Like Bringing A Knife To A Gunfight vs. Like Bringing A Gun To A Dog Park


Like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

–Origin unknown

You know that old saying, used frequently as a metaphor for entering into a situation inadequately equipped or prepared?

Well, consider this example of the opposite scenario:

So, this past weekend, my wife and I and our dog Zuki were at the dog park at nearby Lake Padden, nestled amongst gorgeous frost-covered trees at the south end of the lake, the dogs were playfully sniffing and chasing each other around, it was so peaceful…

… and then I saw the gun …

… in a holster on the hip of a guy dressed all in black, with a U.S. flag patch on one of the upper sleeves of his jacket, the owner of a Great Dane twice the size of all the other dogs in the park …

… and I instantly felt flooded by a wave of nausea and fear …

… and my brain tried to make sense of the cognitive dissonance.

I tried to imagine just how awful it must be to live in so much fear that you feel you have to bring a gun to a dog park.

But, then I thought of the epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S., and how some people think that there would be fewer mass shootings if more people were armed, because, they say, there would be more of a chance of someone being at the scene who could shoot and kill the shooter before he kills or before he kills many, even though there’s no evidence that this is true.

And then I thought, even if this guy was somehow motivated by a warped, misguided sense of civic duty, a desire to protect others, nevertheless, his mere presence and the deadly weapon he carried literally terrorized me, AND he’s allowed, by law, to do so, in my otherwise great home state of Washington, without a license or permit.

And finally, I realized that the other people in the U.S. who are legally allowed to carry guns are police, and the only reason I don’t feel terrorized by their presence is because I’m a white male.

Fear and guns.

Is this really the land of the free?

…all in the name of freedom
Freedom is not domination
I believe
Freedom’s got to come from within
Yes it does
Not with the gun
Freedom’s the ability to feel love for everyone

Mason Jennings

Reason #258 Why I Love Bellingham: Elf Karate

Little known fact: J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was a martial arts practitioner, and in 1967, still obsessed with the world of Middle Earth he’d created for his books, he traveled to Bellingham, Washington, where he’d heard his books had a cult following, and there he founded his own, very specialized school of Karate.


City of Subdued Excitement: Origin Story

Yesterday, I wrote:

As far as I know, the origins of Bellingham, Washington‘s unofficial nickname — The City of Subdued Excitement — are a mystery.

Some claim it derives from a locally famous mural on the side of an antique shop downtown, painted in 1994, and yet others swear that the nickname significantly predates the mural.

I’d heard this ‘mystery’ discussed many times over the years, including, as I say, disagreement on the facts, with some insisting that they’d heard Bellingham referred to by this nickname years prior to the painting of the mural (pictured here).

However, shortly after I posted that yesterday, since Fish & Bicycles posts are automagically shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr, it was seen on Facebook by Bellingham Herald arts and culture reporter Margaret Bikman, who commented:

[the ‘City of Subdued Excitement’ nickname] was coined by Mr. Peanut aka, Stephen Stimson, previous owner of Lone Wolf Antiques, next to Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, in 1995. You can research this.

Photo credit:
Well, I truly am grateful to Margaret for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight!

I had done a brief Google search, but nothing seemed definitive, and I didn’t see specific credit given to Mr. Stimson. If I had searched a little longer, I would have found the painfully obvious URL, where Mr. Stimson is indeed credited.

But, since Margaret has access to the Bellingham Herald archives, she copied and pasted into the Facebook comments the definitive article on the subject, a March 25, 2007 piece by fellow Herald reporter Dean Kahn. (I subsequently tried every form of search I could think of in order to find this article online, but the Herald online archives do not go back that far,‘s Wayback Machine was no use, and it doesn’t appear to be available anywhere else.)

And so, without further ado, here are some highlights from Mr. Kahn’s article, titled Mr. Peanut radiates ‘City of Subdued Excitement’:

  • Stephen Stimson – aka Mr. Subdued Excitement – was wearing a black top hat when I met him at Rocket Donuts. That would be eye-catching enough, but there’s more. His black hat topped his Mr. Peanut costume.
  • Back in 1995, he explains, his mother suggested that he paint a “Welcome to Bellingham” sign on the north outside wall of the Lone Wolf building at 109 Prospect St., next to Whatcom Museum. Stimson opened the antiques shop in 1988 in the building that had been family-owned for decades. He decided to think up and paint a slogan for Bellingham…He thought of “s” words that would flow well with the soft “c” of “city.” He thought of “subdued excitement.”
  • But what is “subdued excitement?” … For many people, the appeal of Bellingham lies in its quieter attractions, ones that might not immediately attract hordes of tourists. Attractions like our trails, parks and waterfront views, the golden sunsets of late summer, residents’ love of the city, people who wear Mr. Peanut outfits.
  • The reason that “City of Subdued Excitement” rules…is that it feels right. We’ll know the city is changing, and not necessarily for the best, when the slogan no longer fits.

And, that last bullet item brings us full circle, back to the theme of my post from yesterday, titled You Can’t Take The ‘Subdued’ Out Of The City Of Subdued Excitement.

May the slogan ever fit!

You Can’t Take The ‘Subdued’ Out Of The City Of Subdued Excitement

WWU Bellingham(1)As far as I know, the origins of Bellingham, Washington‘s unofficial nickname — The City of Subdued Excitement — are a mystery.

Some claim it derives from a locally famous mural on the side of an antique shop downtown, painted in 1994, and yet others swear that the nickname significantly predates the mural.

Regardless, most people who visit or live here pick up on our subdued vibe and enjoy it.

And yet, various efforts are underway to un-subdue Bellingham, an idea that I strongly oppose.

About a month ago, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, a non-profit organization self-described thusly (my emphasis added in bold):

The Partnership is the best source of information on upcoming events, public policies, and opportunities for downtown. We work closely with the City of Bellingham to provide leadership in the development of public policy that affects downtown, and we generate solutions to ensure downtown retains its vibrancy, life, and culture.

…hired a new Executive Director, Nick Hartrich, who, in a subsequent interview, said:

We need to set a trajectory to un-subdue our urban core.

What the what?!

Their About page says they generate solutions to retain Bellingham’s vibrancy, life, and culture, and yet, Mr. Hartrich wants to un-subdue.

How is that retaining?!

Subdued excitement is an integral part of Bellingham life and culture, and we’ve managed to earn spots, often near the top, on those ubiquitous ‘best places’ lists, in magazines and on websites, especially lists focusing on outdoor activities and retirement, partly on the basis of our unique subdued character.

To be fair, most of the ideas Mr. Hartrich shares in the interview are good ones, and none of them seem in conflict with subdued excitement.

I simply fail to see the need, therefore, for his “un-subdue” language.

This morning, I came across an article in the Bellingham Herald that couldn’t do a better job of capturing our subduedness (again, my emphasis added in bold):

Reminder: Bellingham officials look for new big event to draw tourism, business

BELLINGHAM — The city still is looking for ideas for a new “signature event” that will bring tourists to town to fill up hotel rooms and boost business, as well as highlight the many things Bellingham has going for it.

Applicants have less than two weeks left to submit their ideas for events that are unlike anything already done here or in nearby cities: The deadline to turn in proposals is 5 p.m. Feb. 13.

No one had turned in a proposal as of Friday, Jan. 30.


Let’s see…a new, big, signature event…um…well…we could…um…

…oh, never mind.

Cognitive Dissonance: A Green Jail?

homer-simpson-dohWhen I saw the following headline and lede paragraph from our local daily newspaper, here in Bellingham, Washington, in lovely Whatcom County, it really made my head hurt.

Whatcom council wants more cost info before deciding jail ‘LEED’ status

Whatcom County leaders are not ready to give up on building the new jail in Ferndale to a widely recognized green-building standard, despite the high-energy needs of the facility.

–Bellingham Herald

LEED, for anyone not familiar with sustainable building practices, is, as the Herald describes, THE standard for sustainable buildings, but the question that begs asking is:

How sustainable is it to have over two million people incarcerated in the U.S.?

LEED standards, sadly, don’t apparently consider this question at all, and, according to the New York Times, this is not at all a unique situation.

While it is admirable that, as the Herald reported:

[Whatcom County] committed in 2005 to constructing all public buildings to the LEED silver standard, “where feasible.”

…the Times reports:

The Washington State Department of Corrections boasts 34 LEED-certified facilities, with 923,789 square feet of LEED-certified space added in fiscal year 2008 alone.

Irony can sometimes be funny.

This is decidedly not one of those times.

Fish & Bicycles Lives!

Retro microphoneUm…hello…is this thing on?

Check! Check! 1,2,3 check!

Ok, so, how does one break a nearly year-and-a-half blogging silence?

Well, I left off with a June 2013 post, announcing that I was going on hiatus, partly because I’d been lacking inspiration, and partly because I needed to focus my attention on other things going on in my life (translation of the latter: I needed to get my shit together 😲).

In the interim, I’ve missed blogging a little bit, from time to time, but not enough to start up again, and yet just enough to renew the Fish & Bicycles domain name registration, twice.

So, what’s changed?

  • I’ve mostly got my shit together.
    • I’m doing yoga regularly.
    • I’ve lost 20lbs via a low-carb diet.
    • I’m spending more time with my now, gulp, 17-year old son.
    • I’m mostly achieving balance between work and play and family time.
  • I suddenly miss blogging enough to want to jump back into it.

And, what hasn’t changed?

So, let’s see how this goes. I’ll probably be rusty at first, right out of the gate, I’ll likely not be as prolific as I was before I left off, but maybe…

…just maybe…

I’ll find my groove again.


Marriage Equality: Way To Go Washington State!

You know, I haven’t been very pleased with the government here in Washington State lately. (Just one example.)

But, this morning I woke to some good news for a change.

Via The Seattle Times:

Historic Senate vote clears way for gay marriage in state

The state Senate passed legislation Wednesday night that would legalize gay marriage. The bill now goes to the House, where it’s expected to pass easily.

It’s always puzzled me that in a country where heterosexual marriages end in divorce 50% of the time, heterosexuals somehow still think that only heterosexuals should be allowed to marry.

Happily, Washington is poised to become the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage, and I only hope that that number will continue to grow.

When Boeing Says, “Jump!” You Say, “How High?!!!”

Just in case anyone needed yet another example of how corporate power is out of control, enter Boeing.

Boeing is a company that over the 3-year period from 2008 to 2010 paid an effective U.S. tax rate of…

…wait for it…

-1.8% (yes, you read that right, NEGATIVE 1.8%!!!) on $9.7 billion in profit, the fifth worst offender in the U.S., a company born right here in Washington State, a state where, during the same period, we’ve had budget shortfalls of up to $5 billion, resulting in massive cuts to public education, health care, state parks, transportation infrastructure, etc., with more “grim” cuts being proposed this year, and yet a state where Boeing enjoys state tax breaks to such an extent that the World Trade Organization determined the breaks to be, along with the U.S. federal tax breaks they enjoy, illegal under international trade agreements.

If that weren’t bad enough, Boeing has announced that it plans on overhauling it’s 737 airliner, that they’ve begun the process of determining whether they’ll keep 737 production in Renton, WA, or move it to another state, thereby motivating Washington Governor Chris Gregoire to propose $9.8 million in spending in order to protect 20,000 jobs and $500 million in annual tax revenues.

Let’s recount that quickly, shall we?

    October 27, 2011: The governor proposes $1.5 billion in cuts to health care, social services, prisons and education to help plug a $2 billion budget gap.

    November 16, 2011: The governor proposes $9.8 million in extortion payments to keep Boeing from firing 20,000 people and taking the little they do pay in state taxes to another state.

Breathtaking, isn’t it?

Just another arrangement of the “too big to fail” tune that corporations have been singing for WAY too long.

Thoughts Are With Japan

So, I’ve heard from most of my friends in Japan and luckily they and their families are all ok. Also, the friends I haven’t heard from live in Kobe, far enough south to have likely not suffered much, if any, damage.

Our current Homestay student, Shuichi, is from Nagoya, also far enough south to have dodged a bullet, and he reports that his family and friends are safe.

Meanwhile, the effects of this earthquake were felt as far away as right here in Washington State, where tsunami warnings were declared in coastal communities, resulting in traffic jams in some areas, particularly the Long Beach peninsula, where many people evacuated to higher ground.

We, the people of the west coast of the U.S. and the people of Japan, are all in this Pacific Ring of Fire together. It’s a scary reminder of what could happen to any of us, anytime, and a rude yet urgently needed wake-up call, screaming in our faces that we all need to be prepared.

Out of utter boredom, lying in my sick bed this past week, I just happened to watch the poorly-reviewed 2009 film 2012, which portrays a natural disaster that threatens to destroy all life on Earth and nearly does, save a relative handful of privileged and last minute mercy passengers who made it onto a few modern day arks.

It was not hard to think of scenes from that movie when looking at the photo above and watching the following footage of the tsunami hitting the Japanese coast, and it’s horrific to think that this is real life and not some Hollywood CGI.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Cruel Joke of Austerity Measures

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a real problem with the massive and still growing economic inequality on our planet.

According to Wikipedia:

A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000. The three richest people possess more financial assets than the lowest 48 nations, combined. The combined wealth of the 10 million dollar millionaires grew to nearly $41 trillion in 2008. In 2001, 46.4% of people in sub-Saharan Africa were living in extreme poverty. Nearly half of all Indian children are undernourished, however even among the wealthiest fifth one third of children are malnourished.

Here in the U.S., according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI):

America’s wealthiest households in 2009 had net worth that was 225 times greater than the median family net worth.

And, as the EPI points out, it is remarkable how this disparity rose to a record high during and in spite of the Great Recession.

We have a situation where a massive, global financial crisis was caused by large, under-regulated financial services companies operating in a multi-billion dollar industry…

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman:

It was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch.

…while millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their healthcare, etc., and the rich have gotten richer.

So, what do the rich and rich-owned politicians suggest we do about?

Why, cut government spending, of course, spending that predominantly supports the poor, working, and middle classes.

And what do they have the nerve to euphemistically call these cuts?

Austerity Measures

It’s an outright bastardization of the whole JKF ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country thing. Cuz, you see, in times of economic hardship we all must make sacrifices.

Yeah right.

Meanwhile, the spending cuts talk is heating up in the U.S. capital, according to the New York Times, “Spending by the Department of Health and Human Services would decline in 2012 for the first time in the agency’s 30-year history under President Obama’s budget request…,” and yet Republicans are mocking the budget for not cutting enough.

Here in Washington State, where we have a $5 billion dollar budget deficit, state agencies, counties, cities, other municipalities, and average citizens are bracing for a 2011-2013 biennium state budget that massively cuts spending on things that they and their constituents rely on, such as education, health care, public safety, etc., with a draft from the governor that contains no increase in taxes in a state with the most regressive tax system in the country.

All this, while news from Germany suggests that “austerity” doesn’t even work.

How long will people stand for this?

Well, as it turns out, all across the globe, people are waking up and speaking out against austerity; Sarah van Gelder in Yes! Magazine suggests that there’s a connection between the Wisconsin demonstrations and the uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world; and Paul Krugman suggests that the Wisconsin situation (a situation that has now spread to Indiana), is not about the budget per se, but rather, it’s about power, an uprising against a clear move in the U.S. from functional democracy towards a third-world-style oligarchy.

These are momentous and turbulent times. Here’s hoping that some lasting justice will come of all this.