Category Archives: Business and industry

Amusing Monday: Ray Troll visits Puget Sound with Ratfish Wranglers

Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, one of the most amusing bands in the Pacific Northwest, is touring Western Washington this month, with stops in Port Townsend, Gig Harbor and Seattle.

Two years ago, when writing about how fishermen can save rockfish from barotrauma, I featured a video by Ray and the band in Water Ways (June 22, 2015). This video includes a rockfish puppet and an original rap song by Ray Troll and Russell Wodehouse telling all about the problem.

Besides music, Ray is well known for his “fin art,” which is mostly about fish of all kinds, especially salmon. Ray prides himself on the realistic images of fish, produced with scientific precision, which he combines with humor to create some edgy posters.

Ray is based in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he owns and operates the Soho Coho Art Gallery, filled with all kinds of amusing artwork, as shown in the second video on this page. If you can’t make it to the gallery, you could spend several amusing hours looking at his online gallery of art and events, including all kinds of visual puns. The entire website is a kick. Check out a sampling of his style in the third video on this page.

The tour, called the “Great Northwest Whorl,” begins Saturday at the Port Townsend Shipwrights Coop, followed by a Tuesday performance at Gig Harbor BoatShop in Gig Harbor. The band will perform at Seattle Aquarium on Thursday before moving down to Astoria, Ore., for a Saturday show at the Columbia Theater as part of the FisherPoets Gathering. For details and ticket information, click on the link to the venue. Tickets are limited in some locations.

For the Seattle event, Ray is quoted in a news release:

“We’ll be playing in front of the big Window on Washington Waters exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium, one of my favorite places on the planet. This promises to be a truly magical evening, not only because we’ll have salmon and rockfish looking over our shoulders but also because my son’s band ‘The Amish Robots’ will be opening for us! And it’s right in the middle of Octopus Week!”

Ray Troll met Russell Wodehouse in 1985 in Alaska, where Ray moved after playing in a band during graduate school at Washington State University followed by a few gigs with a different band in Seattle. In Ketchikan, Russ was performing with The Squawking Fish, a band with Shauna Lee and Brandon Loomis when they invited Ray to join. After adding Craig Koch and Carolyn Minor, the group performed for a few years before disbanding. Ray continued to write with Russ and did a few gigs as The Ratfish Brothers until Ray was inspired to bring together some of his old musical partners to form The Ratfish Wranglers.

Through the years, Ray has blended science and art to produce a series of traveling exhibits, including “Dancing to the Fossil Record,” which opened at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 1995. In addition to Ray’s drawings, the project included giant fossils, fish tanks, an original soundtrack, a dance floor and an interactive computer display. In 2009, he teamed up with Russell Wodehouse again to produce music for a traveling exhibit for the University of Washington’s Burke Museum. The paleo-themed exhibit and later CD were called “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway.”

In 2007, Ray was awarded a gold medal from the Academy of Natural Sciences for distinction in the natural history arts. In 2011, Ray and Kirk Johnson were jointly awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to develop a book project, “The Eternal Coastline: the Best of the Fossil West from Baja to Barrow.”

Ray has appeared on the Discovery Channel and has lectured at Cornell, Harvard, and Yale universities. His work has been on display in the Smithsonian, and a species of ratfish, Hydrolagus trolli, was named after him. To read more about Ray’s eclectic life, along with those of his fellow band members, check out the bios on the Ratfish Wranglers and Trollart websites.

Amusing Monday: Did any of the commercials bowl you over?

It’s becoming an annual tradition for me to feature some of the amusing Super Bowl commercials on the day after the big game, especially focusing on those with water-related themes. I also try to share a little of the backstory about the commercials on my list.

Kia ad with Melissa McCarthy

A day after actress Melissa McCarthy appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, Melissa was back on television in a Super Bowl commercial, doing her best to save whales, trees and rhinos.

McCarthy, who has won at least 20 awards for comedic roles in films and television, plays a tragic eco-hero in the Super Bowl commercial. In real life, she has accepted a position as Kia spokeswoman to promote the brand-new Niro, a car that captured a Guinness World Record for the lowest fuel consumption by a hybrid vehicle, tested during a coast-to-cost trip. For details, check out Carscoops online magazine.

Lifewtr “Inspiration Drops”

In the second video on this page, we hear John Legend’s rich voice singing in a vibrant commercial called “Inspiration Drops” for Lifewtr, a purified water product created by PepsiCo.

To promote a stylistic image, Lifewtr has teamed up with several artists to bring unique artistic talents to the product labels. As stated on Lifewtr’s Facebook page, “We believe inspiration is as essential to life as water, and exist to satisfy your thirst for both. That’s why every drop of LIFEWTR is pure and crisp, and every bottle is a showcase of vibrant art from artists around the world.”

The strategy to capture a specific segment of the premium bottled-water market is described in Fortune magazine.

Mr. Clean

Proctor & Gamble is testing the waters to see if the act of cleaning can be packaged as a sexual turn-on. This is the first time Mr. Clean has appeared in any Super Bowl ad, despite his presence on the product label for about 60 years, according to Advertising Age magazine.

“There’s no better way to reach a co-ed audience than the Super Bowl,” said Martin Hettich of P&G, quoted in the magazine. “And the subject we’re broaching with Mr. Clean really is for a co-ed audience, because it’s talking about cleaning and how men and women divide up the chores. And there’s still a way to go.”

Honda’s “Chasing Dreams”

I could never have guessed that this was a commercial for an automobile — the Honda CR-V to be exact. In the commercial, we see school yearbook pictures of celebrities coming to life and speaking out from their yearbook pages. Participants include Jimmy Kimmel, shown playing the clarinet.

“Honda celebrates the people who chase their dreams with reckless abandon, and the amazing things that happen when their dreams come true,” states the description on YouTube. “For us, they lead to vehicles like the all-new Honda CR-V, a 20-year dream come true.”

Wendy’s non-frozen beef

The idea for this commercial, which shows a guy thawing out hamburger with a hair dryer, grew out of a Twitter battle between someone at Wendy’s and a person dubbed an “Internet troll” by folks recounting the story, including Aimee Picchi of CBS Moneywatch. Aimee provides the full Twitter exchange.

The so-called troll, whose handle is “Thuggy D,” could not believe that Wendy’s hamburger meat was never frozen along the way from cow to table. Describing meat wasting away in a warm truck, the writer must have forgotten about a technology called refrigeration — which the Wendy’s rep soon pointed out.

Another Twitter user complimented Wendy’s for taking up the Twitter battle and tweeted: “Whoever your social media expert was, they need a raise. They burned that guy so hard.”

NFL babies

How many of the baby look-a-likes were you able to identify? Of course, I’m talking about the NFL commercial in which babies are playing the roles of identifiable football greats — but at one-tenth the size. Take a look at the video on this page if you’d like another chance at guessing who the tiny tots will become when they grow up.

If you’re still not sure, the babies are meant to show a resemblance to Mike Ditka (sweater vest), Michael Irvin (diamond stud earrings), Joe Namath (long fur coat), Bill Belichick (scowling), Marshawn Lynch (dreadlocks) and Von Miller (cowboy hat), according to USA Today.

Next, we see a tiny Vince Lombardi strolling away (fedora and overcoat), following by the question, “Who’s next?” as babies Belichick and Davonta Freeman appear with the Super Bowl trophy.

“If you are an avid fan, you crack up right away and get each one,” Dawn Hudson, the NFL’s chief marketing officer, tells USA Today. “If you are a casual fan, you’ll know a couple, and we think it will intrigue you enough to go online and see who the others are.”

Ballast water bill could allow invasive species to enter Puget Sound

Invasive species from San Francisco Bay — known as the most infested waterway in the country — would have an open door for entry into Puget Sound under a bill moving through Congress.

Vessel Incidental Discharge Act invasive species
Ballast discharge from a ship
Photo: Coast Guard

You may have heard this line before. I posted the same warning last summer, when the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, was attached to the “must-pass” National Defense Authorization Act. (Water Ways, July 16). Opponents fought back and were able to strip VIDA from the bill before final passage.

Now, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and an anti-regulatory atmosphere in place, the bill’s passage seems more likely this time — to the detriment of Puget Sound, the Great Lakes and other waterways.

If VIDA passes, ships coming up the coast from California will be able to take on infested ballast water in San Francisco Bay and discharge it without treatment into Puget Sound. Invasive species that hitched a ride in the ballast water would have a chance to populate Puget Sound.

A similar scenario could play out in the Great Lakes, where lack of treatment years ago may have resulted in the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels, causing billions of dollars in damages. Check out the opinion column by the Green Bay Press-Gazette Editorial Board.

The legislation also would exempt small commercial vessels and fishing boats from federal discharge rules. That would allow these vessel owners to clean their hulls in open water wherever they want — even if the hulls were covered with invasive species, said Allen Pleus, who heads Washington state’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program.

VIDA opponents — including the governors of nine coastal and Great Lakes states — are trying to attach amendments to the bill to shore up protections for their states’ waters, Allen told me. But representatives of the shipping industry, who have been pushing hard to get the bill passed, appear to be in no mood for compromise.

The legislation, S. 168, was passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation without amendment two weeks ago. Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a member of the committee, was unable to stop it.

“Puget Sound restoration is a priority for me, and that’s why I voted ‘no’ on the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act in the Commerce Committee,” she said in a short email. “Strong protections to prevent pollution and halt the introduction of invasive species are two key priorities needed to keep Puget Sound healthy and productive. I will continue to work to protect clean water, healthy ecosystems and support our sustainable fishing and maritime economy.”

For years, the shipping industry has been frustrated by a multi-level regulatory system in which they must comply with “clean water” rules coming at them from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and any number of states that have developed their own regulations. Who can blame the industry for being frustrated? Industry officials would like one national standard to follow.

In the furor over regulations, however, many people have forgotten that state and EPA rules were imposed only after the Coast Guard failed to protect the environment. VIDA would address the problem, but not by considering the serious concerns being faced in different parts of the country. The bill would place the Coast Guard in charge of a single national standard, stripping authority from the states and EPA.

While the Coast Guard requires ballast water to be treated or exchanged on ships crossing the ocean from other countries, there is no such requirement for ships moving along the coast if they don’t have treatment systems on board.

Coast Guard officials have many duties when it comes to ensuring the safety of ships, and invasive species are not among their priorities, noted Allen Pleus, whose program resides within the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Industry officials have told me that state concerns can be addressed by petitioning the Coast Guard for stricter rules in those geographic areas where they are needed. But that could take months or years with no assurance of approval. More importantly, there are no stop-gap measures to prevent ships from dumping infested ballast water into Puget Sound. Everyone knows that once an invasive species gets established, there is no going back.

This is a complicated issue, which I tried to explain step-by-step in last summer’s blog post, as well as in a detailed story I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

Changes are coming with new ballast-water-treatment systems being certified by the Coast Guard. The new treatment systems are technologically complicated, and trained operators are needed to make sure they kill a fair number of invasive organisms, as designed, Allen said. Without adequate funding, the Coast Guard will be in no position to make sure that invasive species aren’t transported from place to place, he said, adding, “States should be allowed to pick up the slack.”

There is another important difference between Washington state’s approach and that of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard conducts inspections and checks paperwork only after a vessel has arrived in port. State rules require ship operators to send documentation prior to arrival, allowing time to address potential problems before it is too late.

A letter to U.S. senators (PDF 236 kb) from seven governors, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, expresses grave concern about the effects of VIDA on the waters of their states.

“The economic and regulatory issues faced by the shipping industry are of great interest to our states,” the letter says. “However, VIDA does not provide a reasonable balance between the economic benefits of the shipping industry and the significant environmental, economic, and human health costs states face from infested and polluted waters.”

Recent information compiled by VIDA opponents:

Invasive oyster drills react differently to predators than natives

Invasive saltwater snails, including dreaded oyster drills, seem to be far more leery of predators than native snails under certain conditions, according to a new study by Emily Grason, whose research earned her a doctoral degree from the University of Washington.

An invasive Atlantic oyster drill feeds on a young Pacific oyster. // Photo: Emily Grason

Why non-native snails in Puget Sound would run and hide while native species stand their ground remains an open question, but the difference in behavior might provide an opportunity to better control the invasive species.

Of course, snails don’t actually run, but I was surprised to learn that they can move quite rapidly to find hiding places when they believe they are under attack.

Like many marine animals, snails use chemical clues to figure out what is happening in their environment. For her experiments, Emily created a flow-through system with two plastic shoeboxes. Chemical clues were provided in the upstream bin, while the reaction of the snails was observed in the downstream bin.

The most dramatic difference between native and non-native snails seemed to be when ground-up snails were deposited in the upstream bin, simulating a chemical release caused by a crab or other predator breaking open snail shells and consuming the tender morsels inside.

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Congress authorizes five restoration projects throughout Puget Sound

Five major Puget Sound projects have been given the provisional go-ahead by Congress in a massive public works bill signed yesterday by President Obama.

It seems like the needed federal authorization for a $20-million restoration effort in the Skokomish River watershed has been a long time coming. This project follows an extensive, many-years study of the watershed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which winnowed down a long list of possible projects to five. See Water Ways, April 28, 2016, for details.

In contrast, while the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNRP) also involved an extensive and lengthy study, the final selection and submission to Congress of three nearshore projects came rather quickly. In fact, the Puget Sound package was a last-minute addition to the Water Resources Development Act, thanks to the efforts of U.S. Reps. Rick Larson, D-Lake Stevens, and Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, along with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

The three PSNRP projects moving forward are:

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New toxic chemical law begins to review most-dangerous compounds

The first 10 toxic chemicals to be reviewed under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act were announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency. After review, these chemicals could be banned or significantly restricted in their use.

Photo:André Künzelmann, Wikimedia commons
Photo:André Künzelmann, Wikimedia commons

As specified by law, the first 10 chemicals were chosen from 90 listed in the TSCA Work Plan, based on their high hazard and the likelihood of human and environmental exposure.

Incidentally, seven of the 10 chemicals to be reviewed are contaminants that have reached sources of drinking water at various sites across the country. Six of the seven are known or suspected of causing cancer in humans.

These are the seven chemicals known to contaminate drinking water:

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Upgrade to North Pacific fishing fleet benefits Puget Sound economy

A major “modernization” of the North Pacific fishing fleet has begun, bringing new jobs to the Puget Sound region and a potential boost of $1.3 billion in total economic activity over the next 10 years, according to a new study.

Fishermen’s Terminal from the Ballard Bridge, Seattle. Photo: Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons
Fishermen’s Terminal from the Ballard Bridge, Seattle. // Photo: Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons

If economic and environmental conditions allow, 37 new fishing boats and fish-processing vessels over 58 feet long will be built, bringing new efficiencies to fishing and increased safety to those working in the North Pacific — an area off the Alaskan coast. Most North Pacific vessels over 58 feet are home-ported in Puget Sound.

Ship-building companies in the Puget Sound region are expected to be the primary beneficiaries of this modernization, as half of all the new vessels will come out of Washington state, according to predictions in the report. The study was conducted by the McDowell Group, an Alaska-based consulting company hired by the Port of Seattle and Washington Maritime Federation.

Although many factors are in play, a key impetus for this modernization is the development of catch shares — a type of management system that divides the allowable harvest into individual fishing quotas, or IFCs. This management regime, sometimes called fisheries “rationalization,” avoids the wasteful and sometimes dangerous race once seen among fishing vessels, as each crew tries to catch the most fish within a specified time period or before a total quota is reached.

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What comes next under water-quality standards imposed by the EPA?

The Environmental Protection Agency approved new water-quality standards for Washington state this week, overriding a plan approved by Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Ecology.

It was a rare posture for the EPA. Now the state will be pressured to appeal the EPA standards to federal court. Cities and counties as well as some industrial organizations are clearly unhappy with the EPA’s action, while environmental and tribal representatives got most of what they wanted.

The basic structure of polychlorinated biphenyls, where the number and location of chlorine atoms can vary.
The basic structure of polychlorinated biphenyls, where the number and location of chlorine atoms can vary.

The EPA action is especially unusual, given that this state is known for some of the strongest environmental regulations in the country. After much dispute, Ecology finally agreed to much higher fish-consumption rates without increasing the cancer-risk rate, leading to more stringent standards for many of the chemicals. But Ecology had its own ideas for the most troublesome compounds with implications for human health. They include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), arsenic and mercury. For background, see Water Ways, Oct. 18, 2015.

Some news reports I saw this week said EPA’s action will lead to salmon that are safer to eat. But that’s not at all certain, and opponents say it is unlikely that the revised limits on chemical pollution will have any practical effect on compounds that affect human health.

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Amusing Monday: The evolution and danger of packaging drinks by six

When I was a young child, we didn’t have to worry about wildlife getting strangled by six-pack rings, because these plastic binders for cans had not been invented yet. I was 9 years old in 1961 when this simple, convenient form of packaging was invented, so I clearly remember the transition. (See Hi-Cone history.)

At the time, nobody predicted the conservation consternation that would be created by such a simple piece of plastic. During the 1970s and up to present, pictures of entrapped birds and other sea creatures became common, suggesting that we at least cut the plastic to save the animals. The first video provides a story of potential revenge.

Before the invention of six-pack rings, people bought soft drinks and beer in cardboard packages, which sort of wrapped around the cans. Pabst Blue Ribbon may have been the first beer sold in cardboard cartons (second video), although Coca Cola may have started the phase. The Coke company claims to be the first to take its bottles out of wooden crates and begin offering cardboard packaging for consumers as early as 1923.

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Amusing Monday: Beer ads reveal difference between the sexes

As a product purchased by consumers, beer has a long history of generating funny television commercials. Hahn, an Australian brand of beer, is responsible for some of the funniest commercials ever seen in that country, according to Duncan McLeod in “The Inspiration Room,” a blog that comments on media creativity.

Because I write about water issues, I thought it would be amusing to share three related videos that show how men and women sometimes see water recreation in different ways. I won’t spoil the surprises, since you can watch all three videos on this page.

The first television commercial, from 2003, was directed by Paul Middleditch for Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne. The ad won the award for “Outstanding Funny TV Commercial” at the 2003 Australian Comedy Awards.

The second commercial, released in 2004, also was directed by Paul Middleditch for Clemenger BBDO. It seems to follow a theme of sophistication, like the first video. While the ad appears to be filmed at a Mediterranean resort, it was actually performed in Sydney over a two-day period, according to Duncan McLeod.

The third Hahn video, involving a gondola and a fish, was created two years later and released in November 2005. The same team of creators and filmmakers was involved.

As Duncan McCleod reported the following January:

“Clemenger’s TV Producer De Giorgio says that the commercial was shot on location in Venice in freezing temperatures surrounded by snow, rain and fog. It was quite a production feat to pull it off and make it look hot and summery. A model fish was used for the stunt shot, but a real fish, purchased from the Venice Fish Markets, was used for the close ups.”

Another more controversial video was first released in 2006 and later morphed into a commercial that depicted a stronger backlash against immature men. The original video showed a romantic couple on a beach, where the woman draws a heart in the sand with a stick. The man turns the drawing into a pair of breasts by supplementing the picture with the heel of his foot. As in the other videos, the man notices the woman’s look of exasperation, and blurts out, “What?”

The revised backlash video ends in a significantly different way. It shows the woman eviscerating various phallic symbols as the man looks on.

I’m not sure how many times, if any, either of these videos appeared on broadcast television. They did become the source of an official complaint for their depiction of women as sexual objects. Australia’s Advertising Standards Board found no fault with the ads, however. The board said the ads, if anything, poked fun at men. Read an account in Duncan McLeod’s blog in December 2006.