Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Green light for bicycling into the new year

Lights in the spokes of my bike for safety and festivity.

Biking around town slow enough to appreciate the color.

Closeup of storefront Christmas tree in Fairhaven district.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Less clutter for the new year

My bank now offers the option to receive it's monthly statements on-line. I take it. Less paper to clutter my small room.

A PDF file, or something like that to neatly archive into one of the folders on my drive, taking up mere molecules of space. This helps for living in a "small footprint place."

It's not a "paper trail," but I trust the system is still transparent and accountable. After all, it's just money anyway. Maybe I should be more worried. Money is one of America's Gods. Still, what's a little money?

So far, I've never had any problem with bank inaccuracies. Of course, maybe I'm not paying enough attention. I don't always read the mass of paper that's been burping out of the financial institutions, mutual funds, insurance companies and so forth I deal with. It's kind of mundane and the type is a bit too small.

Grey type isn't that motivating. Maybe they should sprinkle a few shirtless "college boy bank tellers" into the statement.

And I don't have that much money anyway. Just a dab, here and a dab there. Not like owning a quarter million dollar Bellingham home.

Hope all the financial institutions I deal with can go just about paperless in the next while. This pile is headed off to recycling. It's from just a few months.

I could use the space.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Facebook helps me work around a communication handicap

I have a lot of information stored away in my mind, but retrieval tends to be slow. I'm sort of a Slowlane kind of guy. This can be a handicap in fast talking social situations where it takes me a while to catch on what's being said. Often I think of the best response about 15 minutes after some one's comment, long after the conversation has veered to other topics.

In the world of fast moving sound bytes, I'm lost. Recognizing the lyrics of most songs, I'm lost. Fast moving facial inflections and knowing when to bat the eyes is a total mystery to me.

So Facebook comes to the rescue.

In Facebook, I can see people's comments and think about what to say, or whether to respond at all. The blinking cursor can be very forgiving. If it takes a while to formulate a thought, the cursor just sits and waits patiently. As I'm thinking, the cursor doesn't suddenly find that it's cell phone is ringing and duck out of the conversation.

Yes, Facebook and other Internet vehicles, such as email, are "talking to machines," but it's really talking to people at the other end of the machines. It's slowing down the social interaction enough to give someone like me time to come up with a useful response.

Back in the early 1980s, I remember going to an exhibit at Pacific Science Center in Seattle about computers and the handicap population. TTY for the hearing impaired and so forth. It was crude compared to today's technology, but still quite interesting and potentially liberating for many.

My slight mental handicap has sometimes been described as a form of asperger syndrome. The mind functions, but misses a lot of things in a fast paced environment.

That doesn't mean I don't get out and meet people face to face as well. Many would say "face to face is better than Facebook." Bellingham has a lot of community gathering places near where I live; for instance, conversation at the YMCA sauna is often quite focused and intelligent. A bit slower and more intellectual than, say, fast moving gossip at local bars. Try listening to conversation over blaring techno music.

In many face to face discussions, it can be hard to get a word in edgewise. This can even happen at the Y sometimes especially when one or more real talkative folks tend to dominate. There are ways to work around that problem on Facebook and other on-line environments.

Remember, sometimes talking through the machines helps us organize our interaction with other people.

I feel blessed to have a lot of both on-line and "real world face to face" conversation. The slower, more deliberate talking or writing works better for me.

I don't have a TV, so when I see television in places like motel rooms, it amazes me. Information moves so fast and the world becomes totally fragmented into sound byte segments. This must influence the way a lot of people relate to their friends.

One's stomach can be turning as the TV describes a graphic murder; blood splattered on the wall and then, with snap of the finger it's on to "how's the Seahawks doing?

If I do watch TV, I tend to gravitate toward slower and more focused outlets like the National Geographic Channel, C-span or a local community's public access channel.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, that house glows again

I blogged about a Bellingham house on December 31 2006. Glowing again this year in LED splendor. I captured just a slightly different perspective.

Maybe the house isn't that great, but it's noticeable at least. Depends on your tastes. See my blog posts on Christmas and scroll past house to rest of posts about Christmas subject if you wish, or more likely if you got the time. It's rush, rush time for some folks at least.

I haven't rushed to my home town where my two sisters reside just to do the one day called Christmas. How much time do we get off work?

Still, my sisters inadvertently gave the gift of their polyphonic voices on my answering machine. Both saying "Hello Robert" from phone extensions in different parts of our childhood home, it sounds like a friendly choir.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Another of many celebrations

I've got some leave time off work, people who are actually willing to fill-in for me and a bit of extra money. I can have Christmas "fun time off" this year; like during my childhood when school let out for the holidays.

Not to sound selfish.

I hope others can take holidays also. Part of the season's greatings is about rest.

Time to go to Bellingham Winter Solstice Celebration which is just one of many things to do around the holiday season. Bellingham has many solstice celebrations. This one at 7:15 PM, December 21 in Blodel Donovan Gym at the park off Electric Avenue.

Merry Christmas. Many say Christmas comes this time of year as early Christians were trying to copy the successes of Roman solstice celebrations.

When starting a new business, piggyback some ideas from already established enterprises.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Smart power grid, 1980s style

Obama's style of talk about building a smart power grid was not as evident in the 1980s when I worked as a janitor in the restaurant called Pizza Haven, here in Bellingham.

I like Obama, but even back then, we had what was called a "smart power meter" installed at Pizza Haven by the power company. It could also be called a "demand meter."

Our smart meter ran at different rates, depending on situations it encountered. The goal was to make power more expensive when it's being used during times of peak power demand on the grid.

Internet connectivity between what some might call "energy brains on the grid" was less evident back in 1980s. Still, the goal of making power more expensive during peak demand times was fairly straight forward.

Of course, the world keeps getting more complicated, but back then there was a consistent peak demand.

For instance, in the morning when folks get up, turn on lights, push up the heat, take hot water showers and heat up their stoves for breakfast power demand is high.

The meter had a clock in it so as to charge more for power during certain morning hours.

I don't know if this was true, or not, but I guess one could even put a thermometer in such a meter. With a thermometer as well as a clock, the smart power meter could not only tell what time it was, it could estimate how cold weather was here in the Pacific Northwest.

Colder temperatures could mean more people making their heaters and furnaces work harder across the land. The smart meter could jack up our power cost even more, if our restaurant was using power during that peak demand time as well.

You ask, what was the advantage of having such a meter for us at the restaurant?

We got lower overall cost of power throughout the whole day. As long as we behaved ourselves and tried to avoid adding our power demand during peak power demand hours on the grid.

That meter could be seen as kind of a little threat, to help us remember "The big picture."

The big picture being our power company's struggle trying to keep everyone's lights on through the peaks and valleys of demand. "Through thick and thin," so to speak.

Now, we live in a more complicated world than ever. Obama talks about hooking all the brains, on the power system together. The brains like our little smart meter.

Maybe it's not that big a deal over what we could already do, but the tasks seem to keep getting more complicated. Also we have some new tools, such as more internet connectivity.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

After Copenhagen

The leaders can't do it for us. It's up to changing lifestyles at grassroots levels and new technology. Leaders can be better examples, though than jetting off to Copenhagen, even though Copenhagen is a nice city.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cash for Caukers, hard and soft poem, porn?

Tarp money left over. Good news. Took less than expected to finish that job.

Republicans wish to give it back to China and other bankers.

But, Obama wants Americans to have another job.

Cash for Caukers.

More stimulating.

Needed for warm and cozy.

(I hope it's for renters also).

Calking windows, helping to foster survival of economy, given news from Copenhagen scientists.

Stimulate economy for sure. Stimulate.

Is your cauk soft or hard?

KGO radio, in San Francisco, is the main ABC "News Talk" affiliate for all of northern California. KGO must know how to succeed in business.

When a home improvement show on KGO was talking. Talking, about cauking. They were discussing hard and soft cauks.

Someone noticed it sounded like cock.

Oh, no. Was that inappropriate? How's the FCC? Is that one of those 7 little words? We (speaking of KGO) are still on the air, not just on cyberspace.

But, don't be uptight.

They made it into a promo.

I wasn't even listening to that show, but heard reprocussions afterwards.

A cute little promo with words like, "is your cauk hard or soft."

Then an announcer doing the tag line:

"Our shows are always informative and sometimes inadvertently X rated."

KGO knows how to get more listeners and stimulate the economy in a "private enterprise" way. They turned that into a promo.

Like America's banks which were said, before the 2008 crash, to be more "flambouyant" than (for instance) Canada's banks.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Is it a lie to call carbon dioxide a health hazard?

We breath it everyday, but when we also get enough oxigen, we're healthy.

Carbon dioxide is an "environmental hazard."

It's a STRETCH to say "health hazard." Why do they have to do this?

Why can't EPA address environmental hazards? Why do these environmental hazards have to be defined as health hazards before EPA can act?

I don't know, I'm no lawyer.

Or, here's an idea. Here's the STRETCH.

Cars spew out lots of carbon dioxide and they also kill tens of thousands of Americans each year in auto accidents as well as obesity.

Cars are a health hazard.

Is that the STRETCH they are using?

Probably not, but here's an interesting thought. "There's "cause and effect," and there's also "correlation."

It works.

Is this what they are thinking? I'm no lawyer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My own energy cap is the circuit breaker

China, US and other countries are discussing numbers with Copenhagen Climate Conference on it's way.

It isn't likely to mean much till differences start trickling down to the grassroots level.

I've got my own "energy cap." It's the circuit breaker.

My room has one wall socket feeding a network of extension cords and surge suppressors. It all has to fit under 15 amps (around 1,500 watts) or the breaker goes plunging everything into darkness.

Computers and compact lights don't take much energy so that part is fairly easy.

The heater is a bit more challenging. I have a great portable heater for one room, but it stays on it's lowest setting - 600 watts. There's also a 900 watt setting and both switches equal 1,500 watts.

600 watts is the safest setting to keep the breaker happy.

Oh, I forgot to mention, one or two plug ins on the same breaker are scattered around in my neighbor's apartment. That means less than 15 amps for me, depending on what they've got plugged in across the hall.

No problem, I just wear jackets in the house and the sun warms my south facing window, on sunny days. Climate here is quite mild so we get very few days below freezing.

There's some residual heat from other parts of the house. The other apartments have radiators that run from the gas furnace. For some reason, this room doesn't have that.

Still, it works out quite well. I'm out a lot anyway and usually turn things off unless I'm home.

Living near downtown Bellingham, the world is my living room. There's warm saunas at the YMCA, dancing, biking and the symbolic warmth of having many friends.

One thing that really helps back home is an electric blanket. It can keep one toasty without heating the whole room. Draws roughly 180 watts.

I don't drive, but all the warm showers and saunas that I enjoy take energy.

Possibly my biggest greenhouse sin is chocolate milk, however. I drink lots of it. Dairy industry is local (for the buy local advocates), but supposedly a greenhouse gas emitter.

Maybe someday, I should switch to soy milk.

Find me a tasty, less expensive soy milk product and I'll see.

Those who head off to Copenhagen and run the numbers aren't going to be able to accomplish much unless "we the people" are up for changes.

Incidentally, from what I hear, the city of Copenhagen offers many examples of living with a low carbon footprint. A compact European city with lots of windmills and bicycles. Maybe Copenhagen can be a learning experience for the world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

TV challenged

People say I am TV challenged since I don't watch TV. I'm often at a loss when the conversation goes to TV shows and actors. It's not really my world. I'm the same way with movies and sports.

Who's Tiger Woods? Well, I sort of knew. Something to do with football? No golf.

Monday, November 23, 2009

First proton collisions at Large Hadron Collider took place earlier today


In plenty of time for Christmas. They were hoping to get collisions before the Christmas holidays. Looks like they've been good. Santa even brought that stocking stuffer before our (USA) Thanksgiving.

More presents (1.2 TeV per beam) await opening under the tree before Christmas and even bigger packages (3.5 Tev) after New Years.

What's inside the packages, behind the wrapping?

Pieces for the cosmic puzzle that is slowly taking shape; like the farm scene puzzle my brother started one Christmas. Maybe before too long, we'll be able to make out part of the barn.

I envisioned a gift to the earth of bright light emitting diodes during a closing circle. That was during the closing circle for a discussion which was sponsored by Transition Whatcom. The discussion dealt with moving toward a low carbon footprint economy.

I see technology as one of the important tools toward a sustainable world.

Others in the closing circle envisioned gifts to the earth of cool forests, singing people and so forth. My vision was different, but it got a good response.

My envisioned gift to the earth to help it cool down. LEDs rather than fires.

LEDs make good bike lights also.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Water on the moon

Possibly good news for future space missions to use. Easier than carrying it up there.

Maybe it's too spread out and hard to extract, but at least it's there.

Also has science value. Core sampling in some very old ice. Learn more about the history of the solar system?

Also in the news.

Large Hadron Collider in Europe has successfully sent a proton stream around it's entire circumference. Another step toward the high energy collisions between protons that will teach us more about matter, space, time and other cosmic questions.

One justification for science. It's a jobs program for intellectuals.

I've noticed that the local job market seems to be over saturated with college educated folks. Many work as waiters around here, for instance.

Nothing wrong with a simple life. Not everyone has to be in a big field, so to speak, but it does seem like there is a glut of educated people out there.

Better to ask cosmic questions than make bombs with that unused talent pool.

We need more science projects to employ the flood of educated people pouring out of schools these days. Pouring out into economies dominated by places like Walmart.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bike light retrofit

It's that time of year again. Days getting shorter. Good to have lights on your bike.

This bright wand full of LEDs runs on 3 AA batteries.

It's not really designed for bikes. I got it at Fred Myers several years ago for only $20. Bright and handy.

It's actually a shop light. Designed to hang among pipes, or whatever. There's a retractable hook at the top.

Remember old shop lights with the dangling cord? LEDs make it easier. Less worry stumbling over the cord. Bright light runs maybe 3 hours on one set of batteries.

This can't be much of an ad for the light company, however. All I see is a sticker on the bottom saying "the designer's edge." Behind battery compartment door, the type is in German. Who made it?

Oh, I just found out. The Designers Edge lighting company.

I made a loop from bungee cord. Stretchy so it's easy to shove light into stretchy circle of cord to be held with friction.

Text added Sept. 2012.

Light for only $7.95 in bucket at grocery / hardware (everything) store in Rainbow, Oregon.

The only store in town (town?), but it had what I needed including a bucket with these LED shop lights. Wow, the price has come down. Got my first shop light of this style back in 2008 for $20. This bucketful had them priced at under $8 apiece. Technology keeps marching on. I think even better than the previous design. I retrofitted it with foam padding and a bungy cord to make a great bicycle headlight.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Seattle defeated anti gay Initiative 13 in 1978 Seattle Times front page picture

Hopefully Washington State can celebrate the passage of Referendum 71; preserving the domestic partnership bill that was passed in Olympia, but challenged at the ballot box. Looks like 71 is ahead, but more ballots are being counted as I write.

Ballot box victories for gay rights may be somewhat rare, but not unprecedented. Usually human rights are extended by court or legislative action rather than popular vote, but Referendum 71 isn't a first.

In 1978, Seattle voters rejected an initiative to repeal that city's non discrimination in housing and employment ordinance which had been extended by the city council to cover sexual minorities.

Pictured above, November 8 1978 Seattle Times that I happened to keep.

In Seattle, a group called S.O.M.E. for Save Our Moral Values mounted their campaign to repeal the ordinance.

Initiative 13.

It was defeated with a sound margin.

Notice the angry look on the face of one of SOME's proponents beside the celebration of gay rights activists.

I remember a brochure from one gay rights organization saying, "Stop SOME before they become many."

That same election day, California voters rejected Proposition 6, otherwise known as the Briggs Initiative. Prop. 6 would have singled out gay people to ban from teaching in the schools, among other things.

Hopefully Referendum 71 can be added to the list of ballot box victories for human rights.

Note added later. Referendum 71 passed in favor of preserving domestic partnership.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ghostly building in downtown Bellingham

Scroll down for pictures of fire in 1976 Western Front.

Top floor burned in the 1970s and has remained vacant ever since. Bottom floor is a tavern. Can you guess which building this is?

Happy Halloween weekend.

Leaving my art class at WWSC (now WWU), I saw a massive column of smoke over downtown Bellingham. Running down the hill past my sister's house, I knocked on Judy's door. She came running also, toward the fire.
Continued below:

Western Front newspaper, November 1976.

Watching from across the street, we got there just as the roof was caving in and a fireball rose to the sky.

Then, Judy started walking back home and I wondered why she was leaving the drama. She said she just remembered leaving her front door wide open as she ran from the house. Went back to shut the door.

I stayed till smoke turned to hissing steam.

Now the embers long cooled, that place sits quietly as downtown Bellingham scurries around it. Few pay attention to those upper floors that are like a carcass left over from that violent event.

Bellingham fire department has a coffee table book of local fires with a picture of this fire also.

Happy belated Birthday Arpanet

Precursor to Internet, Oct 29 1969.

This was not Arpanet (probably) or me. From my early 1970s high school annual. A teletype at Pullman High School connected to the Washington State University computer that was across town. Notice the rotary dial for phone connection.

Back then, I thought computers were just for mathematicians.

Pictured is a math whiz who's name I forgot, but I think I remember he'd moved to Pullman from Orofino, Idaho.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My new TV

Yep, I got a TV. Haven't had one since the late 1980s when I needed a TV as a monitor for my Comadore 64 computer.

Might as well have one. It's "footprint" is small. With pocket TVs, and entire record collections fitting in an Ipod, one can be homeless and still have their "home entertainment system" in a backpack.

And the cost. Only $200, but this was on sale for $169. When I was a child in the mid 1960s, our first color TV was in the neighborhood of $400!

That was 1960s dollars. They've sure come down in price.

Back then, the whole house and yard was around $25,000, so the TV was a big chunk of the price of making a home.

Now days, houses are in the half million dollar neighborhood depending on where you live and products? They're so cheap they're practically throwaway by comparison.

Just think how many TVs a retailer must sell to pay the rent these days. It's insane.

Can't let the grass grow under your wheels.

Well, what about watching the TV, after all, that's what it's for. Is there anything to watch?

I'm not on cable. My computer is connected to DSL through the phone line.

In Bellingham, on air channels are limited.

There's channel 12 where I could watch COPS, if I wanted to. Also, it looks like Dr. Phil and some other things. There's KBCB; the shopping channel.

Two commercial Channels out of Vancouver BC as well. All in high resolution digital.

There's still some analog TV out of Vancouver as well. Canada hasn't totally converted yet. With a bit of snow (remember that stuff on a TV screen) I can get TV in Punjabi and TV in French.

The CBC is nice, but it's really snowy.

I'll have to plan a trip to Galbraith Mountain. It's our local mountain biker's paradise.

Why? Not for the trail rides, but a trip up the logging road just to see what more TV channels I can get out of Seattle and Vancouver. Channels from the top of Galbraith Mountain.

No, I don't plan to spend much time watching TV, but what the hell, it was way less than most people pay for one month's rent.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top wages has been more of a problem than excessive profits

Good to read that the Obama Administration is starting to try and reign in executive pay at the banking organizations that are using bailout monies.

I also read (buried in an article on healthcare reform) another good idea.

Limit the amount of money for the salary of an executive that an insurance company can claim as a business expense on its corporate income taxes.

Yes, often the worse ripoff that corporations do is not profits. It's salaries for the top workers.

Rhetoric of the traditional left rails against corporate profits, but a more sophisticated analysis of this issue is due. In many cases, a corporation isn't making a profit. It's even going bankrupt, but still someone is making huge money. The money is bloated salaries to "workers." Not all the workers of course, just the top executives.

On the books of a corporation, executive salaries can be listed as business "expenses" rather than profits. I think in many cases the executive salaries can be treated as wages.

A tricky way to basically steal money. That's what so many corporate executives and real high paid professionals are best at. Weaseling their way into big money. Figuring out how to play the system to their personal advantage. Smooth sellers.

Even though I'm no expert on corporate finance, that's what it looks like to me. I'm glad to see at least some attempt to address the issue of overpaid executives.

Monday, October 19, 2009

He posed by my bike,

but he arrived in this area by jet plane. Visiting from Ireland, he and his partner were looking for gay community, hiking groups or what ever in this area. My resource guide comes up on the net and there happened to be a hike that Saturday. The Gay Men's Hike that Carl organizes.

I was able to direct him to the hike by email and they had a great time. Weather was sunny, which is iffy in this area. They lucked out. The hike happened to be that weekend, and the weather cooperated.

He played Irish flute near an alpine lake by Mount Baker. The other hikers loved it.

I wasn't able to go as I work nights and can't get up in the early mornings for the hike. Next day, I did meet him at Front Runners (running/walking club) by Lake Padden. Some days, I can almost get up for that.

They were planning to fly back to Ireland on Tuesday, but there he was, sitting at Swan Cafe in the Co-op on Wednesday.

Turns out they miss read the ticket and the flight back was Thursday, not Tuesday.

An extra 2 days to enjoy the trip.

He wanted to walk along Bellingham Bay so I joined him. Brought my bike so I could ride back home after our walk. He was staying with friends in the Fairhaven area.

It was a leisurely stroll along the bay with lots of good conversation. That's where he posed by my bike.

Back home in Ireland he only works part of the year. Has the other part of the year off.

He has time to be with friends, go to faerie drumming circles and enjoy a quality of life.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

From the glass milk bottle

Luxurious chocolate milk from Twin Brook Dairy near Lynden. Glass bottles returned to Food Co-op for deposit. It's addicting.

Whole milk, at least in the chocolate. Maybe Twin Brook should offer low fat in the chocolate like they do in the regular milk.

All that sugar and fat, but another addiction of mine can cancel out the first addiction... Dancing. Burn it off.

I like having addictions if they cancel each other out.

Some of the dancing costs a bit of money. I've found a studio on Cornwall Ave. that can be around $10 a session. Still it's quite a release. Moving to music around interesting people.

The instructor added to the last experience with a suite case of memories. Rocks of special meaning, a heart shaped burl from some tree. Healing and sharing. One can see people crying at times, but also dancing and laughing the next moment. More than just fitness. It's an experience, but it does cost a bit.

The milk costs something also. Still my addictions don't cost too much and they often cancel each other out.

Then there's also dancing at a place called the Purple Church.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Solar streetlights along bicycle path in Moscow, Idaho for blog action day

My post for Blog Action Day 09 topic of climate change.

Paradise Trail along Paradise Creek in Moscow, ID. and it was Paradise. My 09 bicycle tour was lots of fun. Feels good bicycling and staying healthy. 1,300 miles in 31 days.

Glad I get lots of time off work. Vacation is possibly the best thing about my job.

The technology of solar power and the less "rat race" form of travel. For protecting the earth, what more could one ask for.

Technology can help us reduce the carbon footprint. Years ago, I couldn't have brought a computer with me on my bicycle. Too heavy and bulky. Now there's several types of computers that can fit easy in the pannier.

Computer for WIFI stops. Brings more variety when all one can carry is what fits on a bike, or possibly a bike and trailer.

Microelectronics: Also makes it easier to live in a small dwelling year round. Who needs a big house or sprawling residential area.

Nice to be "child free" also. Percent of population raising family could diminish thus allowing a more livable world for the lower number of children. A world of less rat race where progress is measured in quality of life and technological advance rather than total amount of material consumption. A less obese world in many ways.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are today's explorers nicer and more civil than yesterday's

Yesterday was Columbus Day, but many say Christopher Columbus exploited native peoples. Explorers of past were often plunderers after the gold, many were warriors, capitalists and empire builders.

Today's explorers could be a different lot. Astronomers, for instance.

Astronomers, quietly exploring the universe.

Some of them sitting in faculty offices at universities applying for time on research telescopes.

Image at right: I'm exploring around Penticton Radio Observatory during my 2009 bike tour.

Many of today's explorers are writing grant proposals, cooperating with scientists all over the world, dealing with NASA, learning how to navigate vast bureaucracies. Not necessarily planting their flag on the lands of native people's and claiming territory for Spain or Great Britain.

Some of them are helping students and patiently sitting through faculty meetings if they are at university settings.

Not seeking a lot of gold from Inca tribes even though some astronomers may have fairly high salaries.

Most of them are likely to be writing articles and attending conferences, not blazing trails with shotguns.

They often donate money to the United Way, their local NPR station and the food bank.

They spend time at libraries, think through puzzles, sit in front of computers.

At times they might even listen to harpsichord music.

Maybe today, they're a bit on the yuppie side, but explorers of today seem kinder and gentler than many of past centuries.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Die quickly. US Rep. Alan Grayson's comments were a good soundbyte.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who said late last month that Republicans' health care plans amount to wanting sick people to die quickly, hit the nail on the head.

Of course Republican's would deny this, but fact of the matter is, large segments of the population can't afford serious illness without some kind of subsidy. It's an ugly truth that Republicans kind of sweep under the carpet.

No matter how we paint the pig be it insurance reform, single payer or whatever, serious illness is just too expensive for lower income people. Either the premiums for insurance to cover it are too high or the money just isn't there. Without some sort of "tax the rich" income transfer there's no coverage.

Maybe we should divide the problem of paying for healthcare into two parts. Serious illness and "low end" medical expense.

Private enterprise can cover low end medical things.

Here's where Republican style ideas of health insurance savings accounts might even work. I'm not a Republican, but for low end expense, savings isn't a bad idea. Savings means incentive for staying healthy and also using medical care wisely. It can pay for preventative care, checkups, less expensive prescriptions, minor things like broken arms; even dental care.

Major illness is too expensive. If someone has a catastrophic illness or a long term chronic illness the government usually ends up paying the tab anyway. Serious illnesses are often disabling anyway.

Serious illness basically all but kills the idea of being able to work for a living, let alone paying premiums.

Maybe the government should pay for serious illness and then allow a system of more private solutions to evolve for low end care. Savings accounts and less expensive insurance can cover minor things as well as preventative care.

Medical savings plans do have insurance for catastrophic illness, but even that can be costly. Really, the government should be the catastrophic plan.

Republicans have an aversion to any "tax the rich income transfer," but with major illness it's either that, or go ahead and push the so called "right to life" folks overboard. Advocate "dieing quickly" for folks with major illnesses that couldn't have afforded insurance.

I'm not a right to lifer, but the idea of pulling the plug is repugnant to me also.

Instead of repugnant, call it Republican.

The conflict between right to life and "no tax let the market decide" is glaring.

Hope this contradiction sinks the Republican Party.

Still, some "so called" Republican thinking has a bit of merit. Most healthy and reasonably employed people could still participate in things like affordable insurance and savings plans that would provide access to minor care, but also have incentive to use it sparingly.

If major illness hits, "plan B" has to be subsidy for lower income people.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Put single payer on the table

A friend of mine named Haggrid held this sign at a protest for health care reform. I held the camera.

Yes, single payer would reduce the morass of contradictory claim forms that have to be waded through. I hear maybe 20 percent of doctor staff is there just to deal with the forms.

There's always a side effect to any change, however. What will happen to all those form handlers? Could they be employed doing something else?

Some march signs reflected in windows of Bellingham Herald Building as marchers walked up Chestnut Street. Many signs said, "put single payer on the table." Yes, that would reduce much of the convoluted complexity of contradicting insurance forms that patients and doctors must wade through now.

I think single payer could be very good, but even if it doesn't happen, something needs to be done.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Travel on my 2009 bike tour in the Northwest vicariously

At Othello Tunnels near Hope, BC.

Trip included a short walk to Saturn.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The dream I had a while back

I dreamed that the tallest building in Bellingham had just been built. 30 stories or so, not like anything that's been on the drawing boards so far.

Finished just in time for a recession, but lower floors of condominiums had mostly sold anyway.

On the top floor were two spectacular conference rooms that rented out for big bucks. Weddings, stock broker parties. Folks wanting a spectacular view.

Business was slow so the skyrooms stayed empty most of the time, but the manager was into ecstatic dance. Fun and frolic, like a hippy dance. Also like exercise.

He was able to pull strings and allow ecstatic dance in one of the rooms for minimal cost. Just donation.

Dancing with the view as a backdrop. Playful hippy like dance. Full of energy. Sweaty. Some of the guys went shirtless revealing bodies of joy, light and play. Erotic in a mild sense.

Then, one day, the manager had a worried look on his face. Some big corporation had just booked the other conference room. At the last minute. Same night as our dance.

Would they resent having sweaty dancers as neighbors?

Would they say, "there goes the neighborhood?"

Would they demand their money back?

Who were they? A corporate dinner party? Bankers meeting? Stock brokers convention?

The dance went on, it was too late to cancel. Still we thought dancing days would be numbered if the rooms start getting booked.

Everything seemed as usual until the soundproof "flex-a-wall" between the two sky lounges started to slide open. It reveled who was really on the "corporate side."

A gay porn business.

Models, escorts. People paying big bucks alright. Paying to fondle and photograph nude models. It was business for sure.

The porn company didn't mind having ecstatic dance as neighbors, but I remember thinking that the ecstatic dancers looked sexier than the porn models on the more commercial side of the now combined spaces.

The unlike the dancers, the models were totally nude. Still they looked more artificial and less natural than the dancers.

Then I woke up.

Version one here. See version two also.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The suicide option health plan

There's private options, talk of a public option, how about a suicide option?

The suicide option health plan would most likely be private. It would be a lower cost insurance plan with a low lifetime benefits ceiling. For instance possibly $100,000 lifetime benefits cap. If bills added up to over $100,000 during one's lifetime, the plan would stop paying and dissolve.

A low lifetime ceiling would save money so the plan could offer more affordable premiums and still cover lower end medical expense. Deductibles and co pays could be figured into the plan also.

If no other source of money could be found after the plan dissolves, such as government assistance for instance, and major illness persists, a painless suicide would be recommended.

Laws would have to be changed so suicide could be an acceptable suggestion.

Sounds ridiculous?

Also sounds libertarian.

Just something to ponder? I'm not necessarily advocating this.

I prefer some sort of safety net where income can be transferred from the more wealthy to subsidize a better form of affordable health plan for those who can't afford market insurance rates.

Also, of course, healthy lifestyles and lower medical expenses across the entire population. Otherwise lots of people will have little choice beyond something like the suicide option.

Are we on our way toward some sort of suicide option without intentionally planning it if nothing is done to reform the current system?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Glad the Bush missile plan was dropped

Kudos to Obama for dropping plans to put missiles in Eastern Europe. Now our relations with Russia are improving. Better relations with Russia are more important, strategically, than the shield that those missiles would have provided. That shield of protection against rough missiles from Iran and other places can still be provided from ships at sea.

Meanwhile, better relations with Russia means the biggest country in the world (land area) is more likely to be "on our side," so to speak. Russia is still kind of a fledgling democracy. Not ideal, but better relations with US can help.

Russia could go the "other" way also. It could drift back toward a more dictatorial regime. Trade and communication can, hopefully, strengthen the hands of an open society within Russia.

Even though Russia isn't perfect, by any means, it's a work in progress, like every nation is.

We are still a work in progress.

Russia is, however, important. It's the biggest chunk on that "strategic game board" called Earth.

Maybe we shouldn't think of Earth as a strategic game board, but if that's the thinking we need, Russia is a prize piece.

We need that piece for oil and other reasons. That piece can strengthen our hand in dealing with Iran and other dictatorial states.

The west is still helping to finance the Iranian government; their nuclear ambitions, their military, and so forth. We're buying their oil.

Russia has oil also. Maybe we can buy more oil from Russia and have more leverage in our negotiations with Iran.

Our dependency on oil is a weakness in our strategies.

We could use our oil purchases as a powerful economic tool to push for better human rights in Iran. We can better use it to assist fledgling democratic movements within Iran and other places. If we do that, it helps to be able to boycott their oil, for a short time at least, if need be.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Whatcom County Farm Tour

Lots of healthy looking produce at Bellingham Farmer's Market which was also part of the Farm Tour on September 12.

After the rally for health care reform and then stopping by the market for a snack, I biked out to some county farms that were participating in the farm tour.

Only had time to visit Silver Springs Creamery and Bellwood Acres apple farm. They were near one another south of Lynden.

Many folks were driving to hit all the farms on the tour. Uses a bit of gas. I focused on two and arrived by bicycle.

Sampled ice cream and fresh milk. Tasted apple slices.

Weather was spectacular that day with Mount Baker shining.

Hope most of the people moving to Whatcom County like living in dense urban environments. That way, we can keep the sprawl contained and preserve farmland.

Monday, September 07, 2009

I'm back from my trip which ended at Camp

Queer Camp was another destination along my summer bicycle loop.

Intense, with lots of workshops, dancing, gathering, mingling.

A weekend of gay community in the woods, at a retreat center.

Nice way to end my bicycle tour. People, all scrunched together in cabins, dining hall and so forth. Quite a change after being mostly alone on the road during previous weeks.

Rain was intense also. Seeing the forecast on line, I got an extra large tarp to put over my tent; rather than giving up on my tent and staying in one of the cabins. It stayed mostly dry.

Several carloads of folks from Bellingham came down for Camp. I got a ride back to Bellingham by car. First bike trip that I returned by car. On other trips, I've come back by train, bus or biked back. Our car qualified for the carpool lanes. It was a car full of stories and reflections from Camp.

Now I'm sorting my pictures and stories from both Camp and the rest of my bike tour before Camp.

Everything from the Pullman Lentil Festival to Queer Camp.

Stay tuned. It will take a few weeks to digest things.

Aprox. 3 minutes.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The impressive face of Mossy Rock Dam

Around 600 ft tall. I could just get part of it in this image. Another thing to see on my bicycle tour. Turning the flow of the Cowlitz River into Tacoma City Light. I passed by it on US Highway 12.

Plan to attend Queer Camp over Labor Day Weekend. A group of people from Seattle, Bellingham and other places that rent a conference center in the forest and have workshops, hikes, discussions, yoga, you name it over Labor Day weekend each year.

A few days after that, my current plan calls for taking the train back to Bellingham from Centralia. Heading back to work before too long.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Above Lake Tipsoo

Bicycled over Chinook Pass yesterday. Over 5,000 ft. Looking down on Lake Tipsoo in Mount Rainier National Park. One could also see some of the glaciers on the mountain, but the top was in clouds.

Now I'm back on west side of Cascades for a conference called Queer Camp and another week of vacation. More about the conference later. Also I plan to put more pictures and stories on the web in the next few months after some time for writing and editing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chocolate milk stop on my bicycle trip

After a beverage break at one convenience store in lower Yakima Valley, I come out to find my bike surrounded with 3 Yakima County sheriff cars. That store must have had good doughnuts also. Police cars taking a break. They pulled in after me for their rest stop.

By the way, Yakima Valley has great bike paths.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bicycle and wind power, the Tri-Cities?

Now, in the Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco. Lots of bike paths through these cities. In the parks, along the rivers, along the freeway.

What is thought of, by many, as the "atomic cities," have many sides. This is home of Hanford Nuclear Reservation, but rolling into Pasco, the horizon is filled with windmills. Wind power dominates the ridge tops.

Maybe not as much energy comes from those wind farms as pours out from The Columbia Nuclear Generating Station, formerly known as WPPS 2 (the only WPPS plant that got off the ground) and the only nuclear power plant in Washington and Oregon that is now operational as far as I know.

WPPS stood for Washington Public Power System which mostly went bankrupt in the 1980s. WPPS 2, now renamed Columbia Generating Station, is the one part of WPPS that's working and, so I read (on History Link dot 0rg), generating around 12% of the electricity supplied by BPA here in the Pacific Northwest. Figures for the year 2000. That is a fairly big chunk of our power.

Why did most of WPPS go belly up?

Many reasons, but I would suggest that natural gas is where the Northwest has turned to beef up it's power supplies as we outgrow our hydroelectric resouce. Natural gas has been fairly cheap and less worry than nuclear; so far at least.

Maybe now, with worry about fossil fuel and global warming, nuclear might look better as long as population and economic growth keep demanding more energy.

Still, wind farms are quite evident on the ridge tops as I biked into the Tri-Cities area.

Wind farms and bike paths seen today.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Government option

In Washtucna, I discovered the motel was gone, but the city park was still there. I took the "government option" of camping in the municipal park. The "private" motel was not an option even though I haven't had a shower in days. The park had camping and was free. Nice willow tree pictured above.

Coming into town, someone directed me to the park. When I said, "I guess the motel is gone" he said, "ya, we burned it down."

Turns out the former owner hadn't kept it up very well and it was full of bugs, spiders, whatever. Then they tried to remodel, add a restaurant or something, but ended up with the building collapsing as they must have removed the wrong supports. Eventually, the debris pile was burned.

Now, the land has a new owner and I hear plans are to (maybe) build a new motel. Who knows when.

So, it was nice to find government option, the town park.

Much of that day, my radio was filled with health care debate as I biked along. I'm in favor of a government option there also.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The burden of shopping

I am not tempted to shop while on my bike trips. Where I'm I to put it all? Pass a lot of promotions on the road. This one by Pullman, WA. Evergreen area.

Now headed west into the country of the great Spokane Flood during ice ages. As the ice melted, a dam burst draining much of western Montana to a torrent over what is now part of Washington. Carved out the Channeled Scab Lands. Now it's a barren landscape of rock outcrops and sagebrush. Last night, I camped at Washtuckna, WA. which used to have The Wagon Wheel Cafe. It's now abandoned. Next major stop, the Tri Cities, home of a supermarket chain called Atomic Foods.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lentil Festival in Pullman, WA.

Now in Pullman visiting my sisters where I grew up. Got here in time for the Lentil Parade down Main street. Not by plan, but co-incidence, I am here in time for the parade. They grow a lot of lentils in this area along with wheat, peas and so forth.

Lentils; just one more thing to have a parade about. Gilroy, CA. has the garlic festival. Well, in Pullman it's lentils.

Never heard of lentils? I've had them in salads and soups. Had a lentil salad in Palouse, just before getting to Pullman.

First time I heard of the festival was on the radio coming down from Spokane. Then someone at our table watching the parade remarked that she didn't know bicycles came with a radio; like some cars come with factory installed radio. It wasn't there when I bought the bicycle, but I add a lot of things with bungy cords as I tour.

More pictures, Lentil Festival and Pullman.

Aprox. 1 minute.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lush trees and grass at a park in Palouse

That was a few days ago as I biked through Palouse, WA.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art under the bridge in Spokane, WA.

I should turn off my computer and head to bed so I can ride in the cool part of today. Bike trip continues to bring me new perspectives on everyday things.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gardner Cave

Gardner Cave up in northeast Washington was quite a tour. My family took a trip there in 1966, or so. Still impressive today as I biked there in 2009.

Few people even know of its splendor.

I also visited Boundary Dam, not far from the cave. Could "knock them both off" within just a few miles.

Next day, the ride to Spokane. 96 miles. I didn't expect to have that long a day, but road construction took me to a different route so I missed the motels in north Spokane. Ended up downtown in good time anyway. Might as well stay downtown. Feel good and enjoy walking around this city. Lots of historic buildings.

My motel is built around a gay bar (Dempsey's Brass Rail). I could go, but I look road worn.

One more night in Spokane and then head for the Palouse area.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Radio telescope near Penticton, BC

More images on my Flickr.

Another sight on my bicycle trip. Being into astronomy, I am surprised I didn't know this observatory existed until now. Big radio telescopes in the Okanogan country, not far from Penticton, BC.

Some friends of mine, from Bellingham, were camping near Penticton as I passed through the area. Before they left Bellingham, they told me which campsite to find them at. I found their site and we connected. They took me, by car, to these radio telescopes. Here I am pictured by the large dish. There were several types of antennas at this observatory. Mapping various things in the universe.

CBC Radio talking about Kepler planet hunting mission while I bicycle contemplatively along Kettle Valley Trail in Okanogan Country of BC.

Aprox 3 minutes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Long hill up west side into Manning Provincial Park

But beautiful. Now I am at a WIFI spot in Princeton, BC. My 2009 bicycle tour continues.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Time for summer bicycle travel again

Takes a long time to climb all the way to Artist's Point at end of Mount Baker Highway on a bicycle, but what a good excuse to spend more time in that great scenery. I had to drink in this beauty for over 5 hours since it took that long just to get to the top from Glacier, WA.

Then the best fish tacos I've ever had at Graham's in Glacier. This two day trip was a great precursor to more cycling planned before autumn. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Along South Bay bike trail

I'm just getting from point A to Point B. On my bike, there is time to notice stuff like this.

Painted on the side of a building along Bellingham's South Bay Trail route. Near where the alley becomes the trail. I ride a different kind of bike however.

Update. This artwork is still along the trail, but on the side of a large apartment building. The art was preserved and given a new home almost where it was before. It's on the side of a new building.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The two most important things to remember for health care reform

Here are the two big things.

Promoting healthy lifestyles to lower overall cost.


Creating a sliding scale system of premiums to tax higher income people and subsidize insurance premiums for lower income people. The "income transfer" component.

A healthier population can mean less burden, cost wise for the entire system, be it public or private. Promote healthier lifestyles in social planning. Bike-able neighborhoods, less smoking and better diets for instance. This will make it easier to extend coverage to more people without bankrupting society.

The other thing to remember is to create a sliding scale system so lower income people can still afford the coverage. This most likely means (no matter how we wallpaper it) income transfer.

Yes, the gap between upper income and lower income people has gotten so wide that universal coverage is no longer possible (or at least no longer probable) unless there is some sort of tax on the wealthy to subsidize the sliding scale for lower income. The tax would probably also hit upper middle class, but it's essential for universal coverage to be a reality.

We already have this "income transfer" to some extent. For instance, hospitals "cost shift" by charging folks with insurance, or the ability to pay, more than the true cost of the procedure. This margin helps to make up for the loss caused by providing uncompensated care to those who can't afford to pay, or don't have insurance.

Since cost shifting is already happening, it could be done more rationally. Low income people often are made to get their care from the emergency room which is an expensive part of the health care delivery system.

If we don't have some kind of income transfer / cost shift, low income people are likely to just be turned away from health care. We could head into an environment of euthanasia for lower income people. At least those who have both low income and high medical expense.

Other aspects of reform can wring savings out of the system, I'm sure.

Things like tort reform, but the two main things, in my opinion, are healthier lifestyles and some kind of sliding scale for premiums.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dancer crossing

Sign seen near a dance studio. Dancing can be good exercise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One small step moon walk co-incidence for Sound Transit light rail in Seattle

On the 40Th anniversary of the moonwalk, Sound Transit light rail starts regular operation in Seattle.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

40 years after first moonwalk, large telescope will open

Hand it to the Mexicans, Spanish, Europeans, University of Florida and other partners. I think Gran Telescopio Canarias is going to be the largest optical telescope in the world. Inauguration on July 24 2009, just days past the 40Th anniversary of Apollo 11's first moonwalk. Space exploration is still making strides. Continued below.

I kept front page of Spokane Chronicle from the day after "that day" in July 1969. Chronicle has not been published for years, long before the current Internet shakeup of newspapers.

There was some science aboard that moon mission, but nothing as sophisticated as the science pouring in from today's satellites and observatories. Far from turning our backs on space, the news keeps getting more exciting, at least for those of us who follow it.

I remember newscasters talking about 3 experiments that astronauts set up on the moon that day. Maybe there were more, but I remember 3.

Mirrors were placed near the lander to reflect lasers beamed up from McDonald Observatory in Austin, TX. It was to measure distance between the Earth and moon within inches.

Interesting to measure something that far in mere inches. Quite a feat for those days. Since then, the lasers have been improved for more accurate measurement. Maybe those mirrors are still in use, I'm not sure. They were employed for years after 1969.

Astronauts also set up a seismograph on the moon, from what I remember. Or maybe that was later missions? A seismograph to measure moon quakes. Starting to probe the moon's interior.

Then there was that sail thing. Not the American flag. It was another "sail thing." Something like tinfoil which was rolled out to catch solar wind; a mystical stream of particles coming out of the sun.

Quite exciting for science in those days, but still kind of small compared to discovering planets around other stars in our galaxy; for instance.

The science of astronomy keeps getting better as instruments become more precise and "high tech." Amazing discoveries are now being made from telescopes that never even leave the ground. Other observatories are way out in space.

Apollo 11 was a great achievement, an engineering feat and a media event. A giant leap and there are still giant leaps being taken today.

Yes, it was a great step forward and I was riveted to the television, that day, along with the estimated 300 million (pretty impressive percentage as world population was less in 1969) viewers.

It was the summer before my freshman year in high school.

Maybe I was riveted too much to the television as just before Niel Armstrong took his steps down that ladder, our TV went dark. It was a flash and then the screen was dead. No sound either.

A vacuum tube burned out.

I had our TV on all day watching the coverage. The tube just chose that moment to burn out.

Remember vacuum tubes?

If your cellphone used vacuum tubes today, it would probably have to be as large as the Saturn 5 rocket which carried those astronauts to the moon.

With our set down for the count, the family piled into our Rambler Station waggon and headed to the Stevenson's house and another television.

We arrived after the first steps, but still got to see countless reruns.

On an interesting note, Stevenson Dorm complex at WSU in Pullman was named for Mrs. Stevenson's husband who had passed away earlier.

Looking out over Stevenson Complex from an old postcard.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My letter to President Carter's speech writer, 1979

Not long out of college, in spring of 79, I was following energy speeches by then President Jimmy Carter. Thinking that the word "sacrifice" was too negative, I suggested it be replaced by the word "change."

Put a more positive spin on the transition our culture needs to make. So I wrote to Carter's speech writer.

Now it's the 30Th anniversary of Carter's famous malaise speech; the one that never even used that word malaise. It was the speech that pundits gave that label to after the fact.

When I wrote, I suggested putting a more positive spin on the transition we need to go through to save energy. Sacrifice doesn't sound positive enough. Change was my suggestion.

Today, the word transition is used. There's "transition," "transformation," "evolution," "a new world dawning." All that "new age" talk. Bicycle for you're figure and all that fun stuff.

Speaking of a more optimistic future, we've really experienced a technology revolution since those days. Putting a futuristic spin on low energy living.

No more going back to the cave. Ipods (which they didn't have back in 79) are lower impact than automobiles.

Carter's chief speech writer wrote back a nice letter. He said my ideas were good and thought the President would agree also.

This was before the famous malaise speech of July 15 79 that historians are remembering today.

I'm not sure my ideas got through to the President as I think sacrifice was still the dominant theme.

Still I got letters from both James Fallows and Hendrick Hertzberg.

I wrote to Fallows thinking he was the speech writer. This was before Internet days so it was the most recent address I could find at the public library. Some reference book on the US Government, no doubt.

Fallows forwarded the letter so nice reply's came back from both men.

It was spring 1979 before Carter's now famous speech.

Did my letter have an influence on that speech?

Hard to say. Maybe not. The speech was of a type to still inspire the word "malaise" for a label.

Now I wish I'd kept the envelope as the return address simply said;

"The White House."