Stuff We Don’t Need: Yet Another “Progressive” Vanity Organization

progressive-groupsSo, there’s this guy Van Jones who has been saying a lot of good things, for a while, and this week he announced the start of a new campaign called the #LoveArmy, a new initiative of his Dream Corps organization.

Sadly though, for quite some time, I have been VERY suspicious of how much ego is behind seemingly well-intentioned people like Mr. Jones.

I see it play out something like this, time and time and again:

Super smart, charismatic, articulate progressive takes a firm stance on something and gets regional and/or nationwide attention; said person gathers a team of collaborators and followers and starts their own new organization, with a spiffy new logo and website, like Van Jones’ Dream Corps; meanwhile there are already dozens, hundreds, even thousands of existing progressive organizations all over the country, many doing similar work, many of which overlap and compete with each another for donations or attention or nitpicky differences in their platform or approach.

The left/progressive wing in this country is utterly fractured, totally susceptible to and thwarted by the divide-and-conquer tactics from the masterfully manipulative right wing, but all I see is this parade of emerging leaders starting up their own vanity projects rather than building a movement that unites the existing progressive organizations.

One could argue that many if not most politicians running for office resemble this formula. Once they are in office, they are quickly assimilated into business-as-usual, without the time and/or will to build on the movement that got them elected, to make it bigger and stronger and capable of supporting an unwavering agenda of real change.

Now, to be fair, every once in a while I see a glimmer of the right idea, and here are three examples.

1. Bernie Sanders certainly met the “super smart, charismatic, articulate progressive” criteria I mention above, but in VERY different ways.

Smart as hell, for sure, but his unlikely charisma resided in his unpolished, scruffy, gesticulating appearance and demeanor, and his articulateness was not about flowery oratory or wonky policyspeak, but rather, it was his dogged consistency of message, a message of a need for a political revolution that united millions and millions of Americans around common causes, an articulation that powerfully wielded a “we” rather than “me” orientation.

The Bernie Sanders-inspired Our Revolution group says they are about continuing Bernie’s work of building this national grassroots movement, and I’m eager to see if they will reach out to all of the progressive organizations already out there, to unite them and coordinate efforts.

2. Back in June, shortly after the mainstream media declared that Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic Party nomination, 3,000 activists attended The People’s Summit in Chicago, a hastily thrown-together event, also aimed at taking up Bernie’s torch. Notable was the extensive list of “partners” posted on the event’s website, seen here in this post as a collection of logos that both highlights what I said above about how progressives love to start new organizations, but also seems to represent at least an attempt to bring these groups together.

3. Just today I read of a brand new effort to fight the Trump-elect proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Protect Our Care Coalition pulls together representatives from 20 different existing organizations to “pool resources and work together to ensure people in America understand the damage of repealing the ACA.”

Now THAT is stuff we need!

Stuff We Don’t Need: Frankensalmon

big-fish-little-fishREALLY disappointing news yesterday.

As I wrote five years ago, in two separate posts (Post 1, Post 2), some mad genetic scientists, seemingly out of some sci-fi B-movie, have been messing around with salmon to produce fish that grow faster on farms.

There’s really nothing more I can think to say about what a travesty this idea is, especially to people here in the Pacific Northwest, so please consider reading my previous posts linked to in the previous paragraph.

The sad news from yesterday, is that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the government body that is supposed to keep us safe, has approved the Frankensalmon as fit for human consumption, and they continue to refuse to label this or any other genetically modified food.

And yet, there was some hope hidden in New York Times article:

Within hours of the agency’s decision on Thursday, one consumer advocacy group, the Center for Food Safety, said it and other organizations would file a lawsuit challenging the approval.

Despite the approval, it is likely to be at least two years before any of the salmon reaches supermarkets, and at first it will be in tiny amounts.

It is not clear how well the salmon will sell. Some leading supermarkets have already said, in response to the vocal opposition, that they have no plans to sell it.

So, really, it’s up to us.

As the bumper stickers you see here in Bellingham say:

Friends don’t let friends buy farmed salmon.

Stuff We Don’t Need: $3,600 Bookshelf Bike Rack

Bless me, readers, for I have sinned.

It’s been a LONG time, WAY too long, since my last installment of Stuff We Don’t Need, but when I read at Treehugger about the combination bike rack and bookshelf that you see here, cuz I love all things bicycle, I couldn’t pass on it.

First off, let me make it clear that I totally understand and have lived through the challenges of owning a bicycle while living in a small apartment. Especially in a rainy climate, like here in Bellingham, storing a bicycle outside adds the threat of rust to the threat of theft, and bringing it inside, well, there’s only so much room.

But, let’s break this down, shall we?

  • If someone lives in an apartment so small that space is an issue, will they really have $3,600 dollars to spend on this thing? … Yeah, didn’t think so.
  • Anyone who has ever lifted an adult-size bicycle in order to hang it on hooks like this would know that even the lightest bicycles (which are made of expensive materials, too expensive for people who can’t afford a $3,600 bookshelf bike rack), unless placed on the hook of this bookshelf bike rack with extreme care, will still likely cause the shelves to shake, resulting in a less than stable storage system for books and nicknacks.
  • Unless you are joyfully obsessive compulsive and enjoy wiping down your bicycle after each ride, bicycles, especially if you live in a rainy climate, like here in Bellingham, get really, really dirty. So, a white bookshelf bike rack, really?

(Caveat: Perhaps the black version of the bookshelf bike rack would address that last bullet.)

Listen, I appreciate the creativity that went into this thing, I’m a big fan of industrial design, but design that is impractical can be totally counterproductive, ultimately failing to meet the needs of actual customers.

In this case, despite any good intentions to help promote cycling as an eco-friendly form of transportation, it just doesn’t seem like the designer put much thought into what the actual experience of owning a bicycle is like. It is attractive, but if it gets dirty quickly or you tire of having to wipe down your bike all the time, and if books and nicknacks fall off easily, a $3,600 item could, all too soon, end up in a dumpster and then a landfill, essentially eliminating any eco-friendly outcome that may have been hoped for.

Stuff We Don’t Need: Caffeinated Waffles

So, it was time for my morning coffee, and I was on my way to the Viking Union (student center), at my place of employment, Western Washington University, when I came across a vendor on Vendor’s Row selling what you see here in the photo to the right. (Click photo to enlarge to better read the label.)

That’s right. Caffeinated waffles from the people at

Context: It’s finals week at the university, a time of deadlines, all-nighters and sleep deprivation.

I continued on to my favorite vendor, The Coffee Lady, and as I filled my 16-oz. reusable mug I asked her, “Did you ever think that your competition would come in the form of a waffle?”

The Coffee Lady replied, “No, I can’t say that I saw that coming.”

I know it seems mighty hypocritical of me, a daily coffee drinker, to give a thumbs-down to the Wired Waffle, but there’s something so blatantly and disturbingly exploitative about it. At least from my experience, the vast majority of coffee advertising has nothing to do with the caffeine and everything to do with the flavor.

Finally, the fact that the website BADLY needs proofreading, well, as a former English major, sorry, I can’t abide.

Stuff We Don’t Need: Sip & Sniff Coffee Lids

It’s been quite some time since I did a Stuff We Don’t Need installment, for reasons I can’t quite explain. I come across stuff we don’t need all the time, but for some reason this one really jumped out at me today.

While I get the idea behind the to-go coffee lid you see here to the right…

Via Gizmodo:

Coffee from your favorite donut shop has a problem. It doesn’t taste as good as it should because the lid traps in the wonderful aroma. Taste is 95% smell, so you’re really missing out.

Mint Urban Technologies has a solution for this sensory shortcoming. It’s designed the Aroma Lid, a new cover that’s infused with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. When you take a sip, you smell and taste a wonderful, full-bodied brew.

…I look at this thing and I think:

  • What a waste of technology! You sip and sniff for, what?, 15 minutes, and then the lid is off to a landfill?!
  • Speaking of waste, if this was a reusable lid for a reusable coffee mug or cup I’d be more open to the idea. I’m as opposed to single-use coffee cups as I am to single-use shopping bags (post 1 and post 2 on the subject of the latter).
  • Apropos my recent post on the Slow Bicycle Movement, perhaps the real solution to the odorless coffee problem is for us to slow down and smell the coffee, to simply plan an extra 15-30 minutes into our days, when we can sit with our hot java in a reusable cup without a lid, and breathe in all that roasted bean goodness as we consume our go juice…and then go.

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.”

Stuff We Don’t Need: Nipple Enhancers

Listen, I like nipples as much as the next guy or gal.

But this is so wrong in so many ways.

To name a few:

  • Leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination
  • There are only two answers to the legendary question, “Is it cold in here or are you just happy to see me?”
  • As the Gizmodo contributor writes, “But what would you think if one of these fell off during a groping session?”

I suppose I can understand how someone might find it exciting to don these out in public, getting off on all the attention they’d bring. But come on! Halloween only comes once a year!

I really don’t think it is in the best long term interest of humanity for us to find more and more ways of artificially enhancing the human body. In other words, I don’t think this is what Darwin had in mind in terms of evolution.

Stuff We Don’t Need: Cloud Machines

I guess this is what happens when the second wealthiest man in the world was born, raised, and still lives in Seattle.

From Inhabitat:

The Microsoft founder recently announced plans to invest $300,000 into research for machines that suck up seawater and spray it into the air, seeding white clouds that reflect rays of sunlight away from Earth.

The machines, developed by a San Francisco-based research group called Silver Lining, turn seawater into tiny particles that can be shot up over 3,000 feet in the air. The particles increase the density of clouds by increasing the amount of nuclei contained within. Silver Lining’s floating machines can suck up ten tons of water per second.

Of course it seems ok to a multi-billionaire Seattleite to add more clouds to the sky!

Listen, I know that the situation is dire and that a lot more needs to be done to combat global warming, but this idea seems crazy to me, and I’m sure that tourism bureaus all across the planet would be none too happy with it either.

But the most troubling thing to me is the bit about sucking up ten tons of seawater per second from the oceans. Am I crazy or is that bound to have a disastrous impact on fish and sea mammals? Isn’t this idea supposed to protect our planet from harm?

Stuff We Don’t Need: Chili Beer

Listen, everyone who knows me knows that I LOVE Boundary Bay Brewery. I love the beer, the ambiance, the clientèle, and the food’s not too shabby either.

That said, I’m no Boundary Bay sycophant. I don’t like all of their beers, and I don’t like their policy of serving select seasonal beers in smaller glasses for the same price as a pint.

Oh, and I can attest that this beer, which I tried last year, is terrible:

Chili Beer

A spicy yet refreshing beer for Cinco De Mayo. A light bodied ale spiked with roasted Anaheim, Jalapeno and Serrano peppers. It’s not as hot as it sounds because the roasting takes away some of the heat but leaves all the flavor. Try some with your favorite dish. Salud!

Some things were simply not meant to go together: fish and bicycles…um…I mean: bicycle tires and broken glass, bare feet and dog poo, marinara sauce and white shirts, and…

…chili and beer. Chili-laden Mexican food is great when washed down with beer, but the flavors do NOT belong in the same glass.

Then again, that’s just me. If for some crazy reason you want to judge for yourself, by all means, go check it out why it’s available.

In the meantime, order me an Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

Stuff We Don’t Need: Cardboard record player

Last week I introduced a new series I’ll be running here at Fish & Bicycles, a little thing I’ve titled Stuff We Don’t Need (aka SWDN). And in that introductory post, I described items that could be featured in this series like this:

…a thing can be simultaneously utterly pointless and funny at the same time.

Since this is such a new idea, it’s not surprising that I’ve come to find so soon that I need to revise that description. While any given SWDN item might be something we don’t need, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is utterly pointless. It could be that, despite how little we need it, it might actually be kind of cool that someone came up with the idea, which is rather different than something that is so stupid that it’s funny. For instance, last week’s Rock-Paper-Scissors Glove is, in my opinion, most definitely utterly pointless and funny, but this week’s installment?

Via Gizmodo:

Audio engineering company GGRP Sound sent a 45rpm record in a corrugated cardboard sleeve that doubles as a record player. You can put it together in one single step. Once in position, you can play and scratch using a pencil.

No, we don’t need it, but it’s just about the coolest thing I’ve seen lately.