Tweet of the Day: #shepardfairey

Two cool Shepard Fairey-related tweets today!

LOVE, in the video from the first one, hearing his perspective on the value of street art and the analogy he makes with music.

Check it out!

Video Fridays: Flaming Lips’ World Record

I’ve been a big fan of Oklahoma City, OK’s purveyors of psyechedlic music, The Flaming Lips, for a few years now, and so the last few days have been exciting, as the Lips attempted to break rapper Jay-Z‘s Guiness World Record for most concerts in a 24-hour period.

And break it they did, in grand fashion.

Unlike, Jay-Z, who used his private jet to perform seven shows from Atlata, Georgia to Los Angeles, California in 24 hours, the Lips traveled by bus to eight venues from Memphis, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana in the same time frame, all of it streamed live as part of the 2012 O Music Awards.

In a bizarre coincidence, on the same day that the Flaming Lips started their record attempt I found out that the band I’m currently in, after having only played three gigs in the past three months, has been booked for three gigs in 72 hours this coming week, a private party on July 4th, and then a doubleheader on July 6th, 6-8pm at one venue and 9pm to, well, very late, at another. Add in rehearsals Tuesday and Thursday nights and the week will easily be the biggest music marathon I’ve ever participated in.


And so, for this week’s Video Fridays installment, I’ve chosen a clip of the song the Lips played as they officially broke the World Record. Appearing quite ragged after 24-hours of shows and miles and miles on the bus, I can only imagine that I’ll be similarly wiped out by the closing of our last gig on the 6th.

So, for now, Happy Weekend, everyone!

(Click on the following image to view the video at the O Music Awards site.)

Reunion Revisited

So, I mentioned recently that I was just on vacation (Post 1, Post 2), but what I didn’t mention is that it was more than a vacation.

Much more.

Back in March, I wrote about how I was adopted at birth, how I didn’t know I was adopted until I was 12 years old, how, from that point forward, I knew nothing at all about my biological parents except the name (misspelled until about a year ago) of my birth mother, and how, after years of on-and-off searching, I’d finally located and had contact with her.

I didn’t post anything about the two and half hour phone call we had soon after, and nothing at all since on the subject, for two reasons: 1. Nothing against diary-like blogs, but, only with occasional exceptions, Fish & Bicycles is not intended as a personal journal about my day-to-day life; 2. The experience of reunion had been so abstract — just some emails, a voice on a telephone, and some photos on Facebook — as well as emotional, confusing, and even scary, that I haven’t felt able to write anything about it.

That’s all been changed by the trip to Arizona.

Cuz, you see, a road trip to Sedona, Flagstaff, Glen Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Grand Canyon was only the second half of the adventure.

The first half: A 4-day visit with my birth mother and my two “new” siblings, a brother and a sister.

Prior to the trip, and for some years now, I’d done a lot of research about adoption reunions, and so I was well aware that I was VERY fortunate to have not been rejected, and, on the contrary, to have been warmly welcomed into the family.

Backtracking a little…During the phone call back in March, culled from my two, single-spaced handwritten pages of notes, the following highlights:

  • I was the result of a chance meeting, no-names-exchanged, one-night fling in the Catskills, and my birth mother never saw my birth father again. Consequently, there is no way I will ever be able to locate him, leaving half of my biological and cultural identity forever incomplete.
  • My mother’s family is of Jewish Russian and Polish heritage, making it feel more fitting that I was raised Jewish, even though I’m now more of a Buddhist than anything else.
  • My mother, upon telling her parents about the pregnancy, was told to either “get rid of it” or she’d never be allowed back in their home.
  • My brother and sister, now both in their early 40s, four and seven years younger than me respectively, were told of my existence when they were in their late teens and have since wished they could meet me. Kinda explains why they so eagerly flew out from the east coast in order to do so.

Fast Forward to June 16, 2012, my wife, son, and I arrive in Arizona in near-100°F heat and are welcomed by the smiling faces of my mother and her boyfriend, my brother and his girlfriend, and my sister. We spent our time together sharing our life stories, looking at photos, and going for daytime outings in various configurations.

I should say that I struggled a bit with what my expectations should or should not have been concerning what the reunion would be like. What should I feel when we meet? How will they feel when we meet? Should I cry? Should they? Should I call them “Mom”, “Bro” and “Sis”?

Trying to sort through all of that was confusing, but it in no way spoiled the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone.

That said, it mostly felt surreal. For instance, I really loved meeting my birth mother, and yet, when I was with her, without a lifetime of familial bonding, I was unable to see her as my mom, and I can’t quite think of her that way even now.

I’d be sad about that if it weren’t for something my genius of a son said to me when I tried to explain this to him, “It’s ok to be friends first and then family.”

Finally, after thinking about this a lot, I’ve come to feel this way about it all:

We’ve only just met, we haven’t had 47 years of knowing each other, but now that we have met, we’ve started building relationships, and that is a very, very good and wonderful thing.

A Moment Of Gratitude

I’d like to take a moment to thank my readers, including:

As a result of the sheer volume of visitors from Freshly Pressed, as well was the fact that for most of my vacation I was unable to use my computer or iPhone for more than a few minutes at a time, I wasn’t able to acknowledge much less respond to everyone. And while I have a disclaimer on my About page, declaring my inability to engage with everyone who visits, I still feel a need to express my thanks today.

To have been able to take a break from the blog for 10 days and still see notifications for new Likes, Comments and Follows filling up my email inbox while I was on the road, made me feel really, really good.

So, simply, thank you!

Antelope Canyon–Page, AZ

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Stuff We Need: The ultimate dung beetle

Originally Published: August 6, 2010

So, I have to say, as much as the idea of poo-power makes me a little squeamish, biomethane currently makes more sense to me as a renewable energy source than any other I’ve read about. When you think of just how much bio waste we humans and our livestock produce, when you consider how much carbon dioxide is released by all that waste, the idea of combating global warming by using this waste for fuel and energy production is nothing short of poetic.

From Daily Mail:

A car powered by methane gas has been created by a team of British engineers.

The vehicle named the ‘Bio-Bug’ is run reliably on biogas, which is produced from human waste at sewage works across the country.

Excrement flushed down the toilets of just 70 homes is enough to power the pioneering VW Beetle car for 10,000 miles – the equivalent of one average motoring year.

I still don’t like that this VW Beetle requires regular unleaded gas to start the vehicle and warm up the system before the methane is used, and I’d like to know more about the refinement process for the methane, particularly how much energy is needed to refine the biomass into methane, are there any toxic chemicals used, and are there any hazardous waste products.

And yet, if we can develop a closed loop system along these lines it could possibly be the greatest human accomplishment to-date.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: When Wednesday became Sun Day in Bellingham

Originally Published: March 25, 2010

A friend of mine who lives in famously sunny San Diego sent me a link to an MSNBC item this morning, an item that our local Bellingham Herald didn’t even publish:

    Bellingham school cancels classes for ‘sun day’

    BELLINGHAM, Wash. – A forecast of warm clear weather prompted Bellingham Christian School to cancel classes today for a “sun day.”

    Principal Bob Sampson says sun day celebrates spring, promotes positive school culture and is “just for fun.”

    Because the school lost no days to snow over the winter, the principal says it can afford to take a spring day off.

When I moved to Bellingham in 1993, I knew what I was getting into in terms of the weather.

From Wikipedia:

    Although the rainy season can last as long as eight months or more, it is usually about six months long, leaving Bellingham with a picturesque late spring and mild, pleasant summer. Although Bellingham receives an average annual rainfall of 34.84 inches (885 mm), many long weeks of short and cloudy days are commonplace in winter.

Sunbreak is a word I never heard before I moved to Bellingham. I hear it on radio weather forecasts all the time, and yet a Google search provides no evidence that it is an official meteorological term. Search strings like “weather+terms+sunbreak” or “meteorology+sunbreak” yield absolutely nothing.

I did find a post by a fellow blogger in similarly rainy Portland, Oregon who mentions this colloquialism, and Googling “sunbreak+definition” finally brought me to this:

From Urban Dictionary:

    Sunbreak – When the sun appears in a cloudy sky for a little while, then gets covered again.

    Commonly used in Seattle, WA.

    Person 1: Sure is cloudy this morning.

    Person 2: Look outside, there’s a sun break, how beautiful.

I’d been living in Bellingham a few weeks, when, on one rainy day, I parked my car in a lot and, out of habit, ran towards the building I was heading into. I wore no rain gear. A man standing in front of the building, wearing a rain jacket with his hood up, unprotected by any shelter whatsoever asked with a sarcastic tone, “Don’t you just get wetter that way?”

I hate to admit it, but I spent a considerable amount of time pondering the answer to that obviously rhetorical question, and I concluded that even if it was true, even if, because the rain is not only coming down onto a running person but the person is running into the raindrops that they would otherwise miss, the obvious answer is that, yes, you do get wetter if you are not wearing a rain jacket with a hood in its upright and secured position.

Another anecdote: The first time I visited notoriously wet Western Washington, before I drove up to Bellingham, I spent a few days in Seattle. On one of those days it rained, I was in the University of Washington bookstore, I innocently asked someone who worked there if it’s true that it rains like that as much as people say, and the reply I got was, “If you live in California, I’ll say it rains like this everyday.”

But that’s another story altogether.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Put.The.Test.Tube.Down…and step away slowly

Originally Published: July 13, 2010

Those mad genetic scientists continue to scare me.

A little over a month ago, I wrote about a transgenic spider goat, something out of a bad sci-fi movie, but all the more horrifying because it’s real.

And now there’s news that the FDA is considering approving the sale of a genetically modified salmon, and this one really hits home.

AquaBounty, which calls its super salmon an “advanced hybrid” rather than a transgenic fish, said they’re safe to eat and would be raised in contained farming operations that could be based inland rather than along coastal waters. And the modified fish, all females, would be sterile so they couldn’t breed with wild fish if any escaped, the company said.

AquaBounty’s fish grow faster but not bigger that normal Atlantic salmon. The company says that genetically modified salmon are identical to regular salmon in every way except for the genes that have been added.

Company researchers have added a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon as well as an on-switch gene from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon, to a normal Atlantic salmon’s roughly 40,000 genes. Salmon normally feed only during the spring and summer, but when the on-switch from the pout’s gene is triggered, they eat year round.

The result is a transgenic salmon that grows to market size in about half the time as a normal salmon – 16 to 18 months, rather than three years.

Salmon isn’t just a fish or a food, here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a way of life. Everyone knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone, who is a fisherman, or used to be a fisherman, or who worked in a cannery, or sells salmon, fresh, frozen, or smoked, or who claims to have the greatest salmon recipe, or who’s a fish biologist working on salmon recovery, or who’s a Lummi or Nooksack, to whom the salmon is deeply rooted in their spirituality.

Because of the salmon culture here, we’re far ahead of most of the rest of the country in the effort to promote the purchase of wild rather than farmed fish, to the point where restaurateurs consider it a point of pride to specify that they serve wild-caught fish of all species.

I’d like to think that it’s the very success of the wild fish movement that is prompting this crazy genetic scheme on the part of insatiably greedy big business, but that’s little solace if this freak of a creature actually goes to market. The resulting flood of super cheap salmon available at every local grocery store will attract many well-meaning people to buy it, impact-be-damned, especially given the current economic climate.

What is scariest, however, is something not mentioned in the article, even by the Friends of the Earth guy. While there’s mention that these genetically altered salmon will supposedly be infertile, and therefore no risk of degrading wild species through crossbreeding if they escape the farms, they don’t mention the obvious fact that these fish are eating machines with no off-switch, that their primary threat wouldn’t be via crossbreeding, but, rather, from their ravaging the food stores that wild salmon depend on, food stores that, as the article does mention, wild salmon only eat from during the spring and summer.

How many BP oil spills will it take before we clampdown on business practices that endanger both our environment and the people who depend on that environment for their health and livelihoods?

Best of Fish & Bicycles: “Late Night War”

Originally Published: January 15, 2010

wordsAdvice I’ve given my son at soccer games:

You gotta fight for the ball!

We all do it. Metaphors and idioms date back to ancient civilizations, and without figurative expression there’d be no good art, literature, or music.

I almost hesitate to add to the din about the Leno-O’Brien-NBC conflict, but I just couldn’t stand to stay silent about how over-the-top the violence metaphors have become in the coverage of this story.

Headline #1:

A war? Really?!

Headline #2, with lede:

    Kimmel slays Leno

    The bloodbath shows no signs of abating — and the breakout supporting star in the Leno-Conan war is shaping up to be Jimmy Kimmel. After doing a viciously dead-on Leno impersonation on his own late-night ABC show earlier this week, Kimmel appeared on Leno last night and really let rip…

The latter article continues:

    It’s one thing to make sport of the other guys on your own turf. But Kimmel, bless him, fired his missiles directly on Leno and his viewers on Leno’s own show. This is the late-night equivalent of wearing a Yankees t-shirt in Fenway Park — a feat of insane heroism.

Again, we all do it. It’s embedded in our language and our competitive culture.

I just find it painful to read this hyperbolic dramatization about something so trivial, when literal wars, and disasters like the Haitian earthquake, have wrought very real death and destruction.

How, I wonder, does the family of a soldier or civilian killed in Iraq or Afghanistan feel when journalists refer to the conflict at NBC as a war? How does a Haitian American feel, who doesn’t know if their relatives in Haiti are dead or alive, a person counting on rescue workers for some real heroism, when a verbal dispute between a bunch of millionaires is referred to as a bloodbath?

A lot of people, especially politicians, like to say that 9/11 changed America, and in many ways it has. But you’d think that when unspeakable murder and destruction hit home on that day, we might, as a nation, from that day forward, think it odd when the same language used to describe 9/11 is used to describe TV trivialities.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Stuff We Need: Affordable and Convenient Electric Vehicles

Originally Published: July 1, 2010

With Electric Vehicles (EVs) so obviously something we desperately need it’s painful to see how slowly they are coming along. Given the urgency of global climate change, given the current regrettable opportunity to leverage the plummeting public approval of oil as a result of the BP spill, from a purely layman’s perspective it seems like there’s a simple two-part strategy screaming out to be implemented: make EVs 1) affordable and 2) convenient and they will sell like crazy…and the companies that produce the cars, batteries, and charging technologies will make billions! It’s an all-around win…

….but $100,000 Tesla Roadsters won’t get us anywhere.

Today I’ve come across some good news and some not so good news on the EV front.

First up, concerning affordability, for purposes of full disclosure, I’ve never purchased a car for more than $10K. That the average cost of a new car in 2010 is $28,400, and millions of people dish out that kind of money thinking it’s just what cars cost, doesn’t make me think for a minute that I’m just ultracheap or out of touch or both. It’s a matter of what will actually get people driving EVs as quickly as possible, and that’s why this caught my attention:

From Inhabitat:

Ultra energy-efficient cars don’t always have to come with a high price tag. One upcoming vehicle from Renault-Nissan and India’s Bajaj Auto will, in fact, cost just $3,000 and reach an impressive 70 mpg.

The mini-car, nicknamed ULC (Ultra Low Cost, perhaps?), is expected to go on sale on India in 2011. Approximately 200,000 cars are expected to be sold each year.

Of course, the Bajaj/Renault-Nissan car won’t be the only efficient, low-cost vehicle on India’s roads. The Tata Nano, which costs just $2,160, gets 51.7 mpg on city road conditions and 61.1 mpg on highways.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “These aren’t even EVs!”


…So while the Nano is a bit cheaper, the Bajaj car will win out on efficiency — at least until Tata releases an electric model.

And, while the electric Nano will most certainly be more expensive than the gas model, even if it cost $7K more it would still be in my unusually low price range. Let’s face it, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, at three times the price, won’t get people out of their gas guzzlers and into EVs nearly as quickly as something priced radically low. As for business concerns, this should all be about high-volume sales.

Next, concerning convenience, also from Inhabitat:

If you read Inhabitat on the regular, you know that two topics we’re gaga about are electric vehicles and industrial design mastermind Yves Béhar. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce that Béhar and his studio fuseproject teamed up with GE to create a brand new electric vehicle (EV) charger called the WattStation™ — and word on the street is it can power up cars in just 4 to 8 hours (as compared to the standard 12 to 18 hours of other stations)…

GE is planning to release the first WattStations in 2011 for city streets, but fuseproject and GE are working on models for personal use in homes and garages too.

Now THAT’S the idea! These things need to be even more omnipresent than gas stations and they have to work fast. That they look cool anticipates possible opposition on eye-sore grounds. Smart.

In the meantime, MUCH more needs to be done, but a recent Wall Street Journal article isn’t exactly optimisitc, and contains a quote that you’d think I plagiarized in order to write this post, and yet I wrote everything but this last paragraph before I even found the WSJ article:

“The only way to get off oil is with a system that’s cheaper than gasoline, and more convenient than gasoline,” [Shai Agassi, founder of Better Place, an EV battery swapping and charging technology company] says. “I can’t raise the investment in the U.S. to put this (Better Place) on the ground.”