Friday, August 26, 2011

There's WIFI on a moving train

I am on the Amtrak Cascades headed north at the end of my 2011 bicycle tour. Biked to Eugene and McKenzie Valley area of Oregon from Bellingham. Then biked back as far as Portland where I spent a day and got ready to take the train back to Bellingham. Now using WIFI on train, but soon to sign off and look out the window.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why the marketplace isn't likely to solve global warming

It would be a lot easier for the marketplace to react if peak oil was the only problem we faced. The price of oil would just go up as the true extraction cost of oil rose. For instance, oil prices could rise to reflect the cost of producing oil from sources like North Dakota's Bakken Shale where more has to be done to get the oil out of the ground. Eventually costs would rise so far that the marketplace would find cheaper alternatives. At first, it would shift to natural gas, coal and possibly nuclear, but eventually renewable sources such as wind and solar would be the cheapest alternatives as these other fuels run out or become too expensive.

The market could adjust to these true production costs. Problem is, we also face global warming where there is little direct production cost for the market to respond to. There are real costs to pumping oil out of sticky sources such as Bakken Shale, but there aren't that many real costs to releasing carbon dioxide from a chimney or tailpipe. As time goes on, it gets harder to pump oil out of the ground, but it doesn't get harder to push carbon dioxide out of a chimney. The cost of operating a chimney is global warming, but it is a more distant cost than what is felt directly by the owner of the chimney. The cost may be clear around the world such as rising sea levels and flooding in places like Bangladesh.

These distant costs don't automatically fall on the owner of the chimney the same way that the cost of extracting oil falls directly on the owner of an oil well. When extraction costs go up, oil well owners can pass that cost along to the consumer where the mechanisms of the marketplace can motivate change. With the smokestack, there is little direct cost to the owner to pass along to the consumer. Instead, an artificial cost has to be rigged; for instance there has to be a carbon tax. This is a tax imposed, most likely, by government to artificially make sending carbon dioxide out the chimney or tailpipe more costly.

"Cap and trade" seems like just a more complex way of expressing the concept of a carbon tax. That's where companies can trade carbon credits around, but someone still has to artificially impose these costs at the end of the smokestack. It seems like it just about has to be something like the "T" word. Taxes. This is problematic in a world that doesn't trust taxes. Also something subject to corruption and dispute. How does one calculate the true cost of carbon emissions?

It would be a lot easier if the only problem was the true cost of actually extracting the energy resource from the ground. We may be blessed, or really I should say cursed, with enough inexpensive fossil fuel reserves that we loose our climate stability before we run out of fossil fuel.

One other possible way that market forces might curb global warming is if the renewable energy technology ever becomes cheaper than fossil fuels. Technological advances are taking place with things like solar energy. It is conceivable that solar could become less expensive than mining our vast coal reserves. Then the solution becomes easier again.

Otherwise we have to either rely on the goodwill of people, smokestack owners and consumers to want to do the right thing, or we have to accept something like carbon taxes.

* Upper picture, I-5, Tacoma, WA. 2011

* Lower picture, The Earth in 2008 Bellingham Ski to Sea parade.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Along Spring Water Trail

Coming into Portland, Oregon along Spring Water Trail toward end of bicycle trip.

Enjoyed visiting Terwilliger Hot Springs east of Eugene in the McKenzie Valley. Then headed through west side of Cascades and a place called Detroit, Oregon. After that it was many more forested miles to the Portland area.

By Friday, I should be headed back to Bellingham on the train.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Streetlights in Springfield, Oregon

Only I would ride over to Springfield at dusk to see what the streetlights look like when they are on. The bulbs look different than most streetlights, but I've only been through by day. This time I rode over there when it was getting dark to see what they look like at night. There's bike paths all the way over there, so why not.

Better picture of low pressure sodium light in Springfield from my 2012 trip.

Now I am visiting Eugene. Springfield is Eugene's neighbor to the east. Sort of like a "twin cities" with Eugene being "university and yuppie" while Springfield has a more of a lumber town character. Both are great biking cities.

When I pulled into the campground at Fern Ridge Reservoir, just west of Eugene, I ask the rangers at the check in office if there were any stores nearby. I wasn't that hungry, having eaten earlier on my ride down from Corvallis, but a bit more to snack on would be nice.

The store was another 3 miles away (and 3 miles back, makes a difference on a bike) so the ranger grabbed some cokes out of the fridge and raided the cupboards for all the cookies and crackers she could find. I offered to pay for the snacks, but she said, "don't worry, we love our bikes." I did pay the campground fee for my stay that night, but it was lower for bikes than for automotive camping.

Next morning a bus full of high school kids pulled up to the day use area where I was eating some of my snack food before riding off into Eugene. They were swarming around my table getting ready to go sailing. As I started to leave, the counselor ask me to give an impromptu talk about my travels. I talked a bit about my trip and they offered some advise on interesting places to visit in Eugene. They didn't mention streetlights in Springfield, but did suggest a place called Voodoo Doughnuts. It's near the city library. I checked it out and had a maple bar. Bumper stickers say "I got VD in Eugene" for Voodoo Doughnuts. Biking tends to burn off the sugar so I can partake of a few things like doughnuts.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Passing through Vernonia, Oregon

Trees and graffiti growing inside an abandoned concrete building near Vernonia, Oregon. I camped at a town park just outside of Vernonia. This building stored sawdust fuel for a big mill that is no longer there. There is a small lake that was the mill pond. Campground is across lake from this building.

Looks almost like a cathedral inside old Vernonia fuel house. More images from there.

At the campground, some other campers caught crawdads in the Nehalem River for cooking. They look kind of creepy with their claws, but taste like lobster. I tried some and they were good. First time I have eaten crawdads.

Ferry from Cathlamet, WA to the Oregon side of Columbia River is quite small. Maybe only 8 cars and my bike. Even makes Lummi Island ferry look big, if that's believable.

Weather has been great. Overcast and delightfully cool in mornings, but no rain. Sunny and partly cloudy in afternoons.

In Forest Grove, I'm visiting a friend named Kody who used to live in Bellingham. He volunteered at the Radio Museum in Bellingham and is now attending an art college in Portland.

Old railway wigwag signal can be activated by pushing a button at Banks Trail Head of Vernonia Banks Trail.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Looks kind of funny to see the draw bridge go up

We don't have bridges like Seattle's University Ave. in Bellingham. Opportunity for me and a cyclist waiting near me to visit.

I've been riding bike trails through Seattle area at a leasurely pace. Interurban, Green River and so forth.

At a drive-in just north of Seattle, someone called my name. He remembers dancing with me in Bellingham. Also remembers my web site.

This slow pace seems to make the world more friendly.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

By the way, did you know you were on the radio?

Passing water tower by cannery in Mount Vernon.

My first night out was in Mount Vernon where I dropped by the Friday meeting of Cascade Rainbow LGBTA Community Center. One of the folks I visited with is a local peace activist named Jerry Sumerseth. This fall, he was in the hospital for a while after suffering a fall at his home. While he was recovering, they did a tribute to him on KSVR Radio in mount Vernon. I happened to find tat interview in a Google search so I listened to the podcast last may.

Seeing Jerry reminded me of that radio show so I mentioned that I had heard the show. He looked a bit puzzled. Turned out he didn't know the show had been done. We turned on a laptop and went to the archive. Sure enough, there was the tribute to Jerry. He sat and listened to the show and was quite pleased to find out about it. Show was part of KSVR's Stand Up Speak Out public affairs show.

It's like, "by the way, did you know you were featured on the radio?" Made for a fun evening before I headed back to my motel.

Day two. After a glorious ride down Snohomish Centenial Trail, I'm staying in a hotel in South Everett. Not much camping in these urban areas, but the bike paths are nice. A new section of Centennial Trail starts north of Arlington. It starts at Bryant in Snohomish County, but plans are to build it on north to Skagit County line. Should be open in October 2011. South end of trail is in Snohomish.

New section of trail crossing Stilliguamish River north of Arlington.

Weekend of bad news, except successful launch of Juno probe to Jupiter

From the economy to the war in Afghanistan. A lot of bad news this weekend. About the only good news was the successful launch of the Juno space probe to Jupiter. It's our second probe to orbit Jupiter and the sixth one destined to Jupiter; counting the probes that passed the giant planet. Juno is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter in 5 years. Ingenuity at work again.

On a radio interview, I heard them say that solar collectors have really improved over recent years so Juno can be solar powered even out as far as Jupiter. Our last mission to Jupiter had to use plutonium RTGs which are a form of nuclear power.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Canadian dollars may be worth more, but our dollars might be prettier

Our one dollar coin piece is pretty, but few people use it. Americans are kind of stuck in old traditions and don't seem to adjust to new things as quickly as Canadians do. Of course the Canadians don't have much choice. Their paper dollar is no longer printed. Also, Americans still remember being burned by the Susan B Anthony dollar. Nice idea, but it looked too much like a quarter. Seems symbolic of American's mistrust of bureaucracy. Sometimes I do wonder about planning. Both government planning and that of corporations. Our new dollar coin is fine, but people, and businesses, seem reluctant to use it. Openness to new things would help our economy.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Volunteer sector may be more vibrant than the private sector

As the much credited, or hated, private sector struggles with recession and doesn't seem to have much job creation spunk, the volunteer sector is overlooked.

Volunteering isn't as likely to help us put food on the table, or maybe it can. There's volunteer gardening communities and the barter system. What volunteering does do well is allow people to follow their bliss path. Folks tend to volunteer for what they enjoy most and often it's the best fit for their skill sets.

In the marketplace of the business world, folks are often trapped in jobs they don't really like as they can't find what they really want to do.

An ideal world would seek the balance between private enterprise, volunteer efforts and the public sector.

I know that some folks are starving, loosing their homes and so forth, but high unemployment can also create some opportunities, if basic needs are still met. More time for participating in the volunteer sector. It's time for a paradigm shift and a rethinking of our entire economy.

Future generations may even enjoy a shorter workweek with more time for volunteering, among other joys of life.

Many people in Bellingham do seem to have a fairly healthy mindset of balance between the various sectors. Folks who live here often work at jobs that are way below their skill levels, but are the jobs they can find. We have folks with masters degrees and even PHDs who are waiting tables. At the same time, many of these people turn their skills loose volunteering. Volunteering in the community as well as on the internet.

Doing things like waiting tables isn't all bad anyway.

These trends seem to be happening nationwide. On the internet, and elsewhere, there are concepts like "crowd sourcing," and being a "prosumer." Prosumer derived from mixing the words producer and consumer. Think booking your own trips on-line rather than paying for a travel agency.

Healthy volunteerism can have feedback into the private sector. For instance, artists can add color to life in a town even though their crafts often go unpaid. That color can promote tourism and other economic activity where things like restaurants can thrive. It all kind of works together and the public sector is part of that equation as well.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Slow Clap For Congress

My brother Jack's son named Chris Ashworth has started a web site called Slow Clap for Congress. A few of the claps from his new site made it into a sound byte on MSNBC national news. Part way into the story.

An anatomy of going viral. Great history of how the Slow Clap For Congress site went viral and then back to normal on Chris' blog.
Link added Sept. 18 2011.

Some aspects of the debt ceiling deal are starting to hit, or clap, closer to home.

Interesting coincidence. There is my site called "Theslowlane" and now my brother's son has started something called Slow as well. Does it run in the family?

Here's my contribution.

Pit stop at my home

Was in Bellingham for a few days between my trip to Vancouver and my trip south.

Worldwide economic news sounds so bad, some folks would be tempted to barricade themselves in their homes with a hoard of food and ammunition, but the world around me looks fine. Supermarkets are still as abundant as ever. Bank machines, laundromats, hotels, campgrounds, it's all still working.

As always, I think it's a good time to hoard your health, rather than food and ammo. Healthcare costs are among the biggest burdens in our economy. Who knows how available healthcare services might be in the future. Hopefully, they will figure out a way to keep things somewhat available.

Also now is a good time to go ahead and live one's life. A lot of promises have been made for retirements. With all the debt in the world, who knows what future retirement earnings will bring. Retirement savings are based on economies in the future paying back debt obligations. Planning for the future isn't bad, but living for the here and now makes sense as well. Keeping a balance. Some people sacrifice their lives for a fancy job hoping to have a great retirement. Well, some of my retirement is here and now as my work isn't super high paying, but vacations are sure nice. I do have some retirement assuming the world keeps upright.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Escape to Vancouver Gay Pride. That economy is huming

While the US was mired in it's debt ceiling fight, I escaped 23 miles north to Canada. No, I wasn't trying to escape USA. It was the gay pride parade in Vancouver and I have vacation time.

My pictures of parade.

Ironically, as USA teeters on bankruptcy, it might be better to head for USA than Canada since the Canadian dollar is now more valuable (last I checked) than US currency. Unless our society breaks down so we actually start shooting at each other, USA offers travel bargains, but I survived Canada's strong dollar for just 2 days. The difference isn't that much.

Main problem is, or let's call it a virtue, gay pride is big business in Vancouver. Try finding a motel room that isn't booked, or priced off the planet. An estimated 750,000 people showed up for pride, if I heard that correctly. CBC Radio was estimating impact on traffic with road closures and so forth. Were they also counting folks who live in the effected neighborhoods?

I stayed way out in Surrey in an affordable motel. That wasn't bad, just take the elevated Skytrain and feel like you're able to fly right downtown in minutes. Getting to Surrey was a bike ride for me. Only about 35 sunny miles from Bellingham.

Some folks invited us Bellinghamsters to join Vancouver Polyamory contingent in the parade. I got lots of pictures. The Vancouver Sun even mentioned our contingent. They said people were looking for their dictionaries when we passed by. What is polyamory?

Out of all the mass of folks, the god of coincidence was shining on me. A friend of mine happened to be waiting at the same Skytrain stop as I. What are the chances of us running into each other with 750,000 in the milling crowds?

As the Skytrain whisked us back out of the city, we had a good talk. My friend says the recession seems less evident in the "Lower Mainland" than most of USA, or even a lot of Canada for that matter.

Lower Mainland is basically the Vancouver metro area. Economy is humming, tho I'm sure it has some problems.

What's happening?

Innovation. It's like a blue state economy. Of course, it's all because of gay pride. Don't you know, I've heard several economists say that gay people are good for the economy.

Well also BC benefits from abundant natural resources. In an overpopulated world hungry for stuff like energy, it helps to have lots resources in the ground (for some reason, Canadians seem to pronounce it REZORCES). Natural gas, oil, hydro power, (or sometimes they just say HYDRO instead of calling it power). They also seem to enjoy good planning with less blatant conflict between government and private enterprise.

We can learn a lot from examples north of the border.