Sunday, November 29, 2009

Consume

So "The Economy" in this country is generally measured by the Gross Domestic Product. And roughly 70% of the economy is driven by retail sales. I heard this morning on KGMI that one fifth of all retail sales are generated on Black Friday (an even I fortunately missed). And although all consumption is not solely retail sales, spending on retail goods plays a pick part in the composition of consumption.

I heard that the anticipated results of this year's numbers point to a 1/2% increase in retail sales, year-over-year. I guess this is good from a capitalist standpoint (the GDP needs to increase yearly in perpetuity), I find it surprising that these numbers do not fare better, as the United States becomes more of a service economy. Production, by definition, includes producing, designing, marketing, distribution of a good; everything else tends to fall into the Consumption bucket.

So my musings on a Sunday morning evoke these thoughts:
- As the production base continues to erode in this country, more and more of the economy will be based upon consumption versus production.
- Production jobs (ie, trades) historically have paid significantly higher than service jobs, hence the conitnued decline in wages and the consequent taxes.
- Sickness, natural disasters, litigation, inflation, etc. all drive the GDP. Is this a healthy metric for our country as a whole?

These are all things I can ponder (as I see a patch of blus sky) this afternoon as I do some chores around the house and garage.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday

Here is a picture taken nearby, although I do not recall when.

Another wonderful day to sleep in, read all day, with the single task of the day being to get to the library to swap Annie Proulx novels (this new one being Accordion Crimes, although I lost energy on the first page and instead started the last of Faulkner's writings set in Yoknapatawpha County that I've not yet raed).

And I randomly picked up a movie that might quite make it to my "list of most depressing movies ever": Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - a movie that I picked up because Ethan Hawke is in it. To this list I might add Requiem for a Dream (watched last night), Midnight Cowboy (although it ends with a glimmer of hope) and Deer Hunter, About Schmidt, or The Ice Storm. I've been compiling a list of depressing moview lately, although I know not why.

Yesterday was clear and the darkness came at 4:30pm. Today it seemed to be pitch black at that time. Funny how much of a difference cloud cover makes. It can be quite relaxing to spend a day on the couch with a good book or two, strong coffee, and a warm, happy dog at your feet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks

It's been a few days since I've written. And that's alright by me. Yesterday was a perfect day: Wake up, lay on the couch with the dog at my feet, drinking coffee, nap here and there. A bike ride down to the water filled a chunk of the afternoon, where I talked to my sister in Pittsburgh for quite some time as the sun peeked in and out of the clouds very intermittently. A wonderful meal was prepared, which was accompanied by the playing of Alice's Restaurant.

Other than work, so much hasn't been going on in my little world. I don't know how glamorously I can portray the drive down to Seattle. Once you hit the Skagit flats, it generally turns into an increasingly congested and uneventful trip. But I'm sort of spoiled being able to bike most places and not being confined to a car. How unhealthy.

So my housemate went down to Texas, and it's me and Magilla for the weekend. Fortunately I stumbled upon another Annie Proulx book from the library. She's like the Flannery O'Conner of the High Plains, and once I pick up one of her books, it is virtually impossible to put down.

But in the spirit of the holiday, I am very lucky to have my health, wit, family, wonderful friends and community, food in the cupboard, money in the bank, and a roof over my head. And ugly dog that just got taken for a walk.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Coffee

A day whence the stresses of starting a company in trying economic times can be maddening, it is always nice to encounter the cute, cheerful girl at my favorite coffee stand in Alger and to have the brief incident change my day or the better. These are the days that I cannot have enough warm coffee. And familiar smiles too. Moist, chilly, dark. Night begins to fall at four o'clock, and we're still a month away from the Winter Solstice.

On another note: I need to set my monthly Yahoo calendar to remind me to take out the garbage. I pay to have one big can emptied per month. The rest of the weeks the recycling can be picked up for free. Most months, I don't even fill the can up either. But I guess I don't really buy a whole lot.

Although I find communities that don't recycle appalling, recycling really isn't the answer in my opinion. Reducing one's level of consumption is. And living in a city where the mean wage is eighteen bucks an hour, you set your wants/needs bar pretty low, and realize that you don't need a whole lot of stuff. Good quality, and less of it. And oddly enough, I find living with less to be more fulfilling. I wonder if I will feel the same way once my business and its earnings mature.

I stumbled across this picture of the summer that I took last summer, and set as my wallpaper today.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dock

I really wanted to take my camera today on my sojourn around town, but forgot it and regretted it, so I took this picture form here, taken last month. It was a day of not doing much: visiting some friends, riding down to Fairhaven, spending time sitting on a bench on the boardwalk (above) doing absolutely nothing but watching the world go by. I need more days like today to recharge.

Clouds today, rain and wind tonight.

On another note...
One of the searches that I consistently see that brings people to this blog is for people searching on Bellingham gangs. Now I'm sure there are a few gang members in this town, but I haven't really seen anything exhibiting any great presence here. I knew people in places like Happy Valley or Alabama Hill that talked about a house where gang members lived, but not a whole lot more.

Yeah, drugs seem to be preent here due to being a border town and being so close to BC. But there's virtually no violence in this town and it seems that compared to the first-hand accounts of what I hear in place like California, it's really a non-event up here. Maybe the gangs too are more mellow in Bellingham. So unless they are gangs of benevolence, their dealings in drugs, weapons and violence (am I missing anything?) seem to be either insignificant or effectively beneath the radar.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mist

I searched for some pictures on Bellingham Mist and this is what came up. It's from a local photographer, Peter James, a very nice person whom I've met a few times and I believe has a studio right down the ay from where I am writing tonight - The Anker Cafe on Cornwall next to the Pickford.

But this morning I was faced with a dilemma: ride or drive. I go to a breakfast meeting on Thursday, which entails leaving my house at 6:45am in the near darkness. Add to that the rain, wind and cold, and the warmth of a vehicle can be rather enticing. But this morning I opted for the bike, which surprised even me on this early, damp dawn. And I appreciated that the rest of the day, even though I was able to get out and run errands a few more times into the afternoon in the increasing southerlies, anticipated to subside over the next day. Thankfully.

Might head to the Nightlight (no cover) to see a friend's band open up for a bigger act. I should run becuase I'm sure they've gone on already...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Florida

I find that it's rejuvenating to seek sunshine some time in the thick of winter. This year I scored a flight to Fort Lauderdale to around two hundred bucks and arranged to stay with a friend who needs some work on a condo that he is renting (the past tenant just moved out). So I work by day and find some time to lay on a beach and then have fun all night. And build up my Vitamin D stores. And hopefully relax, although my computer and wireless card will probably never be too far away.

But today is another day spent at the desk. Versus yesterday, which was spent up and down I-5. And tonight a pot luck - meeting a new group of people, which is always fun. Not much more going on here. The wind is picking up again. It smells like snow, and today was the first day I needed to wear gloves out and about on my bike. I guess winter is here.

The picture was taken a few weeks ago heading towards town by the library.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More Wind

DANIEL JOHNSON | THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Christal Taylor of Bellingham struggled with her kite at Little Squalicum Beach on Bellingham Bay, Sunday afternoon, Nov. 15, 2009. Taylor came out to enjoy the rough weather at the beach with her boyfriend, Wyatt Winston, of Bellingham and dog, Aspen. The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for western Whatcom County until Tuesday, Nov. 17, afternoon.

I frequently take pictures from The Herald to post here. Their photographers frequently capture essence and moment of the Bellingham experience. So now that I have the ability to drive more in Bellingham, I find the bad weather much less burdensome. But yet I am clamoring to get outside in the rain, as was lucky enough to run some errands around town in the steady rain. Most times riding one gets moist from the incessant drizzle and you arrive at your destination with damp khakis; today it rained hard and warranted the full rain suit.

But the drive up through the Alger Pass (that's what I call it) was again magical where the mountains touch the sky and disappear into the clouds and this aura enshrouds the towering lush conifers. Although wet, windy, cloudy and dark by four in the afternoon, it was a beautiful day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend

The grand opening of the Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher Building Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009, in Bellingham.–|PHILIP A. DWYER | THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

This weekend was a great one to do little. The list of house chores grows shorter overall after this weekend (although I did need to add "fix broken storm window" to the list - but that's another story). I helped a friend move this morning and spent a blustery afternoon in the yard. The wind continues to blow hard on a Sunday evening, with the current speed of 27mph from the top of the Bellingham Cold Storage roof. Not too bad, I guess. Seems like more.

Tomorrow begins another work week. It is the first time in a long time that I have been able to take a day or two to not be enmeshed by work. We launched a business a few months back and it is finally gaining traction and will (thankfully) not continue to be the cause of inordinate stress in my life. But it's still the predominant thought in my mind, but fortunately the headaches are going away.

So hopefully more exciting things lie ahead. Hopefully I'll report on the progress of the VW Weekender. A little progress is being made on that front. Working on the interior now, and a carburetor rebuild is not too far off. I should see if I can get it running before we take the transaxle out of it (that's one of the reasons I got such a deal on it). Another day...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hens

The chickens have turned out to be a real treat. And they are young and producing a fine clutch of eggs. I was told that this will diminish over time, but that's fine. We'll add two more next year. Tomorrow is a tour of chicken coops and I happened to get my house listed on the tour. And I'll probably join some people to catch a ride to the others located around Bellingham.

Not much more than that happening here. A cold front blew through and it's time to get the gloves out. And put the storm windows on. And those little pieces of wood that cover the crawl space vents. The joy of home ownership. But at least having a small home is quite manageable. And as I've said before, the quality of a coal miner's house built in 1928 from old-growht cedar will probably outlast anything built today.

Those are my musings from the coffee house across from the farmers' market on a drizzly Friday night. Tomorrow is the night to go out; tonight is scary movie night.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

War

Too much education makes one too liberal minded. So does living in the Pacific Northwest. So does the juxtaposition of working in the corporate world and then foregoing the riches in an effort to achieve a higher caliber of quality of life, versus the endless pursuit of 'stuff.' But I digress.

I have always felt that the US was in a downward spiral with its increasing military overstretch around the world to the benefit of the private sector. Not only is this country in an unwinnable war, but the cost is staggaring and retarding any real growth in this alleged economic rebound as we continue to pour money into a highly into a mono-/oligopolistic industry that is not driven by market forces at all.

Here is an interesting link that drives that point home: The United States, while it continues to pour money into a highly inefficient industry the benefits few, will never see the economic resurgence versus if that same money were spent here on domestic programs, such as education, health care or our much needed infrastructure improvements.

Our country crumbles, as we continue to throw money into this futile campaign in the Middle East. And I won't even go into the bank bailouts - "the collapse of our society if we don't bail them out" sounding eerily familiar to the "muchroom cloud over Manhattan" if we didn't intervene in the Iraqi affairs. What a mess. I wish I felt the world was a safer place after the trillions spent since 2001. But I don't.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eggs

So the chickens continue to lay eggs at a rate of roughly one a day each. I was told that chickens, like women, are born with a finite number of eggs, and that hens (I am not really sure about women) will lay eggs less frequently over time, although they do get bigger.

Here is my housemate displaying one of the daily treats.

I've been told the Rhode Island Reds are a pleasant personable (can a bird really be personable - ie, have the favorable attributes of a person?) bird and love to be petted. I think I will add more next spring. Maybe two or three more.

A long day down in Kent and Anacortes. Fortunately I drove down with a business colleague, which was a nice change and plus, he's a nice guy. There is an army of us worker bees out any about in the world driving in white Ranger pickups keeping the gears of capitalism grinding along (in spite of all the efforts of our taxpayer subsidized corporate banking system to crush small business, but that's another rant). I've never been aware of all the tradespeople out and about. And now I am one. I think. And I never knew how many people drove white, stripped, fleet pickups until I started driving one.

We are everywhere.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Speed

Another Monday. And a day to drive down to Anacortes. I have grown into a driver that takes in all the scenery and doesn't understand why everyone is in such a rush driving up and down I-5. Today was one such magical day when the evergreen cloaked foothills were enshrouded in a smattering of clouds.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't always a slow poke on the road. I remember in the eighties making the drive down to Philly on the PA Turnpike's Northeast Extension from Clarks Summit. My friend estimated our speed at around 130 miles per hour. I thought that was a bit high, but now that I think of it, we regularly made the 108-mile leg in under an hour. And still had time to pull off for a few minutes and each smoke a Chesterfield King around the Mahoning Valley exit.

But now I am still soaking all the wonderful vistas on the short jaunt down to the Skagit Valley. Tomorrow is down to south of Seattle. It looks like that will hopefully be the extent of my driving for the week. Having a car is certainly convenient, but I miss being out in the elements of Cascadia.

The picture is from somewhere off the Redwood Highway (I think that's what it's called) from I-5 towards the coast on my housemate's recent trek home.

And to think it's been twenty years since the Berlin Wall fell. Tempus fugit.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Northwest

video
Here is a short video of nothing really. But when you haven't had a car for two years, driving and other mundane tasks can be rather enjoyable. Fortunately, I haven't gotten into the habit of driving all over yet. The bike is still my primary means of transportation. This is a video taken driving down Northwest Avenue through the Birchwood neighborhood. A typical day in Bellingham: clouds, dizzle, rain, heavy rain, wind, rain, clouds, and then the sun peeks through and a striking sunset ends the day.

But yesterday I needed to go to the dump us in Ferndale in an effort to free up space in my garage. That was a big step. The next will be to get rid of the myriad chemicals and fertilizers that the previous owners left in the garage.

That's about the extent of the excitement this weekend so far. Today will be a day of visiting friends over in Birchwod and later work at the coffee shop. Tonight I hope to see Southern Culture on the Skids at the Nightlight. A Sunday night is always a fun time to go out. And tickets are only twelve bucks. And I've wanted to see this band for years. Looking forward to it big time. It's nice to live between two world-class cities - far enough away that you escape the constant maddening rush of the urbanites, but well placed to see these acts that are traveling between these two point. (Actually, SCOTS is heading back to Virginia after this show, although they did play Seattle the last two nights and Portland before that.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wind & Fire

Today I awoke to the sound of helicopters outside my window. It turns out that a school built in 1903 caught fire around one o'clock a.m. and burned through the night. It was only about ten blocks from my house and roughly 600 students attended middle school there.

I haven't heard yet for certain, but it was said that there were welders on the roof until late in the evening. Imagine being one of those works and the feeling of waking up this morning hearing of the news and thinking "holy shit, I forgot to turn the _________ off last night before I left the job site." And the worst of my concerns right now is making payroll for my emerging company next Monday that recently hired a few more guys. But I'm the east coast finance guy, so I am naturally conditioned to be stressed. Fortunately, I've set some benchmarks for this company and will convince myself to relax and mellow out once this company is on a steady course and even keel.

Geez, it's Thursday night at 6:50pm and the gusting wind is hardly beckoning me outside. But I do feel compelled to ride around in the blowing drizzle. Or maybe just relax tonight and listen to the rhodedendron branches rubbing and rain pattering against the windows. A good night to stay in and listen to some James Taylor. Or go brave the weather and rent a movie.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Food

"I like how everyone is commenting on it, says Grady Hewlett, 11, as he parades around Fairhaven collecting candy Saturday October 31, 2009 in Bellingham.–|ANDY BRONSON | THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

A day of getting caught up and being anchored to my desk all day. Somehow I've grown to like the ring of being called a business owner here in Bellingham. But so far, things are shaping up on the business front and I really don't have a whole lot to say tonight.

All during the day I think of things to write and by the time the evening rolls around, my mind draws a blank. The time change is taking its toll, and my effort is to get more sleep throughout the winter as the sun starts to sets around 4:30 and by seven you're thinking it's time for bed. But keeping active in the winter helps, and Wednesdays is the night to volunteer at the food bank. Geeze, this will be my fourth year working there. And it's always plenty of fun and I look forward to helping out a few hours a week. Fortunately, the community offers plenty of support for this wonderful place.

And besides, it's one of the few consistent things in my week and offers an anchor for the rest of my tumutuous life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Train

How odd that I was driving down the interstate and I saw this rail car on a trailer at the truck scales around Exit 212 and I thought of these train cars down in Fairhaven and wished that someday someone could make a viable business out of these relics. It looks like it won't be in Bellingham though, as they are headed somewhere south of Stanwood.

One of the neatest things to do in this town (although I rarely do) is to walk the alleys and see the underside of people's lives by the things they have out by their garages. Many, many VWs can be found in the alleys, and it still amazes me how many I still see up and down the highway running in solid shape. A guest Saturday and Sunday and another last night. Time to relax and get my desk cleaned off. But as is indicated by my writing presently, procrastinion prevails.

A cloudy, moist day. And a Grateful Dead concert from a few decades back that I am pretty sure I attended will hopefully help lead me to a productive morning. Tuesdays are great, as I get to settle into the work week. Hopefully no further distractions will ensue.

Across the Rio Grand-eo
Across the lazy river
Across the Rio Grand-eo
Across the lazy river...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2

"Well, I used to be a woman, you know
I took you for a ride,
I let you fly my airplane
It looked good for your pride."
-Neil Young, Last Trip to Tulsa

The craziness of Bellingham never ceases to amaze me. Last night's Halloween happened to coincide with a Saturday night which meant thousands and thousands of people in costume out and about. Bellingham's downtown is rather compact, so the main night clubs are no more than a five minute walk.

So it was a night of revelry and excitement and I was lucky to have danced with every hot woman at the Wild Buffalo last night. Not to mention the nubile sprite the flew into my little world and we danced and danced and then she kissed me passionately and flew off into the night, vanishing as quickly and magically as she appeared. (I had to come clean with her and tell her I was was really a man. She giggled and said, "I knew.") Was she ever there at all? Or just a dream?

The night was surreal and magical, even more so than Bellingham typically seems to be.