Saturday, January 31, 2009

Interesting bike racks at north side Bellingham Food Co-op

Bike racks made from old bike parts. Frames, gears, rims. They add an artistic touch to the Bellingham Food Co-op's north side store.

The north side store is new also. One could say it's "Bellingham Food Co-op version 2," borrowing lingo from computer software. Version 2.

Neighborhood is full of sprawl and traffic, but I find a way out there by riding out Eldridge, Marine and Bennett to Bakerview. Then into Cordota that way.

I'm more apt to use the downtown Co-op, but it's interesting to check out the new location.

Downtown has a similar bike rack now. It's purple.
Link added april 6 2010.

Another kind of bike rack. This one at WWU campus.

Picture taken standing under the cover of a big new bike rack at Western Washington University.

Yes, I'm still boasting about bicycle things. Bicycling is a way to address so many of our economic problems from high health care costs to trade imbalances due to oil imports.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Problem of the settlements 60 minutes eye opener

I haven't realized how serious that problem is until watching this segment of 60 minutes on the Israel Palestine issue, January 26 2009.

Looks like there are so many Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank that a Palestinian state wouldn't be viable. A network of security roads and checkpoints connect the settlements that are scattered all over the West Bank so the whole area is divided up to where mobility and commerce is nearly impossible.

It was an eye opener to see that segment of 60 Minutes which a friend of mine linked to from his Facebook presence. I don't have a TV, myself, but can watch the video clip on my computer.

In the past, I have had some sympathy for the plight of the Israelis, but it looks like the intransigence of those Israeli settlers on the West Bank is threatening to ruin the entire situation. Intransigence is usually bad where ever it rears it's head. Intransigence based on religion, what ever religion is involved, can be ugly.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Abortion is a red herring issue. Glad Obama lifts Mexico City policy

I'm glad Obama kept his promise to lift gag order that was imposed by Republican administrations against many of the family planning and birth control programs around the world.

Abortion is probably not the main issue, but it's a red herring and a political lightning rod. The debate over whether some of these programs also support abortion can derail support for the entire concept of family planning. That's only one part of a bigger picture. Family planning doesn't have to be about abortion. In an ideal world, something like abortion wouldn't exist because there wouldn't be unwanted pregnancy.

Various tools to reduce population growth will help the environment.

Abortion is only one of many tools that could possibly be used. Hopefully it's only a last resort and can be avoided. There are probably more effective ways to reduce the number of abortions than placing a gag order on the broad spectrum of family planning techniques that could hopefully be effective before unwanted pregnancy happens. Better family planning might even reduce abortion.

Starvation and famine is not pro life either.

Ironically some Republicans who preach pro life are also battling to keep the tide of population growth from immigrating to this country.

Here in USA, there is still more elbow room and lower population density than in many other parts of the world.

Average American lifestyles have large footprints on the environment.

As the world gets more crowded, a lot of the people who preach that population growth isn't a problem should really be changing their lifestyles.

Get rid of that car and the single family neighborhood. Start walking, bicycling or taking the bus. Soon there will be less room to park the car and less fossil fuels to run it.

The "parking" issue is especially noticed in our large metropolitan areas.

Maybe folks who live in North Dakota are laughing at me. They've still got some elbow room, but open spaces in North Dakota are needed to grow crops for the rest of us, not to mention there needs to be some places left for migrating birds.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Locavore's dilemma

Out of season apple tree.

There are people who want to only eat food grown close to where they live. Say 1 or 200 miles.

Supposedly better for the environment not to ship food around the world.

Well, apples can grow around here, Bellingham, WA., but they get kind of mushy when stored in warehouses for out of season.

In spring, which is not apple season here, we get nice crisp apples shipped in from places like Chile and New Zealand.

To buy local, one would want to make canned apple sauce for the off season. Would that take more energy, cooking the apples for canning than shipping the apples from southern hemisphere?

One would need lots of containers also. Cans are usually tossed after one use even though metal can be recycled.

Glass can be recycled, but how much energy does it take to haul to the recyclers? Glass can also be reused. How much energy does it take to wash out the glass containers for reuse each year?

How much storage do people have? What if one just lives in a studio apartment?

People often try to move out into a rural area so they can grow more of their own food. Then they usually drive more because errands are farther away than living in town.

Dependency on the automobile; weakest link in people's environmental program.

If you need a bigger house to store food, how much energy does it take to refrigerate storage and heat a larger home?

I'm not a locavore when it comes to food, but there are some good things about locavore living. It means doing business with your neighbors, often people you know, rather than producer and consumer being so far apart that there's no personal contact.

The new New Years, but this year Inauguration Day is big

This year, it seems like Inauguration Day is more significant than New Years Day.

January 20th also happens to be my brother Jack's birthday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Did Obama train ride into Washington DC cross Thomas Viaduct?

It must have, but I haven't seen for sure. Momentous moment in history if it did.

Thomas Viaduct was built in the 1830s for B&O Railroad.

Back in the days when stone was still king in construction.

Viaduct has had a long history and is still in use today. Located at Relay, MD.

Someone I know is interested in railroad history and told me about the viaduct. I've never seen it myself. Or maybe I did go over it in 2nd grade when my family took the train to Washington DC.

Much of US history is also the history of technology.

In the beginnings, like Roman times, a great nation built with stone.

Steel came along later; the steel bridges and skyscrapers we experience today.

Composite fiber is becoming more common as time goes on. Boeing aircraft is even working on their "Dreamliner" made from fiber; basically.

And then there's fiber optic cable. Knitting the world together through the Internet.

History keeps adding new chapters. I'm glad Obama chose to arrive by train. The train is a neat way to go. January 20 is almost here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bush years bracketed in plane crashes

Many say that the 911 events defined the Bush Presidency. A few of his speeches, soon after 911, were lauded by many including a lot of democrats.

The nation was rattled.

There was even another plane crash that happened soon after 911. American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens on November 12, 2001.

Scary; as if the US wasn't being rattled enough. This was not terrorism, but an actual accident. The old phrase, "When it rains, it pours."

On Thursday, January 15 2009, The last major speech of Bush's Presidency was all but drowned out in news coverage of another plane crash. This time, a much happier outcome. All passengers and crew survived when that US Airways jetliner crash landed into New York's Hudson River. A miracle that everyone survived. The pilot now a hero.

Big news from New York pushed Bush's farewell speech to inside pages of newspapers.

During the Bush years, I am not aware of any other major commercial airline disaster in US after 2001. I'm sure some would try and credit this to Bush's watch even though his Presidency is now far from being popular.

Many things lead to airline safety and people often forget that folks are still safer on commercial aircraft than in their automobiles. Far safer.

Safety record of the automobile is devastating. It just doesn't make the big news.

Small plane crashes happen from time to time.

Many have forgotten that on January 5 2002, a teenager who was said to be inspired by the 911 attacks stole that Cessna 172 and crashed it into the side of the Bank of America Tower in downtown Tampa, Florida. The teenager died, but no one else was hurt.

Maybe he wanted to rattle America, but hardly a dent was made. The little plane was devastated, but that building survived. Only one office damaged. "File cabinets strewn about and broken glass on the carpet." Maybe even the desk and phone were trashed!

Hardly a footnote to America's prognosis for survival. The trash heap of history?

I'm glad Bush years are almost over with their mood of fear. The memories and references to 911. Let's hope nothing so shocking as 911 happens during the Obama years.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Can the economy keep growing?

I hear from some economist on the radio that US may need 6 million new jobs in the next (I forgot the duration) 2 years? Anyway, it's just to keep up with population growth.

Yes, population growth. That "not talked about" aspect of economics again.

US is struggling just to keep the jobs it has now. It's loosing jobs.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rain, rain, rain in Bellingham area

This short video is the rapids of Whatcom Creek in downtown Bellingham under Prospect Street Bridge. Water pouring down creek as they let extra water out of Lake Whatcom. The creek is an outlet.

Sorry, I don't have another video of these rapids in "low creek flow" times for comparison.

Also, I'm still just learning how to use my new little camera. Amazing what features they can cram into a tiny camera for relatively low price these days.

Deflation can be a good thing

Some economists worry that deflation will cause people to stop shopping. They say, "why would people buy now when the price will be lower if they wait?"

We've already had deflation for many years and it didn't stop shopping. In the computer and electronics industry, prices keep falling. Next year's digital cameras are cheaper and they keep adding more features.

People keep buying them anyway.

Then, when the newer, cheaper versions come out next year, they buy again, sometimes tossing the old camera into a landfill.

Deflation doesn't necessarily stop people from shopping. Folks will figure, "if they wait till the price hits bottom, their lives will pass them by before getting a computer or camera." Their lives will pass them by before they get on Facebook, network with friends or send digital pictures to loved ones.

Of course doing these things aren't necessarily the "holy grail" of living, but those who buy electronic products haven't let deflation stop them from going ahead and making their purchases. Maybe it slows them a bit, but it doesn't stop them.

In house values, deflation could be a good thing also. Good for lower income people who may wish to enter the realm of home ownership.

Entry level prices for homes are way above the level that many working people in quite a few of our metropolitan areas can afford.

If house values come down, that's a good thing for aspiring first time home buyers.

Think "affordable housing."

Maybe this can help bring rents down also.

Of course deflation is hard on those who have already purchased and are watching their home values drop below what they still owe on the mortgage. Also hard for governments who rely on tax revenue from inflated property values.

Economics is never perfect.

For many years, we've had both inflation and deflation at the same time.

In 2005, I read that house values in Bellingham went up 23 percent in one year. That was the worse year for house value inflation locally that I'm aware of. Other years, though, it was around 10% while average wages didn't go up that fast.

Often wages are more influenced by the price of things like digital cameras. A realm where deflation resides.

Now it's "post 2008 bust" and the train wreck has arrived. Inflation and deflation have collided. People can't afford their mortgages from working in an economy of selling cheap items.

Deflation isn't bad. It's just that a lot of people have too much overhead.

High mortgage payments for inflated property, high medical care costs.

The problem isn't new, it's just that more people are noticing this now. The train wreck has arrived.

We've had a two tier economy for years. Really, it's a "multi-tiered" economy.

One of the problems with economists and all this talk about inflation or deflation is the fact that our economy doesn't inflate or deflate all together in one solid block.

Some things go way up in price and other things go down. Some things stay the same. That's normal life.

As these discrepancies become extreme and the economy starts pulling apart, it spells trouble.

Big gaps and chasms have been growing in our economy for years.

Discrepancy of incomes. Questions about affordability of housing and health care.

Worlds and realities splitting apart.

It's time to try and find ways to knit things back together.

Deflation can be one of the good things, if it means housing becomes affordable to more people. It isn't always easy however.

Maybe if people didn't have so much overhead, there wouldn't have to be such a frenzy to sell and buy products to pay the bills.

It's nice to buy new computers and digital cameras every once in a while, but I find that one needs to take a vacation from work, just to have the time for figuring out how to use these items.