project at the church. She didn't mind if I grabbed a few.

Then I did quite a bit of international correspondence with part of a loose network of artists in the mail. This type of correspondence is often called Mail Art, or in some cases "CorresponDANCING."

Click on image for larger version.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lighting the winter, or if you're in the southern hemisphere maybe you have too much light already

Seen lots of lights as I bike around town. A few nights ago, I went out with my camera and got a few images. If it isn't raining or snowing, bicycling is a good way to see the lights. Slow enough to stop and look, but not so slow as to linger among dark houses when the lighted ones are spread out.

Also no windows to fog up.

They used to say, "cool the Christmas lights to save energy," but now there are so many new lighting technologies, such as LEDs that are cooler anyway.

So enjoy, guilt free except that some would say it's being too much of a "show off."

The way people often celebrate Christmas kind of discriminates against single people. "It's a family time" meaning you're often left out, or fighting crowded airports and roads to get to fragments of your scattered family across the landscape of our mobile society.

Why not celebrate the family of humanity that's close to where you live, rather than having to book that flight? Many people are lucky to even get one day off at Christmas time. Georgia Pacific workers, in Bellingham, will start a long Christmas vacation Dec. 21. A very long vacation. The mill's closing.

A friend says she doesn't feel real "Christmas like" this year. Political correctness has necessitated squeezing out all but the big shopping holiday. It's become kind of a materialistic ritual gone bankrupt.

Maybe Christmas should go back to it's roots. It's winter solstice roots. Include the broad range of solstice experience. I even hear that India has a festival of lights.

Fundamentalist Christians might hate that suggestion, but the liberal church I went to would say, no problem.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Remembering Georgia Pacific in Bellingham

More pictures below.

I didn't work there, but I remember the mill being a big part of Bellingham.

Just logged onto December 16 Bellingham Herald and saw that the last part of GP's Bellingham mill closes December 21. Closing of the paper mill.

The pulp section closed in 2001.

Rising cost of electric power is one factor leading to it's closure. Population in the Pacific Northwest has outgrown the inexpensive hydroelectric resource. I read that wood chips, used in the pulp making process are more expensive as well, in this area at least.

Economic backbone
Continued below.

It used to be that GP was a big "reason for being" in Bellingham. An economic reason for being at least. Kind of like "reason for being" is the work you do or the cog you fit in the giant system we call an economy.

When I came to college, I wondered what percent of the economic pie for Bellingham was GP, what percent was the University and so forth.

When GP closed it's pulp mill in 2001, I wondered if Bellingham's retail balloon would deflate. There seems to be a lot of stores in this area that sell to the local market. A lot compared to the number of businesses that bring money in from outside the local market.

Can all these stores survive selling to one another's employees? Can all these stores survive with little "fresh money" coming into the region from outside? Little money to offset all that money going out buying the products we consume. Products from outside the region at least.

I hope I haven't lost you yet.

It's talk of "basic sector versus secondary sector." Most retailing would be considered secondary sector.

The stuff I learned in my economic geography classes.

Surprise! The loss of GP payroll didn't "seem," at least, to deflate local retailing. New restaurants and shops keep coming. Some struggle and close, but others do a bang up business.

A growing market of retired folks have been moving to the area bringing money with them.

To some extent, the local economy can coast on home equity money; a phenomenon made possible by unprecedented growth in real estate prices over the past 20 years.

Many home buying consumers, in Bellingham, don't have to work. They often don't even have to pay a mortgage. Selling some previous home for a fortune means just being able to "write a check" for the new one with money left over. I have friends who have done this.

I'm sure there is more details on how the guts of a local economy works, beyond what I can fathom. New consulting firms coming to town, expansion at local oil refineries, the Internet.

On one hand, it's how people eat, but on the other hand, it's "just money."

Often it's mind boggling, but somehow the economy keeps going.

GP tours

Continued below.

I remember 4 tours of GP that I have taken over the years. They used to offer tours during summer months at regular times. I showed up for one in the late 1970s and got a souvenir box of tissue products.

In the 1980s, there was a computer club called "Bellingham User's Group." BUG for short. We toured GP and looked at the computers. That club had a lot of GP employees as members. It met in a drab old classroom at one of GP's administrative buildings.

Later in the 1980s a friend of mine worked as a tour guide. I took his tour.

Eventually tours were not offered anymore, except under special circumstances.

The last tour I took was sometime after pulp mill's closing. Local citizens went on a tour organized by Waterfront Futures Group.

Where were you on that day?

In 1987, GP had a chlorine leak the same day as the big 1987 Wall Street plunge.

Quite a co-incidence.

Wall Street plunge was early afternoon. GP leak was early evening. I'm sure I remember, it was the same day.

The music stopped in an aerobics class that I was in. Someone made an announcement kind of like, "don't panic, but we are evacuating due to a chlorine leak." First I thought it was a leak at the Y swimming pool, downstairs, but soon realized it was GP. Downtown Bellingham was being partially evacuated.

The crowd of people returning their key cards for the locker room was quite impressive. Milling around the service desk all at once. Now they don't even use those type of key cards at that gym anymore.

I took the short walk to my place and got a portable radio. Then headed up hill to Western Washington University thinking, "chlorine is a heavy gas that sinks." Figured the University would be like a "safe haven." "An ivory tower."

I didn't smell very much chlorine and soon after I got to campus, the radio issued an "all clear." It was OK to come back downtown.

New technology
Continued below.

Chlorine plant from years back. 1987 leak was not from chlorine plant itself, it was (if I remember correctly) loading bleaching formula from a rail car into the paper bleaching section of the mill.

People grumbled about GP using chlorine to bleach paper. In the last years of the pulp mill operation, I think I remember they switched to a new kind of "non chlorine" bleaching process.

When there's finger pointing, I often blame the consumer.

Part of that pure white paper, they produced, was used for photography.

Remember, pure white photo paper for snapshots?

Most of the rest was used in toilet paper of various colors. It used white as a foundation.

I remember writing a letter to the editor, sometime in the mid 1990s suggesting that folks who don't like chlorine ought to start using digital cameras. Bypass the need for photographic paper and so many chemicals used in film developing.

Back then digital cameras were new and still fairly rare. Now, it seems like old fashioned "paper" photography is also becoming a relic of history.

More of my memories about Bellingham with Georgia Pacific.

Picture of balloon doll of Uncle Sam?

Uncle Sam strives to keep economy standing. House prices have been inflated well past much of the rest of the economy. This year, they are starting to deflate. It's kind of like huffing and puffing into a big balloon.

Cars and other products have to sell so people can afford the mortgage, or if they are renters, so people can afford the rent.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A "take the plunge" swimming hole in Whatcom Falls Park

Probably not a good idea, though lots of people go there in the summer.

Local news has recently reported some law suite being filed against the city of Bellingham related to a serious injury that happened two years ago.

Supposedly, there aren't enough signs. Signs in real life, not above picture where I used photo editing software to replicate the sign.

Over the years, injuries have happened in this area.

It's another case of a law suite and I would think the city should NOT be held liable.

On the other hand, I can think of another argument for universal health care coverage. At least that way, medical bills are covered. I hate to be the Grinch that stole Christmas, so to speak.

Universal coverage would spread risk to the huge US population. Spread it thinner than just focusing guilt on one local government, company or what ever. Might reduce the take that so many lawyers get in our litigious society.

I favor universal access to health care. Sliding scale, single payer; what ever it takes.

Aside from these thoughts, I remember a 60 Minutes piece, or something like that (back when I had a television). It was about some town in California nearly shut down by the cost of liability insurance. Skating rink closed, bowling alley, swimming pool; just about everyplace where people congregated.

Law suites can equal astronomical costs for liability insurance.

They said that folks played in the street cause that was the only thing still open and the street is about as dangerous as it gets. That documentary segment was sometime in the 1980s. Now I even forget which town it was.

So I ponder what this city could potentially do to prevent people from entering some dangerous natural feature in the landscape.

Concertina wire?

Maybe getting close to risky areas could be as frowned upon as nude sunbathing tends to be in the places they call "family areas."

Still, lots of people rebel against being told NO.

In a different context, I remember seeing a sign in 2002, Yakima, WA. It said NO, quite a few times.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A carrot from the supermarket

I usually eat one each day. A moderately sized carrot from the supermarket's bin of loose carrots. Eat it like a candy bar. Nice and crisp, slightly sweet.

I only buy one. The store is an easy walk. More than one (or maybe two) can be a bit overwhelming.

That old Lays Potato Chip ad saying, "bet you just can't have one" may not apply to carrots.

Still, they are like candy in small doses.

When I was a kid, my mom was processing carrots from the garden. She also packed a lunch for my dad to take to work. One day, my dad picked up the wrong sack, but didn't discover it till lunch break. It was the sack full of carrots. Overwhelming, so I think he ate in the cafeteria that day.

I buy one carrot at a time as they tend to get rubbery in the refrigerator after more than one or two days.

Tip for being single and not having a garden; live close to the store.

Bagged carrots in the plastic wrap tend to get slimy in 3 days. The supermarket is only a short walk away where carrots always seem to be fresh and tasty.

Apples have longer shelf life at home.

Often, I start my day with a carrot, an apple and a carton of chocolate milk.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mall Shootings: Is it getting worse?

Out of 300 million people, it's bound to happen somewhere. Then the media brings a story to everyone's attention. Meanwhile, around 40,000 die in car wrecks every year and people aren't that alarmed.

Out of 300 million people, your chances of being the victim of something like a mall shooting are very slight. You'll more likely to die crossing the street.

The more people we have, the more times that roulette wheel gets spun and the more chances that somewhere in USA a big shooting will occur. Then, the media brings one incident to everyone's attention.

There might be a rash of copycat incidents for a while.

Is it getting worse, per capita? Worse than in America's past history?


The availability of weapons does play a role. Yes, I am for gun registration at least, but aside from that argument, there might have been practically no mass shootings back in, say 1800.


Back then, it would have taken too long to reload the musket.

Choose your grandparents wisely

Secrets to good health.

For most people, the lion's share of it is lifestyle choices.

Then, as if to keep people from becoming too self righteous, heredity plays a role. Some health problems are based on genetics. A friend of mine was ask what his secret to good health is. One of his answers says, to "choose your grandparents wisely."

Well, I guess there isn't a lot we can do about that one.

The roulette wheel also plays a role in determining health. Some things happen just do to shear chance. Most people know of at least one chain smoker who lives a robust 98 years. Maybe everyone knows that same chain smoker.

Also everyone knows one jogger who drops from a heart attack at 38.

To some extent, it's a crap shoot, but one can stack the odds in one's favor with a healthy lifestyle.

I think lifestyle is the lion's share for most people, so get out there and play. Go dancing, walking, biking. Keep eating those carrots and apples.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pictures at Cedar River Watershed Education Center

Near North Bend at Rattlesnake Lake.

Where's Rattlesnake Lake?

It's up a long hill outside of North Bend, WA. The center is run by Seattle Public Utilities. On the edge of a big watershed for Seattle's drinking water.

Why are the drums at the center?

Drums under downspouts to demonstrate water dripping off the roof over a long period of time. Less apt to flood. It was still gradually dripping on the sunny day I was there. Sounded like a "hippie drumming circle." That's what I thought it was.

Good idea, but how much will it add to the cost of construction?

How much land do all these catch basins take? Land is getting expensive.

Seems like a lot of trouble to slow the runoff from buildings. Why not just eliminate the parking lot? Impervious surfaces of pavement are terrible for runoff. Make people use alternative transit. Sure it's a change, but putting in all these roof gardens can be costly as well.

I hear that around 40% of the space in Los Angeles is devoted to pavement for parking and driving.

There is pavement that lets water soak into the ground below, rather than rush off.

There happens to be some of that pavement in my neighborhood. At the Whatcom Educational Credit Union.

Just ran out to take some images. Nice having a digital camera.

They've got the money.

I doubt this would work for heavily used thoroughfares and freeways. It would get beat up under traffic.

For parking lots? OK.

No problem for bicycle parking, of course. That's what I ride.

Autumn rainstorm after my trip. View of truck out my window.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Teddy bear in Sudan

Amazing that people would consider it immoral to name a teddy bear after the Prophet Mohamed. "Teddy" comes from Teddy Roosevelt. All teddy bears are named after one of America's great presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, from what I hear. Otherwise, maybe they should be called "stuffed bears."

Can someone, or something be named after God? In USA it would be rare, but possible. Being named God or after the Christian prophet of Jesus might be thought of as being kind of an ego trip, but other than that no big deal.

From what I hear Jesus is a common name in many Latin American countries.

Thinking in another direction, rather than contemplating naming a person or object after a God, maybe humans shouldn't be trying to put a name on God. The mystery defies fitting into those boxes and names, such as "God the father" that we confine it to?

Is God really male, or female? Does God really exist? Especially does such an entity exist in the terms that we confine things to whenever we try to conceptualize stuff.

I believe that there is something related to the order in the universe, I guess, but just how to define that "whatever" is something that I believe we still have to learn.

It's probably worse for religion to try and name and confine the "whatever" in our limited terms. Worse than someone naming a stuffed bear one of the names that people think relates to God.

Teddy bear is named for one of our past presidents.