Monday, December 14, 2015

Are happy lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder the wrong color?

Because Bellingham has lots of dark cloudy weather, many local people suffer a form of depression called "Seasonal Affective Disorder." This is related to lack of sunlight. People often buy special bulbs called happy lights or full spectrum lighting which mimic sunlight, but I wonder if these bulbs are the right color?

Looking at displays at the hardware store, the happy lights tend to be kind of blueish, sort of like standard florescent light. That could be the true color of the sun in space, but when we see the sun, it's often more yellow or even orange. When we see the sun, especially in winter months (if we see the sun) the light is coming to us from a shallow angle through earth's atmosphere so the atmosphere tends to filter out the colors making for a warm sunset or sunrise glow. Maybe happy lights would work better if they mimicked the sun at low angle since that's the sunlight we are evolved to see? The sun tends to be more blueish at high noon, but we tend to see it at lower angles through the atmosphere. In some countries, people take siesta at high noon. Shouldn't artificial sunlight that is designed to wake people up be more like the colors of sunrise? Maybe they've been doing it wrong all along.

Maybe that's why lots of folks tend to be withdrawn around Bellingham in winter months. I'm glad I don't seem to be that effected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Some useful comments I got when I posted on Facebook.

Light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder does best with a light that is about 456 nanometers, which is on the blue side. I have one that uses blue leds and works well.

I have a wake up light from Phillips that very smartly imitates the spectral envelope of sunrise; I think they do it with a mix of broad spectrum LEDs that are pulse-width modulated, since from what I understand that's a very flexible way to tune the spectrum. They definitely take into account the filtering effect of the atmosphere, although I don't think there is any simulated change of zenith angle across seasons. But that's actually not a very complicated calculation for a clock that already has the date anyway. This is a really interesting idea!

I agree. bluish light makes me ill, warm dim bulbs make me happy.

Get a light used for snakes and lizards at the fish store on Railroad Ave.

All they need do is spend some time in a place with drought under water restrictions, and they should feel a little better and more fortunate.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Healthcare must be either subsidized or rationed for much of the population

It's a hard truth for politicians and voters to swallow.

As the income gap continues to rise, there seems to be no way around having to subsidize health coverage for lower income people. Most likely, for over half of the population, healthcare either has to be subsidized or rationed. Rationed could mean folks dying do to lack of care, or (in some cases) living longer do to avoiding risky procedures.

Subsidized means some kind of tax that higher income people must pay. Call it a tax, or hide it among premiums and other medical charges, it has to be done. Obamacare tries to hide the tax so it can be swallowed politically. This creates kind of a Rube Goldberg contraption of complexity, but when so many folks say it will fail, it still prevails.

There is no way around either a subsidy or rationing for at least the lower half of the population while income discrepancy is so wide in USA.

Aside from the subsidy issue, lots can be done to lower overall health plan costs. Promoting better diets and lifestyles; bicycling. Reducing bloated salaries toward the top of the medical and insurance sectors. The list goes on. Lots can be done, but there is no way around subsidy; given the current state of society.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A hard problem to resolve. The problem of anonymous threats against WWU students and anyone else

Threats over the internet, such as those that recently lead to the cancellation of classes at Western Washington University here in Bellingham, are hard to deal with. Dare I say, we might miss the NSA (National Security Administration) as we restrict surveillance? On the other hand, maybe we still don't want law enforcement snooping in on our messages and phone calls? The problem is, it's so easy to post threatening things. Too easy to be anonymous. When the mere typing on keyboards can shut down a university, its a very precarious situation.

Lots of students, at Western have expressed frustration with the ineffectiveness of law enforcement to deal with this situation. It's good to be concerned, but it's also important to realize how difficult the problem of anonymous threats is to deal with. Like threading a needle between privacy concerns and law enforcement. Also dealing with new technologies all the time.

Hopefully, the dialog about this situation can bring some solutions. Also, folks using the internet need to turn down the hostility. I'm hoping for a more civil world.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Digester building being torn down

I've posted a few pictures of this process on Flickr as well as here. Waterfront. A friend of mine says that every once in a while they tear down some more buildings to make it look like progress is being made. Redevelopment of Bellingham's central waterfront is kind of a slow, many years project. Maybe not as long as the building of a Medieval cathedral.

See more images on Flickr.

Scroll down.

Bellingham Herald video. Toppling of bins atop digester tanks.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My thoughts on Black Friday

When I was in grade school, I was more materialistic and wanted nice toys. I was more simple minded than today. Our family Christmases were fairly modest, however.

By the time I got to college, I understood more complex concepts. My mom liked to say, around Christmas, "it's not the presents, it's our presents that matters," when we were home for the holidays.

Now I have no local family ties so I don't go Christmas shopping. My brothers and sisters still enjoy keeping in touch on line, but no need for gifts or the rat race.

Monday, November 23, 2015

So we aren't allowed to learn from other cultures? Political correctness gone to far?

Political correctness going too far? Free Ottawa yoga classes scrapped over fears that the teachings could be seen as a form of "cultural appropriation."

Isn't part of respecting another culture the realization that we can learn from that culture? How can American (or in this case Canadian) society value and learn from the cultures of India if we are afraid to do anything, like yoga, for fear of not getting it perfect? If we are told we shouldn't practice anything from outside our own culture because we will never really know what being in that culture is like, then we will never learn from other cultures. How can we respect other cultures if we are afraid to learn from them because our learning isn't totally authentic or perfect?

I think it's a case of the perfect being an enemy of the good.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A realm beyond space/time?

Interesting speculation, in this article, that there could be a realm beyond space (or even space/time) that we think of as such a rock solid foundation to our reality.

I like pondering these type of things.

As for finding evidence to fit our current scientific paradigm, one small part of this speculation could be tested fairly easily. The concept of the Kaleidoscope discussed in the article. If we are in one of the glass pieces of the Kaleidoscope, who's image gets repeated, we could see if there are parts of the universe; like distant galaxies, that look exactly the same as other parts of the universe. Like mirror images.

I would guess our current astronomical technology is not refined enough to totally rule this out. I would guess that we see distant galaxies that look alike, but we can't yet see the finer detail as to whether they are mirror images, or not.

We do see mirror images of the same galaxy in different parts of the sky due to gravitational lensing, but that's a different thing which is explained another way, unrelated to the Kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope is just one aspect of this speculation, but the idea of something beyond space could stand separately. How to test for those things? Good question.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Climate change plays a role in Syria and the rest of the world. All of the world's governments and people need to do a better job planning

Climate change is playing a role in problems around the world; like the situation in Syria. Climate change is an increasing reality, but all is not lost. We can do a better job of planning. We need to do a better job keeping our connection to the environment in mind.

There's been a lot of bad planning around the world and in our own (USA) foreign policy for sure. Governments all around the world need to take into account the big picture. Things like population, sustainability, water resources and technology need to be taken into account.

I doubt we were thinking enough about sustainability when we invaded Iraq, for instance. Seems like when we invaded, there was a lot of promises given for providing a better life to Iraqi people, but not much was said about how that can be done with the resources available. Can the population of the entire world live like American middle class, or does that goal just become another broken promise?

There are also, I'd guess, lots of aspirations associated with Arab Spring. Some of them are material aspirations and others are for more social freedoms. More potential for broken promises, but if we plan around what's sustainable we (the entire world's population) might start to do better.

Material aspirations can be really hard to achieve for the 7 billion people of the world, but more sustainable technology, such as solar energy can help. As for social freedoms, I would like to think that social freedoms don't have to have material wealth as a prerequisite. They can be achieved if people learn to put aside age old prejudices, resentments and out dated religious ideologies.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who buy's Isis oil? Insight from article in link plus some of my thoughts

Interesting article from Financial Times that explains much of what's behind the Isis oil connection.

My thoughts below related to these issues.

Militias and farmers, who fight against Isis, still go to Isis run petrol stations to "fill er up." That's how they run the vehicles they fight and farm with. Buying from one's enemy; especially if there's no other supply available.

I've often wondered how Isis can sell oil for funding their terrorism. Who's buying it? Turns out a lot of that oil is sold locally, to the various farmers and militias in the area; even militias that fight against Isis. Oil doesn't necessarily have to get as far as the global market for this cycle to happen.

Kind of makes me think of how dirty the oil dependency cycle can become.

Reminds me of the situation where, people in my own country, buy oil from oil companies that they often deride. The big bad oil companies, but people still need the oil. Where else can one buy it from? The oil companies aren't violent, like Isis (so I may naively believe), but they can still be manipulative for sure. That's how business often works.

In the case of Isis, they sell oil to people who, in some cases fight against Isis. Isis has the bigger guns so they end up shooting the people in the end. It makes me think of arms merchants that benefit from selling weapons to both sided of a conflict.

Here's another thought. Maybe we (the western nations, not just Obama) should have done a better job, early on, supplying more friendly rebel groups with fuel (I guess oil) so they wouldn't buy from Isis?

Possibly the good news is that we are doing more to supply the friendlier rebel groups now. Also Isis isn't good at long term planning. According to this article, their oil fields are drying up without the expertise of international oil companies to rejuvenate their fields through fracking and other advanced technologies. The Isis oil machine may not last for long.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Larger safe havens for peace loving people, but how should they be created? Does the military have a role?

I can see why many people in Europe would be alarmed about the situation with hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to get into Europe from Syria and other troubled countries; especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I would guess that, by far the vast majority of refugees are totally decent people; like you or me. Totally non violent. It just takes a handful of people, for instance 1 out of 10,000, to cause problems and spoil things for everyone. It's a scary situation even though practically all of the refugees are good people. Scary situations can lead to backlash as some folks react out of fear wanting to close borders and so forth.

I've heard that the British are trying to pursue a policy of helping Syrian refugees in places closer to their countries of origin; such as helping Syrian refugees who have escaped to Jordan. In the short term, at least, this might work better than taking in large numbers of immigrants right now. Taking in immigrants over the long run can be good when there is time to do it wisely. Also societies will need to function so new populations aren't isolated into ghettos. Find ways to integrate into the diverse societies.

In the long run, taking in immigrants does bring more young people to a society; for instance here in USA our immigrant population is providing young workers to pay into Social Security as our post war baby boom bubble reaches retirement age. Europe's aging population could benefit from this also; especially if it happens gradually. The current situation is more of a shock to societies, however.

Even here in USA, where we have the benefit of being across large oceans from most of the world's trouble spots, people tend to be nervous about large numbers of newcomers. It's kind of a human trait. There are people, here in Bellingham for instance, who don't want Bellingham to take on new residents. Not just immigrants, anyone. There are people who don't want our city to grow. As long as world population keeps growing, popular towns and cities, such as Bellingham, are bound to grow.

Setting up safe havens for people trying to escape the trouble spots seems like a good idea. What role the military should play is being hotly debated, of course. Not just our military, NATO and so forth. Most of the military involvement seems to make things worse, but there could be some better strategy. Possibly the military could be used to take some territory for setting up safe havens inside former Syrian land. Maybe help the Kurds set up areas that are more tolerant of the diversity in that region. This might help take some pressure off Jordan as Jordan isn't very large. The Saudis haven't been that helpful for sure and they could be part of the problem.

I'm just throwing out some ideas, but realizing any strategy could be problematic. I can see why people are concerned. It's hard to figure out a proper strategy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Restaurant Association comes out in favor of increasing minumum wage, but here's a catch, in my opinion

Restaurant Association of Washington surprises some people by coming out in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Good news for the most part. Often restaurant associations oppose raising the minimum wage.

Still, there is kind of a catch to their logic, in my opinion. The cost of living and economic conditions vary widely from region to region; even within one state. The Restaurant Association wants a consistent minimum wage statewide, rather than the inconsistent patchwork of differing rules from city to city. Problem is, the economy is not the same in prosperous and expensive Seattle as it is, for instance, in rural parts of the state, like around Starbuck, WA. Yes, there is a Starbuck, WA. located northeast of Tri Cities. A statewide minimum wage would, most likely, have to be lower than what would work in Seattle. That's my opinion, at least.

On the other hand, they do have some valid concerns about trying to comply with different laws in different cities. Also the problem of restaurants loosing business when they are located near the border of high wage cities, for instance customers going out of high wage Seattle to eat in Renton where costs are lower.

These are problems associated with wide discrepancies in the economy. Discrepancies between income groups, regions and economic sectors. Another way to deal with this problem, besides trying to set an artificial minimum wage, is to bring back a steeper graduated income tax.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Income disparity makes it harder to determine where to set interest rates

I would guess that one of the bad side effects of income disparity is that it makes the job of the Federal Reserve more difficult. Harder to determine whether to raise interest rates or not.

Low interest rates are supposed to stimulate the economy for job creation while higher interest rates cool inflation. Like stepping on the gas or the brake in a car.

Problem is, in this economy, wages and prices are stagnate for some sectors of the economy while wages and prices are skyrocketing in other sectors. Skyrocketing housing costs in many cities, for example. Skyrocketing executive salaries is another arena of inflation. Some things are inflating while other things are remaining stagnate. In this environment, it would be hard to know whether to stimulate the economy or not.

What will the Fed do in December? These last few years, it's a harder call than usual, I would guess. Another reason to address the growing discrepancies in our economy.

Rising salaries for top income brackets leads to things like higher college tuition as institutions compete with one another offering higher and higher salaries to their top talent in order to keep that so called talent from leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere. This creates a vicious cycle between institutions and corporations which leads to higher costs. In the case of colleges, the cost is usually passed along as higher tuition. Higher tuition is magnified in state supported schools as tuition must bear a higher percentage of operating costs unless state support keeps up with that inflation.

Salary inflation is a big factor in medical costs also; for instance.

Housing costs often rise much faster than most wages in many of our metropolitan areas. Sometimes rents will double in just a matter of a few years pulling the rug out from under people. This varies from region to region as well making it hard to set economic policy at a national level.

Meanwhile there is significant downward pressure on prices and wages in many sectors of the economy due to things like globalization and advancing technology. For instance, the self booking of travel via web sites has cut significantly into the business of travel agents.

It's hard to tell if the economy is stagnate or inflating from a birds eye perspective. Depends on who one is talking to. Less discrepancy of income could make it easier to determine this.

I remember the term "Stagflation" from back in the 1970s. Seems like that term applies today when parts of the economy are inflating while other parts are more stagnate.

One possible remedy is to go back to a more graduated income tax rate. This could cool some of the run away inflation toward the top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is Halloween just for the young? HUB party stays fun for all.

Dance party at the bike shop.

Seems like lots of older people don't do Halloween anymore. I'm not young, but I still enjoyed Halloween at The HUB Bike Shop; a non profit repair collective in Bellingham.

Maybe the bar scene, where much of Halloween resides these days, chews one up and then spits one out so they don't do Halloween in later life. The older folks get jaded and don't do Halloween anymore?

When I was in 6th grade, I thought 6th grade was the last of Halloween. The end of trick or treating.

Then, in my college days, I found the Halloween parties and bar scene. It was funky and fun. There was a few years in the early 1980s when my only trip to a bar, during the year, was for Halloween. I was never much of a bar person.

As the years went by, "bar scene Halloween" got bigger and more corporate like. Competition for the best costume, big prizes, high cover charges, 90 minute waits to get in. I stopped going years ago.

Still, smaller events work; like the costume ride and dance sponsored by The HUB Bicycle shop. It was fun for the young and young at heart. The energy was pumping.

Dance happened after a spooky ride through town where the course was prearranged along routes not normally open for travel; like riding around in the downtown parkade. We rode on each of the echoing concrete floors with bikers hollering and a boombox playing.

Why am I writing this now? I didn't get around to writing it earlier.

Paining of repair person behind wheel looks real.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Opportunities and obstacles for face to face conversation in Bellingham without just blaming the smartphone

Face to face conversation is often missing in our society. Technology gets blamed, but I see lack of conversational opportunity for for many reasons.

Here are some thoughts about the state of conversation in Bellingham. It's not as bad as one might think. I find quite a few opportunities, most likely because I live in town where there are many gathering places within easy walking distance.

One of the most likely settings for conversation is where there is nudity. Not something uptight folks might acknowledge. Seems like people often strike up conversation around hot springs. Too bad Bellingham doesn't have hot springs nearby, but we do have the sauna at the YMCA. Some of the time it's quiet, but often conversation happens more there than other places.

Unfortunately, it seems like bars are the main stays for face to face gathering in Bellingham. We have lots of bars populated by mostly students. Microbreweries are popping up all over. I don't use bars much as I don't like the flavor of beer and I also find bar conversation is superficial; especially over loud techno music.

Coffee is another beverage I don't like the flavor of. In old days, coffee shops used to be places for conversation, but now they seem to mostly be places for folks to use wifi. Also, one thinks of conversation being an evening activity. Bellingham coffee shops close early; except for a few of the large chain places. Mom and pop coffee shops often close promptly at 5 pm. What's that about?

Five Rhythms Dance is a place I meet lots of people, but conversation doesn't happen. It's dancing. I enjoy the interaction and the energy, but I feel I don't actually get to know the folks I meet dancing until I see them someplace else in town; like at the Food Co-op, where we strike up a conversation. Often the conversation starts with "I saw you at dance."

Another great place for conversation is the Friday evening Peace Vigils in front of the old Federal Building on Cornwall and Magnolia. There has been a peace vigil there since the 1960s. One of the oldest such gatherings in USA. Starts between 4 and 5 PM. Then a newer tradition joins in around 5 PM. Food Not Bombs. Sometimes there's music. Usually there's conversation and hanging out. Various other gatherings spin off from the Peace Vigil. There's a gathering of folks I sometimes join at Bellingham Bar and Grill. It's a bar, but a friendly group of folks at our table. Also reasonably priced food. I'll go to a bar for chicken salad.

TED Talk Tuesday is an interesting idea. They show a TED Talk and then have people discuss the topics after the talk. Happens each month at Exploration High School. Organized discussions like this can be valuable. Bellingham has lots of things like this. Book signings at Village Books, for instance.

The weekly Wednesday Dinner gathering based on my Yahoo Group seems to work pretty well. Even though it is fairly small, it's one of the only ongoing signs of gay community in this area.

This article with many of my thoughts after listening to the author of Reclaiming Conversation, the power of talk in a digital age, Sherry Turkle on the Diane Rehm Show.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mesmerized by the 1%, then complain about them

People complain about the 1% top income folks, but then many of the same people join, almost mindlessly, the Twelfth Man movement devoting their time and cheer to the holy televisions for watching the Seahawks games played by multi millionaire players backed by multi, multi millionaire owners.

Same thing can be said about big time actors. Hollywood?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jail proposal too big to fit comfortably under the tax cap

A local controversy here in Whatcom County. Proposition 2015-1 the new jail tax proposal. Even our Bellingham City Police Guild has come out against this tax. From their web page it says:

If this passes, all of our public safety tax authority will be locked up for 30 years yet some of our most critical needs – for mental health or substance and alcohol abuse treatment—are left unanswered. As our community grows we may need to fund a police station, a mental health treatment facility or new fire stations to serve our neighborhoods. But if this tax passes, we may find that we can’t pay for programs and facilities that will keep your family safe and the mentally ill out of jail.

Yes, the problem of a big ticket item, such as this jail, bumping up against conservative led tax authority limits imposed on local governments by state initiatives.

Maybe a smaller jail, that doesn't tie up our taxing limit for the next 30 years, is a better idea?

Ironically, I notice (in a yellow mailer) that the Republican Party, in Whatcom County, supports this tax. Odd, Republicans supporting a tax. Support for public safety among both Republicans and Democrats is popular, but maybe there is a better way to maintain public safety than this large "one item" tax for the jail.

How about a smaller jail with more alternatives to incarceration? Another idea, supported by (I think) the mayor of Bellingham, is to use property taxes rather than sales taxes for part of the funding at least. Different state imposed caps, also property taxes can be less regressive than sales taxes. Another idea would be to support efforts, at the state level, to lift caps on local taxation.

This issue reminds me of the national topic of trying to squeeze the huge defense budget into the sequester.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Income gap problem is not just about the 1%

I see the income gap as being more than just the problem of the 1% versus the rest. It's also the growing gap between the top 10% and the rest. The top 10%, or even the top 20%. This is the problem behind why so many workers can no longer afford to go the the dentist; for instance. Dentists are often in the top 10% while most workers make a lot less. As the gap between the top 10% and the rest of the population becomes wider, it gets harder for ordinary people to pay the dentist's wages. This makes going to the dentist less affordable.

As for the wealth of the top 1%, that can seem like its farther from directly effecting the lives of the average person. You pay your dental bill, but you don't notice paying Donald Trump's salary as much, or at least that connection isn't as obvious.

Conservative folks will often say, "I don't care what Donald Trump does with his own money as much as I care what Uncle Sam does with MY money." They must believe that how Donald Trump gets and uses his money is non of their business while they fret about taxes taking their money. Maybe they would notice how their dentist (for instance) gets his money when they pay their dental bill, however.

The connection between the wealth of the top 1% and problems the rest of us face is not that apparent; especially to conservatives. Maybe more folks would understand the connection between the income of the top 10% and the problems they face; problems such as high dental bills, or even high tuition costs. Look at the salaries of college presidents and administrators. Many of the presidents are in the 1% anyway.

We should be talking about the income gap between the top 10% and the rest of us, rather than just talking about the top 1%.

Also I don't mean to vilify any group of people, including the top 1%, or even the top 10%. We need them. Some of the top income folks do great things; like Space X founder Elon Musk for instance. It's just that society has a problem when the all income classes get too far apart.

When the incomes get too spread out, most people can no longer pay their dental bills, doctor bills, insurance premiums, education costs and so forth. These bills go to pay the high salaries of professionals in those fields.

Also, only talking about the 1% comes from political consideration. Make the group you vilify as small as possible. If 99% are on the "good" side and only 1% on the bad side, you win every election. Right? Well, why didn't that work in 2014? Maybe talking about the 1% makes the other 99% into "victims." Victims are less likely to do things for themselves such as voting. If they don't vote, then supporters of the 1% win. I realize that the wealth of the 1% gets larger and larger compared to the 99% with each passing year, but the 99% does need to take some responsibility; at least enough to vote for candidates that support higher taxes on top income folks. At least show up to the polls, I guess.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Discussing who won the Democratic debate is not that useful

Its not useful to discuss who won or lost the October 13 Democratic debate. People keep saying some polls and internet traffic went for Bernie while CNN and big time media gives it to Hillary as if not caring about grass roots evidence. It doesn't seem like it was about winning or loosing, but more about having the issues discussed and showcasing the candidates. Winning, or loosing isn't going to matter until the elections anyway. The Diane Rehm Show just discussed the issues without much speculation over who won or lost. Also gave coverage to the other 3 "also ran" candidates on that platform who I've already forgotten their names.

Yes, I very well might vote for Bernie in the primary (if we have a primary in Washington State. Maybe it's "caucus" here?) At the same time, I worry, as someone brought up on Diane Rehm, that Bernie could become another George McGovern who only carried one state and the District of Columbia in the 1972 election. Like happened to George McGovern back then, maybe Bernie can't win the general election because he could be classified as too far to the left? That's a legitimate concern, but it has nothing to do with winning or loosing that debate.

Martin Shkreli is famous, or infamous, enough so Bernie will hear his point anyway, even without a meeting

Martin Shkreli is famous, or infamous is a better word, for setting the price too high for an AIDS medication. Now he wants to have a private meeting with Bernie Sanders to explain his side of the story. Upset that Bernie wouldn't accept his donation and go for the meeting.

He can explain his side of the story to Bernie Sanders anyway, without a meeting. Martin Shkreli is famous, his message has already gotten high up into Bernie's campaign and to Bernie himself as well as all over the media; for what it's worth. Seems like whenever he opens his mouth, he's in the news. That's what fame and fortune does; unfortunately.

Pharma Brat 'Furious' Over Bernie Sanders Snub

Monday, October 12, 2015

Maybe we should call it First Nations Day? Other ideas for renaming the day

Less of a tongue twister than the politically correct "Indigenous People's Day" for renaming, "re branding" Columbus Day.

First Nations is a term used in Canada. Hand it to the Canadians to come up with good ideas.

Going another direction, how about calling it Exploration Day? Columbus wasn't the greatest guy and he wasn't necessarily the first to "discover" America. Besides the native peoples, there were the Vikings who sailed well before Columbus. Possibly there were even Chinese and explorers from other nations as well. I was even learning about the Vikings back at my grade school in the 1960s. The Viking were upstaging Columbus and I remember my teacher saying that Italian Americans were incensed with the (then) speculation that others got here first.

Exploration Day would preserve an original intent of a day to commemorate exploration. It could be modern exploration like giving NASA more respect. Scientific exploration. There have been lots of explorers besides just Columbus.

My idea of Exploration Day isn't likely to gain any political traction. Native Americans have already got a foothold on the idea for renaming this day and they deserve respect as well. Maybe we need more holidays. Give native Americans a day and have an exploration day as well. We could always use more holidays; less work days. Most people work the holidays anyway.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Video made during my visit to Russian House #1

Part of my 2015 bicycle tour down the west coast. Visit to Russian House #1 near Jenner, CA.

On their Facebook page, they post videos of conversations and music from various customers. It's an interesting way of sharing. Also promotes understanding between Russia and USA; two countries often locked in controversy.

Our guest about Radio Moscow

Posted by Russian House #1 on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Video available to non Facebook users as well.

They didn't seem at all offended when I told a story about writing to Radio Moscow, when I was in college, and asking about human rights for homosexual people in the Soviet Union. I wrote that letter in 1976 to a listener question and answer program called "Moscow Mailbag." That question wasn't read over Radio Moscow, but they wrote me back with a pretty negative reply. I wasn't surprised as human rights wasn't that big a strong point in the old Soviet Union. More recently, things have gotten better for a while, from what I gather in the news, but also things get worse again. Goes in cycles.

Copy of letter I got in 1976 from Radio Moscow.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The quantum unknown creates license for imagination wonder, but be careful

Quite interesting article on Quantum Physics And The Need For A New Paradigm. Here's some of my own thinking, not directly from article, but inspired by these things.

The space/time universe that we experience may just be the tip of the iceberg as discussed in the article. Who knows what this can mean. It provides room for one's imagination to roam. I feel there are lots of possibilities, including what some folks would classify as metaphysical. At the same time, one needs to be very careful before drawing conclusions beyond the actual science.

I like to be open minded about the many possibilities, but I am skeptical of pretty much any metaphysical claims that people make. There's still lots of unknown and lots to learn, but the science doesn't say much, or support, the various claims that people can make; including the claims of great world religions.

Far out concepts about things like the quantum realm can provide license for us to think outside our limited, materialistic space/time box. At the same time, our ideas can be a minefield of quackery and the science doesn't really back most of what we can conjure up. I like being open minded, but non dogmatic about the possibilities we all think up.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Did Pope Francis's meeting with Kim Davis undermine the rest of his message?

Pope Francis had a fairly brief meeting with Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to sign gay marriage licenses. He still holds onto what I consider some outdated concepts about sex and family. At the same time, he usually tends to put these things in the background while speaking quite strongly about fairness and income distribution. I wouldn't agree with everything he stands for, of course, but there are some things in his bag of ideas that are cogent remarks on the condition of today's society.

On the plane headed back to Rome, Francis talked about the concept of conscientious objection. "Without referring to Kim Davis, the pope said conscientious objection is a right that is part of every human right." I can understand some of that thinking. Who wants to be forced to do something against their convictions, but I guess Kim Davis could, of course, resign from her position. Solders in war, who often have conscientious objection to a particular war, have a harder time getting out of the military. Back in the days of the draft, people were sometimes forced into military service against their will.

Job descriptions do change as society evolves. County clerks now have to follow the broader definition of marriage, people who join the military, during peace time, often face changes in the job when a war starts.

Still, the pope does say many good things about compassion and income distribution even though his less than ideal opinions on sexuality threaten to undermine his stance among us liberals. This pope has also spoken out about global warming, but those views are definitely undermined by this world's continuing explosion in population growth. Now passing the 7 billion mark. We may not be able to address global warming without a significant slowdown in population growth. Old ideas on sex and family certainly undermine that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse is not that it was during the super moon. The super moon is only slightly larger than a normal full moon. It's that the eclipse happened in Bellingham when it wasn't cloudy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis has more credibility on similar issues than the last two popes

Pope Francis has been a strong critic of the income gap, the dark side of capitalism and selfishness. The last two popes had similar views, but this pope has more credibility. He seems more humble, himself, in things like his choice of pope mobiles and clothing. Also he is less pushy about the church dogmas that aren't that friendly toward birth control, gay rights and feminism. The other popes were more pushy on those dogmas so they ruined their credibility among liberals when it came to what they were saying about things like poverty and greed. What this pope says resonates better with us liberals creating more of a resounding chorus. The other popes might have tried to sing that tune, but it was more cluttered with emphasis on parts of the dogma that would turn the rest of the liberal choir away.

Also, the past two popes came at a time when the Catholic Church was besieged in the midst of the priestly sex abuse scandal. That scandal is probably starting to wind down now. It clouds the credibility of any stand that the church takes on ethical issues, but even that ugly black eye seems to be starting to recede into the history books by now.

On the topic of gay rights and population growth, the pope is still not willing to drop old ideas, but he does seem to speak more softly on these things. Using the concepts of grace and forgiveness, he puts out a welcome mat to more diversity of people and dialog. This is also an important step forward. Less of the witch hunt mentality that pope Benedict was accused of.

Personally, I still think it will be difficult to solve climate change unless we address the population problem. Even this pope has said he doesn't expect us to be reproducing like rabbits (I forgot the exact quotes), but church dogma puts a lot of obstacles in the way of new thinking on sex and family issues.

I still think this pope has taken many steps in a good direction and, for the most part, has been a positive influence in the ongoing discussion. He does have a kind heart. Change is often step by step.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Maybe philantropy is a better model for funding pharmaceutical research than return on investment

Egregious for sure. New hedge fund management in this pharmaceutical company raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Martin Shkreli is the Donald Trump of drug development.

They say they have to charge a lot to pay for research and development. I just got to thinking, there may be better ways to fund research than the standard "return on investment" model. How about philanthropy? Lots or research is funded by foundations and donations. Often donations from the very wealthy. For instance, if someone dies from a rare disease, money is often donated in that person's memory. Philanthropy might work better than pharmaceutical profits. Maybe it isn't good to view drugs as private investments, but rather investments in the public good.

Also, of course, there is government funding of research, but thinking about the philanthropy model is an avenue that's still kind of "free enterprise;" for those who are skeptical of turning everything over to government.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Religious bigotry and overpopulation are related and make their mark on the refugee crisis as well as climate change and other things

Religious bigotry and overpopulation seem to be related. Often religious bigotry stands in the way of reducing population growth. One thinks of anti gay bigotry, anti feminist attitudes and things like the battles against organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Then we see the troubling results of all this in the massive refugee floods around the world. Overwhelming in numbers; the people seeking to escape bigotry and war in their countries of origin.

Besides the refugee struggles we have the issue of climate change related to our growing numbers and aspirations. Will the California drought end before destroying California's vast agricultural industry that so many folks depend on?

Some forecasters say 2016 might be an El Nino year with more rain to California, but this isn't certain. Also El Nino means warm in its own way so little or no relief for the snow pack.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we face low snow pack also. Forest fires raged and are just starting to abate for the season.

How fast can Bellingham grow? Will lots of folks and retirees want to take refuge in our small city? Will housing remain affordable? What about traffic?

We can accommodate lots of people if we learn to live differently. Will single family residential zones have to go? How about the automobile with all the space it devours for parking? Maybe we can do better as some of these challenges also bring the seeds for opportunities, but we have to be willing to accept change. Flexibility. Not bigotry.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Maybe being that big isn't a good idea for Haggens Corporation

Quite a few people in Bellingham tend to be wary of big corporations. Sometimes events will land in one's lap that reinforce one's views. Haggen, a regional grocery store chain that has been based in Bellingham, is now facing the downside of "big corporate merger mania." The unhappy stories flowing across the pages of Wall Street Journal and other media. Of course this would happen around us; here in Bellingham. Gives many of us more pause in our thinking about big corporations; as if we didn't have pause already. Looks like it was trying to grow too fast.

West Coast Grocer Haggen Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9 2015.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Wormholes without the need for the pesky black hole

I read this interesting article about a magnetic field passing through a wormhole in the lab.

Significant, as I think (tho I could be wrong) that this is the first time evidence for a wormhole has actually been seen. The concept has been around for decades. Use of wormholes to take a shortcut and jump from one part of the universe to another without having to pass through the intervening space has been the subject of science fiction. I'm remembering the book "A Wrinkle In Time" where the concept of "tesseract" was used to travel around in the universe. This may not be quite that exciting, but the concept seems somewhat related.

Up until now, most talk that I hear about wormholes has been associated with black holes. If the wormhole exists, it's hiding behind the event horizon of a black hole and the event horizon is hiding inside the accretion disk where matter and energy are swirling down into the black hole. Certainly a daunting, if not impossible prospect to peer through all of this and tell just what's there. No one can really see into the black hole so seeing something akin to a wormhole without having to deal with the black hole is significant.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Have we all fumbled the situation in Syria? Now here comes the flood of refugees

Maybe we should have intervened to help the moderate democratic forces in Syria?

Who knows. We did intervene in Libya and it's still a mess.

Obama has taken heat for being cautious about trying to "save" the Middle East with our military. Maybe we just make it worse. Also, it really isn't Obama's call. It's an international situation and Europe plays an important role. Europe is not enthusiastic about "sending in the troops;" even thinking about troops as being a force for humanitarian aid.

With that in mind, is Europe now reaping what it sows; or failed to sow?

Syria has crumbled while Europe and United Nations debated and gridlocked. Now the flood of desperate refugees is showing up on Europe's doorstep. This may be the biggest problem Europe faces today. Forget the banking crisis, refugee flood may be even worse. It's totally a mess, at least according to the news, but part of the mess is from Libya also. Europe and Obama did try to help out in Libya.

Russia has been a true stumbling block on Syria also.

Much of the Middle East is such a mess of religious bigotry and over population. I feel for all those desperate folks washing up on Europe's shores. And we, in USA, think we have an immigration problem. Imagine the situation in Europe! Overwhelming.

Immigration to the US is slowing to a very moderate pace, these days. It's from countries in Latin America where most of the people seem to assimilate fairly well into US society. Catholicism is a major religious force in Latin America where many US immigrants come from. It's getting more tolerant of diversity and the new pope is helping. Birth rates are going down in Mexico, at least, from what I hear. The heavy religious bigotry that we see in so much of the Middle East is more serious stuff.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bike trip 2015

It's probably not a GPS Google Maps mistake. Some folks like to park right in front of the store, rather than walking a few blocks. Also applies to the river.

This river is along south Oregon Coast where I am now biking. Took the picture from a bridge. My 2015 bicycle trip is down the coast south from Portland, Oregon. I took the train from Bellingham to Portland and then rode out to the coast along Oregon's Salmon River Highway. Been on the coast since Lincoln City. Plan to bike into California till time starts to run out and then take train back. Updates are on my Facebook page available to Facebook users. I'll update here and on Flicker for the open web when I get back. My computer time is a bit limited, or I wouldn't get that far into California. Weather is mostly cool and sunny with a bit of mist. It's the coast.

Happy summer.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interstellar travel not likely, but we can still observe the universe

Where are the star ships? Well, interstellar star ships are not likely in the future of humankind. At least according to author Kim Stanley Robinson who was recently interviewed on NPR Science Friday. The stars are just too far away. It would take several human generations to get to any star system even within 50 light years. The amount of energy it would take to get up to just 10% of the speed of light would be stupendous. Then it would take lots of energy to slow down again at the destination. A star ship couldn't be very large as more mass just means more energy needed to get it to speed.

Science is also discovering that over 80% of our DNA is shared with other earthy creatures. We are of Earth and the Earth environment goes through us; like jellyfish in the ocean. We may not be able to spend long periods, like generations, in the small environment of a star ship.

In my own opinion, this doesn't preclude space exploration, however. Curiosity can lead to great astronomy as well as space missions to places like Pluto. Even human space exploration and colonization could be in our future. (My own opinion not mentioned in this article). We could build large colonies in our solar system and bring much of the earth environment with us. These colonies could be larger than the star ships we could build as they wouldn't have to accelerate so fast because they would not have to go beyond the solar system. They could be larger and more earth like; which is something our species needs.

Philosophically, to me, it is interesting to note that science seems to pull us in two directions. It gives us technology to get farther into space than any other earthly creature, yet at the same time it tells us that we are mere animals, ourselves. Made from the same DNA and needing the same environment as other creatures of Earth. Science seems to be dethroning the image we have of ourselves as being in the realm of the gods or being able to live beyond an earth like environment.

Now, some other type of intelligence, like artificial intelligence, could supersede us making for a different situation, but barring that we are still of earth. Faster than light travel (warp drive) could change this prediction also, in my opinion.

Barring something like faster than light travel, we can only look beyond our solar system and look we do. Even just looking inspires us to great achievement.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Light sticks replace sparklers as Fourth of July traditions evolve

I noticed lots of kids were waving colored light sticks at the Fourth of July celebration on Bellingham's waterfront. Personal fireworks are banned in Bellingham, WA. I got to thinking that the light stick can be viewed as the sparkler of the modern era. Fourth of July Traditions are changing. Light sticks are safer than the sparklers that my generation had as kids, but the modern events can still create fond memories. Just different memories.

Watching the city's giant fireworks display is a part of the tradition. We didn't have a city display in the town of Pullman, WA. where I grew up back when I was a kid at least. We did have quite a neighborhood tradition where folks gathered on a hillside for a picnic. After the food, kids would set off personal fireworks on the road below. Parents watched from the hillside that worked like an amphitheater. There were found memories, but also nerve wracking moments; like the time a pinwheel shot into the audience and almost set Mrs. Powers stockings on fire.

Some people lament the loss of the personal fireworks. They feel the Fourth has been denuded; like a cat that's had it's claws removed. I'm okay with the ban and the evolving traditions. At the same time, I notice why some of these changes are happening. For instance, it seems like folks are a lot more finicky about their pets, these days. Back in my childhood days, dogs and cats would cower, during the Fourth, but their owners seemed less worried about it. Folks are more fussy about their pets these days. Safety standards seem higher these days also.

So the traditions keep changing and the Fourth continues to make memories. I also notice that many of the light sticks are rainbow colors. Some hardcore conservatives might lament that the Fourth is becoming too, what they would call "sissy."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Maybe we should call Gateway Pacific proposal the "second coal port"

People should start calling the proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal "the second coal port;" as in, "do we need a second coal port?" There's already a coal port in this area when one counts Robert's Bank just across the border in Canada. That's where the coal trains that now come through Bellingham are headed.

Is another port needed just cause it would be on this side of the border? Could increase volume of coal shipment of course, but that brings up questions of global warming. I just got to thinking about the concept of calling it the second coal port.

I have to admit, the trains can be kind of fun to watch. Sleek and precise in terms of engineering. When I was in college, they called these single commodity trains "unit trains." Economical to run; like monoculture. Mono trains? While I say fun to watch I feel somewhat guilty. Like watching pornography?

Monday, June 08, 2015

The "before Obamacare cost shifting system" wouldn't work as well today

I happened to tune into a conservative radio talk show host, Eric Wattenberg, who felt that the pre Obama Care healthcare system was better than today. He believes that the system of having low income people with no insurance showing up for charity care at hospitals worked pretty well. Show up and get care without being able to pay and then have the hospital shift the cost onto its other users who have insurance. That was the old system. What this talk host doesn't realize is that more and more people don't have private insurance as the years go on. Private employers are less and less likely to provide insurance. Now days, there would be so many uninsured people that the old "cost shifting" system would be overwhelmed. It was never that good to begin with.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

World Naked Bike Ride in Bellingham and on the radio

More fun fun memories from bicycling lifestyles. Being interviewed on The Joe Show last Monday over KBAI Radio. Zachary Robertson got us in a Selfi. I am at far right. Joe Teehan interviewing us from behind the mikes.

7th annual Bellingham World Naked (and/or partially naked) bike ride around downtown Bellingham is planned for Art Walk Friday, June 5 at 6 pm, or arrive at Hub Bicycle Collective a few hours early for the paint party.

The Joe Show June 1 2015.

Event poster. Designed by a Nate T.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arctic drilling protest in Bellingham, WA. with Ski to Sea twist. Protesting no snow for ski leg of race

See my photo essay on Flickr

Taking protest against oil drilling in Arctic Ocean to the consumer end of the equation. The filling station on Holly Street.

Protest in Bellingham also addresses the lack of snow for our annual Ski to Sea Race. The ski leg of the relay has had to be cancelled in 2015, due to practically no snow on the course.

Protest started at the regular Friday vigil by Federal Building. Then it proceeded to Shell Station on Holly where it provided a good photo op to remind consumers of their role in the oil economy as well.

After that, it headed to Bellingham waterfront near a rig that is being readied in Bellingham Bay to help with the oil drilling.

Protest in Bellingham was on May 22 2015 after a similar protest in Seattle where hundreds of kayaks were seen around a drilling rig being worked on in Seattle harbor.

See link to my photos on Flickr.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

My brief foray into street vending in the 1970s. Elmer's Glue Art

When I was in college, I made some sculptures out of Elmer's Glue. The glue dried into clear drops that I could color with felt pen to look sort of like stain glass. Thinking these might sell as Christmas ornaments, I took some home to Pullman, where I am from, for Christmas Break. Thought I would try selling from a sidewalk stand. First I checked with Pullman City Hall to see if it was okay and found out that one needed a vender's permit. That cost around $10 which isn't too bad, but one also needed a liability insurance bond just in case someone stumbles over the stand and tries to sue the city. Premium for said insurance was around $140. Good for one whole year, but I only needed it for a few days. Needless to say, I gave up on the idea.

Upon returning to Bellingham, I decided to try selling at Vendor's Row near Viking Union Building on WWU campus. Process was much more accessible as no insurance bond was needed. After some easy paperwork, I got a table and tried selling my ornaments for a few days. They didn't sell. It was a learning experience and I'm glad I wasn't out the insurance bond.

Eventually, I glued my unsold inventory of ornaments into an odd looking wreath. Then I baked the wreath till it looked like dried lasagna. On the last few days of my table reservation, my strange looking wreath was an attention getter. I used it to pass out flyers for a friend, Rebecca Valrejean, who was doing a concert on campus.

Photographers from Klipsun (WWU campus feature magazine) took some photos to use with a feature article on gross food. The article may have been published, but those photos never made it in. A moral of the story is that it was nice to have a space with low overhead to experiment even if the experiments didn't lead to commercial viability.

Below: Another sculpture made from dried Elmer's Glue pieces that I still have. Took a month for the pieces to dry. Pieces made from pouring glue into small forms that I made from card paper. I used the wax from color crayon to cover the card paper so the water based glue would not stick to the forms. When the glue pieces dried, I glued it all together and then baked it in a low temperature oven.

Written piece I did in my dorm room to accompany sculpture.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

I'm creating a Pearl Tree mind map of my agenda

I have found a tool on the web for creating a mind map of one's ideas. Actually I learned about it from a friend. I've been arraigning some of my posts, from Facebook and my blog, into a hierarchical tree by topic. Its a good way to see where one's various posts fit into their worldview. One can construct a political addenda, mind map or what ever. Can map other kinds of things as well. For instance, knowledge trees, family photos by branch of the family, travel stories and so forth. A good way to archive. Can make more sense than just the sequential stream of Facebook posts.

My hierarchy of posts on Pearl Trees

Above: Image of a tree about myself that I drew in my college years. Later modified.

Below: Original image of that tree. Done in pen and paper, 1970s.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Say good by to agriculture in California's Central Valley?

The word collapse may be overused these days, but I think we could soon see the collapse of agriculture in California's drought stricken Central Valley. With successive years of low snow pack in the Sierra, farmers are now turning to wells, from limited groundwater, for irrigation of crops in the Central Valley. If this runs out and normal snow pack doesn't come back in the near future, imagine the Central Valley around Sacramento and Fresno being more like the Mohave Desert. Of course this is only one possible scenario, more normal rain and temperature patterns may return as early as next year.

I wouldn't say that folks who are naively still banking on Californian agriculture would be "science deniers." The actual science is still not real clear about what will happen over, say, the next 25 years.

On the other hand, there are some really alarming climate models coming out from the science about that region in the second half of the 21st century.

Vertical farms, where crops are grown hydroponically with less water, can be done and desalinization of water from Pacific Ocean can be done. Problem is economics. In the near future, at least, it seems more likely that the oranges and so forth that we currently get from California would be shipped in from other parts of the world.

Above photo:

California lettuce field, near Guadalupe, that I passed on one of my bicycle trips down the coast. I'm not sure if this coastal agricultural area is dependent on irrigation water from Sierra snow pack. Some coastal areas use local rivers, like the Salinas River, fed by rainwater. I don't have my own picture of a Central Valley field.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Door to Northwest Economic Council and Smart Trips office on Champion St.

I think the Smart Trips logo is designed to look like the numbers on an old gas pump.

My reflection, sort of, in window.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Where around Bellingham is Go Hawks?

Oh, that's right, just about everyone is staying home to watch the Superbowl. Team spirit rotated into the destinations.