Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In spite of recession, dance energy still flows

Putting my feet in the air. I enjoy doing shoulder stands at some of the dances I go to.

Folks have been dancing up a storm this summer in a few Bellingham parks. The parks department sponsors concerts in the parks and other groups rent the parks for events also. This picture happens to be the Bellingham Food Co-op annual party which took place in Boulevard Park. Dancing to the tunes of Yogaman Burning Band.

In spite of the down economy, the energy keeps flowing. There's a lot of dancing in Bellingham which I'm sure helps improve public health. Some dancing is at places like Presence 5 Rhythms Studio and a place called Purple Church. Others is just out in the park free to the public.

There is even a new concert series being initiated at a park I never heard of; Woodstock Farm. Who said there was a recession? Some towns are closing parks. We've got a new one I haven't even heard of. Woodstock Farm was purchased before the 2008 bust, but few have known of it's existence. The new concert series might increase public awareness. The park is an old gentleman farm off Chuckanut Drive in the south part of our city. Buildings are fixer uppers even though there was a grand piano in the deal. Park is set aside as open space. I took a tour several weeks back. Never knew there was a Woodstock Farm.

I'm dancing. Also walked down to Fairhaven District's Village Green where there was a Balkan band. Some of the concerts are sit down and listen while others are get up and dance.

There's also dancing in bars, but I prefer the alcohol free dancing in the city parks and the fitness style dancing in places like Presence 5 Rythms studio. One of the dances at the studio is called Sweat Your Prayers.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Soon to start another bike tour

Stay tuned for more details. Most likely, the trip will be here in the Pacific Northwest.

Earlier this season.

Memorial Day weekend was fun. Attended Radical Faerie Gathering at Longhouse for the first time. Swimming, hot tub, conversation and a talent show. Longhouse gathering is just east of Redmond, WA. I also got some pictures, mostly of the bike trails I explored around Redmond; a multipurpose trip.

Whoretense, one of my Faerie Friends who is also from Bellingham area took this image of me.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Servant Economy

I heard a very interesting interview on the Diane Rehm show about future job trends in our economy. Jeff Faux, author of a book titled The Servant Economy was interviewed.

The book talks about a trend toward low wage, low skill jobs in the future. Job growth projections from US Department of Labor seem to show the majority of job growth in occupations that do not require college education from now till 2020. Jobs like janitor, sales clerk and motel maid, for instance.

Much of this is described by the author as being the result of that growing gap between the very rich and the rest of the population. Wealth concentrating at the top. This relates a lot to political choices that voters made when President Reagan was swept into office. Also more recent elections, such as the T-party sweep of 2010.

In liberal media (as opposed to conservative media), much is written about the demise of the American middle class and the future it portends. This book fits right in.

I agree with a lot of what the author says, but have some of my own thoughts to add.

The growing wealth gap is a really big problem, but there are some other factors leading to our economic condition as well. Restrictions on the old paradigm of economic growth due to environmental concern is a big factor. The old American middle class, with it's cars and big houses is problematic to the environment.

Also to the distribution wealth around the world. Global wealth is now tending to become more even. Look at the rise of China. As other countries rise out of poverty, American appears to be sinking from it's former height.

Transition to what another author named Alvin Toffler describes as the Third Wave, or The Information Economy also brings it's dislocation in today's economy. Dawning of an information age can bring new joys, but it also brings stresses to old economic paradigms.

I'd say that the servant economy doesn't have to be all bad. One of the callers to that Diane Rehms show said she had a master's degree in education and was now cleaning houses. She and a partner run their own house cleaning business and they seemed to enjoy it. The author responded by saying there was nothing wrong with good honest work. His own mother was a waitress. It can be a good life, but one does not need to have $40,000 of student loan debt to clean houses.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we are not preparing for the servant economy, if in fact this is what the future brings. Young people don't need to be burdened with huge student loan debt to work as waiters. Housing and healthcare needs to be more affordable if we are to live in the servant economy.

To some extent, it seems like Americans are living in a fantasy world. A world where high profile jobs are always promised, but rarely materialize. Of course there will always be a percentage of the population that does the high tech / high end jobs. There will always be the folks like Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook). Small groups of employees, like the Facebook team will create interesting things in the economy that the rest of us can benefit from, often free of charge.

Life in the future, even in the servant economy, can be rich and varied. Not necessarily the dismal future that many fear. There has never before been such opportunities in personal networking, for instance. The volunteer sector continues to flourish enhanced by new networking technologies. Cellphones, Facebook and whatever; we are not just poor servants.

If we face up to a future of low end and hopefully low stress jobs, we can still flourish. Smaller families and more single people can help. Less materialism and more voluntary simplicity. Less consumption and more social life.

This may not be the world that some of the wealthy and their right wing think tanks expect to come out of where our economy is going, for the most part, under their watch. Much to their chagrin it might turn into a world of what some folks might call "hippie life."

On the other hand, human civilization might still figure out a way to get the economic juggernaut going again, but it will have to be bringing prosperity to the majority of ordinary people again.

Interesting to note; the front cover of that book shows a gold dust pan.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bellingham Alternative Library Dance July 21 2012

People from Bellingham Alternative Library remembered that I have a blog so they ask if I would post this. I'm planning to go. Should be a fun time for dancing and so forth. Event at Make.Shift Gallery, 305 Flora in downtown Bellingham. More info on Alternative Library.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One type of family that gay marriage could harm

In a family where one of the spouses is a closeted gay person, the advent of gay marriage and more lifestyle choices in society could be a threat.

Back in the so called "good old days" lots of gay people stayed in the closet and got married into heterosexual relationships. They often raised families. This is still going on today, but it was very common in the past. In many cases, those families stayed together as people just toughed it out. It wasn't ideal, but in some cases, they stayed together for the sake of the kids. They "grinned and bared it," so to speak.

Now days, expectations are higher. Gay marriage has been legal in Canada and a few other nations for several years. Here in the US, it's making progress in a lot of states. I'm in favor of gay marriage, of course, but I got to thinking that more choices and freedoms in society bring higher expectations. Folks that have been closeted in earlier times are apt to expect more out of life than in the past. Many of these closet cases have been married. Often it's said that these people are living a lie. Living the heterosexual family life when they weren't really all that heterosexual. Folks often marry without fully knowing who they are or where the entire mix of their feelings are at the time. Marriage is never perfect, of course, but in the past, people often forced it together with duct tape and bailing wire, so to speak. They did it for the sake of the kids, because churches and parents expected it, because other choices were just not thought about.

Now days, bailing wire and duct tape might be used as props for a Leatherman fetish party, but that's a different story.

I'm remembering an old TV show called "All In The Family," with the husband Archy Bunker. I'm not thinking he was closeted gay, necessarily, but he didn't seem very happy. Life wasn't always a piece of cake. It was a bit dysfunctional and not often that fulfilling, but they grit their teeth and made it work. The old lunch bucket blue collar days.

These days, people are expecting more. More honesty, more transparency, more choice. "Find your true bliss path," so they say. Don't just do heterosexual marriage because it's the only accepted option. Now there is more freedom in our society so marriages that have never been based on totally ideal reasons are splitting apart. People seeing better options out in society so they are striving for more. People may be getting more restless, in some ways. Marriages where one spouse is gay, but in the closet while the other is be heterosexual have been common and they often don't last the onslaught of other choices portrayed in the media, from neighbors and on the internet.

The cat has been let out of the bag.

Come to think about it, there are societies where marriage isn't about love anyway. It's an arranged affair. Set up by in laws, parents, churches and so forth. Arranged marriage. Not choosing who you want, but fulfilling your assignment to society.

Now that we are getting more honesty and choice in society, I don't think people will want to go back to the past. Expectations are higher, but with higher expectations can also come the reality of more disappointment.

I'm for going forward towards more lifestyle choices and out of the closet honesty, but I also realize that there is a problem when expectations are high. Are we a spoiled bunch? Just look at American society. Yes there is a lot of turmoil, these days in all kind of situations. Marriage's braking apart, gay relationships not being what people have expected, in some cases at least. Folks not keeping up with the "Joneses." The grass is always greener on the other side.

Striving for something better means progress, but it also means stresses and strains in the process.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Good Bellingham Herald feature that I am in

Featured in Bellingham Herald: Some of our thoughts and memories as a Bellingham Herald reporter happened to drop by yesterday afternoon. One of my friends named Bruce and me were discussing things and having a good time at the Gay Pride Picnic. Sunday is the big parade and festival in Bellingham.

Bellingham gay pride picnic preludes Sunday parade

Robert Ashworth and Bruce Pettus sat on a white blanket in Maritime Heritage Park, a half-full bag of saltwater taffy between them, talking about gay pride. more.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pictures of me on front pages of The Betty Pages

I made it to front page of Betty Pages again as part of a gathering holding the rainbow flag for a photo shoot. I'm with a bicycle helmet on the left.

Picture makes Bellingham look quite green. Above the grass of Point Zuanich Park is Sehome Hill with 2 dorms of Western Washington University at center. Nash and Mathes dorms. It wouldn't look quite this green if picture was taken in Walmart parking lot.

Haggrid hatched a good idea for the front page of Betty Desire's local tabloid. Why don't we pose with Betty under the sign that flashes "Pansies" at Garden Spot Nursery on Alabama Street?

The Betty Pages is this region's most inclusive alternative-lifestyle and entertainment tabloid. It's published by a drag queen named Betty Desire who almost always poses as part of her front cover. On Betty's left, this month, is Haggrid who came up with the idea for the shot while I'm on her right with my rainbow hat. Betty's in the middle. Photo by NWPhotojohn.com.

The shot also promotes Bellingham's Radical Faerie organization that meets for coffee and conversation each Saturday at noon. I don't drink coffee, but there's plenty of chocolate milk for me. It meets at Public Market, a reinvented Safeway store near downtown Bellingham. Now that building is full of alternative businesses. Faerie Coffee meets near the Trapeze Kiosk which serves coffee, hot chocolate and other things. Trapeze Kiosk is run by Bellingham Circus Guild.

It's spring and time to reinvent a lot of things.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bicycling in the Higgs field

When bicycling up hill, one experiences the field of gravity. Pedal harder or else the bike tries to roll back down hill toward the center of the earth.

What about the Higgs field, does that effect bicycling as well? They say this field is responsible for inertia. Inertia means it takes effort to get something rolling from a resting position. It takes a push to get rolling and then one must put on the brakes to stop. This is the property of inertia.

I assume this property of inertia is related to the Higgs field the way weight is related to the field of gravity. Seems to be the case, from everything I can gather reading about Higgs particle and field.

Here is a real good article I found explaining this further. Article predated the most likely find of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider, in Europe, but it's still interesting.

They say they are pretty sure they've found the Higgs Boson at the LHC. It's a particle that implies there is a Higgs field permeating the entire universe. Higgs bosons are rare, indeed, at least in our earthly experience. To find it, one must rattle part of the Higgs field with intense energy, such as during proton proton collisions at Hadron, for the particle to appear.

While the particle is hard to find, the field influences our everyday experience. Like gravity that is felt when one travels up or down, the Higgs field creates the effect of inertia.

Gravity is less evident on a flat road, but the effect of inertia is still prevalent. One still has to pedal the bike to get it rolling. If there were bicycle tours in outer space, inertia and the Higgs field would be easier to deal with than gravity. Just give the bike a push and it can coast indefinitely, unless something makes it stop. A spacecraft can coast after one engine burn gets it going. With no air resistance in space, coasting can go on indefinitely.

On earth, this kind of coasting is not allowed. Wind resistance takes away energy. One especially notices wind resistance on a bicycle. It's the difference between a headwind and a tailwind. Another factor effecting travel, here on Earth, is friction from wheels rolling on pavement and other moving parts. The occasional hill brings gravity which works against you going up, but gives you a boost coming down.

I've noticed that cars often have trouble starting on a steep hill. There are many hills in downtown Seattle with stoplights at the top. To get started again, one must overcome both the force of gravity and the effect of inertia to start rolling again from a dead stop. Is this having to deal with both the Higgs and the gravitational fields simultaneously?

What about when something is in orbit, like for instance the moon orbiting the earth. Inertia says that an object will continue traveling in a straight line until something stops it. In the case of being in orbit, gravity keeps the object from traveling in a straight line. Without gravity, the moon would fly off in a straight line away from earth. The gravity keeps it going around earth, like it's tied to a string. Being in orbit means the moon's inertia and the force of gravity are in equilibrium. Does that mean that the effect of the Higgs field and the field of gravity are in equilibrium in regards to the moon so it remains in orbit?

Assuming that there is a connection between Newton's laws of motion and all this talk about the Higgs particle and field. I wish I could sit down and have coffee with a physicist someday, but I don't like coffee. How about they have coffee while I drink my chocolate milk?

Photo from North Idaho to Spokane Centennial Trail near Post Falls Idaho.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Age diversified" is more inclusive than "all ages" dance

All ages dances tend to not really be all ages. They are usually mostly teenagers and folks under 21. All ages must mean inclusive of folks who are under the legal drinking age of 21 as well as others who are over 21, but the emphasis is that folks under 21 can go.

We need a new phrase which is inclusive of all the ages from childhood to senior citizen. How about "age diversified?"

Back when I was a teenager, I didn't dance very much. The music wasn't that great. Not easy to dance to heavy metal. Pullman, where I grew up, there was a youth center in the city hall building. I missed most of the dances, but remember standing in the parking lot showing off my multi-band radio to folks heading into the dance. I didn't go inside, myself, but thought the folks headed to the dance would be a good audience for taking a tour of my radio before they headed into the dance.

Then along came disco when I was in college, but I didn't appreciate it at the time. There were a few dances, but they weren't very well attended. There was one that I described as a waste of disco power. The music blasted into a mostly empty room. Even at it's height, the death of disco was being pronounced. "Disco sucks" was a popular phrase, but so many of the old favorites are disco tunes. It just wasn't appreciated in it's time. Disco favorites sure have a lot of energy. Often played, these days, on oldies stations. It is heard in supermarkets as background music, but no one is dancing. Unfortunately dance bars seem to avoid disco, these days. They seem to prefer some kind of "house formula" that sounds like music fragments remixed and then extruded from a machine. I've never been much of a bar person anyway.

In the 1970s, the gay club at Western Washington University had a few dances, but even then disco was usually avoided. They had garage rock bands, a few times, that were basically too loud. At one dance, a straight person walked in not knowing it was a gay dance. He sat there for a few minutes and then, realizing what it was, he bolted for the door. On his way out, he started grumbling about wasting his money, so to amend the situation, he decided to steal one of the potted palms out in the main foyer of the Viking Union. The night clerk at what I then called the "candy counter" chased him down the street demanding he bring back the stolen property. He came back looking like a Santa Clause delivering the Christmas tree only it was returning the potted palm. Then he fled down the street.

Those were the days? Actually, the best dancing is really today for me. Bicycling and dancing has kept me limber in recent years, yet most of my earliest dancing memories are more dis functional.

It wasn't till the early 1980s that I started realizing how fun free form dance could be. Maybe the earlier dances were more of a couple's thing and if you didn't have a mate, you felt left out. In the early 80s there was something called the Fairhaven Undisco. No offense to disco, but that was a catchy name. People dancing mostly by themselves and the whole room kind of dancing together. It was attended by many ages, including a few seniors.

Later, that dance migrated to a place that is now called The Purple Church. It's a bit confusing since Bellingham has 2 places called The Purple Church. One has Zomba classes while the other houses free form dance. The Purple Church I dance at is on Franklin and Gladstone Streets while the other one is over on Ellis. My "Purple Church" is really more blue than purple. Their dances are during the colder months of the year, usually starting in October.

Speaking of Zumba, aerobics was big in the 1980s. It's still done today, but not as big as it was in the 80s. Bellingham YMCA used to have big aerobics classes in it's old gymnasium. Around 75 folks in a big circle around the instructors. People would sometimes even come in costume. Now it's in a smaller room, but similar idea. Somewhat of a shadow of it's former gymnasium self, aerobics and Zumba music still energizes upstairs classes at the Y.

Possibly my favorite movement experience now is the 5 Rythems Dance offered at Jenny Macky's Presence Studio in downtown Bellingham. Age diversified and as full of energy as one wants. Happens all year round on both Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings.

Bellingham is also lucky to have dances in the parks sponsored by the parks department. Bands come to the band shelter at Boulevard Park every other week in the summer months. There are concerts in other parks as well; like Thursdays in Elizabeth Park. Big crowds often come and dance to these free concerts. Very age diversified and a good way to promote public health.

Concert brochure from Parks Department.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Recycling awning cover isn't always a good idea

As paint over wears thin, the former identity starts to break through. Was once the Newsstand International. Now is a smoke shop. I would have not noticed, walking past frequently, but a friend was visiting town and saw it right away. Looks a bit cheap. Smoking is kind of a tacky habit anyway.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Select Congress by random lot. A work around Citizens United ruling obstacle to better represent people

Choose legislative body by random lottery, rather than election. Then it doesn't matter how much money one spends on the campaign. Winning the seat is just up to random lottery. If the legislative body is large enough, it would represent a random cross section of the population.

This idea came to my mind after listening to a Diane Rehms interview with Kevin Bleyer about his book "Me The People: One Man's Selfless Quest To Rewrite The Constitution Of the United States of America." While he mentioned the idea of selecting the president by random lot, I got to thinking how about a legislative body instead? Problem with selecting the president randomly is that you're stuck with only one president and the lottery could pick a real "bone head." On the other hand, given 100, or more, rolls of the dice for a legislative body you would begin to get a random distribution across the entire population.

This would be a total rewrite of the government. It might not be called democracy anymore though maybe only one body of the legislative branch would be selected this way. The other body could still be elected, by popular vote. It would be a new twist to the concept of "checks and balances." Not totally unprecedented in our society, we do have random selection of juries in the judiciary branch. Somewhat random selection, that is. Why not random selection in part of the legislative branch?

Currently, those who are elected are the ones who run the most popular campaigns. Often the ones who can get the most money backing. Not really representative anymore. Attempts at reforming campaign finance never seem to work very well. There's always ways around the best intentions. Always ways to circumvent the rules.

Then along comes the Citizens United Ruling by Supreme Court which really screwed things up. Gives corporation unlimited ability to dump money into the process.

So much money is now running politics that people have become cynical and say that we have already lost the democracy. Money runs it all. Might as well not even vote.

Since democracy is basically already dead and gone, I guess (maybe I'm not quite that cynical) time to change the system. This is especially true at the national level. Local government may not be quite as ruled by money due to things being on a smaller scale.

How about selecting the Senate this way. Get a random selection across the population. Some would be boneheads, of course, but a large enough random lot would chose people from many walks of life not well represented now. There would probably be some farmers, teachers, janitors, solders, scientists, small business owners, electricians and so forth. A better representation than just slick campaigners and lawyers.

I'd say choose the Senate this way since the House means each district only has one representative for that district. At least with the senate, each state would get two tries and having the lottery come up with a decent politician.

Ideally, the body of random legislators would be selected at large, rather than from states or districts. Maybe we could replace the House, rather than the Senate, but have it selected at large. Members of the House could represent various walks of life, rather than representing geographical districts.

Of course those who don't wish to run for office could be taken out of the pool of potential legislators. People could sign up for the "lottery" if they wanted to have the chance to serve. Then, in rare instance, if your number gets selected, you head to Washington DC to sit in the body.

Under this system, many legislators wouldn't know much about politics and there would be this danger (or maybe it's not that bad of a danger). Other branches in government might lead and bully the random legislative body around. I might turn into something like the Washington insider pros leading around the freshmen in the body picked by random lot. The "seniors," figuratively speaking, from the President's office, other legislative body and the bureaucracy, in general, bullying the greenhorns around.

It wouldn't be a perfect system, but what we have now isn't perfect either. What we have now has been pretty much corrupted with too much campaign money. The idea of random selection, for some of the legislators, is worth contemplation at least.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Fourth Of July at the Cern Labs

Looks kind of like fireworks, but it's the kind of output particle accelerators show looking for the Higgs Boson. Big press conference is planned at European Cern Lab this Fourth Of July. Speculation is that they may feel confident enough to announce having found the Higgs. If so, it's a Fourth Of July to remember.

Image credit: Lucas Taylor, CERN.