Author Archives: Fish & Bicycles

About Fish & Bicycles

Fish & Bicycles is a general topics blog, currently published out of Bellingham, Washington, USA. No, not a blog ostensibly about Bellingham, although our fair hamlet is mentioned regularly. Think of it as the voice of someone from Bellingham, someone who writes about whatever strikes his fancy at any given moment, on any given day: current events, life experiences, art, design, music, film, theater, the written word, technology, travel, sustainability, spirituality, fatherhood, etc. The title is not intended as a direct reference to the old feminist slogan, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Rather, the author loves Fish & Bicycles for its wonderful Yin-Yang qualities and the fact that both fish (namely salmon) and bicycles (of all shapes and sizes) just happen to have a strong iconic presence in Bellingham. F&B is an unapologetic English Major in the Garrison Keillor tradition, as well as a musician, husband, and father.

Baby, It’s Dark Outside: Life Near The 49th Parallel

solsticeWhen most people talk or write about about the shortage of sunshine here in Bellingham, Washington, in late autumn and winter, including myself — When Wednesday became Sun Day in Bellingham — the blame is usually placed on the prodigious rain and clouds we’re kinda known for.

But, this only partly explains the sunshine deficit.

The other reason has to do with the fact that we are very close to the 49th Parallel, latitude 48° 45′ 1″ N, to be exact.

To put it in less scientific terms: Today the sun will set at 4:14pm, the shortest day of the year.

With the sun rising these days at around 8:00am, which happens to be when my work day begins, this means that I wake in the dark and it’s still dark when I leave my office at 5:00pm.

Brutal.

Of course, the glorious flip-side of living at this latitude is that we’re awarded with loads of daylight in the summer, with the sun setting after 9:00pm, giving me 4+ hours of daylight once I’m free from work.

It’s quite the pendulum, but, for me, the summer abundance more than makes up for the winter scarcity.

And, look at it this way: winter solstice becomes a GREAT excuse for a party, a celebration of the returning of the light, cuz starting tomorrow, the daylight will start increasing a little bit everyday, baby!

Woohoo!

Hanukkah: The Festival of Oily Food

hanukkah-miracleSo, that right there, via NPR.org’s Sandwich Monday series, is Dan Pashman‘s contribution: the Hanukkah Miracle.

It seems appropriate to share this, as tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the 8-day Jewish Festival of Lights, although I do so with the following disclaimer:

WARNING: This post, if the above photo hasn’t already done so, may induce the following side effects: learning, laughter, salivation, craving, hunger, or, depending on one’s personal dietary inclinations, disgust, nausea, projectile vomiting.

As Dan explains:

Hanukkah celebrates a miracle at the ancient Temple on a night when the Jews thought they had only enough oil to light the candles for that one evening. To their delight, the oil lasted eight miraculous nights, and that’s why foods cooked in oil are a common part of the Hanukkah observance…

American Jews eat fried potato pancakes (latkes), but in Israel, Jews celebrate with a different oily, fried food — doughnuts. I’ve brought these two customs together to create a new sandwich: the Hanukkah Miracle.

Here’s how you make it: Slice a glazed yeast doughnut in half and fry it in butter. Flip it inside out, spread sour cream on the bottom and applesauce on the top, and insert a potato pancake. (You want the sour cream closer to your tongue to accentuate its flavor.)

Now, I grew up in a latke household, and what Mr. Pashman doesn’t explain is that latkes are usually served with applesauce and sour cream. And, while I LOVE this, to some, bizarre combination of ingredients, the thought of stuffing those three elements between a glazed doughnut that has been fried in butter…

…yeah, here comes the nausea.

I do recommend you check out Dan’s piece at NPR.org, although with one more warning: it contains a graphic photo depicting his 4-year old daughter consuming the Hanukkah Miracle.

Adventures In Graph Innuendo

Listen, either I’m the biggest pervert in the world, or many, many minds should be blown by the fact that the following graph actually made it past the editors of Forbes.com and onto the interwebs, accompanying an article titled How Successful People Squash Stress.

stressgraph

How does this happen?!

How can anyone look at that graph and not see what I see, and I’m not even on the staff of a fairly prestigious publication, where people get paid good money to know stuff about the power of imagery, symbolism, and suggestiveness?

I mean, even with my rudimentary Photoshop skills, it was obvious to me that all I had to do was remove the erect penis in order for this to be a perfectly respectable visual aide for the article!

stressgraph2

The most unfortunate thing, of course, is that what Travis Bradberry writes in this piece is actually quite good and contains very helpful information that could increase the wellbeing of a lot of people.

Hopefully, it still will, once we’ve all stopped laughing.

Video Fridays: Barbershop Sexual Healing

ragtime-galsTo paraphrase the oft-quoted Most Interesting Man In The World, I don’t always watch TV (no cable and no antenna), but when I see clips on the interwebs, many of my favorites come from Jimmy Fallon, previously from his stint on Late Night, and now on The Tonight Show.

And as I tried to select this week’s Video Fridays, given I’ve been in a bit of a funk this past week, I wanted something light and funny, and the following clip delivers heaping portions of light and funny.

Fallon hilariously calls the barbershop quartet that appears in this recurring bit The Ragtime Gals, and I love these bits for several reasons. First, there’s the contrast of the early 1900s, painfully white genre mixing with contemporary, decidedly non-white songs. Second, barbershop singing is NOT easy, and yet these are done very, very well.

The Ragtime Gals have been joined by guests in the past, notably Justin Timberlake and Kevin Spacey, and this past week Steve Carell is featured in this awesome version of the Marvin Gaye classic Sexual Healing

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend!

Buy Local: Holiday Edition

local1I’ve mentioned here several times over the years how much I appreciate my adopted hometown of Bellingham, Washington, for its deep commitment to a local living economy, this idea that the whole community benefits when we choose to support locally-owned businesses. It’s more than a slogan here, as evident by the fact that we have so many local businesses that are thriving.

This wasn’t always the case.

When I first moved to Bellingham in 1993, the downtown area west of Interstate 5 was practically a ghost town. A once-thriving commercial district, in 1988 it was nearly abandoned by businesses, including critical anchor department stores J.C. Penny, Sears, and The Bon Marché (now Macy’s), when the Bellis Fair Mall opened on the other side of I-5, followed by the usual suspect national “big box” chain stores along the same stretch of road, heading north, away from downtown, a road known as the Guide Meridian.

Slowly but surely, however, an unlikely and wonderful thing started to happen.

One-by-one, locally-owned businesses started popping up: restaurants, shops, art galleries, music venues, a farmers market, and even a non-profit independent cinema!

Today, not only is downtown Bellingham thriving thanks to local businesses, but our second largest commercial area west of the freeway, the Historic Fairhaven District, consists almost entirely of locally-owned. In fact, with the exception of a couple of gas stations and banks, the only non-local businesses I can think of downtown and in Fairhaven are Starbucks and Taco Del Mar, and both are headquartered just 90 miles south in Seattle.

Again, this can only happen with a community commitment, whereby some community members choose to invest in starting up businesses, and the rest of the community invests in supporting those businesses.

So, wherever you are, supporting your locally-owned businesses just makes sense on SO many levels. Give it a try!

And, to drive this message home, here’s a fantastic infographic courtesy of Advocates for Independent Business:

holidayshopping_infographic

Eco-Flushing: Revisited

greenflush1Back in August 2011, I posted the first photo you see here, after having discovered this Eco-Flushing For Dummies toilet on the campus where I work.

The placard above the toilet explains:

  • the green flush handle should be pulled up for liquid waste;
  • it should be pressed down for solid waste;
  • it is coated to protect against germs; and
  • “For the system to work, we need your help. Please take a look at the diagram…and push the handle in the direction which best suits your needs. With your assistance, we can do our part to conserve this precious resource.”

At the time, I applauded the toilet and declared it superior to another prominent dual-flush design that, I felt, fails to make it clear what the two buttons are for:

dual

I stand by my assertion that the two-button design is less than informative, but I do have to admit that the Eco-Flushing For Dummies toilet, while ok in a public bathroom setting, perhaps particularly appropriate on a high school or college campus where, you know, education is a thing, it may not be the best, most aesthetically-appealing choice for the home or, let’s say, an elegant restaurant.

Enter John Liow’s Half:

half-toilet

Via Inhabitat:

“Half” is an observation of how suggestive design can more intentionally encourage the use of the water-saving “half flush” function on a dual-flush toilet. The white half is designed to be smooth and inviting while the black half is sharp and offensive, encouraging conscious water usage.

Read more about industrial designer John Liow’s Half and “suggestive design” at Index: Design to Improve Life.

The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful: Revisited

gillian-welchI just read a terrific column at Salon.com by someone known more for setting words to music, the wonderful singer-songwriter Gillian Welch.

The crux of the piece is best explained by Gillian in her opening paragraph:

I want to talk about the tradition of tragedy in Southern folk music. This tradition connects with why people make art – to deal with the gnarliest, most painful events that occur. Things beyond your control, almost beyond human understanding. This is why we sing about them: the sinking of the Titanic, hurricanes, rapes, assassination, murder, suicide, drugs …

I highly recommend reading the rest, but the reason I’m sharing it here is because it reminded me of one of my earliest posts here at Fish & Bicycles, published five years ago in only my second month, something titled The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful.

In that post, I covered some of the same territory visited by Ms. Welch, and so I thought I’d share this excerpt:

[Poet James] Stephens writes:

For, as he meditated misery
And cared it into song — Strict Care, Strict Joy!
Caring for grief he cared his grief away:
And those sad songs, tho’ woe be all the theme,
Do not make us grieve who read them now —
Because the poet makes grief beautiful.

This is why art is so important. It is nothing less than our humanity in action. We work through our experiences, experiences of grief and hardship and joy, shaping them into words, melodies, images, movements, theatrics, structures, etc., and the care we take to make something meaningful of these experiences is an incredibly powerful, positive, hopeful thing. And we receive these gifts from artists and find that these works speak to similar experiences we’ve had, making us feel sympathetic solidarity, enabling us to feel less alone with the pain and love and even terror we have been through.

I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that discovering great music, literature, and visual art saved my life, and I can’t imagine surviving a life void of this Strict Care.