Video Bonus: AJWS

What?! A video post on a Saturday?! When I just posted a video yesterday?!

That’s just crazy!

Well, the following was just too crazy funny not to post. Besides, today is the Rally to Restore Sanity, so I don’t the see the crazy here getting out of hand.

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Happy Weekend and Happy Halloween, everyone!

Video Fridays: Forever Young

As I mentioned a few days ago, this coming Sunday is not just Halloween, it’s my son Julian’s 13th birthday.

And as we approach the end of his childhood and the beginning of his teenhood, I find myself in a very heightened emotional state, crying at the drop of a hat or upon hearing a beautiful song or when I gaze into Julian’s blue eyes…

In honor of this special birthday, I’d like to dedicate this Video Fridays installment to my precious son. The video quality is poor, but the sound is pretty good and Jerry performs this hauntingly beautiful coming of age song by Bob Dylan with, it seems, every emotion that I’m feeling right now.

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May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Bob Dylan

Lyric of the Day: Death Cab For Cutie

The glove compartment
Is inaccurately named
And everybody knows it
So i’m proposing
A swift orderly change

‘Cause behind its door
There’s nothing to keep my fingers warm
And all i find
Are souvenirs from better times
Before the gleam
Of your taillights fading east
To find
Yourself a better life.

–Death Cab For Cutie, from “Title and Registration”

So, I’m walking to work these days, after nearly ten years of commuting on my bicycle. It was a fitness choice. While I work hard first thing in the morning, climbing several considerable hills to campus, not all of it is uphill and I’m only on the bike for 20 minutes. Likewise, the ride home is mostly downhill.

Walking, at a brisk pace, it seemed to me, would be a better workout, and walking downhill is actual exercise, while cycling downhill is nothing but a joyride.

Anyway, along with the increased health benefits there’s the added luxury of getting to listen to my iPod during my walks, something, for safety reasons, I don’t do on my bicycle. And, while I listen to music through speakers throughout each and every day, listening with earbuds really allows me to hear the lyrics much more clearly, often revealing hidden treasures.

I love the opening lines (above) of Title and Registration, from Death Cab For Cuties’ 2003 album Transatlanticism. Ben Gibbard is a wonderful writer. He really takes his time with details, metaphors and minutiae, a kind of impressionism, I’d call it.

The entire first stanza of Title and Registration, playfully, does not give you any indication as to what the song is about or where it’s heading, and when the word ’cause starts off the second stanza, heralding some kind of explanation, we get this lovely, indirect image of a glove compartment void of gloves, both literally and figuratively, the latter a symbol of the cold reality of lost love.

Funny thing: As I was walking along, listening to this wonderful song, I realized as it ended that I actually wanted to know what Gibbard might suggest as a more accurate name for glove compartment.

A raisin in the sun, or…

…Buddhist attachment?

Back in August, I wrote about two longstanding dreams of mine that I’ve only managed to scratch the surface of. One of those dreams — playing guitar and singing in a performing band — has been on my mind a lot lately, as it’s been utterly impossible to find the right musicians to collaborate with. Networking with musicians I already know and posting Craigslist ads have gotten me nowhere, and I don’t have enough free time to follow the most common advice I’ve received: getting out to open mic nights, performing solo, watching others perform, and approaching any like-minded people with the idea of a partnership.

In that August post, I included the great Langston Hughes poem — Harlem — wherein Hughes asks what happens to a dream deferred, listing off possibilities both drawn out and tedious (“Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”) as well as sudden and violent (“Or does it explode?”). Well, my dream of being in a band, having been with me for over 30 years, is quite clearly raisin-ish — a slow, painful withering — however much I feel like I’ll explode if it is never realized.

And that’s where Buddhism comes in, particularly the notion that attachment is a primary cause of suffering.

There have been times, the present situation included, when I’ve contemplated the possibility that it’s my clinging to the dream that is making it so painful to not be living it. I’ve thought that perhaps, in order to end the suffering and move on, I need to let go of the dream, embracing the possibility, however devastatingly disappointing, that the dream will never be fulfilled.

Sounds like a sucky choice, doesn’t it? A suffering-filled, protracted disappointment or giving up on the dream entirely?

Fortunately, that’s not really the choice at hand, from a Buddhist perspective, summarized nicely in a short web article I stumbled upon:

Non-attachment means gently releasing feelings, ideas or behaviors that create unhappiness and suffering in our lives. As this is done, we begin to feel freer and less fearful…

People often mistake the letting go aspect of non-attachment with giving up. But rather than signaling defeat, letting go of an attachment is a courageous step that can require a great deal of trust. Some also equate non-attachment with being passive. But non-attachment is being an active participant in life, without trying to have tight control, or manipulate every outcome.

–ElizabethFarrell, “Understanding Attachment and Non-Attachment”

Plinky: Do you celebrate Halloween?

( sends me an email everyday with a question meant to inspire a blog post. Occasionally I take the bait.)

On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises from his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys to all the children.

–Linus Van Pelt

For years I joked that the Great Pumpkin, not a stork, visited my wife and I on Halloween 1997. And while, of course, nothing supernatural really did occur, when our son Julian was born at around 7:30pm that All Hallows Eve it sure seemed magical to us.

Our doctor came to the delivery room wearing a witch’s hat and skeleton earrings. Julian entered the world with a tuft of bright orange hair. (I kid you not. Think about it. “Red” hair is actually orange!) Our friends, the next morning, visited bearing pumpkin muffins and have baked them for us every year since.

Do we celebrate Halloween?! You betcha we do!

Here’s our pumpkin with his fellow pumpkins back in 2006.

Video Fridays: Wet & Furry

As I’ve been thinking about Fish & Bicyclesone-year anniversary, I happened to read over some of my earliest posts here, including one from week two that poked fun at scientists and science journalists, folks who sometimes spend an outrageously inordinate amount of time studying things that seem ridiculously mundane.

Funny, then, that this week I’d come across a video making the viral rounds on the interwebs — Wired, Gizmodo — that perfectly captures the “too much time on hand” theme.

At least this time we get to watch cute, furry animals shaking water off their coats.

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Happy Weekend, everyone!

Belated Happy Birthday To Me!

It all starts with Mrs. Fish & Bicycles’ birthday: October 2nd.

  • October 2, 2009: The inaugural Fish & Bicycles post is published.

  • October 2, 2010: Reflective of rearranged priorities, nothing is published at Fish & Bicycles…too busy celebrating Mrs. Fish & Bicycles’ birthday!

My sixth year as a blogger just flew by, and reading back on my first Fish & Bicycles post I feel good about how the year went. The goal that I set for myself for this blog, a goal I’m happy to say I’ve been able to achieve, was to shed the ghosts of my previous blog, to escape the depressing and rage-inducing quagmire that is the life of a political blogger, and to return to my original goal of writing regularly on a wide variety of topics.

Here’s the brief description of my first blog from its About page, dating back to June 2004:

Transcendental Floss is a weblog, coming to you from Seattle and Bellingham, Washington.

Arts & entertainment, news/politics, technology, life in general — we write about whatever strikes a fancy.

(Note: We don’t have anything personal against fancies, and any pleasure we take from the striking of them is purely in a figurative sense.)

One of the unexpected side effects of this successful past year is that I feel that I’ve finally made peace with my former blog. I’ve been looking back at it for the first time in quite a while, and I see a lot there that I’m proud of, so much so that I now feel comfortable linking back to it for the first time. My former pseudonym, as you’ll see, was Gonzo, and besides blog posts, I wrote the CD, DVD and book mini-reviews in the right sidebar and I worked closely with my friend/webmaster on the design of the site.

Looking ahead, perhaps those rearranged priorities I mentioned above can explain why I don’t have any lofty ambitions for the next year. I’d love to have more readers, and I’d love readers to leave comments more often, but if I can just continue posting to Fish & Bicycles 5-7 times a week, as I’ve averaged thus far, if I can continue to keep the content here full of variety, if I can entertain and, perhaps, occasionally provoke some deeper thinking, if I can do all of that and have fun, while not sacrificing things like giving my full attention to more important life matters, say my wife’s birthday, I’ll be quite content.

The Continuing Adventures…

…Of A 12-year Old (almost 13!) Rock Climber

There’s my boy again!

I’ve written numerous times about Julian’s passion for rock climbing and his membership on the YMCA Youth Climbing Team, and here he is competing this past Saturday at the Vertical World gym in Tacoma.

Julian had a great day with a spectacular finish. His growing edge as a competitive climber is to not give up on problems he doesn’t solve the first time on a route, and he really pushed through in this area Saturday.

He couldn’t make one move, a sizable dyno, on one of the earliest routes he tried, and so he moved on to other routes so that he wouldn’t expend all his energy too early. And yet, a few hours later, when it looked like he only had time for one more route, he returned to the one with the big dyno.

Once again, he attempted the leap up to a hold that didn’t appear to have much to hold on to and he slipped off. However, uncharacteristically, even though he appeared to be spent and done for the day, he immediately returned to the starting hold and began the route again.

This time he nailed it!

It was a thing of beauty, his hanging there by one hand, making a slight, jerky adjustment to make sure that he had a firm enough grip before establishing another handhold and a foothold. I could see the strength in his forearm, the product of hours and hours of training over the last two years on the team, and though I didn’t think he had any fuel left in the tank he was able to proceed with the 3-4 remaining moves in the route, finishing stronger than I’ve ever seen him, pausing at the last hold to take in his accomplishment before jumping down to the matt.

Fatherly pride is a powerful, powerful thing.

Stuff We Need: Reusable Spray Bottles

This idea is fantastic on so many levels!

Replenish via core77:

  • 100% recyclable sprayhead – Partly due to metal springs in most sprayheads, only 7% of plastic in a typical spray bottle gets recycled.
  • Refillable – The cleaning liquid concentrate refill “pods” make four full bottles of cleaner. Only 5% of typical spray cleaner bottles are the actual cleaner — the rest is plastic and water.
  • Eco-friendly cleaner – The cleaning concentrate is made from non-toxic, sustainable materials, it’s biodegradable, and it’s pH-neutral
  • They look cool with their groovy colors! – It’s no trivial matter to make a product look cool. The savvy designers at Replenish want these to actually sell, because they won’t improve the recycling and reusing of spray bottles if they don’t sell.

It appears that, for now, Replenish products are only available online, and I don’t see an option to buy just the refill pods, which seems like a terrible oversight. Hopefully they’ll get their site updated soon, and hopefully the spray bottles will catch on well enough for them to start selling them in retail stores across the country.

Photo of the Day: Mt. Baker

I found the following photo, submitted to the Bellingham Herald, to be absolutely stunning.

Herald reader BJ Toews sent this photo of the sun rising behind Mount Baker, creating a shadow in the sky, at 7:39 a.m. Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. Toews took the photo from the family’s backyard in Everson.

The art of photography fascinates me. It exists as the result of a collaboration between technology and the human element, but not just any human. Heck, all you have to do is spend a little time looking at your friends’ photos on Facebook to see that some have an observant, creative eye and some are simply archivists, documenting moments in time with no regard to aesthetics.

Conversely, it was one thing for BJ Toews to notice this spectacular sunrise, but without the technology it might have remained a memory in his mind, or, at the most, a story to tell over breakfast.