Monday, December 31, 2012

Biking into another year

From start of Marine Drive overlooking Bellingham Bay.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Good advice not to run down hill

Back when I was in middle school, a youth camp counselor gave good advice to the folks in our cabin. Running down hill is bad for your joints. I'm glad I heard that advice early in life as I have not done much downhill running. My knees and joints are still working fine many years later.

I jog carefully and mostly on the level or up hill.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Old culture and new technology. A vending machine dispensing gold bars.

Combining old culture with new technology. An ATM machine that dispenses gold bars. Now, where are we going to spend that currency? The ancient Romans used it in the marketplace, but try shoving a gold bar into your computer to make a purchase from

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Another year of lights

Much of the town seems dead on Christmas unless one has nearby family and, of course, except for the lights. These aren't even Christmas lights, but theater lights at Bellingham's new 16 screen cinemaplex. It was bustling. Parking lot full, people milling about and lights reflected on moist sidewalk to give the affect of a rainbow path to the city of Oz.

And there are those home dwellers that go all out.

House with neon sign for Hardware Sales in background. Reminders of the shopping frenzy.

Another peace sign in Christmas lights. These are fairly common in Bellingham.

Yard light.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The NRA's costly new government program

Ironic that the National Rifle Association is calling for a costly new government program. Armed guards in every school. Many NRA members are anti government spending so what's up? They're trying to find some way to address public concern over school shootings without backing off from their radical stance of no changes to the nation's gun laws. It's posturing.

The Department of Education has counted 98,817 public schools in the United States and an additional 33,366 private schools. That's a lot of schools which someone has to pay for guards in; if people buy the NRA plan. I think there are better ideas.

Read more here:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I hope folks who were using the old Mayan calendar have gotten a new calendar by now

Just a reminder for folks using the Mayan calendar. A certain phase of that calendar doesn't go beyond the day when Gregorian calendars show the date 12/21/2012. New calendars are available at many spots including some retail shops. New calendars are easy to come by.

Looks like I'll need a new calendar also. I've been lazy about updating things around my place.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Holidays from Robert Ashworth

A friend of mine found this picture she took of me as she was sorting through an old box of her things. Picture taken around 2007. Time to start thinking about Spring cleaning. Nearing the Solstice. Image taken in Bellingham's Fairhaven District by Sycamore Square.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A post I put on Facebook that got a lot of likes from several sides of the aisle

So I decided to share it here also.

If everyone within (what they'd say on the radio) "the sound of my voice" were in agreement with me, I'd only be preaching to the choir. Diversity of thought makes it more interesting and I believe in civil discussion. I put this thought on someone's thread and it received so many likes I decided to put it on my own wall also.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Two acts of mass violence in schools on planet Earth around the same time

No one died, but many hurt. Early Friday there was a madman with a knife attacking children and adults at a school in China. Same day as the mass shooting in an American school; the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Knife attack in Chinese school. The attack in the Henan province village of Chengping happened shortly before 8 a.m., said a police officer from Guangshan county, where the village is located.

In USA, the outcome was a lot worse where guns were involved. America's loose gun laws may not be the only factor, but one of the factors why the violence can be worse in USA. I'm for some compromise at least. Some regulation and registration of firearms, but not necessarily "taking them away" as so many folks fear. The founding fathers (fathers back then), who wrote the Second Amendment, weren't thinking about the kind of weapons we have today; machine guns and so forth.

The violent crime rate is going down on a per capita basis overall in USA during recent times, but we could still do better.

More mental health care, less dog eat dog world and a lot of things would help also.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New movie theaters in Bellingham, Pickford and Barkley

Yes, the Pickford twin theaters. I don't go to movies often so I just got around to seeing a movie at the new Pickford space in downtown Bellingham even though the new space has been open for quite some time now.

A non profit and independent theater that's quite successful. It's new space is nice. Stadium seating.

I saw Chasing Ice, a documentary about someone's quest to place cameras around several glaciers to record the retreat of ice due to global warming.

Next day, I biked out Railroad Trail to Barkley Neighborhood to see what the new Regal Barkley Cinemas look like, now that they are finished. 16 screens, stadium seating, even an IMax. Someday, I'll get around to actually seeing a movie out there, but at the rate I take in movies, it will be a while.

What looks like a wetland mitigation / runoff retention pond is now celebrated with nice fountains. I got there just as a rare and brilliant sunset was happening.

But then along the trail comes this ominous warning sign saying one would be trespassing past here. Trail just continues to parking lot and a bike rack. What about connectivity between the theater and the other bike trails around Barkley? What about welcoming access from non motorized corridors? I proceeded anyway and nothing bad happened. No lightning strikes or anything.

Theater lighting is impressive. Parking lot almost full, but the bike rack was empty. It was chilly, but not a bad day. At least there is a pretty nice bike rack.

Bellingham Herald reports grand opening a success with first proceeds to local charities. Even in these recessionary times, new theaters have been built in Bellingham. Regal closed 2 of it's old locations in Sunset Mall and Sehome Village to consolidate it's market to the New Barkley Cinemas and its other remaining facility at Bellis Fair Mall.

Bellingham still has an economy partially propped up by being close to the Canadian border and spinoff from the success of Vancouver's metropolitan economy.

New theaters shimmering through the trees as I head back toward home. Someday I'll go to another movie, but I'm not in a big hurry. It will still be there when I'm ready.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Washington State University Radio turned 90 on December 11

December 11 was the 90th anniversary of KWSU Radio in my hometown of Pullman, WA. This alluring music was the lead in piece for a show called Concert Serenade (I think that's what it was called) that used to come on the air at 11 AM during my high school years. KWSU has now grown into Northwest Public Radio and it's many stations across Washington State, including KZAZ in Bellingham at 91.7 FM. Congratulations to Northwest Public Radio and enjoy a few minutes of The Young Prince and Princes from Scheherazade, by Rimsky Korsakov.

Studios of Northwest Public Radio in the old part of Edward R. Murrow Communications Center at Washington State University.

Tower for KWSU 1250 AM west of Pullman, WA.

Birthday celebration for Edward (Egbert) R. Murrow who spent some of his childhood in the town of Blanchard, Washington, just south of Bellingham.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

First gay marriages on steps of Whatcom County Courthouse

I also like the reflection of background trees in the courthouse windows. Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham soon after marriage equality went into effect in Washington State.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Entitlements versus sense of entitlement

Folks on both the left and the right often confuse the concept of entitlements with the sense of entitlement. This influences the debate over things like the Fiscal Cliff.

Entitlements are obligations or promises that the government has made to various people. Social Security and Medicare are among the biggest entitlements. These are promises that the government has said it will provide due to various acts of legislation governing things like Social Security.

Sense of entitlement is a different concept. That's more related to the concept of being "spoiled," of the feeling that, the world owes one a living. Folks often get used to a certain standard of living and they have expectations that this standard will always be available. Sometimes poor people may have a sense of entitlement, but middle class and the wealthy have this also. The wealthy who always expect taxes to be low and the country to be functioning, military and all, have their sense of entitlement. One often hears that spoiled American tourists have a sense of entitlement over conditions in hotels and so forth as they travel to countries where things are different.

Getting back to the other use of the word entitlement, the government uses this concept in it's budget planning process. Entitlements are promises that have already been made by legislation, such as Medicare benefits, which people are already relying on. These are fairly inflexible obligations in the budgeting process as opposed to the concept of discretionary spending where the government has more leeway for change from year to year.

Discretionary spending includes many things. Its the running of the government where choices are made to appropriate money for each fiscal year. Most of military spending probably falls in the category of discretionary spending even though some of the military budget is things like entitlements promised to veterans.

A big problem faced by budget planners today is that most of the budget is devoted to entitlements. With medical costs rising and the retirement of post war baby boomers, Medicare costs are projected to eat up just about all of the budget in the future leaving practically nothing for discretionary spending. Practically nothing for basically running the government from tiny slices of the budget for NASA, the FBI and other discretionary spending. A fairly large slice of discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon. Even the vast defense budget may get squeezed out from future Medicare obligations, if certain trends continue.

While promises for things like Social Security and Medicare have been made, promises can not always be kept. These promises can be conceivably broken if there just isn't enough money to go around. Also the entitlements that are promised to future generations can be scaled back. The amount of money that the government has to spend is dependent on a strong economy with the collecting of taxes.

There is another kind of promise that has been made that could threaten the ability of the federal government to meet its financial promises. That threat is something called Grover Norquist. It's a pledge that many members of Congress have signed saying they'll never allow taxes to be increased. This gives the government less flexibility on the revenue side as it struggles to balance it's budget. Conservatives have often pressured their Congressional representatives to sign the Grover Norquist Pledge, but this can cause problems as costs for things like Medicare keep rising.

Even without Grover Norquist, the government has trouble collecting enough money to meet it's expenses. That's why we have to keep borrowing money, thus adding to the Federal Debt. The amount of tax that the government can collect also depends on the strength of the economy. It depends on how much taxable income is out there.

People on the left often say that Medicare and Social Security are not entitlements, but they are things that people have earned. This isn't totally true. In some cases, Social Security and Medicare pay out more to an individual than the individual has paid in. In other cases, the opposite is true. People sometimes pay more into Social Security than they get back; especially if they die before they retire, for instance. These programs are not just like bank accounts, but they are also of our country's social safety net. Without the safety net, life in society would be a lot rougher so I am in favor of the safety net.

Many folks do seem to have the other kind of entitlement; the sense of entitlement that we can have everything from low taxes to a strong safety net to an always prosperous economy.

In the final end, it always seems to depend on the math; even for the entitlements that the government has promised. It only works, in the long run, when the numbers add up.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Bellingham art walk, or in my case the art run

Artistic silk screening shop is one of many businesses on the Friday night art walk. This photo taken during the day.

Bellingham Art Walk was fun last Friday. It happens the first Friday of each month. Galleries and artsy shops open. People mingling downtown. I met a friend for dinner and when I was just about to the cafe, I realized that I left my outer jacket in a coat closet at the Light Catcher Gallery. The Art Walk became the Art Run for me as I ran back to retrieve my coat. It didn't take long. My friend and I had a good dinner. Lighted bikes, from the lighted bike Christmas parade were visible around town as well, out the cafe windows and so forth. I was in it last year. Downtown Bellingham can be fun.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Two paths to marriage equality. By court order, or voter approval

It's really good that the voters said yes to marriage equality here in Washington State. The cases that are now coming up to the Supreme Court are about constitutional rights versus the states where voters voted against gay marriage. For instance in California, where voters opposed marriage equality by supporting California Proposition 8 several years ago. Now Proposition 8 is being tested in the courts, but no matter how the Supreme Court rules, in this case, Washington State's voter approved law is still safe, as far as I know. Hope the court rules in favor of tossing out California's anti gay marriage Proposition for the states that weren't as fortunate at the ballot box.

States where voters approved gay marriage in 2012 are Washington, Maine and Maryland.

In Minnesota, voters turned down a proposed constitutional amendment against gay marriage. Attitudes of voters seem to be changing fairly quickly on the gay marriage issue. Maybe California will take another vote someday, but in the meantime, that case is before the Supreme Court.

Governments need the revenue from pot as a business model. Hurray Washington State.

I hope the Federal government doesn't fight Washington State's new law legalizing marijuana. Governments at the federal, state and local levels all need the revenue from pot as a business model. Also less costs for law enforcement and incarceration. I don't even use pot that much, myself, but I look at the math. It's the budgets stupid.

I heard that the largest clinic for free healthcare in the county is the county jail. Interesting perspective. Wouldn't have thought of that, but it sounds logical. Medical care is a big expense in the jail. I heard that on the Joe Show on Bellingham's Progressive Talk KBAI when they interviewed County Councilman Ken Mann. He was on that show recently discussing county business including the plans for a new jail, and other county matters.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Nascar race for Google cars?

The thought just crossed my mind. Google's driver less cars driving themselves in a race. What a concept.

A train of thought that led me there was thinking about the problems of bicycle racer Lance Armstrong. His wins have been disqualified from Tour De France races due to accusations of unnatural and technological things done to the body that provide an unfair advantage.

I hear that race officials are having trouble establishing who did legitimately win those races since the second, third, and so forth cyclists may have been doped as well.

Should they just drop those rules and have the Tour De France be a match of technology, rather than a match of the pristine human body? There's another kind of racing called Nascar where the power comes from machine rather than human. There's still the driver, however. The skill of the driver.

Wait a minute. We can eliminate the driver also. Have a Nascar race for driver less Google cars. Then, maybe it's the skill of the programmers who design the driver software. Eventually, it will all be the machines.

That's my foray into talking about sports.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Better to say saving rather than killing two birds with one stone

For instance, bicycling is a good way to kill, or better to say save, two birds with one stone. Save fossil fuels, get exercise. Many other birds as well. Use less space to park and so forth. You get the idea. Better to say saving birds rather than killing them.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Want a level playing field? Sure

The rich and their big corporations will "level" the playing field. Level it alright, with their bulldozers and wrecking balls as in "this old place has been leveled."

Level can have several connotations.