Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Few Words about Fishing Regulations

NO!  Wait!!!   Don't close this page and move on to something else... this is important, I promise. You might not go fishing, but certainly you eat fish, don't you?  Even if  you don't, you must know someone who does.

Last year, we spent a few days in Acadia, Maine. Everywhere you went, there was lobster-something-or-other. Lobster bisque, lobster rolls, lobster salad, boiled lobster --  well, you get the idea.  Not surprisingly, we also saw lots of lobster trap and lobster boats.

Living near the coast in Massachusetts, we certainly have a lot of lobster things, including lobster boats... but we also have a lot of fishing boats.  But in Acadia it struck us that - whether sitting in a restaurant with a water view, or being on the boat doing the sightseeing tours of the puffin nesting areas -  there was nary a fishing boat in sight.  Yes, that's right.  Nary, is in less than a few, as in not a single one.  We didn't even see anyone fishing from shore.

So we asked one of the locals about the lack of fishing, and we were told a very sad story.   You see --  many years ago, fish such as cod and haddock and halibut had been very plentiful in that particular port.  But then the commercial fisherman came through the area, dragging their nets.  Nope - it's not what you think - it's not that they overfished the area, it's that their dragging nets destroyed the eelgrass beds and other seagrass beds. Without the eelgrass and other seagrasses, little fishes had nowhere to hide from predators, and all fishes were missing an important food source. The commercial fisherman were following all regulations, but their legal fishing  had some serious consequences.  As a result of this, today there is no fishing in Southwest Harbor - not because of any regulations, but because there are no fish.

This year, there have been quite a number of changes in both the state and federal fishing regulations for the waters off of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Maine.  Let me share just a few of them with you. For recreational fisherman, we are not allowed to fish for any cod at all -- that's right, ZERO.  If we catch a cod fish by mistake, we must throw it back, as we are not allowed to have any in our possession.  We can still catch and keep haddock, but the limit is reduced to three fish per person, and the minimum size is increased to 21 inches  We can catch striped bass, and the minimum size is still 28 inches, but the limit is reduced from two, to one.

But that's the regulations for recreational fisherman... those of us who stand onshore, or on our boats, holding a fishing rod.  The regulations for commercial fisherman are quite different.

Commercial fisherman are allowed to keep as many haddock as they can catch, and the minimum size is 18 inches.  Yes, that's right.  All those 18, 19, and 20 inch haddock that I have to throw back, they get to keep.  But they can only keep cod if they're at least 19 inches long, and they can only keep 200 pounds, so that sounds fair, right?


You see...cod and haddock are generally found together.  When I am fishing for a haddock and I accidentally catch a cod, I remove the hook from the fish's mouth, and throw it back....  and nearly all the time the fish will swim away, none the worse for wear. And if the fish does die, at least I've only killed one fish at a time. But when a commercial fisherman --- fishing with nets --- is fishing for their unlimited number of haddock,  they are also fishing for their 200 pounds of cod.  Once they reach their limit of cod, they keep fishing for haddock, of course.  And they continue to catch cod in those same haddock-catching nets.  They must throw the excess cod back, of course... but by the time they've sorted through their catch, separating the keeper haddock from the throw-back cod, and they then throw back those excess cod, a significant portion of those cod don't survive.

I suspect that if I were to go fishing every day during the cod-fishing season,  and catch - and keep - let's say 3 cod per day...  that would be a pittance compared to the number of cod killed by one commercial fishing boat in one day, even when the commercial fishing boat complies with all regulations.

Nothing that I've told you is a secret, and none of the arguments I've made are unique.  The regulators will tell you that it's important to let the commercial fisherman stay in business, and they'll tell you if the commercial fisherman go out of business there will be a serious shortage of fish at the retail level. I wonder what the residents of Southwest Harbor, Maine think of that argument.

Fishing regulations should be far more complex than a minimum size for fish, and the number of fish you keep.  There is supposed to be a 'management' aspect to the fishing regulations...  and I'm not seeing much management of the overall fishing situation.  You can't just manage those who are fishing... you have to manage the environmental consequences of the fishing regulations.

But then --  no one asked me what I thought.  In fact no one I know was asked what they thought. You see, these regulations were imposed as 'emergency' regulations, so there were no public hearings held before the regulations were implemented.

As I do for all emergencies, I'm going to have a cup of tea.  It won't change any of the regulations, but it might make me feel better.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Surfin' Safari

As a child, I grew up in the middle of the country, far far away from any coast ...  and surfing was something that they did on that show with Annette Funicello and in the Beach Boys song (two songs, actually - no, wait, make that three, no wait - it's actually 10*), and then later they did it on Hawaii 5-0. These days, I live on the coast, but it's the 'wrong' coast, as far as surfing is concerned.

Yet, like most people I now surf on a daily basis...  and of course I'm talking about surfing the internet.  I remember the first computer we had at home...  my husband and I got an Apple computer, and we spent many an evening gathered around the monitor.  (yes, you can gather, with just two people!) Generally, our surfing was a bit aimless...  one of us would say "I wonder how..."  and we'd look it up, or "What if..."    We would take turns at the keyboard, exploring 'the information superhighway', and often, each answer would lead to the next question.  (note to youngsters:  this was before Siri, and even before Google, if you can believe it!)

So how did sitting in a chair in one's living room, get the same name as being on the ocean, standing on  a board, and trying to stay upright?

Funny you should ask that.  My guess had been that someone thought that jumping around from one idea to the next, was kind of like gliding and sliding from one wave to the next.  If that sounds pretty good, you're just as wrong as I was.

Turns out that a librarian by the name of Jean Polly  was writing a beginner's level article about the internet, back in 1992.  Her article was to be a departure from the typical technical writings that were being done.  She wanted a title that "expressed the fun I had using the Internet", but also conveyed that skill was necessary in order to use the Internet well..  She wanted something that would engender a sense of randomness, and a bit of danger. Thinking back to my early wanderings on the internet, I can appreciate and understand the fun, randomness and certainly the requirement of skill (although not too sure about the danger).   And then she glanced at her mousepad, which had a picture of a surfer on a big wave... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Except not really.

As I said, Jean was a librarian, and being a librarian, she liked to research things.  Nine years after she wrote her article she was updating it and she discovered that - although she'd never heard the word surfing used in connection with the internet before she used it in her article, there were a few people here and there who had used the phrase 'surfing the internet' several years before she did -- and ironically enough, that's why her mousepad showed a surfer.  Also ironically enough, the reason why Jean didn't know this when she was coming up with her title was that 'net surfing was new enough that it was much more difficult to find this information in 1992, than in 2001.

So who does Jean say first used the phrase "surfing the internet"?  According to her, it was a fellow by the name of Mark McCahill.  When Jean asked him how he came up with that phrase, he told her that he did a lot of windsurfing... and the idea of browsing the internet made him think of surfing the ocean.

AHA!!!!  We were right in the first place!!  Surfing the internet is the intellectual version of surfing waves!

Well I always like being right, and I say that's cause for celebration.  Put on the kettle, it's time for a cup of tea.                      

*By the way, I'm sure most of you know the names of at least a few of the  Beach Boys surfer songs, but in case you don't know them all ...  there's Surfin', Surfin' Safai,  Surfer Girl, Surfin' USA, Surfer Jam, Noble Surfer, The Surfer Moon, South Bay Surfer, The Rocking Surfer, and Surfer's Rule.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Avocado Problem

Over the last few weeks I keep finding emails in my inbox  about avocados, and it seems like everyone is talking about avocados.  I like avocados, especially in a salad, and I realized I hadn't had any avocado in awhile.  So last week when we went out to dinner, I ordered a turkey tips and avocado salad -- only to be told that they were out of avocado.


Now I REALLY wanted some avocado.  Not a problem, I know how to make my own salad.  So the next day I went to the grocery story, with visions of a wonderful salad with green peppers and radishes and mushrooms and black olives and romaine lettuce and feta cheese - and of course avocado.  I had some of the ingredients at home, and I quickly picked out the romaine lettuce and fresh mushrooms, and then walked over to the avocados.

Ugh!   Hard as a rock.  Perhaps harder.  The avocados weren't bagged, they were all separate, and I went through every avocado on display, but
could not find one that I could eat that night.

Yes, I know that avocados in the grocery store are often quite hard.  Yes, I know that it's very easy to ripen them by placing them in a paper bag.  Yes, I had a paper bag at home.  But that didn't solve my problem, which was that I wanted avocado in my salad that night.  And there's really no suitable substitute for avocado.

Wearing my best pouty face, I put three avocados in my cart, prepared to pout for the several days it might take for the avocados to ripen.  As I pouted and dragged my feet in the direction of the checkout lines, I realized I was walking by the organic produce section.  I have never purchased anything from the organic produce section, being quite satisfied with the ?inorganic? options.  But as I looked up, I saw that there were little organic avocados -- packaged three to a mesh bag.

Keeping my three hard avocados, I added a mesh bag of organic avocados to my cart, turned my pouty faee to a happy face, and went through the checkout line.  Was the cashier mystified at my grin?  Don't know, didn't care, I was having avocado in my salad that night.

About now, you're wondering 'Gee Laurie, what's the problem? Were the organic avocados bad?"

No they were not, they were wonderful.  And I had a salad with avocado the next day for lunch, and again the day after that.

Here's my problem.   I still have 1 1/2 organic avocados left.  And my three avocados that were hard, are now quite ripe.  So I have 3 large avocados and 1 1/2 small avocados, all needing to be eaten, and eaten fairly soon, and there's only so much avocado you can put in a salad.

So I'm looking for recipes.  I could make guacamole of course, but then you need chips.. and I was hoping to keep this on the healthy side.  I see a recipe for an Avocado-lettuce-tomato sandwich... which sounds good, but doesn't use up much avocado.  I see that you can fry avocados -- again, doesn't sound very healthy, plus one serving only uses up 1/3 avocado.

But I may have found a winner here, I may have found a solution.  I've come across a recipe for avocado pie.  Only uses two avocados... but that's ok.  That might be enough that I can use the rest up in salads.

And I'm pretty sure avocado pie will go quite well with a nice cup of tea.

But WAIT!!!
I now see that you can grill avocados... typical serving is one 'cado per person.  And avocado soup sounds interesting.. that's 1/2 'cado per serving.  Oh wow, I just found a recipe for grilled marinated avocado that you serve as a side dish.. that's one 'cado per person.  And mashed avocado on toast sounds pretty good, too... that's 1/2 'cado per person.  And I see a recipe that has you putting avocado in your potato salad!

Oops.  New problem.  Now I need more avocados.  Better get more tea, as well.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Riding a bicycle

I've always found the phrase 'it's just like riding a bicycle' to be extremely annoying.  To me, that phrase can be translated to  'it's really, really, really, difficult... and might even be impossible'.  Yes, that's right, I can't ride a bicycle.  I can sit on a bicycle with my feet on the ground, and I can fall off a bicycle.  And that's the extent of my abilities.

Now, you may be familiar with a You-Tube webcast called Smarter Every Day  The webcasts are done by Destin Sandlin.  Destin is an engineer  ....

no, no, no... not that kind... this kind

.... and his webcasts include all kinds of scientific experiments.  They're generally short, they're typically amusing, they're almost always interesting.  And they're usually somewhat unique.  While I enjoyed the webcast on Laser Tattoo Removal, my favorite 'casts are Hummingbird Aerodynamics, and Flipping Cats.

Recently, Destin did a webcast on riding a bicycle.  The first thing that he did was comment that the phrase 'like riding a bicycle'  is used to mean that something  a) is easily learned, and b) once learned, it's always remembered....  and he then goes on to show how that's not true.  It's difficult to explain exactly what he had to do... it involved a modified bicycle, and re-teaching his brain how to ride the bicycle, and then he couldn't ride an un-modified bicycle....  Well, if you're interested, click on the webcast link and look for Backwards Brain Bicycle.

But the point is, that riding a bicycle isn't this simple, never forgotten skill.  To all those who've laughed at me for not being able to ride a bicycle, I say HAH!   and So There!!

I briefly considered trying to popularize the phrase 'as easy as making a cup of tea'.  But the truth of the matter is that while anyone can make a cup of tea, it takes some skill to make a good cup of tea.  And if you're not going to make a good cup of tea, why bother?  I suppose you could say that making a good cup of tea is like riding a bicycle..... but I'd rather just make a good cup of tea.  And so I shall.