Saturday, January 31, 2009


This is the coming out of (what is call by some as) the pass from Alger into Bellingham by Lake Samish. This interstate, along with State Routes 9 and 11 are the only roads that separate Bellingham from the rest of the United States. Canada is a wide open twenty five miles to the north, incidentally.

This picture was taken today on I-5 when I took a business colleague to see our plant in Anacortes. Then back for a speaker on seed cultivating and saving at Village Books. I think it was a huge success, as the room was full of people and more and more chairs were added. I am glad to be part of this wonderful community in Bellingham. In three weeks we will have a seed swap and we hope that it may turn out to be just as well attended.

Oddly enough I still am in a state of opposition with myself, as the evil Monsanto that is literally taking control of the seed stocks throughout the world by purchasing their genetic fingerprints is the same company that sells Round-Ready Canola to farmers in Snohomish Counties so we can make biofuels to gain our energy independence while offering the farmers a sustainable livlihood so they don't need to sell out to tunr thier fertile farmland into pavement or more lawns. And besides, grass clippings by far are this country's largest agricutural crop. And residential gardeners on average apply ten times the pesticides and herbicides of farmers. Oh, I could go on...

Friday, January 30, 2009


If there is sun to be had, Magilla will find it. Sometimes she thinks she's a cat. Here is a common morning perch on the back of the couch. On a similar note, I found that I cannot get visitation rights for my ex-dog. What I bitter divorce.

But today I was physically relieved by this bug that I'd caught, only to be bitten by another bug of consumerism. I've had my cruiser for well over two years and have really been getting the itch for something much lighter and faster. And you guessed it, this bike is something I was looking for for the past year - single speed convertible to a fixed gear: simplicity and functionality. (I could do without the color combination though.) And to make matters worse, I searched the internet and the after finding the cheapest price anywhere in the world?...Well the bike shop right around the corner is selling it for $70 less than the price I found on the web. Ack.

I once calculated the cost of driving and maintaining my paid-for VW that I owned. With insurance, gas, oil, repairs and maintenance, I calculated that I spent about $250/month on it, so I consider that a car payment unit (or CPU). And I don't own a car anymore, so I have been banking these CPUs. My last bike cost me one CPU; this one (with fenders, a rack and lights) I could get for less than three. The cunningness of marketing is gradually transforming this want into a need.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Here's a picture taken from the ferry landing on Orcas Island last summer while we were waiting to return home. It was fun on a motorbike because you get to enter the ferry first. Or actually behind the bicyclists and pedestrians, but before all the cars and trucks.

Today was a day that my sickness left my body. I would have rather blown off yoga tonight but at least two people said it would be the best thing for me. So I went and I was glad I did. Whenever I get a three day flu, I always think of how nice it will be to be better again. Imagine the feeling of having an ailment from which one never recovers? Every day is a gift in our tiny self space in the huge expansiveness of time and other relativities.

And I should really get to bed, but when I got home Breakfast On Pluto was in front of the DVD player, so I popped it in - a disturbingly crude, yet enchanting movie.

Today was a seasonable mid-forties and cloudy. I'll take this versus thirty and sunny any day. I wouldn't be surprised is winter is over and it starts to warm up. I recall that things start germinating in mid-February.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Ralph Lloyd of Ferndale fly fishes for steelhead
in the south fork of the Nooksack River near
Van Zandt on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009.
"I've caught all four species of salmon here
before," Lloyd said.

Let me post a picture of someone that enjoyed the day more than I did. For me, it was a day of sleeping until eleven with a lazy dog that didn't resist. But I feel the sickness leaving my body, and tonight is a night of moonlighting while getting caught up on e-mails. Could they almost be under control?

Tomorrow is the dreadfully early day that I have of waking at six for a seven meeting. It's a networking meeting and I really do not have much need for networking anymore, as these are mostly local businesspersons that have been around the community for quite some time. But it's at the country club and the breakfast is very good too, so I keep going. And I am the one riding my bike while others are in their big shiny cars. Bu I'd bet they don't get to ride through the majestic, enshrouded firs of Cornwall Park on a Thursday dawn. Getting up early sucks, but the ride through the park is among my favorites.

I overheard someone at a party talking the other night about these excessive tides around the world. Two locations that came up on simple Google are the low-lying Marianas Islands and Venice. I wonder if these are the bellwethers of globabl climate change? It would make sense that ice melts around the ice caps and get redistributed around the world in liquid form. Just a hypothesis, as science is not my forte.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Here is a picture of my housemate and her ugly dog. I hope she doesn't mind me putting a picture of her on my web log. It is nice when she brings me tea in the afternoon when I am on the couch under a blanket watching the Rockford Files on the only channel we get trying to fight a sickness today at one o'clock. When she goes to work in the early morning she opens up my door and Magilla jumps into bed with me. Poor dog seems to be cold quite a bit, as she has about as much hair as a baby rat. When I turn the little heater on and point it on her, she usually licks my face.

But work marches on and I needed to go down to Snohomish for a dinner meeting tonight and then a meeting with local farmers regarding the viability of planting oilseed, like canola. The farmers have a thankless life, with all the elements and uncertainties working with and against them. And add climate change to the equation (believe it or not, some scientific models project even more rain in Western Washington), and it only increases the risk they face day by day. But it is our company's effort to support local agriculture and to keep farming a viable activity in this incredibly fertile land (some of the richest on the planet) versus paving it over and replacing it with generic tract housing or more tacky strip malls for fat retirees, or flat people attempting to escape their homogeneous life in the suburbs, only to bring it along with them. Oops sorry. Keep it positive.


I wonder when I was sick last? I never get really sick, but today was a day of feeling crummy enough to take Emergen-C, eat veggies and fruits and listening to some albums since my new turntable belt came on Saturday. The sensation of doing something you haven't done in years and years (and maybe decades) - such as moving the arm onto an LP and lowering the stylus to listen to an album - brings back memories and sensations from long ago. And listening to the crackle of Jackson Browne, as well as the deep bass that CDs just do not replicate. Compared to albums, CDs seem tinny.

Not much more to say. A long day both at my day job and my moonlighting gig. It is an interesting social fabric that is woven at the local convenience store (where a graduate degree is a prerequisite to working there - that's the running joke, at least) and knowing the comings and goings of many of the customers and engaging in discussions and understanding the integral part of the web it plays in the little community of Happy Valley.

"I'm going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
I'm going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I'll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I'll get up and do it again
- The Pretender

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Today was a day of organizing a local speaker to talk about heirloom vegetables and the seed gathering. It will be held Village Books next Staurday. Then in a few weeks we'll be having a seed swap in Bellingham - the first annual. Today was a tea: about five minutes of business followed by a few hours of eating, drinking tea and socializing. My unwritten rule-of-thumb is no more than one meeting per activity with this group. I get mired in enough meetings to want to inflict more upon myself. A loose group of people that are interested in urban gardening, and all sorts of things diverging from that, except having meetings.

And an interesting tidbit from an e-mail I received tonight:
Pierce County's very own Carrie Anne Little is in the running, along with nineteen other farmers nationwide, in a campaign called "Eat the View!", which will urge the Obamas to plant a large organic Victory Garden on the First Lawn, and to appoint an official White House Farmer. The White House Farmer would be responsible for plowing up the existing lawn and planting and maintaining an organic garden, which would serve the White House kitchen as well as local food banks, as well as promoting organic and local farming nationwide. Carrie Little is the owner and proprietor of Mother Earth Farm, located on 8 acres of farmland in Orting. She and Mother Earth Farm have been working with Emergencv Food Network since 2000. The entire production at the farm is given to local food banks. In 2007, Mother Earth Farm provided more than 162,000 pounds of organic, locally grown produce, herbs and honey to our neighbors in need. Vote for Carrie – she epitomizes public service, and deserves to be recognized for all her hard work on behalf of those less fortunate among us.

This is basically what we are doing. Maybe Mr. Obama does have a grasp of the potential severity of things.

And in case I forget tomorrow, it is my 500th post on this web blog. For what? I guess some day I hope to write for pleasure. Writing for business is generally flat and dry, and wandering around the keyboard every night for a fw minutes always keeps my mind nimble, versus the more analytical, structured business writing. I have stories of travels all over in journals that I hope to someday revise and do something with.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


So last night a friend in need dropped by and he was somewhat distraught due to relationship issue. So we found ourselves over at a Western party where I was probably old enough to be most of the attendees' parents. But fortunately I do not show may age, and was still warmly welcomed by the host, who oddly enough was celebrating his 21st birthday. What a hoot.

So that meant getting home at two a.m. and falling into a horrible trend of getting to sleep and waking late. An easy habit to fall into and a painful one to break. I do love sleep - all eight hours of it, and then some - and am lucky that I am not sleep deprived. I've read where a good number of American are chronically sleep deprived. But then again, I've read where they're not.

But the bike ride to work yesterday was the second time I climbed over the hill to Happy Valley (versus cycling) that was a probably 500' ascent. Not bad on my one-speed cruiser and thanking a god that I hit traffic at the one stop sign and needed to wait for thirty seconds or so for it to pass, allowing me precious seconds to regain some semblance of composure. But I made it gracefully, and the tobacco in the three Amerian Spirits I smoked at the party last night wasn't mixed with guilt.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Here's a picture taken from today's Herald. The fog rolled in again tonight and is surreal in the crisp, invigorating, freezing temperatures with the mist on my brow. I went down to Woods Coffee very near here to meet a friend after yoga tonight. It was closing early, so I biked back to the one near the farmers' market in town and met him there. That's the extent of the excitement in my day.

But I am going back to San Francisco on business in a week or two, and my housemate is going to visit a friend in Hawaii, so it will be a few weeks of being in motion. And taking care of her ugly dog for a week. Sometimes I forget to feed myself, let alone an ugly dog. It will be fun though. And sleeping with Magilla is like having a heated seventy pound sand bag on you. What a lardo she can be.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Here is a picture from Boulevard Park taken last summer. These days of sun and warmth will soon be upon us - oh, in about six months. Months of clouds interspersed with the occasional days of sun.

But the problem in the winter when it is sunny outside is that it gets really chilly since the cloud cover does not cap the hot air. Being cloudy and rainy usually pushes the temperature into the forties. Sunny, it usually stays in the thirties. Just a mere observation. My thermometer on my computer said fifty on Monday and sunny, so I jumped at the opportunity to take my old BMW motorbike out for a ride. It was not fifty degrees outside and the ride was quickly shortened, as I was woefully underdressed.

Tonight coming home from work brought with it a flat tire on my bicycle. I had this odd feeling when I left that I probably should have taken my pump with me (I usually do). So I ended up pushing my bike home for a few blocks, and ended up getting enveloped in a late night cleaning of this simple one-speed cruiser. As I cleaned it, I felt bad that I had neglected it throughout the winter. This bike has been a workhorse and faithfully carried me all over town. Sometimes I get the desire to upgrade, but why?

Good Riddance

This picture has a strikingly similar empty stare to that of Bush II looking out of Air Force One down at New Orleans as it flooded and was destroyed forever (demonstrating the gross ineptness of our government on all levels) while blame was passed around and the City That Care Forgot stumbled and fell, never to regain its footing.

This, by any measurement, would be considered a failed administration: a failed experiment in neoconservatism, as well as failed neoliberal economic policies. I wonder what thoughts are going through his mind in this picture?

Time to pick up the pieces and try to put Humpty back together again.

I've been reading many economic articles and the consensus is that the rate of the U.S. deficit can only be realistically reduced through a massive shift of capital from the private to public sector, or through hyperinflation to devalue the currency and subsequently, eliminate our massive debt - both scenarios are plausible. Considering the national deficit is hovering around $40,000 for every man woman and child in this country, we have given up reigning in this spending and trillion dollar deficits will become the norm.

There are many more thoughts in my mind, but it is late and I was out celebrating Obama's victory (even though I didn't vote for him) tonight at the Acoustic Tavern and rode through the wonderful little seaside town of Bellingham through another night of impenetrably thick fog on a cold night.

Tomorrow a new day will dawn in my beloved country.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pi Lam

"It's a far gone lullaby
sung many years ago
Mama, Mama, many worlds I've come
since I first left home"
- Robert Hunter

Yes, I was a fraternity boy. But a pretty mellow fraternity at that. My brother was a Fiji at Pitt and he visited me at Drexel right before Christmas break, where I'd been a Pi Lambda Phi brother back in the mid-eighties. I remember leaving the house and closing the door to my room (I think we called it Third Front Old, versus the 'new' side of the house - it was a double located on 35th and Race in the mixed West Philadelphia neighborhood) to make the drive up the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike to go home to Clarks Summit.
"You're not going to lock it?" he asked.
"No, why?" I replies, "someone might need to borrow something."

It was that kind of fraternity where you trusted all the brothers in the house. But I'd unfortunately only been an active brother for a few months and then left Drexel to finish my undergraduate studies at the University of Scranton. Come to think of it, I don't even think I was registered at Drexel when I was living in the house. But it was a typical fraternity room with four guys (and one's girlfriend) sleeping in a 350 square foot room on the top floor where you slept in lofts and your nose was literally inches from the hot tar roof radiating residual heat following a hundred degree Philadelphia August day.

But I still keep in touch with a handful of friends (brothers?) there. I always say that the only two things I gained by attending Drexel were Pi Lam and learning how to become excellent at parallel parking in the Philly.

Time marches on.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Today was a day in Happy Valley helping a friend mind his store. And this means that I get to relax and bask in the sunlight, as the mornings can be quiet. I am so predisposed to always be doing numerous things at one time, that this is one opportunity where I can sit alone and do nothing alone at length. Except for listening to a Sirius Grateful Dead channel where they play a complete show every Sunday at nine. Today's was from Chicago, Illinois - 6/29/76, I believe. Not a bad show: decent recording, no Donna screaming, tight. A good morning.

On an economic note, it looks like we are gearing up for Round Two on the ARM (mortgage) resets. I guess the 3/1 ARMs have already reset, and the 5/1s will reset in 2009 and 2010, creating more default fun in 2010 and 2011. I read where one out of five ARMs are delinquent. Actually, I read it here - a pretty good article from the Washington Post. And an interesting chart above pulled from this blog.

Hard times ahead as we trudge down this path of economic uncertainty, as consumers are literally tapped out with consumer spending driving roughly three quarters of the country's GDP. Furthermore, we've evolved into a service-based economy versus manufacturing, so many (most?) of these service industries will be severely impacted, especially elective consumptive industries, including food service, non--staples, etc. And considering service jobs pay less than trade jobs overall, we're basically in a downward spiral of decreasing earnings and subsequent tax revenues. Fun.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Birth and Death

All of my friends come to see me last night
I was laying in my bed and dying
Annie Beauneu from Saint Angel
say "the weather down here so fine"
- Robert Hunter

Today was a morning I awoke to one of the mice lying in the middle of the living room floor injured or sick. I do not know if Magilla got to this gentle mouse or what other fate had befallen it, but I took put it on a bed of oat hay to let it pass peacefully; I do not think it will make it. It is odd how the thought of death of this tiny animal struck m versus the mouse, who has no concept of life or death, just an innate drive to survive. Life is so fragile.

And on a much brighter note, I spoke with my cousin in Cleveland and she had a healthy baby boy on the twelfth of this month. I am quite happy for them, as they are wonderful people.

This afternoon a thick fog rolled in, and it still is lingering - everything is so moist. Humidity is hovering around a hundred percent, and the wooden door to the garage is swollen and difficult to close and latch. I just came in from patching a flat on my cruiser, as I need to ride to work in the morning.

The picture is taken yesterday from the upstairs porch towards downtown. Orcas Island is in the background with the cirroculmulus clouds above. The tall building is the tallest one in Bellingham.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Purple Mountains

It's not often that a picture can catch the beauty or that moment of awe when the sun casts its purple evening glow on Mount Baker. And tonight was another missed opportunity. But some day I'll get my housemate to get some better pictures of the mountains from my upstairs deck (like this one). But the sun returned today. And not much more happened other than dashing here and there.

I hope to take the old BMW R60/6 out next week for a bit, as we are supposed to have a sunny spell in the 'ham for a few days. For the next week, sun and forties. I can live with that.

Why do I get to bed earlier on a weekend night? It's nice to curl up with a warm dog on a chilly night ike tonight, Even if her name is Magilla and she's pretty ugly.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Today we cornered the dreaded mouse that has been terrorizing my life and home. Actually, I am kidding. It is the tiniest, sweetest little creature but unfortunately he is getting a bit cocky and this also got him into a bit of trouble today. After a mid-afternoon game of cat and mouse, the furry rodent prevailed. But I put up a pretty good chase and was amazed at his agility and ability to climb and jump and scurry. I though I had it trapped on the mantle, but he (or she?) made a valiant dive for the window and made its getaway. This time. But there's room for all of us in the house. Besides, the mice usually move out in early March.

The picture was taken of Whatcom Creek, the rushing waterway two blocks from my home. It's still running very high from the rains we had. Today we had another ninety seconds of sun. 0*C right now, but I think the weekend is supposed to be nice.


It is so nice to come home to my Ubuntu laptop. Like slipping on a pair of comfy slippers and is so wonderful after having to work on the horribly temperamental Windows XP all day. What's more frustrating is having to deal with basically everything changed on Word and Excel. If you navigated with keystrokes (versus the mouse), you're screwed (as far as I know).

I will re-learn Office some day, but right now it's easier to use Open Office, which is pretty much like the old Office. And it's free. And of course the Linux never crashes, unlike the common Window's Send Error Report message on everything Windows. The day that I never have to use Windows again will be a good day.

Another day where I saw blue sky for about ninety seconds. Nary a free minute, although I did go to the dentist. And strangly enough, I found the prying of my teeth with sharp dental instruments to be oddly satisfying.But I took my camera, so you will probably see more of these pictures. This one is outside of my new dentist's office about six blocks from my home. An old fifties style medical arts building with little offices mostly dentists.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I work with biodiesel. My company has made significant strides towards helping the U.S. quench its insatiable appetite for diesel fuel for agriculture, industry and transportation. We have many sources to make biodiesel, including waste veggie oil, animal tallow and virgin oil. Now some of these crops that are grown include genetically modified seed strains, some of which come from the agribusiness behemoths that we all know and hate. One specific oilseed is canola (I have many samples in jars in my office, a tiny seed much tinier than a BB). It is known as rapeseed in oild and

Now on one hand I read the horrors of these Frankenfoods and the way big business has stuck it to the farmer in forcing them into buying seed, suing them for seed blown into their fields, etc. I was in a meeting with many farmers today, some of whom are looking to grow crops that can keep their land tilled and generating oncome versus being paved over and suburbanized. Others oppose it. Although we could easily buy from the Midwest, one objective is to support the local farming community.

On one hand, a friend I had dinner with tonight suggested that I'm not consuming these crops, only growing them for fuel. But on the other hand, we do not know what the long-term ramifications of GMO crops may be on the environment, humanity, or god knows what else. I have come to learn that there is no easy solution to any of the self-inflicted wounds that plague our little planet. Life's quandaries.

Today was partly sunny. By this I mean the sun peeked through the perpetual stratus clouds for roughly ninety seconds But better weather is on the way.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I am ignorant when it comes to certain world affairs, but the overwhelming response of the world to the arocities commited by Isreal prompted me to read about what is going on, outside of the U.S. media of course, which is bascially worthless.

I read how the Israeli army is shelling schools and hospitals killing hundreds in their efforts to eliminate Hamas. At least it seems the are being a bit more successful than accounts I've read of the U.S. attempts to rout the Taliban. But how can a country to flagrantly attack another country and kill thousands of innocent civilians in the name of wiping out the bad guys? I find it repulsive of a regional power to take these actions and furthermore reportedly using phosphorous and other atrocious chemical weapons.

But at least the U.S. is profiting off this, as I've been told that most (all?) of the US aid that the United States gives to Israel (to the tune of a couple thousand bucks per citizen) doesn't even make it to the Israeli government, but gets paid directly to U.S. weapons manufacturers who in turn ship their latest and greatest war toys to Israel.

But out of all fairness, Isreal was provoked by Hamas and Palestine really isn't even sovereign nation after all, just a territory. It's not like a world power going into a sovereign nation unprovoked with a derelict military and wiping out hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians - women, elderly and children included. Oh wait, that's what the United States did in Iraq. And then we wonder why counties emulate the world leader, as we lead the world down the path of lowering the heinous standards of war. This is sometihng that I am ashamed of. And the U.S. turns its back. Disgusting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


My days of working with Windows XP are always full of surprises and. Even though things are current, legal and professionally installed, it is already a roll of the dice to see when my Lenovo Think Pad will lock up on me.

If there is once US company that epitomizes what is wrong with the corporate model in the United States, it is Microsoft: highly profitable, a crummy product that continues to be morphed into something not much better. It is only a matter of time before Microsfoft is unseated as the predominant operating system. But like the dollar losing it's status as a reserve currency, it probably will not happen soon, but the rumblings can be heard. Maybe it's the XP match with Office 2007 that creates this factor of incompatibility, but it is predictably a daily routine where something locks up my new Lenovo.

Enter Ubuntu, an open-source software package that I purchased on my Dell 1525N laptop and is a refreshing change. And as unstable as Microsoft is, Linux is rock solid. Here is an article in today's New York Times that made me appreciate how fun it is to use this newer operating system. Like driving a VW versus an Aries K-Car. I cannot wait until more people support the newer software versus the same old garbage we've been forced to use over the past decade-plus. But like many things, Linux seems to be taking route in Europe father than here.

Not much more to say, other than the fact that I am happy for Google Calendar in my increasingly activity-filled day There comes a time where I can no longer commit things entirely to memory.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Here is a picture taken from the Bellingham Herald. Evidently it's still pretty bad in many areas in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish Counties, and probably beyond. This picture is north of Bellingham five miles or so on the flooded Nooksack River.

Today was a day of doing little of substance, although I did go check on a friend's house who is overseas. I look at my time in the day and I always think I am busy, although I really am never that busy per se, but I do have all my time allocated for certain things and most of these are pretty relaxing. So I really never seem to have much free time to do nothing, of which I would like to have more. But there's so much to do in this town that I really am glad I am never bored, yet more time starved. I think this level of awareness has come from the book that I am reading called "The Importance of Being Lazy."

I think in another year or two I may aspire to becoming lazy, but right now there are many things that need to be done on the work front. I enjoy the high and invigoration of working with emerging companies, but through my career I have been able to turn on and off my ability to be a slacker. Maybe I am a closet slacker. I hope I never lose the ability to relax. Who am I kidding - I always have time to watch another wonderful sunset or take a half hour of my day to engage in conversation with someone I meet on the street that I haven't seen for awhile.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Today was a day when the rain stopped. I would go as far as saying it was sunny, but that would be a gross overstatement. Here is a picture looking off to the south, where the weather's usually a bit (or much?) less rainy.

Not much more to say tonight. Heading out to Boundary Bay Brewery tonight to see a band. I guess I've been going out more than I usually do, and that's not all that bad. Dinner tonight at the House of Orient was wonderful too. And cheap. The Panang Currey was the best I've had in quite some time. And the servings were such that I didn't leave there feeling regrettably stuffed.

More tomorrow. Off to hear some music.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Flooding everywhere. The picture above is along U.S.2 near the Pilchck River coming down from Monroe. We had a meeting that was farming related, and we agreed that much of this flooding deposits a wonderul layer of soil rich in nutrients everywhere. And unfortunately some newer houses received some of this wrath that were built in the hundred-year flood zones. But it seems that last century's hundred-year floods are this century's five-year floods.

But today I did something that I wanted to do since the first day I ever set foot in Bellingham,and was too ride my bike down the street with a yoga mat in the rear basket.

And that meant taking a yoga class, something that I'd never done before (although I did Vipassana sitting for a bit). The type of yoga is called Iyengar, and is supposedly good for beginners. (The first few times I thought it was called anger yoga, and thought it was a rather odd name for something supposedly calming.) It is always incredible to enter another entirely new world by doing something like taking a yoga class. And I hope to take quite a few more.

But I knew some of the people in the class (including the instructor), so afterwards we went out and the choice was either Uisce or Temple Bar; it was the latter. Two hours later I sit here feeling the onset of soreness. But at least it is good soreness.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Another day, another 3% swing in the broad equity markets. The frightening thing is, these indices (ie, DJIA, S&P500) are is still trading at inflated price/earnings multiples. For example, the Dow Jones Industrials (the Dow 30) are trading at a P/E of 21.25. This is a quite high relative to historical valuations, meaning there is still quite a bit of room for stocks to fall. Just wait until more earnings are reported and I would wager that stocks will take more of a beating.

I follow little of the national mainstream media, but I think that they have failed us in forewarning what we are about to encounter. Fortunately, one does not need to scratch too far beneath the surface to see the true economic state of the US (and world) by reading global sources, or alternative sites, such as this daily read called Naked Capitalism.

I ponder quite a bit what drives people to acquire such degrees of material and monetary wealth. At my point in life, I've found much more freedom and self-satisfaction in having less. The more I gain, the more I lose my identity and autonomy. There was a time that walking into a Maison Blanche in New Orleans was a vastly different experience than walking into Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. Now they are all Macy's (or something of that bland ilk) located in generic suburban shopping malls where you can now buy the same cheaply-made dry goods from coast to coast. We are quickly evolving into a nation of sameness. In my recent journey south on I-5, I cannot tell you how many times I saw the same malls - Target, Best Buy, PetSmart,... - styled in the same architecture. It reminded me of those old video games where the same background plays over and over again.

Oh, and it is quite rainy here. Flooding (see above). I am glad I do not have a basement, as they invariable hold water. What a funny climate this is. I am glad that my 80-year-old home has stood the rigors of time and has been toasty and dry.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


So I made my pilgrimage to the dentist today for a chipped crown. I was sort of excited to spend some money of my newly established HSA account, but fortunately he sent me on my way and told me that I just needed a cleaning and left my HSA intact. Hmm, mayb I can spend that money on a fixed-gear hub for a bike that I hope to build. My criuser is well past two years old and as a daily driver starting to show its age. Besides, I need something a bit faster to get around town. I should be able to build the whole thing for under a hundred bucks, with mostly reused parts.

Another night at my moonlighting gig watching the rain pour down as my gloves dry on the heater nearby. Having good biking gear is definitely a big plus. I was actually wet from perspiration versus wet from the rain. Oddly enough, most people will need to wait until the weekend to feel the spray of the sea or snow on their face. I am lucky enough to experience getting all rosy-cheeked on a daily basis on my way to work. Today though, the deluge was a bit over the top. And the headwind riding down State Street along the water to Fairhaven was quite intimidating. But I am glad that I do not have an automobile, for today would be a perfect day to drive. And the less I bike, the fatter and more stressed out I get.

At least I have a dry, warm place to go home to. And for that I am lucky.

The picture is taken from the same front window facing suth towards town. I need to ask my housemate how to take pictures more in focus. Oops.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I've come to the realization that I need an extra hour of sleep in the winter months. During the summer, I get virtually no sleep. But in the winter, my body changes gears and I find that I am much more lethargic and have difficulty rolling out of bed at 8:00am, then 8:10, then 8:20, and I can usually rationalize one more snooze to take me to 8:30. And besides, after the heinous acts the US conducts or supports around the globe, it's always nice to wake up to the Canadian news from BC.

Not that the Canadians are saints, but overall a much less violent and angry population. I've read where the Canadians own more guns per capita than US residents, but seem to be able to solve their problems without resorting to killing one another.

And as I sit here looking forward to my post-moonlighting-gig Mrs. Fields Ice Cream Sandwich, I glance at the ingredients to see that it contains High Fructose Corn Syrup. Ack! I would not be surprised if things like HFCS wipe out our species in a few generations. I've read it has never been tested by the FDA, but is used in virtually everything (unless you are watchful): soda, bread, candies, ice cream - basically anything with a tinge of sweetening. You do not need to look to far to find out how bad it is for you. And although sucrose is metabolised by every cell in the body, HFCS is only metabolised by the liver. I've read that one's liver (of a diet high in HFCS) has similar fatty deposits not much different than that of an advanced alcoholic.

But fortunately you can go to the HFCS trade group's web site and be comforted by the fact HFCS is a marvel of science and all those granola-crunching liberal scientists just hate freedom and America and eating food that tasted good. I avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup like the plague.

The picture aboive is Cornwall Avenue near the park on a day sunnier than today.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Today I spent a bit more time reading "The Importance of Being Lazy."
  • It turns out that there are sixteen square feet of retail/mall space for every man, woman and child in this country,
  • We spend seven times the amount of time shopping as we do playing with our children,
  • 70% of people visit a mall at least once a week, and
  • we consume twice as much per capita as we did in 1940.
Now I could question many of assertions, but after reading this book, I question why I shop and what type of feeling or sensation this evokes. I am sure there is some physical hormonal action going on from the high created by buying something - satiating a perceived need. Fortunately I don't (think that I) possess that gene. But I do enjoy thrill of making a purchase, and considering that I never use credit cards, my needs, versus wants, tend to be quite rigidly defined.

And although I live a quite frugal life, I do manage to demonstrate my share of frivolity: One could hardly judge my 1975 BMW motorbike purchase as prudent, but I find that I need some mechanical hobby in my life. And in this society of eroding autonomy and identity, it's always nice to have some keepsake from another era, an anchor to my childhood. And I got it for a song anyway.

But to change subjects...
Today I had some friends over to talk about a seed swap that we are holding this month. I don't really know much about this, but that's one reason I wanted to get involved. I need to increase my ability to grow food in a time of potential crisis, and besides, it's always great to warm up your home on a chilly winter day with candles, tea and friends.

The picture was out the south facing window on a rainy Sunday night. I type this as I listen to the mellow jazz sounds rolling off WWOZ from New Orleans (oddly enough, I haven't listened to this station in months), and realize that it is soon Twelfth Night; Carnival will begin in the Crescent City, and beyond. Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Although I love work, I too realize the importance of breaking away from it, such as I did last week when I pulled the plug on my computer for a few days in California. Even coming home though, I felt that my company had imploded without me being a mere phone call away, or without monitoring e-mails with regularity.

But everything went smartly in my absence, and I realize two things: The first was that I really am not important as I think I am, and with reasonable planning, I can disappear for a few days. The next was the value of getting away from being dialed in constantly, and the benefit of stepping away from the play to become rejuvenated.

In the grand scheme of things, the short time that I am on this planet is so insignificant that I am amazed how seriously I take many things. I picked up this book at the library yesterday and it made me realize the value in appreciating my time right now that I have to enjoy my life, as well as the fact that I am lucky - in spite of my hectic schedule - that I am really have more free time than I believe. The problem is, working from home I always have no segregation of work versus leisure, so they have a tendency to taint one another.

I need to be more concentrated and compartmentalized in my work, and truly enjoy the free time I so cherish. And as this book points out, I need to pursue activities of passion and vigor, versus just embracing activities that occupy my free time. And I think I do this rather effectively, although working with an emerging company also demands the time that I realized it would. That's all I have to say today. Time to get ready to go to reggae night at the Wild Buffalo.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Here's an interesting picture showing the rate of unemployment now versus the much compared Great Depression of roughly eighty years ago. I always considered our unemployment numbers to be way understated, as many people are either underemployed or gave up searching for jobs paying market wages. Not only in places like Bellingham, where jobs requiring degreed workers are virtually non-existent, but I've found the same to be true in places like Cincinnati, where the erosion of the manufacturing base led to the elimination of related jobs in everything from IT to HR.

There are many scary facts regarding the specter of the Great Depression (such as: " terms of living standards, real per capita personal consumption expenditures did not recover to their 1929 level until 1941, giving American consumers 12 years of living standards lower than they had become used to), but I you don't need to dig too far beneath the surface of the mainstream media to see that strange things are afoot. Anyone seeking their news from Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc. is in for a big surprise.

And another interesting fact stated in this same blog is that to achieve income parity of the industrialized world with the emerging economies, income levels in the former will predictably decline while the latter's increase as a much greater driving economic force, versus the debt laden, overspent Americans. The productivity increases of the economy over the past decades are coming to fruition in all aspects of overproduction, from houses to vehicles to clothes to degreed job candidates.

I can envision a trend evolving where frugality once again becomes the norm, versus our current overconsumption and waste. And unlike the GD, jobs today continue to be offshored at alarming rates, so there really will really not be much of a rebound and recreation of these jobs in 2011 or beyond. I know many that are taking a defensive position (myself included) to stave off the impending crises through actions like reducing debt.

Some day I will write again about sunsets and beaches and sailing and mountains, but my interest in the economy has been all encompassing. Today was perfect weather where the snow that I woke up to was melted by three p.m. And tomorrow I will wake up with some pain, I'd imagine, as I took a spill on my cruiser after hitting an ice patch on the bike trail. Of course I wiped out in front of a group of eight young kids with their parents. "Don't try this at home," I told them. I think it looked worse than it felt. We'll see.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

le Jour de l'An

I am through with my Wells Fargo rant...for now.

The new year brings in rain, sleeping till noon, and reading up on the oil industry from OPEC's perspective. Even OPEC paints a lackluster picture of the future of oil. And supposing their estimated global reserves do exist (which I doubt), there is still a lack of infrastructure and qualified labor to fill our planet's growing demands for the myriad spawns of crude oil.

And add to this the speculators in the market, who drive the tremendous volatility of oil (and other commodity) prices; it will be an exciting ride. Oddly enough, projects for new exploration will be triggered by a sustained price of oil at $60/barrel (or much more - up to $90/b - depending upon who you ask). So oddly enough, the current cheap oil is a detriment to development of future sources, and will consequently create a downstream supply issue. Either way, I do not think we should become too comfy with oil at $40/b. And to digress, one could even surmise that companies were driven to the brink of bankruptcy by the $150/b prices - not to mention consumers, companies and government tightening their belts and reducing overall spending.

On a more positive note, my exciting New Years included biking to a party in Happy Valley for a few hours. I love riding in the rain. Considering that potable water will soon become increasingly precious around the globe, I am grateful for ever drop that falls on me and my surrroundings.

The picture above is from the town square in Arcata, California last week. Looking back, it was a nice relaxing trip. Have a good 2009 everyone.