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.