Work in Progress: Scottishness, Medical Marijuana

To paraphrase the famous sage, Willy Wonka: So much time, so little to write about. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

I’ve got two posts in the hopper, one on an article from BBC News about Scottish identity, the other a reaction to a New York Times piece on medical marijuana.

One hits home and the other seems like a major red flag to me.

So, stay tuned and find out which is which.


Baker Report: Day 1

Well, it didn’t look much like the photo here, with rain falling on us all day, but we managed to have a great time.

At first, when we realized that the weather forecast had lied to us for the millionth time, we were all a bit disappointed. There was plenty of snow, since 200 inches had fallen in November, but snow wear and rain wear are two very different things. Our poly underwear, jackets, pants and gloves keep us dry and toasty all day when it’s snowing or clear on the mountain, yet our gear is not waterproof and we were soaked through by lunchtime.

Still, it was our first ski/snowboard trip of the year, the slopes were wide open because of a low turnout, so with no long lines at the lifts we crammed in a lot of runs and had a lot of fun. I’m able to keep up with my wife and son a lot better, and so we had more together time.

A friend of ours likes to say, “It’s all skiing!” It’s kinda like the bumper sticker that says, “A bad day _________ is better than a good day at work.” Yet, our friend’s saying is broader than that. To him setting the alarm to get up early the night before is skiing. Packing the car in the morning is skiing. Driving that long, winding road to the ski area is skiing… well, you get the idea.

So the rain? It’s all skiing!

Mt. Baker, here we come!

I’m not a morning person, and I don’t like going to bed early. However, there is one thing that will highly motivate me to hit the sack several hours before my normal bedtime, and do so filled with excitement, like I’m a little kid the night before Christmas or something.

Tomorrow morning will be our first trip to Mt. Baker this season, and I’m already in bed and in my jammies as I write this.

The snow report looks great, the weather forecast appears to be highly favorable, and we’ll be driving up more relaxed than ever before, in the improved safety of our new-used 4-wheel drive Hyundai Santa Fe.

I have a goal to get up to Chair 8 this season, I’m pretty sure that it won’t be this first trip, but I’m determined to get there as soon as possible.

Wish me luck!


Fish & Bicycles Alert!

It’s very unlikely that I’ll be adding new posts for the next few days, friends.

I might be able to sneak something in, but I can’t promise anything, and don’t even think about 10:10.

Once again. Happy Thanksgiving!

Celebrating Turkey

Doh! Not that turkey! (Damned Google Images!)

Doh! Not with the feathers still on! I look at that
photo too long and it’s back to Tofurky for me.

Ah! That’s better.

You know that happy, contented, sleepy feeling you get after a Thanksgiving meal with your family, even if spending time with your family is no picnic?

Well, on this Thanksgiving be sure to thank the turkey for that. Turkey has high levels of L-Tryptophan, an amino acid that brings on the happy sleepies, and which looks like this:

And so we thank the turkey for looking SO much more appetizing, with its golden brown skin, stuffed with dressing, and cranberries on the side.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Pride of a Dad

See that?! That’s my pride and joy! That’s my 12-year old son Julian, competing in the 14th Annual Seattle Bouldering Challenge (SBC) at the Stone Gardens Climbing Gym in Seattle.

Hundreds of climbers competed in the event this past Saturday, and Julian came in 6th out of 36 in his division. He’s been rock climbing for years now, but only joined the climbing team at the Whatcom YMCA about six months ago.

For those not in the know, bouldering consists of climbing challenging routes, called problems, without a harness and rope, using a crash pad for safety. In climbing gyms, the routes/problems consist of a series of holds marked with colored tape. The problems in the SBC were given point values, from easy to difficult, and each climber wandered around attempting the problems, trying to earn as many points as possible. They got 5 attempts at a given problem, and only earned the points if they completed it by reaching the end point in total control, with both hands on the last hold, having used only the holds marked for that problem.

In the photo here, you can see Julian making a big reach, not easy to do, requiring a lot of hand, wrist, and arm strength. He is so into the sport these days that, in addition to rigorous team practices twice a week, two hours a pop, he regularly spends time in his room doing even more conditioning: push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, etc.

The most satisfying thing a parent can experience, I think, is when you see that your child is passionate about something positive, internally motivated to learn, progress, and achieve. It seems to stem from and builds a level of self-confidence that really helps a person in life.

I’m so excited to see where this takes him.

Watch your back, Boundary Bay

The first few times I tried the offerings at Bellingham’s younger brew pub, Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen, around the time they opened about a year ago, I was thoroughly unimpressed.

I’m not a big fan of German beers, so I don’t hold it against them that their taps at the time were dominated by Pilsner, Lager, Kolsch, and Schwarzbier. However, I do hold it against them that that their IPA was TERRIBLE!

When I learned a few weeks ago that Chuckanut earned two gold and two silver medals, as well as the Best Small Brewpub award at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, I figured that either I don’t know ANYTHING about beer or Chuckanut has made a dramatic improvement in one year.

It is my pleasure, then, to report that I thoroughly enjoyed the beers I tasted on a recent visit.

Chuckanut is bucking convention, eschewing the trend of naming their beers for entertainment rather than identification. Therefore, rather than something like Angry Angel Kolsch, Chuckanut offers, simply, a Kolsch. Rather than Harpoon Leviathan Big Bohemian Pilsner, you’ll find, simply, Pilsner. Fortunately, their beer tastes much better than their boring, utilitarian names suggest.

On my visit I sampled three of their beers that I hadn’t tried before: Foreign Stout, Strong Ale, and Brown Ale. (Screw those German beers!)

The stout was my favorite, the perfect pint for a cold night in Bellingham, very nice complexity, malts roasted to perfection, and great full body and mouthfeel. Yum!!!

The Strong Ale was incredibly well balanced between the hops and malts and had a very full body that belied its light amber color. Like the stout, its 6.5% alcohol level was not overwhelming at all, and, rather, offered a very nice warming effect. (Again, nice on a cold night.)

The final offering was the biggest surprise of the evening. The Brown Ale is not a style that I’m particularly fond of. My experience with them is that they tend to be too thin, malty, and sweet, leaving me wanting the greater complexity and full body of a good stout. The brown was ordered by a friend and I was offered a taste, otherwise I wouldn’t have been tempted to try it.

Chuckanut’s Brown Ale, while still not as full-bodied as I’d prefer, a fault of the style not the brewer, was the most delicious brown I’ve had. The malts, like those used in the stout, were roasted perfection, offering similar coffee and chocolate notes, and there was just enough hops to avoid the sweetness that can ruin other browns for me.

While my beloved Boundary Bay Brewery still retains favorite pub status in my heart, they now have the first serious competition right here in Bellingham since Orchard Street Brewery went out of business in 2004. Hopefully this will be a healthy competition, inspiring both breweries to uphold their considerable standards and offer an expanding variety of beers in the future.

Work in Progress: Boundary Bay vs. Chuckanut

If you know me, you know that I loves me some fine, hand-crafted fermented grain beverages, particularly down at Boundary Bay.

Well, I recently moonlighted at our other award-winning brewery here in Bellingham, Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen, and naturally I’ve got something to say about it.



Lightcatcher: They did it right

When I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago, celebrating the opening of the new Lightcatcher Building addition to the Whatcom Museum, I hadn’t yet set foot in the place. It was clear enough from the photos in the Bellingham Herald and on the museum’s website that the architecture of the building and its largest inaugural exhibit were very promising. But, you never know with a project like this in a town with a population of 75,000, a town more associated with fishing and logging than fine art.

Well, I’ve now paid a visit and I’m thrilled to report that, in my opinion, the Whatcom Museum, the City of Bellingham, and the private benefactors who worked together to make this happen clearly hit the ball out of the park. The fact that visiting the museum was a great experience, not just for me, but for my wife, and more importantly my 12-year old son, says a lot about what, specifically, was done right here.

The facility is a class act, offering a sleek, stylish atmosphere in an eco-friendly building, very impressive, high-quality works of art, and a wonderful Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) with, um, interactive exhibits for youth of all ages.

I was particularly struck by the number of works on display in the various rooms. Somehow, my biggest fear for the museum was that, with so much expense and attention going towards the building, that the actual collections would be sparse and marginal. Not the case at all. As is my usual experience with contemporary art, I don’t always appreciate or “get” everything I see, but, truly, there were very few pieces that made me roll my eyes and shrug off as not worthy of my time. Overall, the experience was one of artists reaching for a creative vision. The attempt might not always be successful, but I can at least admire the effort.

I did hear one complaint from a parent that the FIG was a disappointing replacement for the former Children’s Museum, which admittedly did offer a larger space, more stuff, and more opportunities for getting physical. Yet, I always felt that some of the exhibits in the former space were often too obviously put together on a shoestring budget. Oh, they were inventive and wonderful in their own way, and the folks who worked so hard on them deserve a lot of credit and appreciation. However, the old would not have worked alongside the new. For the long-term success of the Whatcom Museum, the FIG needed to be cleaner, more modern.

Time will tell, of course, and much future success will depend on choices made on future exhibits. For instance, when I asked how often new exhibits might come along, the answer was something like a couple times a year. I’m not sure that this will be sufficient if they want to keep people coming, especially if they want people to come back repeatedly, and it seems like the best way to sustain their success is via the financial support of return visitors.

For now, I’m pretty darned proud of our town.


Origin of the Feces

There’s a scene in a movie that I love a lot, Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 film The Big Chill, that I thought of today for the first time in years.

Michael, a People Magazine writer played by Jeff Goldblum, is talking with his friends about his job:

Michael: Where I work, we only have one editorial rule: you can’t write anything longer than the average person can read during the average crap. I’m tired of having all of my work read in the can.

Harold: People read Tolstoy in the can.

Michael: Yes, but they can’t finish it

I thought of this scene as soon as I read the news today that a rare first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, one of only 1,250 copies printed in 1859, had been found on a shelf in the guest bathroom in a house in Oxford, England.

So, if you, like me, consider a book like this to be comparable in weight and substance to Tolstoy, either the People Magazine editorial board was wrong, Harold was right, or folks in Oxford spend a LOT of time on the toilet.

Meanwhile, how do you suppose Charles Darwin would take this news?

Would the fact that the book is predicted to sell for close to $100,000 at an auction on the 150th anniversary of its publication make him feel any better?