Fish & Bicycles has not disappeared

Hi folks. Sorry if my absence has worried you or disappointed you or both (please say, “Yes, it has, on both accounts!”), but as I wrote on the 17th, I’ve been working for a very long time, preparing to host a national IT conference, and, well, it just ended.

I’ve been working 14 to 16-hour days for the past 9 days straight and there was no time for any blogging whatsoever. When I wasn’t running around like a chicken without a head, I was on-call, and occasionally I slept a little.

Anyway, it was all totally worth it. The conference went very well and it was extremely fulfilling seeing it come to fruition.

I hope to back to daily entries here soon, and I already have something in mind.

Teaser: It has to do with music and my uncanny ability to discover and fall in love with bands that everyone else was into years and years ago.

“See” you again soon!


“Culture of Disability” vs. “Neurodiversity”


The other day, when I read an article in Ode Magazine titled Your Brain Is A Rain Forest, I was both delighted and reminded of unpleasant things at the same time.

The premise of the article:

People with conditions like ADHD, dyslexia and mood disorders are routinely labeled “€œdisabled”. But differences among brains are as enriching—and essential—as differences among plants and animals. Welcome to the new field of neurodiversity.

When I was a kid, like most other kids I had a LOT of energy. I also had parents who did not…or more accurately, did not have the same kind of energy. They worked hard to provide for me and my two sisters, but neither of them did physical work. My mom had been athletic in her youth, but a bad knee jury when I was still quite young pretty much put an end to that. My dad, well, he never played or had any interest in sports.

And so my youthful, decidedly male energy really stood out in my family. Add to the mix that I was adopted at birth, yet my sisters were not, and it was a perfect setup for a black sheep scenario.

I don’t remember exactly when my parents started to used the descriptor “hyperactive” as they talked about me, but I do know it was early and I know that it hurt, not necessarily from the word itself, but, rather, because I was now being talked about as having a problem, a problem that was making life difficult for others. I also know that, for a short time, I was medicated in an attempt to “calm me down,” but, fortunately, that didn’t last long.

My parents grew uncomfortable giving me drugs, and they were given advice by someone to get me involved in sports instead. That someone is owed my eternal gratitude. Sports gave me an outlet for all that playful energy, and I was good enough at sports to enjoy them, to notice that in sports I was appreciated for my playful energy rather than diagnosed. Oh, I was still the black sheep in my family and “hyperactive” was eventually replaced by other labels, but my parents never again took me to a doctor for “help” with my neurodiversity.

One of the primary ways that those early experiences stuck with me manifests as an abhorrence of labeling people. If you consider all the horror that has been perpetrated by groups of people with one label doing bad things to people with another label, I don’t see how there’s any way anyone could conclude that the practice hasn’t been a net disaster. And now I have a 12-year old son who has a lot of playful, male energy and reminds me of myself in so many ways, and I can already see how his individuality has occasionally been seen as a “problem” within our screwed up culture.

Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry, as powerful as the big oil and military industries, depends on our culture of disability, so this idea of neurodiversity, sadly, is up against rather discouraging odds. There would need to be a massive cultural shift, including how we raise our children, in education and in medicine.

I say, considering the failure and tragedy that labeling has wrought throughout the ages, a shift toward a neurodiversity framework could be the only thing to stop the cycle of oppression and violence.


Video Wednesday: The Roots & Jim James

What’s this? Has Fish & Bicycles lost track of the days? Posting a video on Wednesday, when there’s a long-standing Video Fridays series that this would be perfect for?

Well, some videos just can’t wait.

I gotta tell ya, I love Soul music. (I’m listening to my Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings Pandora station as I type this.)

And, when I saw the video below, a clip from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon featuring a musical performance by the show’s house band, The Roots, with guest vocalist Jim James from My Morning Jacket, I just had to share.

A luscious Soul arrangement mixed with a biting social commentary rap.

(It should be noted that this song — Dear God 2.0 — is a cover of a song — Dear God — by Jim James’ sideproject — Monsters of Folk. Also, since this was posted in June of 2010, the clip from the Fallon show is no longer available, so I’ve substituted the official music video for the song.)

Stuff We Don’t Need: Dyed Doggies

Listen, I love animals. Really. I do!

But I’ve had a problem with pets my whole life. I know, humans domesticated a slew of different animals hundreds of years ago and there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s no turning back. And, while I’ve had pets I was close with over the years — my childhood Poodle, the cat I had in college, my old Malamute, my current Siamese cat — I’ve never been able to shake the sad thought that animals were all free once and now so many are dependent on humans, threatened by humans, or both.

Enter China. The Communist government there used to ban pets, but, alas, capitalism’s influence has created a boom in pet ownership, and now, the latest fad: dog dying.

No, that’s not a panda. That’s an Old English sheepdog groomed and dyed to look like a panda. Isn’t it cuuuuuute! Don’t you want one too?!

Sure, but take a look at Spiderwoman. How degrading! You can see the resignation and humiliation in the little Bichon’s eyes. You can almost hear her say, “They used to love me and my white, fuzzy fur. Then one day I just wasn’t good enough. Sigh.”

Embarrassment Update

There was just no escaping embarrassment today.

As I mention below, I was embarrassed, then I did an embarrassing thing as a lame attempt at amelioration, and then one more embarrassing thing happened just to rub my face in it.

You see, when I first published the post below, I had missed a typo. What word did I misspell?

Embarrassed, of course!

I was thinking of the word embarrassed, but my fingers typed embarrassing. Just how embarrassing is that?

Here’s how the first sentence read before I corrected the typo:

I have to admit that I’m embarrassing when it’s Monday and the most recent post here is titled “Video Fridays”.

So, what was the rubbing it in my face part?

Oh, I could correct the typo here, but I have Fish & Bicycles linked to Facebook using the NetworkedBlogs app, and every time I post here a post is made on my Facebook Page Wall. Once it’s posted on Facebook, it’s like a snapshot in time, and if I make the correction here the correction does not show up on Facebook.


So, that was my day. How was yours?


On The Go: Yes, I know it’s Monday

I have to admit that I’m embarrassed when it’s Monday and the most recent post here is titled Video Fridays.

Of course, it’s arguably more embarrassing that I’m posting this just to bump the Video Fridays post down the page.

Video Fridays: Andrew Bird

andrewbirdI first heard Andrew Bird on NPR over a year ago, and I was struck by how beautiful his music is, how refreshing it was to hear whistling and a plucked violin.

But after the NPR piece was over and my life reclaimed my attention I forgot about Andrew Bird, until, thankfully, a student employee I supervise mentioned how his favorite Pandora station is built on Andrew Bird.

Wow. The guy is a true mad genius.

In today’s Video Fridays installment, Andrew builds a song with a violin, guitar, whistling, and vocals using a loop machine in a stunning one-man-band performance.


World Cup Update

On Tuesday, I figured out that I could stream World Cup games over the internet, what a concept, and so last night I watched a replay of France vs. Mexico with my son.

We could have watched Argentina beat up on South Korea, but there’s one advantage of watching games that have happened already: while the element of surprise is largely gone, you can something of the story of the game that can help you decide which game to watch.

In the case of France vs. Mexico, I was intrigued by the narrative of a team of star French players that can’t seem to play together as a team and have issue with their coach. Meanwhile, Mexico, a significant underdog, a third world country taking on a first world country, totally won my bleeding heart.


My brain needs more RAM!

In my nearly 10 years working at Western Washington University, I’ve had my share of experiences where my brain was stretched to its limit, multitasking my butt off, managing a high volume of work, and racing towards deadlines.

For instance, for 6.5 years I worked in the Admissions office, and there aren’t many things that will max a person out more than the cycle that runs from December through March, when thousands upon thousands of applications for the following Fall Quarter have to be reviewed, many of them multiple times, resulting in stacks of files on one’s desk, literally, several feet high at times.

Just under three years ago, my colleagues and I began work on putting together a bid to host an international (U.S. & Canada) Higher Education IT conference in June of 2010. The conference — The ResNet Symposium — is held at a different college or university every year, and past hosts include Stanford, Wellesley, and Princeton.

The bid consists mainly of creating a website that provides information about every conceivable detail that the bid review committee needs in order to choose one school over others. Finalist institutions are then selected, and two representatives from the ResNet organization visit these schools before awarding the bid to the winner.

Well, we won, June 2010 is here, and folks will start arriving next week for the symposium, which starts on Saturday the 26th. The number of details involved in hosting this event is staggering, and if it weren’t for a very hard working planning committee and a well-used wiki, I’d be toast right now. Instead, thanks also in part to a well-timed, therapeutic visit to Olympic National Park, I’m feeling pretty good.

One thing that’s been particularly rewarding about this massive project is that it has provided me with the opportunity to have fun at work doing what I do here at Fish & Bicycles. I wrote the majority of the content on both the original bid website and the actual symposium site, and I’ve been the de facto Communications Director for the event; blogging on the website, updating the event’s Facebook Page, tweeting on Twitter, and emailing to the ResNet listserv.

Still, it would nice to be able to pop a few extra sticks of RAM in my old cerebral noodle just for these next two weeks. The wiki’s filling up, along with a number of notepads, and it is a little anxiety-inducing to think of all the things that could possibly get missed in all the to-do lists.

Hmmmmmm. On Monday we’ll be hiring 9 student temps to carry out all manner of tasks, from setting up and breaking down at specific events, to driving a shuttle van, to shopping for snacks for the hospitality room. That’s 9 student brains who are done with Spring Quarter and rested since finals ended on the 11th. That’s a lot of RAM!



World Cup Update

I wrote yesterday:

I hear that Germany is surprisingly strong and that Spain seems to be the overwhelming favorite.

As the Laws of the Jinx will have it, Spain lost to Switzerland in a stunning upset today.

I don’t know that I like having this much power over world events.