Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cutting Pepsi with unsweetened ice tea reduces sugar

A simple way to reduce the soda pop sugar problem. If the soda fountain at a restaurant has unsweetened ice tea, I get that instead of the sugary drink. Then I top it off with a little of the Pepsi or Coke. Just enough to cut the somewhat bitter flavor of unsweetened ice tea. It's sort of like Pepsi lite. Less carbonation and sugar.

If the soda fountain isn't self serve, I get the restaurant staff to mix the drinks for me, or quite often, I just have water. Water is healthy, but it's kind of boring. The unsweetened ice tea with a touch of soda pop is more interesting.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Austerity doesn't really work without deflation

In our economy, I don't think austerity would work without deflation. "Deflation" meaning the lowering of things like property values, salaries and so forth. This started to happen during the crash of 2008, but it didn't get as far as it could have. Also deflation brings lots of "adjustment problems" like people being upside down in their homes. In reality, deflation hasn't really taken hold that much. Housing prices are starting to climb again and rents have never really dropped that much. Health care costs, executive pay and many other "costs" in our society continue to climb.

One might think that austerity could work under the philosophy of "starving the beast." Just cut the flow of money and things come down. One might say that austerity could trim everything from people's unrealistic expectations about life to fat union contracts as things adjust to an environment of less money. Well, it hasn't really worked, or at least it hasn't work very evenly. Also, not that many people work under fat union contracts anymore. Instead, austerity has led to vast unemployment. This actually adds the costs to society that are associated with long term unemployment.

In spite of attempts at austerity, the cost of living, that most people face, continues to grow. Health care costs, for instance, have kept growing. Maybe slowing a bit, but not slowing enough. Many of these costs are driven by the continuing and relentless rise in salaries of corporate executives; for instance, I'm remembering the recent Time Magazine article discussing hospital costs and hospital administrator salaries.

Austerity doesn't really work unless there's true deflation and true deflation may not be desirable. One might say, "be careful what you ask for cause you might get it."

By austerity, I mean (for the most part) governments cutting back on spending. Government tends to prop up consumer spending, these days. With out it, we'd be spending less, but spending less needs to go hand in hand with deflation; especially for the percentage of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck and aren't living very extravagantly. For instance, people can cut down on the size of their housing, but in some areas, just a one room apartment can be costly. One might say, move to a cheaper area, but does that help our economy's efficiency's; especially considering where jobs are and the commute distances?

Without deflation, austerity just tends to add to the gap between the wealthy and the average person as the wealthy aren't willing to practice enough austerity themselves.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A relaxed time on the tea bus

I'm pictured, sitting in the background while a local musician is in foreground. We're having tea and conversation on the Tea Bus while it was parked at Farmer's Market in Bellingham. Pictured on the tea bus's blog. It was serving tea and community. I met some interesting people including the owner, Guisepi Spadafora. Tea Bus was also at Western Washington University where it made headlines in Western Front.

See about Guisepi's visit to Bellingham on his blog.

Posted earlier on April 13

Parked near the Saturday Market in Bellingham last week was a portable tea house in a van. The tea is free. It's a way to meet other folks and promote conversation. A slower pace of life. I stopped in and met a few folks. Nice idea. It doesn't have a fixed schedule. It will just come back "sometime." Makes its way around the country to various communities and events. The owner lives on less money than most people require. There's a donation jar, but it's hard to find. He is working on plans to run the vehicle with waste oil from restaurants. It was a nice place to relax and meet some other folks. Good conversations.

Interesting web site also Free Tea Party.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Summer is on it's way

And these displays have appeared in the windows of a local shoe store.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Public radio offers many choices in Bellingham

Mostly due to translators (or, should these be called "repeaters?") there are a lot of public radio choices in the air over Bellingham. I remember, back in the 1980s when there were nearly none.

We now have a translator for KOUW, Seattle's big non commercial news and talk voice. It's at 90.3; KQOW. KUOW also has "KUOW2" with similar programming. There's a lot of public radio stuff out there like "The Ideas Network" from Wisconsin Public Radio, for instance. In Bellingham, KUOW2 is on 90.7 and no need for a digital receiver here.

Then we also have 2 voices from Northwest Public Radio. That's another NPR station based out of Pullman, WA. NWPR offers classical music on 91.7 and news/talk on 104.7; KZAZ.

We also have a translator for KPLU in Tacoma. It features jazz, but I'm not much of a jazz fan so I tend to forget about that one. At least I'm not much of a KPLU jazz fan. Some jazz is more interesting, but the jazz I've heard on KPLU sounds monotonous to me.

Near downtown Bellingham, one can get KMRE at 102.3, the voice of the radio museum. Mostly old time radio music, but has a few features; like the Chuckanut Radio Hour; a locally produced drama.

I tend to forget we also have the voice of Western Washington University, KUGS at 89.3. It's mostly rock music, or maybe they don't call it rock anymore. Hip Hop, Trance, Rap, Techno, whatever. I haven't tuned in for a while.

We are close to Vancouver, BC so some of their stations reach us with ease, like CBU Radio on both AM and FM with differing flavors of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Mostly news and talk on 88.1 or 690 AM and mostly music on other FM frequencies out of Vancouver and Victoria.

For the most part, it seems like commercial broadcast radio is dying across the USA. Especially on AM, it seems like the hedge fund managers who have bought up nearly all the stations think that all listeners care about is sports. Who needs radio for that anyway? One can go directly to the game you want on the web.

While commercial radio seems to be dying, public radio seems to get stronger. In San Francisco Bay Area, a commercial station called KGO was top rated news talk radio for years until more recently when it began slipping in the ratings. Last year it was bought by a company called Cumulus which took off most of it's talk programming and sent it even deeper in the ratings. Meanwhile, PBS's KQED is said to be top in Bay Area ratings with thoughtful shows like Forum (run by a former KGO host) which I enjoy via podcast.

Monday, April 15, 2013

PBS TV over the air in Bellingham area

After years of not bothering to have a TV, I discovered that there is a PBS station that can be picked up from the air in parts of Bellingham. Folks with a line of sight view to the top of Mount Constitution, on Orcas Island, should be able to get it. Much of Bellingham sees Orcas Island across the bay.

We get the Bellingham area booster for KBTC out of Tacoma. It's in full digital HD on channel 28-1. KBTC also brings along WLD world news at 28-2 and TVW at 28.3. These sub channels are lower resolution, but still okay. WLD even rebroadcasts Al Jazeera News as parts of it's international news schedule. TVW is a C-Span channel for Washington State originating from Olympia.

In the past, just about all the Bellingham TV antennas could get was Channel 12. Channel 12 and maybe a few Canadian stations. Well, now there's more. Channel 12 is still on and it also brings along something called "Cool TV" at 12-2; rock videos.

Canadian channels abound also as I have a line of sight view to mountains north of Vancouver from my downtown Bellingham location. There's CBC, CTV and OMNI TV. Bellingham has a shopping channel and a Spanish station as well.

My antenna works inside my apartment so the signal gets through the wood walls at least.

I don't watch much TV, but having these choices made it worth while for me to go out and buy a 14 inch cinema style HD screen. Cost not much more than $100. My "old" TV is almost small enough to fit in a pocket. It's digital also since I purchased it in 2009. That screen is so small, I decided to upgrade.

I remember when my parents bought their first color TV back in the mid 1960s. They said it was nearly $400; in 1964 dollars! Electronics is a real bargain in the modern world.

Cable may not be such a bargain, but I just use my antenna. I still don't plan to watch that much TV, I'm not really a TV kind of guy. I'm more into radio.

Making the antenna is part of the fun. I found directions on a web site for my first antenna. Made from coat hangers and chicken wire. It worked for a while, but came apart due to my lack of things like a soldering iron to weld it together.

Next I bought a more professionally made antenna of similar design from Radio Shack; Only around $35.

Then I made my own reflector with aluminum foil. I taped the foil to the antenna and then laminated it with clear packaging tape so it wouldn't tear so easily.

Home made aluminum foil reflector improves reception. It also looks better against my wall, in my opinion. Entire antenna is around 3 X 2 ft.

Behind reflector is the guts of the antenna. Cross beam style elements like in my old antenna made from chicken wire, only this holds up better. The two connectors are hooked to a small 300 ohm to 75 ohm transformer which is available at electronics stores. Coaxial cable runs to my TV.

I don't watch enough TV to justify cable. My internet comes from DSL over the phone line. Only around $54 per month broadband including telephone service.

It is nice to at least have TV. 12 channels isn't bad. More than I remember, in the Bellingham of years ago. We're living in the digital age.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

North Korea gets in the way

Unfortunately, just as momentum is mounting to cut back on the US military, life gets in the way. N. Korea all but declares war on USA making cutting the military harder to sell. Still, do we need all those new 100 million dollar fighter jets they're planning to buy? I forgot the numbers, F-22's? F-35's? After while it's all just a blur.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Unofficial addition to Bellingham Art Walk

During the monthly Bellingham Art Walk, my friend Kevyn invited people on a tour of art in the halls at Mount Baker Apartments where he lives. A few of us met him at the door so he could let us in. Others lived in the building. Art from various sources displayed in the halls including some left in apartments after tenants moved out. See more images here including a view out over downtown Bellingham from the 8th floor.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Stopping at the red light can be meditative

Several nights ago, when I was biking back from a friend's house, a taxi driver called out to me from his window. He said I was the only person he had seen that actually stopped at the red light. I took it as a compliment. I assume he met the only bicyclist that stops. I hope its an exaggeration as it's pretty bad if bicyclists don't stop at red lights. I know quite a few run red lights giving bicyclists a bad name. I usually try to follow rules and I don't mind stopping for the little breaks in my travel. The pauses are meditative.

People will pay thousands of dollars to go to a meditation retreat. Not having that kind of money, I try and just make living less of a rat race by doing things like just taking the pauses for red lights.

Occasionally, tho, when I'm walking, I walk when it says don't walk. That's just because there are often more cars turning on the red than going through the intersection.

Most of the time, I don't mind stopping cause it's meditative and I'm not in a hurry; not to mention for safety also.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Weekend bicycling in Whatcom and Skagit Counties

Seed processing plant in Ferndale, WA.

And what a wonderful weekend it was, weather wise. I may have put 90 miles on the bike over the past 2 days. Saturday, to the Blanchard area of Skagit County and then Sunday to north Whatcom County. Pictures from rides around Northwest Washington over the years.