Wednesday, February 28, 2018

George Bush: At Least Part of the Reason Washington State Is Not Part of Canada

A case can be made (and has been made by some historians) that what is now Washington State would have ended up part of Canada if not for George Bush (

George Washington Bush (Samuel Patrick drawing)

The specifics of his early life, including the year he was born are a bit unclear ( Based on what is known, Bush had seen some success prior to traveling to what is now Washington State from Missouri in 1844. I like the unconfirmed oral history that he worked for a time as a fur trapper including a stint with the Hudson Bay Company.

What can be ascertained is that he likely faced discrimination in Missouri and saw opportunity and more freedom traveling to what was then the disputed Oregon Country. He and his party were heading for the Willamette Valley. The American settlement in the Willamette Valley had grown enough that the Americans living there set up a provisional government within this otherwise disputed Oregon County. One of the earliest laws passed was an exclusion law against blacks.

Bush and his fellow pioneers/settlers headed north of the Columbia settling in what later became Tumwater. They were the first settlers north of the Columbia. Others followed. These early north of the Columbia settlers partially bolstered the United States claims to include the land that would become Washington State when the border through the disputed Oregon County was finally settled. By all accounts, Bush was a very generous and gracious early settler who greatly aided those that followed and he was beloved by those in his community.

Bush's legacy appears on maps of the area and a school is named after him.

This short talk on the Cowlitz Trail that Bush helped blaze is part of the local South Puget Sound and Tumwater pride and remembrance of his life and legacy.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Amtrak Bellingham to Vancouver BC

A favored way of taking the 55 mile trip from Bellingham to the big city of Vancouver is via the Amtrak rail. The train terminates very near downtown Vancouver. A modest walk or a short sky train ride takes one into the center of the city. Taking the train avoids high parking charges, sometimes very long border waits, slow traffic, and the stress of driving congested and unfamiliar city streets. 

There is also the percs. Open beer or wine, reading, or taking in scenery that is otherwise missed via driving. 

The main limitation is timing of the trains. But if the timing works, a far better way than driving. 

A few notes and images from the ride up and back  

Good views of the Cornwall Avenue Landfill in Bellingham

The end of Cornwall Avenue was used as a municipal garbage dump into the early 1970s. The garbage added to fill on the tidelands at this location from past saw mill and warehouse use that was on piers and fill. Most recently dredged sediments from a port waterway were added to the landfill and covered with a white plastic liner. Eventually this tract of landfill will be converted into a park.

Former GP paper mill site 

The former paper mill is mostly gone. Ongoing construction prep and cleanup work has been taking place. And recently mush of the mill site and port yard area has been covered with piles of logs for shipping.

Former paper mill site
Some of the old tanks from the facility are to be left as historic/legacy features

Past the transitioning blight waterfront the views do become scenic.

Old cement pier and Bellingham Bay 
Lummi Island is the main feature across the bay

Tenant Lake southeast of Ferndale
The view from the rail line is the best view of this swampy lake 

Blaine Harbor just south of the border

A favorite part of the train ride is passing through White Rock, BC. People are almost always out on the beach and always seem happy to see the passenger train. 

White Rock itself was a bit camouflaged in the snow.
The rock is painted white and is a large glacial erratic on the shoreline

White Rock pier

Another nice stretch is the estuary on the shores of Semiahmoo Bay. Lots of ducks, eagles and hawks

The rail line parallels the main highway (99) for a stretch. Felt smug seeing the cars backed up behind the snow plows while we relaxed in the observation car.

Fraser River at New Westminster

The return trip is a sunset trip depending on the time of year.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Black Panthers in Seattle

When I lived in Seattle, I would regularly see a Black Panther. He would be standing at the main entrance to the University of Washington campus collecting money for the breakfast programs run by the Black Panthers. I regularly put some money in the can.

Breakfast programs for school children are now a regular program - the schools I taught at in the 1980s had these programs. The Black Panthers had what at the time were radical ideas -- feeding kids was one of those radical ideas.

Map of Headquarters and Breakfast Centers in Seattle

I did see the movie. It is good. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Northwest Music: Typhoon - "Rorschach"

Typhoon came back to the Pacific Northwest and visited Seattle at the Crocodile. The tour is associated with their latest release, Offerings, a very ambitious and thought provoking double album. I am in the crowd at this Portland show:

Good complex music and lyrics that takes time to digest. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Non Bare Earth Lidar

Lidar (light detecting and ranging) is a landscape reading tool that I use whenever the imagery is available. I have frequently posted lidar derived imagery. The ability to have bare earth imagery with accurate elevation has been a huge change for geologists. But the non bare earth imagery is also a powerful tool.  

Lidar image showing electric high voltage power lines, forest, pastures and homes

The image above has not gone through the computer program that removes the trees and thus does not show the underlying bare earth features very well. But in this case I wanted to see the areas of forest cover; Where are there big trees? I was able to compare this 2013 lidar image with Google Earth images to assess if the a stand of large trees was still present. At issue was the role large trees play in intercepting and partially routing debris floods and debris flows on alluvial fans. Having the imagery of where large tree stands were located versus just brush helped my analyses.   

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Our Gun Experiment Should be Discontinued

Part of my work sometimes involves long drives. On such days I get a good dose of news - maybe too good of a dose. Yesterday's news of yet another mass shooting at a school was heart rending. Market Place, and NPR show on market/economic issues, mentioned the shooting at the start and end of the show with a repeat of a statement the program made in 2012 and in 2016 that there are more places to buy a gun in the United States than there are Starbucks (, 2016)  One could quibble over details of what it means to be "a place to buy a gun".

My own thought on this policy issue is that we have essentially performed a giant experiment regarding guns in this country. The results suggest that we may want to call an end to this experiment and try something different. Then again, this may have little to do with policy but a lot more to do with making money.

Monday, February 12, 2018

More Snow Geese

I participated in the annual raptor count on the Skagit and Samish Flats. That is mostly I tagged along with a couple of folks who knew what they were doing. We counted 53 raptors in our section. While doing the count we observed a large flock of Anser casrulescens (snow goose) flying into area a bit west of us just north of LaConner. So after the raptor counting was complete we detoured out to check out the geese. I recently posted on this population HERE

The vast majority of the geese are mostly white, but there is a gray/blue morph. 
The blue phase goose is just to the left of center with head down 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Swirling Hole in The Clouds

I have been traveling and saw this on my return flight. 

I am inclined to believe this cloud pattern is the result of a localized low pressure system, but have not thought through alternatives. The cloud layer is a thin essentially elevated fog layer over cold ocean water with relatively warm air, but in this case appears to have some circulation taking place.