It’s Not About The Mascot

vikingWhen I began writing this post Monday, it was a VERY different post.

I’d read the news that some students and a professor at Western Washington University (WWU, Western), my place of employment for the past 15 years, were calling for a change of the university’s mascot, the Vikings, claiming it conflicts with Western’s commitment to diversity.

And so, I was going to write a casual exploration of the topic, reflecting on the fact that the mascot at the junior high school I attended was also the Vikings, half joking about how the current graphic of the Viking, included here, whether or not you believe it a barrier to creating an inclusive community for people of color on campus, is so freaking scary he looks like he very badly wants to pillage my village, rape my women, and impale me on his horns, and then, maybe, I’d lightly touch on the topic of political correctness vs. free speech.

But Tuesday morning, before having any time to complete this post, an email was sent to the entire Western Washington University community by WWU President Bruce Shepard, announcing that classes had been cancelled for the day in response to hate speech on social media, directed at students of color at Western because of their opposition of the mascot.

So, I needed to take a break from writing and regroup, I needed to read the coverage in the media, and I even masochistically subjected myself to reading the reader comments on the article in the Bellingham Herald and on Western’s Facebook Page.

Then, shortly thereafter, I read the news that five Black Lives Matter protesters were shot in Minneapolis.

And what became abundantly clear to me was:

It’s not about the mascot.

It’s about racism.

What kind of country do we live in where this happens?

  • A handful of students of color state publicly that they oppose a university mascot because they feel alienated by it, and they are met with hate speech and threats, AND…
  • This same handful are told, with derision and anger, that they shouldn’t be offended and scared, that they are “cry babies” and “pussies”, and that this is just political correctness run amok, AND…
  • The president of the university is attacked for cancelling classes, which he did because he understands that students of color might be scared, given that racism and violence on college campuses is a national epidemic, and that the whole university needs time to process the awareness that racist threats were made to our students.

In April 2014, President Shepard, in a convocation speech, said:

“ … if in decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university.”

…and he swiftly came under fire for those comments.

I suspect that many who found fault with what he said then are likely the same people angrily criticizing the opposition to the mascot and the decision to cancel classes.

Racists have a glaringly obvious tell: Even hint about taking away a symbol of white power — a maniacal Viking, or, let’s say, the Confederate flag — and they doth protest too much.

Listen, I’ll take a politically correct overreaction over a racist overreaction any frickin’ day!

Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul.

  

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.

Teddy Bear Cove -> Chuckanut Bay -> San Juan Islands

  

Before The Fall

Before The Fall

Jewell James Totem: Standing Guard At Whatcom Creek

 

Bicycle + Treadmill = Genius!

Lopifit-Electrical-Supported-Tredmill-1This, folks, is the Lopifit, and it is all kinds of brilliant.

I stumbled upon this treadmill-bike thanks to a Facebook friend’s post, and given my interest in bicycles AND the fact that I swear by the standing workstation I use at my job, given that I’ve blogged about bicycles numerous times in the past, given that “bicycles” is fully half of my blog’s name, I can’t not write a post about this!

The Lopifit is the brainchild of Bruin Bergmeester, from The Netherlands, and an article from a year ago at the Epoch Times describes the Lopifit origin story:

When asked how he came up with the idea, Bruin explains he works full time and sits all day, so he likes to exercise on a treadmill at home.

One day it was lovely outside and Bruin did not fancy spending time on a bicycle, which meant sitting again, so he thought to himself: “Why not bring the treadmill outdoors?” And so the Lopifit was born.

The article was accompanied by this very short video:

Well, what a difference a year makes!

When the Epoch Times piece appeared, Bergmeester had built five prototypes, and a shop in Utrecht could build them on demand, but now there’s a fancy Lopifit website, the Lopifit has crossed the Atlantic and there are now three dealers in the U.S., and the Lopifit can be yours, in one of five color options, for €1,899.00 or $2162.55 USD.

Commenters online naturally got around to asking the obvious question: Yeah, this seems like a great idea in notoriously flat places like The Netherlands, but how well can it handle hills?

While this may not be enough to convince someone in hilly San Francisco, Seattle, or even here in Bellingham, the Epoch Times article mentions hills directly, claiming that, thanks to the electric assist motor, the Lopifit “runs quite fast and is equally good going uphill”.

Me? I’ll take the orange one!

orange-lopifit

To Man Bun, Or Not To Man Bun?

man-bunWhen I first heard my 17-year old son refer to some guy’s hairstyle as a “man bun”, I chuckled heartily.

Little did I know at the time just how much of a thing man buns are!

See, I’ve lived here in Bellingham, Washington for 22 years, and there has always been a visible, healthy, active, engaged hippie presence in town. Since the late 1960s, men with long hair, tied up or flowing freely, have been decidedly commonplace, and so modern hipster culture‘s embrace of long hair, and the man bun in particular, just didn’t register for me.

Well now, thanks to an article at Vox titled Man buns, explained, posted by a friend on Facebook today, I know much more about this trendy-once-again hairstyle than I thought I needed to know, including the names of some of the many man bun variants:

manbunchart

Interesting timing, all this, because I just got a haircut, my hair had reached a length that could very nearly support a man bun if I was so inclined, and yet I have a very complicated relationship with my hair, it’s a hair paradox, really.

I’m the type of person who prefers a low-maintenance appearance, partly based in an effort to avoid vanity, and partly out of simple laziness. I like to spend as little time as possible looking at myself in the mirror, fussing with clothes and hair and such. I’ve got MUCH more important things to spend my time on!

And yet, my hair is a major pain in the ass. It’s incredibly thick, curly, and dry and frizzy. It’s easiest to simply towel dry and forget about it when it is very short, but it grows so damned fast that I’d have to get a haircut every other week to keep it that easy, and yet, paradoxically, bi-weekly haircuts are not low-maintenance at all!

Conversely, if frequent haircuts are too much maintenance, you could argue that another solution is to just let the hair keep growing and eventually tie it up into a ponytail or, I don’t know, let’s say, a man bun, and forget about it.

Only, with hair like mine, the longer it gets the more work it takes to tame it: more shampoo to get it clean, more conditioner to keep if from being ridiculously frizzy, more time painfully running a brush through it to get out all of those insidious knots, cuz no offense to Rastafarians everywhere, but I ain’t doing dreadlocks.

Conclusion: Even if I was a hipster, which I’m decidedly not, and may be too old to try to be with any self-respect, (See the recent Noah Baumbach film While We’re Young), the answer to the question “To Man Bun, Or Not To Man Bun?” is clearly: Not.

Property Of The State: Revisited

wwu2Almost exactly five years ago, I wrote a post titled Fish & Bicycles: Property Of The State, explaining that, because I work at a public university, with the impending start of fall term and the academic year, my ass is essentially owned by the State of Washington at this time, resulting in little-to-zero time or energy for blogging.

This will be my 8th year in my current position, my 15th year over all at the university, each year I make a concerted effort to improve my process and outcomes, however small the increment(s) may be, and this year I seem to be particularly inspired to make it a great kickoff, partly evident by the fact that I’m posting this disclaimer for the slowdown here at Fish & Bicycles a full 10 days earlier than I did 5 years ago.

Obviously, it would be hypocritical of me if I carried on any further in this post. I have a million things on my to-do list, after all.

So, instead of writing anything else today, I thought I’d stop here and simply copy and paste below the post from five years ago. As was the case then, I may be inspired and able to post a thing or two in the next few weeks, but I can’t guarantee anything.

Happy Weekend, everyone, and hope to “see” you soon!


I’m sorry to report that for the next week or so it’s likely to be awfully quiet around here.

You see, as I’ve mentioned before, I work for Western Washington University, in fact, my office is in the building you see highlighted in the photo here.

The first day of classes for Fall Quarter is September 22nd, but more important to me, 4,000+ students who will be living in on-campus housing move in this coming weekend, and I’m basically owned for the next week or so.

If this weren’t enough excitement, this past Sunday a main power switch on campus failed, sending 12,000 volts in an arc across a room, causing melting through plated steel, requiring replacement parts to be manufactured in Portland and hand delivered by the manufacturer. As a result, since Sunday there’s been a power outage in most of the buildings you see in the foreground of the photo, causing hundreds of WWU employees to have to find alternate workstations to do their…um…work.

I’m accustomed to being mobile, as my job has me regularly splitting my time between various buildings, using a laptop and a cell phone to get stuff done just about anywhere. For a lot of other folks that isn’t the case. And even though people are pulling together to help one another, as it happens so often in times of adversity, there is a palpable tension in the air, and the oft-repeated phrase “at least this didn’t happen next Monday” brings little solace.

So, who knows? I might be able to squeeze a little time in here and there to post something new to Fish & Bicycles, but I appreciate your patience and your checking back in later if that proves impossible.

Now, where did I put that flashlight?

Sequoia + Lightpost

sequoia1