Video Fridays: CR Avery

As I mentioned in one of my first posts here at Fish & Bicycles, I LOVE a night out with the guys at a pub.

If last night all I did was meet up with the boyz at The Copper Hog, where I enjoyed a couple of pints of the very tasty Terminal Gravity IPA from The Middle of Nowhere Enterprise, Oregon, it would have been a fantastic evening.

However, as we exited The Hog, my friend John asked for a ride home, and on the way down State Street he suggested we stop in at the Green Frog Acoustic Tavern.

What a treat that turned out to be. Performing last night was a guy from Vancouver named CR Avery, who struck me as a Hip-Hop Tom Waits.

The guy’s a one-man-band — in this clip combining spoken word, singing, beatbox, harmonica, and keytar — but he also played a couple of songs on banjo.

He’ll be back at the Green Frog on May 11th, so check him out if you can.

In the meantime…


iPad Killer…um…killed

In early March, I wrote that I’d seen a video for a product that Microsoft was developing, the Courier, and that the device concept blew me away. (The video is still available for viewing.)

Well, today brings the sad news that Microsoft has pulled the plug on the project.

As I said in March, it is arguable that the Courier concept is so different from the iPad, thereby rendering the moniker iPad Killer inaccurate. I suppose that is probably true, and it’s also all moot now.

Regardless, the Courier was and still is the coolest device concept I’ve seen in years, and I hope that someone picks up the idea and runs with it.


On The Go: Today a step forward

Ok, last local politics post for a while. Yesterday brought bad news about our transit system, and today we have good news that the Bellingham City Council approved the purchase of 10 acres in the Lake Whatcom Watershed in order to prevent development and protect our drinking water source.

As I wrote two days ago, my overall impression, when I’m not watching the news closely every day, is that more good is done here than bad, that we have a critical mass of people in this city and county who care about sustainability and are working hard to turn the tide.

I’m sticking by that.


On The Go: Transit Setback

When I wrote this yesterday…

And yet, I’d never come to the overall positive view of Bellingham that I have if I interpreted every setback as the beginning to the end or the continuation of everything bad I’ve read in the past. To use an apt metaphor, doing so it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, to see the many good things that happen, large and small, everyday.

…I had no idea that my resolve to stay optimistic would be challenged so soon.

Whatcom County voters narrowly rejecting WTA tax increase

Voters were very narrowly rejecting a measure to raise the local sales tax for Whatcom Transportation Authority, according to early elections returns Tuesday, April 27.

A total of 50.29 percent of voters were against the increase, and 49.71 percent were in support of it, according to the first count by the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.

Only 274 ballots separated them, of 47,536 counted so far.

The only measure in the special election, Proposition 1 asked Whatcom County voters whether they want to raise the local sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent for WTA, which says that bus service cuts will be necessary without the increase. The increase would cost an extra 20 cents for a $100 purchase in taxable goods.

It will be tremendously sad if WTA has to cut bus service, including all Sunday service, just because people aren’t willing to pay an extra two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax.

Here’s hoping the Yes votes catch up!

Oh, the habits we have!

So, I apparently did a crazy thing.

A few weeks ago I got slammed with a brutal respiratory virus in the chest and sinus, and because it was not a bacterial thing and could not be treated with antibiotics, I was told that all I could do was ride it out.

Two of the symptoms were bad headaches and extreme exhaustion.

Now, incidentally, I’ve had daily coffee habits in the past, I’ve quit, I’ve fallen off the wagon, I’ve quit, I’ve started again, as the typical cycle goes.

Out of the blue, the thought occurred to me: Hmmmm. Courtesy of the virus, I’ve already got headaches like the ones I get when I go through caffeine withdrawal, and the last thing I want when I’m bed-ridden is to be extremely exhausted by a virus, but unable to fall asleep because I’ve had coffee! You know what?! I might as well quit coffee!

Here in Bellingham, well, pretty much the entire Pacific Northwest, coffee is practically a religion. To the Japanese, drinking tea is a spiritual practice. Here, I suppose you could say that visiting the drive-thru espresso stands every morning is like going to church.

So, two funny things happen when I tell people about my virus-induced coffee cold turkey.

  1. Half the people think I’m crazy to voluntarily put myself through that.
  2. When I tell the other half, there’s this awkward silence as they start thinking to themselves about their own coffee addiction and wonder if I’m being judgmental, thinking I’m superior to them now that I’ve quit.

Come to think of it, there’s nothing at all funny about that, and now I’ve gone ahead and used the word addiction for the first time in this post, a term guaranteed to weigh a topic down.

Throwing around the word addiction is a very tricky matter. You’ll never hear me argue that an alcoholic who is self-destructing and hurting other people left and right doesn’t need to accept that they are an addict and start walking the steps. And yet, to borrow a line from Thoreau, what about the mass of people leading lives of quiet desperation, habitually using coffee, sugar, shopping, television, etc.? And what about the millions of people who are addicted to activities that could have some actual health benefits, like exercise? Did you know that long distance runners often experience diminished sex drives?

It’s just too depressing to think that most people in the world are addicts, so where exactly do you draw the line?

It just so happens that, up until a few months ago, I had another daily habit. For 9 years straight I rode my bicycle to and from work, rain or shine. A mild injury caused me to stop for a while, so I started to ride the bus mostly, and even drove the car occasionally.

Well, ever since I got over this recent virus, I’m back on the bike.

I’m such a hopeless addict.

Stuff We Need: Green Building

One of the things that I love about Bellingham, my fair city, is the very strong sustainability movement afoot here. It’s rare that a few days go by wherein I don’t catch wind of some event having to do with buying local or organic farming or rain water catchment or salmon habitat restoration or…

…and it goes on and on.

Sure, there are setbacks and disappointments. Just last week the Whatcom County Council ruled to open up growth areas for development that had been declassified for growth in order to control sprawl and protect our drinking water source: the Lake Whatcom Watershed.

And yet, I’d never come to the overall positive view of Bellingham that I have if I interpreted every setback as the beginning to the end or the continuation of everything bad I’ve read in the past. To use an apt metaphor, doing so it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, to see the many good things that happen, large and small, everyday.

So, a few days ago I read this, and thought that this is stuff we definitely need:

Faster permitting for green projects part of Bellingham’s Ten in ’10 effort

BELLINGHAM – The house Grant Myers plans to build is environmentally friendly, incorporating everything from wider-spaced studs to save wood to a central air system that stays within the insulated part of a house, saving energy.

But perhaps the most amazing thing: He submitted the building permit application on Thursday, April 15, before he went on vacation, and it was ready on Tuesday, April 20.

“I never expected the permit would be ready before I got back,” he said.

The project qualified for what city officials are calling a “bin-bump-up,” meaning it scored high enough on an environmentally friendly construction rating system to qualify for expedited permit review. That’s part of the Ten in ’10 initiative, where the city will do 10 things this year to encourage green-building techniques.

See, I read this and I remember that my employer, Western Washington University, is currently constructing its third LEED Certified building, and that the Pickford Film Center got a $250,000 state grant that will help them finally move forward with the renovation of their “Dream Space”, a project that will also be LEED certified…oh, and the Pickford has pledged to be a zero waste operation…seriously…it’s a movie theater!

I love this town!

Fish & Bicycles in the news

Sam Taylor, the writer of the Bellingham Herald‘s Politics blog, gave me a shout-out today, which I have to admit was very exciting.

Several years ago, Sam added my previous blog, Transcendental Floss, to the list of local blogs he maintains in his sidebar, and he was generous enough to remove the old blog and add Fish & Bicycles, even though F&B is not ostensibly a political blog.

That said, I do think it’s important to clarify what Sam said about why I closed down Transcendental Floss.

What Sam said is mostly true. As I wrote in my inaugural post here at F&B, I stopped writing just about politics because it became too confining (not to mention depressing and rage-inducing), and I always wanted to be a general topics blogger.

That said, I have written political posts here at F&B, and I will very likely do so again. My goal is a diversity of topics, not self-censorship.

So, how am I doing? Of the 149 posts I’ve written here since the beginning of October 2009, only 10 have had something to do with politics. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Thanks again, Sam!

Fatherly Pride Revisited

I wrote last week about how proud I am of my 12-year old son Julian and his rock climbing activities, mentioning that he was going to be competing in the T-Town Climbing Challenge in Tacoma.

Well the comp (climbing jargon for competition) was this past Saturday and it was a real blast! I got to be the driver for all the boys from his team who were competing that day, and the 2+ hour drive just flew by because the boys were so much fun.

Anyway, here’s a shot of the amazing Edgeworks rock climbing gym:

Those are man-made structures, and you can see that there’s colored tape marking a series of holds that designate the routes the climbers must complete. They get five minutes to complete a route, if they fall they can start over but they lose points, and if they can’t make it all the way to the finish, they get points for the last hold that they are able to reach in a controlled way.

Here’s Julian on one of his routes:

Julian’s best moment came on his fourth and final route. The routes get progressively more difficult, and only the very best climbers in the division completed it. Julian got about 1/3 of the way up and fell. He caught his breath, examined the route again carefully, chalked up his hands and got back on the wall. At the point where he’d fallen the first time he tried a different approach and made it past that point, getting about 3/4 of the way through the route.

That was a real sign of perseverance and strength. You…wait for it…rock, Julian!

Work in Progress: Don’t Joke with the Pope

So much to say about this story, so little time at the moment.

Britain Apologizes for Pope Jokes

Needless to say, I love British humor.


Graffiti can be art!

I like to consider myself fairly open-minded when it comes to defining what art is and what it isn’t. For instance, I’ve written previously that I find legitimate artistic value in much of the work coming from the fields of graphic and industrial design.

When it comes to graffiti, there’s no doubt that what some consider art others consider vandalism. And yet, I’ve seen some amazing things on the sides of buildings, and there’s something instantly recognizable about graffiti, it’s a legitimate genre in my opinion.

So, I was walking down the hill from campus the other day, when this stopped me in my tracks:

Here’s a closeup of the front of the car:

The graffiti sensibility is immediately apparent: the underlying irreverence, the edginess, the barely contained chaos, and the unapologetically garish colors.

I think this car is one of the coolest works of art that I’ve seen in quite a while, and I love the fact that all I had to do was walk down the street to see it.