Thursday, June 30, 2016

After 2016 WNBR bike ride in Bellingham

Another fun time among and estimated 380 riders. This photo taken afterwards. See my writing on Flickr. Yes, mostly writing this year.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is Bellingham holding out too long for the high wage jobs?

Two port commissioners have temporarily (at least) halted a hotel plan for Bellingham's Central waterfront redevelopment. Plan put forth by Harcourt Developments. These two commissioners want to hold out for the possibility of something else; higher paid industrial, rather than hotel type jobs? Bellingham's been waiting a long time, but seems like high paid business tends not to locate in this type of city anymore. Maybe we should try and make Bellingham more affordable, rather than keep waiting for those high paid jobs that don't materialize?

I've heard that, in this day and age, high paid business tends to want to cluster into major metropolitan areas. Places where there are ports with containerized cargo cranes. Big manufacturing, or information type business also wants to be close to international airport hubs and "big time" research universities like Stanford. Bellingham may be relegated to the backwater class. Low wage jobs seem inevitable. We have education, recreation and retirement, but not a major research university.

Bellingham may just have to learn to live affordably and possibly take what it can get. One of the problems is, of course, housing, in Bellingham, is getting too expensive for the local job market. This is a problem in many parts of the nation as well. In Bellingham, it's driven by our city being a popular retirement destination. Rather than creating affordable and sustainable communities, much of American culture tries to hold out for the promise of higher wage jobs. Progress is good, but pounding one's head against the wall gets old after while. As a culture, we do make progress with things like gay rights and also the new technologies, like smartphones, that become available; even available to low income folks. These technologies create high wage jobs for only a small elite of workers. Workers mostly located in select metropolitan areas. As for the rest of us, we need to stop waiting and start learning how to live with the opportunities we have. In some cases, the inexpensive opportunities.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My review of a NASA video about Juno mission to Jupiter

My psychology is different than most of the movie going public. This trailer, about NASA's upcoming Jupiter mission, has been touted as a great breakthrough in NASA public relations. Good Hollywood appeal, but for me, it just adds to my anxiety level.

It stresses the dangers of going into orbit, at Jupiter, with the radiation belts and so forth. Like The Terminator, or something. Action, suspense, scary. On the edge of one's seat. Personally, I hope it's not that risky. I'm looking forward to some real interesting pictures and findings if (which I hope is likely) the mission succeeds. July 4th is the date that Juno goes into orbit around Jupiter.

I feel odd doubting information that NASA has provided, in this trailer, but it does say that no other spacecraft has gone as close to Jupiter's treacherous environs as Juno is planning to do. Well, I remember the last orbiter of Jupiter named Galileo. It included a probe that plunged right into Jupiter's atmosphere and worked okay regardless of the radiation belts. It worked till being crushed, as planned, by the inevitable pressures of falling into Jupiter's atmosphere. We got good data out of that and the orbiter continued for many years after. Galileo had one handicap that Juno doesn't have to deal with. A malfunctioning antenna on the Galileo Probe required lots of slow workarounds for sending data back to Earth. Luckily, that mission lasted so long (bonus time well beyond it's design date) that it was able to accomplish it's goals in spite of the slow data link. Galileo was somewhat crippled even from the start, but Juno is (as far as I know) in excellent shape.

Looking forward to (hopefully) smooth sailing for the Juno Spacecraft that's about to reach Jupiter on July 4.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Oil train going through Bellingham. Who remembers the Northern Tier Pipeline proposal?

Unlike the coal trains that carry coal for export to Asia, I hear that the oil trains rumbling through Bellingham are serving the Pacific Northwest market. Bringing oil to our local refineries from places like North Dakota. Mostly for consumption in Seattle and various cities and towns of the Pacific Northwest. Keeping the cars on the road which, unfortunately, still rely on fossil fuel. In the past, much of our consumption was served by Alaskan oil, but more of today's oil is coming from North Dakota. It goes by train where there's no pipeline.

Ironically, old timers might remember the plans to build a pipeline from our refineries to North Dakota and points east. The proposal to build Northern Tier Pipeline back in late 1970s early 1980s. That pipeline was seen as a way to bring Alaskan oil from west coast ports to markets in the Midwest. If Northern Tier corridor was here today, it could be working in reverse. Bringing North Dakota oil to the west. Back in it's day, no one was thinking of sending the oil west. Since then, Alaskan oil has diminished and North Dakota production has flourished; like slash, burn and move on. Resource extraction patterns change over the years.

I remember my seatmate on a Greyhound Bus around 1981. He was a public relations person for Northern Tier. Full of stories about hiking, hunting and fishing. His spiel was about being an outdoor enthusiast and saying the pipeline wouldn't harm the environment. However, in 1983, Republican Governor John Spellman, of Washington State, rejected Northern Tier's application saying it would endanger the ecology of Puget Sound.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Grieving for the people in Orlando Florida

There definitely does seem to be a problem of intolerance and violence within Islam. A higher percentage of intolerance in Islam than other traditions. A factor that can't be whitewashed. At the same time, it wouldn't do much good to get into a comparison battle. I would guess that most of the people in Islam, as well as other faiths, are non violent and well meaning. Still, with each belief system, including Christianity, there are problems of rigid interpretations and fundamentalism. The big 3 religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity have old writings that are associated with them. These writings came from rough times when folks thought the world was smaller. Slavery was common, women were less respected and tribalism was a big thing. Scientific reason was less available. I think there needs to be some serious critique of how religious people use these old dogmas. How open, or closed minded are people these days? Do they think they have the absolute truth? Do they think the people in their group are always right and everyone else is wrong? These are questions that everyone needs to consider tho it does seem like the problem of close mindedness is more prevalent in Islam at this time in history. It may be more prevalent, but it is a problem in all belief systems.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Artificial intelligence helping us to look deeper into black holes

Wikimedia public domain illustration from NASA.

Using the artificial intelligence of computers to piece together things we really can't quite see.

There is a science project to try and see down deeper into a black hole. This is not easy to see as it's so small in physical size and so far away. Black holes are big in terms of mass, but small in terms of physical size. They are also obscured by lots of stuff. Very hard to see from our distant vantage point here on Earth.

Using computers to piece together data from radio telescopes across the world, more information becomes available.

Then artificial intelligence can work; like human intelligence works when piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. We have some idea of what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like; a human face, a barn or whatever. This helps us to find missing pieces and take an educated guess at what the pieces we don't find would look like. Some pieces we just have to guess at since they fell out of the box during shipment (to continue the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle). The box this puzzle comes in was shipped a long ways; like thousands of light years. Filling in the pieces and guessing about other pieces we don't have begins to fill in a pretty good image; so we hope.

Just think of some of the other imaging and research that artificial intelligence can contribute to. A bit scary in terms of us being superseded, but, more optimistically, new tools for more exploration and knowledge.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

A new path across part of Bellingham. Crosses under freeway.

A new path opens across part of Bellingham. Even connects two sides of town by crossing under the freeway. West end of path is just off Orchard Place, along the north side of Orchard Drive just north of Cornwall Park. Heads out east to the King Mountain area. To James Street Road. Yes, there's a road named after a street.

The new path is part of the corridor of trail that they've been trying to develop for years. The Bay To Baker Trail. Parts of the trail are being built and other parts are, but a dream. Progress is slowly being made. I visited there with my friend Josh who took the picture.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Trump worries that his wall of political baggage will effect his court case

In my book, whether one can be defined as a racist, or not, is kind of a window dressing issue. An issue of image and terminology. Being mean spirited is the real problem. Congressman Paul Ryan has stated that Trump's comments are racist while Mitch McConnell squirms another direction. Aside from terminology, there's lots of mean spirited politics. Some on both sides, but I think of a lot of mean stuff on the Republican side. Refusing to even hold hearings for a Supreme Court nominee, the scorched earth campaign tactics from the likes of Carl Rove, shutting down the government, slashing needed safety nets, the iron clad total anti tax pledge of Grover Norquist, gerrymandering of voting districts; which I'll admit Democrats have a hand in also. Politics has gotten too much "playing hard ball." Racism? We make a big deal over that word, but maybe it's just another line item in the list.

I also think Trump may have painted himself into a corner on the issue of building the wall. He can't loose face and let go of it, tho maybe realizing, somewhere, it's impracticality. It does cause serious political liability with the large portion of America's population that is of Hispanic heritage. Not only voters, but a lot of judges will, of course, be Hispanic also. The lottery of life has provided a Hispanic judge for Donald Trump's court case about Trump University. I guess one can see why Trump is concerned. Trump must feel that judge should recuse himself, given the controversy swirling around Trump's "wall of political baggage." I try and even understand where Trump is coming from. I guess it's fairly common practice for defense lawyers to reject various jurors for many reasons, including dubious reasons, in the attempt to strive for a fair and objective trial.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Look to Congress, rather than the president, for taxing the rich

It would be nice to have a president pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, but wait a minute, it's Congress that levies taxes. The president can only recommend, as far as I know from what the constitution prescribes. Congress passes the tax laws. Who gets into Congress is important.

Bernie Sanders had the strongest positions for taxing the wealthy, but what could he do without Congress? Now that it doesn't look like he will get the Democratic Party nomination, the energy behind him should really be directed at changing Congress. I believe Hillary Clinton would make a good president even though she is more of a middle ground compromise than Bernie Sanders. A lot does depend on who is in Congress. It may be less glamorous than the presidential race, but Bernie's supporters ought to be thinking about Congressional races also.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Will north leg of Boulevard Park Walkway ever be built?

While Bellingham residents are, for the most part, celebrating the likely death of a coal port that was proposed, near town, the extension of Boulevard Park "over water" walkway may be dead as well. Lummi Indian concern about tidelands and fishing habitat is credited with saving our region from the perils of a coal terminal, but it also has lead to more paperwork and complexity when building anything on our waters. The Lummi's have been, at least, slow to sign off on the project. Other concerns cropped up as well so the whole thing has been stalled in delays. Now it looks like time has expired on some important federal and state grants so that pot of money has evaporated. According to an editorial in Cascadia Weekly's, Gristle column of 5/25/2016 "Roads To Nowhere", it looks like the walkway is dead.

The south "over water" walkway was completed several years ago and is a very popular attraction. The north walkway would have helped in development of Bellingham's central waterfront left behind when Georgia Pacific Pulp Mill closed. Plans for redeveloping that piece of waterfront are progressing at a snail's pace.

As for bicycle and pedestrian trail connections across our city, the walkway would have been redundant. We already have the South Bay Trail that pretty much goes the same route. Still, the "over water" walkway would have been a popular amenity for tourists and economic development in the waterfront. Also, it would have provided a level pedestrian / bike connection along the waterfront avoiding a gradual hill up into downtown Bellingham.

Maybe someday, as the central waterfront gets more developed, the proposal will come alive again.

I took the above photo near where that walkway was proposed.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Wide income gap and unhealthy lifestyles buffet Obama's well intended attempt to increase access to healthcare

I don't really agree with the slant of this opinion piece, but it does bring up some hard truths about high costs and insurance plans pulling out of Obamacare. My take on it is that medicine, in America, is too expensive. The Obamacare program has been a well intended attempt to increase the number of folks with health insurance. As medical costs have been rising for decades and the income gap keeps growing, many folks have had no insurance. Attempts to correct that problem are very difficult to do at best; sort of like trying to put a smiley face on a toxic waste barrel. Healthcare has become too expensive, income disparity is too wide, post war baby boom generation is reaching older ages, American lifestyles are too unhealthy, healthcare is being overused in may cases. There needs to be a lot of deep changes in our culture, beyond just shuffling the insurance and government bureaucracies, to bring better health and broader access to care when we need it.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

I think KUOW is better off not spending all that money to buy KPLU

KPLU Radio, in Tacoma, is to remain independent from Seattle's KUOW. I'm glad to see this. Not because I listen to KPLU, but because I listen to KUOW.

KUOW was planning to buy KPLU, but Friends of KPLU was able to raise enough money to buy the station on its own. All along, I was thinking, why would KUOW want to buy KPLU? Why spend $7 dollars that could be better used? I like KUOW and feared that if it spent all that money to buy KPLU, it could weaken KUOW. $7 is a lot of money to go into debt for.

I know, the long range plan was to use KPLU's revenue stream to pay back the debt; like when corporations merge, but why do this? KUOW is a good station, but did it really need to buy out another NPR station, in Puget Sound area, just to become more of a "super conglomerate?"

KUOW does a good job focusing on news and information while KPLU specializes in the music of jazz. Personally, I don't find jazz that interesting. The plan was for KUOW to run both stations, one for news talk and the other for jazz. KPLU would have dropped some of its own news programming, which was seen as redundant to KUOW.

Local translators for both stations serve far flung communities, such as Bellingham. The translators would have been shuffled a bit for less redundancy. Maybe the two stations can still work together on how they cover Puget Sound anyway; without KUOW having to own it all.

A few weeks ago, KUOW HD2 dropped it's information programming to pick up a jazz service for (I assume) KUOW's organization to get practice running a jazz station in anticipation of the merger. Deterioration of the focus on information? I was worried that we would loose KUOW2, here in Bellingham, which we don't have to use an HD radio to get. We have a translator that broadcasts that programming on 90.7 FM. Luckily, KUOW was smart enough to keep the information programming of KUOW's second feed on our translator. It just translates KUOW3 where the information programming now resides. In Seattle, KUOW2 HD is jazz and KUOW3 is information. There's even a KUOW4 HD, I guess; BBC and so forth.

I'm happy that friends of KPLU have been able to raise enough money to buy the station, not because I listen to KPLU, but because I listen to KUOW. KUOW may be stronger sticking to its focus of news and information, rather than spreading out to run a jazz station also.

Also remember that parts of this region is served by yet another NPR type station; Northwest Public Radio. It happens to be based in my home town of Pullman, Washington; east of the mountains. NWPR serves parts of this region via it's own network of translators. Much of NWPR features classical music. As far as I know, it wasn't involved in any of this merger talk. NWPR also runs a large station in Tacoma which serves much of the Seattle, Tacoma area.