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Dark Side of the Sun

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Spokane is a city full of khaki, blue and gray. When people deck themselves out in black around here it is often meant to signify something. To some it is anti-social and threatening. To others it is a sign that someone isn’t bound by confining social norms and is more likely to accept you for who you are.

Next time I’m riding around without my backpack I’ll just follow suit and clasp my U-Lock around my neck. Problem solved!

Earth Turners Convergence

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I grew up in Spokane. I also successfully convinced myself to hate it for two (admittedly lame) reasons:

All the cool kids were doing it, and
There wasn’t much that was appealing for anyone under 21 to do.
My disdain for Spokane has since turned to delight in no small part due to the explosion of people working really hard to make Spokane reach its full potential. Although the Friday night scene for many young people in the 509 hasn’t changed much, Spokane now has a fighting force for change in the Youth Sustainability Council (YSC).

Community-Minded Enterprises refers to the Youth Sustainable Council as a way for young people to contribute in the ways they want to contribute. The organization is known for its innovative “youth-lead” approach, which has resulted in projects as small as PARK(ing) Day and as large as Sustainable Uprising.

This spring break the YSC is putting on its first Earth Turners Convergence Wednesday the 31st through Friday the 2nd. It’s a series of 13 workshops on topics ranging from gardening and composting to grassroots organizing and starting a business, all led by some of Spokane’s finest. This is an event led by young people, but the workshops include skills that are of interest to everyone.

The Earth Turners Convergence kicks off with an issues forum, where young people will be invited to share their reasons for being involved and how they hope to affect change in their community. Workshops and fun events will continue over the following days, culminating on Friday, April 2nd during the Youth Sustainability Council’s Transcendence Project installation.

Want more information? Check out the YSC blog or contact: spokanceysc@gmail.com

Unclogging the Plunger Game

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Washington State is home to some of the best game inventors, that is if you love Pickle-ball, Cranium and Pictionary. Soon to join the ranks of those highly popular games is the Plunger Game. Somewhere in the winter of 2008, Alex Nagy’s kitchen sink in his basement studio apartment in Spokane developed a sink clog. After returning from Rosauer’s Grocery Store, the clog had resolved itself leaving Nagy and his friends with a clean, unused plunger. Thus was the genesis of the H-O-R-S-E style game of the Plunger Game.

According to the game’s creators, Will Maupin, Alex Nagy, Alex Miller, Andrew Gutman and Taylor Smith, “This lack of clarity surrounding the creation of the game is appropriate, as the game is still being created. Every time someone picks up a plunger, they are furthering the creation of the game. A new move, style or application can be developed or discovered at any time.”

The Plunger Game might sound insane, it really is. It’s the ultimate highdea (High+idea, get it?) building to a small group of dedicated enthusiasts. For full “rules” and regulations click here.

In addition to the game’s following of loyal players, these dudes have also been getting a little bit Internet famous with these trick shots.

Author: Nelle J. Hussey from Troy-moore.com.

 

Spovangelist Wins Best Blogger in the Inlander “Best of” Reader Poll

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It’s nice to come back from vacation and be greeted with community recognition. This award means more coming from you, so thanks for sharing the Spovangelist with the general public. Also, congratulations to Spokane food blogs From The Back Kitchen and Taste Everything Once for their outstanding work. With David Blaine on the production side and Remi Olsen on the consumer side, Spokane’s local food culture is alive and well and will continue to grow.

Before 2009 there was no “Best Local Blogger” category. The inclusion of blogging in “Best of” coincides nicely with the Inlander’s transition to online voting, and confirms the important role of blogging in civic dialog. (Last year there were no categories for Best Neighborhood, Best Public Park, and Best Grassroots Advocacy Group, among many others. We like to think that these additions had something to do with our role as a squeaky wheel in “Best of” 2008. Kudos to the Inlander for acting on public input and asking for more.)

Given the relative obscurity of the Spokane blogosphere among our population overall, “Best Local Blogger” effectively means “Most Visible Local Blogger” in a public input poll. Were the category “Best Local Blog” we’d have bet on Down to Earth NW for their widespread notoriety, backed by the marketing guns over at the Spokesman-Review. Given that the blogging award was for the blogger and not the blog, we think it bears mention that Remi Olsen runs several local websites including a projects page, horror movie reviews, a Twitter-style comments feed, and the Spokane Food Blog.

While we’re flattered that the Inlander sees us as a needed “slap in the face,” we think of ourselves as more of a “pinch on the cheek”. The Spovangelist is successful because people are interested in how to propel Spokane towards its fullest potential. This endeavor is much more than a catchy theme (notice how we’re right next to Best Spiritual Leader?) some idle titillation and occasionally punchy one-liners. It is the mission of this blog to explore that elusive something about our city, our culture and our place that mystifies and gives hope. It is up to us to collectively define “the good life” and to find new ways of living it together.

Designing Local Health

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The Interdisciplinary Design Institute of Washington State University Spokane held its Sixth Annual Design Research Conference October 7-8 to discuss a variety of interesting topics, from investigating the calming properties of wood to sustainable aging in the built environment. This was an interactive conference where presenters and students from a wide range of disciplines participated in different venues to facilitate the exchange of ideas. The relationship between design and human health goes far beyond health care facilities and hospitals, so how do we define what “Designing Health” really means?

 

“Design” is a dynamic and multi-faceted term. Both verb and noun, it originates in the Latin designare, or, “to mark out.” Thus, design can be understood as both a mental activity that involves the study and transformation of our physical and intellectual surroundings; and as the products of such activity. Design and health have many areas of overlap. How do the designs of our environments, including such specific characteristics as light, color, material, and dimension; and more general characteristics such as proximity to nature, other human beings, and basic services, affect our health? Can good design contribute to good health, and if so, how can we study this relationship and facilitate the most healthful outcomes?

Even the word “health” is subject to interpretation. For our purposes, the World Health Organization definition fits nicely: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” With that holistic view in mind, it becomes clear that the design of homes, neighborhoods, and entire communities can have a huge impact on our individual sense of well-being.

Matthew Cohen, an associate professor of architecture at WSU, expands on this idea of designing for health at multiple levels. Although architects are creating individual buildings using healthful products, natural light, and other “gizmos,” Cohen notes that pedestrian and bike-friendly urban design packs the real punch for reducing health problems. In his words, “excessive use of the automobile is the single greatest risk in the U.S. today that designers can influence,” and the evidence stands up for itself:

Suburban development often equals more driving and less exercise.
Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles in urban areas reduce air quality and worsen respiratory issues.
Perhaps most importantly, people sitting in closed vehicles interact less with one another, contributing to a decline in health as measured by socially fulfilling lives.
So, what are Spokanites doing to improve our community’s health by design? The re-conquering of pedestrian-friendly zones like Main Avenue between Browne and Division is a great example of the sort of urban design that contributes to individual and communal well-being. Incorporating elements of unique Spokane culture with attractions like the Community Building, Main Market, and the Saranac, the Main Street reclamation encourages interaction among residents and visitors, to everybody’s benefit.

Other examples include the efforts to improve bicycle safety in Downtown Spokane and the development of walkable, exciting areas like the International District. Future residential areas like Kendall Yards, with an up-front commitment to the cycling and pedestrian lifestyle, mark another positive trend for Spokane.

At the WSU conference, keynote speaker Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces made the point that urban design should create great places for people, not just cars. Let’s keep encouraging Spokane’s urban planning in that direction. Which spaces would you choose to redesign for a healthier Spokane?

To My Bike Thief

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Congratulations! You’re the proud new owner of a 52-centimeter Trek 2.1 road bike.

It might be a little small for you. Maybe you’ll give it to your girlfriend. Maybe you’ll hike the seat up ride around on it yourself, basking in the adrenaline rush of that lightweight, sexy beast of a vehicle.

Here’s the problem, though: It’s mine. It’s been tuned to fit my body and I’ve broken in the handlebar tape. (I also spit on it, so wash it off real good, eh.) The handlebars are measured to my shoulder width. I’ve tweaked the seat to perfection for long rides.

And what you might not have guessed is that it’s my only way to get around.

It’s a nice bike, so you probably assumed I could afford to replace it. Maybe that I have a car sitting in the garage at home. I was going to a meeting when you watched me walk away from my bike, so I probably looked pretty put together. Maybe you read me as a spoiled chick with money to throw around.

Whatever you assumed about what I have and you don’t and what society owes you or whatever your rationale is, you’re wrong.

I bought that bike with money I had from selling my car. I sold my car because it needed more repair than I could afford. I won’t be able to replace that bike anytime soon, which means I’m stuck riding the bus and walking places. You might relate to how this makes me feel. I’m making some assumptions about you, too — that you don’t have a “real” job, a car or a bike of your own (as in, one that you didn’t rip off) — and you probably know how much being tight on cash and without transportation feels.

My bike was my passport to self-sufficiency and staying healthy — and an item I can’t possibly afford to replace. As such, I brought it inside every night instead of leaving it in the garage. I locked it up within eyesight whenever I could.

You might be wondering about the scratches along the frame. A car hit me while I was riding home last year. My body was screaming but I barely noticed; my shock-addled brain could only muster this: “Is my bike okay?”

As soon as I was healthy enough, I got back in the saddle and rode trembling down Sprague Avenue. Riding again became my gradual victory over fear — not just of being hit again, but of the many, many things that are terrifying about the very uncertain life of a young person without financial security. While you were busy stealing my bike, I was meeting with a group trying to make Spokane a safer place to bike. Oh, the sweet irony.

Without a bike, living without a car becomes much more difficult. Buses run late, run on awkward schedules and simply don’t go everywhere. Going to the grocery store is enormously frustrating. Some jobs just aren’t an option because you don’t have a way to get there.

You probably assumed I don’t have these problems — and I didn’t, until you stole my bike.

Suddenly, I’m more dependent on others and less employable — which sucks because I’ve pretty much tapped out all the favors I can ask of my friends and family in my last three years without a steady job or a car.

I’m trying to take this in stride. This isn’t my first rodeo and you’re not the first punk to run off with something that’s mine. I bet you’re not a terrible person — I’ve been down enough on luck to feel like the universe owes me break, too.

I imagine that’s how you feel — or at least how you’ve justified it — like the universe owed you some rich bitch’s fancy bike. You were wrong, and I’ll totally throw you a bone there. I don’t care about reporting you or kicking your ass or anything like that. Will you just return my bike, please?

The no-questions-asked drop-off spot is Merlyn’s Comics at 19 W. Main. It’s open every day from 10am – 9pm. I know you’re free on Mondays from 4-5:30, because that’s when you stole my bike, so maybe you could drop it off then. Or whenever. You can say you’re doing it for your friend, or that you just found it — I really don’t care. I just want my bike.

Here’s the info on my bike, in case anyone sees it riding around town: 2010 Trek 2.1 Compact WSD. 52 cm. Serial # WTU286G0605E. Dark green with white embellishment. Black handlebar tape — at least the last time I saw it. It went missing near Riverside & Howard in downtown Spokane.

Please email me at erikaprins(at)gmail.com if you have any information.

Update: Friends have started a fund to help Erika replace her bike, click here to learn more.

Author bio: Hey, I am Tasha Chavez. I am providing you great ideas to materialise the magic of Christmas the best way you can. As an author, I know girls and also know the importance of a great gift. On our site Whattogetagirlforchristmas.com you can find the inspiration that you need! Girls are easy to please if you find the right present. And we gathered all the great ideas in one place. We provide you perfect ideas for little girls and women! And when it comes to pleasing a woman’s taste, we know just what you need to do! Check our site and make the women in your life happy this Christmas!

Clubbing Our Culture to Death, or Beating More Life into Downtown?

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Despite the sluggish economy a whole crop of new nightclubs have opened up in Spokane this year. Yet at the same time certain theater and live music locations have struggled to stay open, with some closing their doors altogether. Does the clubbish bent to these new venues mean Spokane is becoming a generic and predictable middle-America meat market? Or should we be optimistic for the potential of businesses like the MarQuee and Casbah to encourage new consumers to develop their ‘urban identity’?

 

Certainly not all clubs are created equal. Some will inflame people’s most base instincts, while others are better positioned to bring about the class they claim to represent. How this “classing up” can be done with intention instead of by accident is important to consider. Otherwise we risk more of what most can agree are the downsides of the typical club scene. Social drama, hollow conspicuous consumption, senseless drinking, and otherwise attractive women looking and acting like this:

Manic Mondays at the MarQuee are supposed to “toast what’s sassy, sexy and sophisticated in Spokane” on a monthly basis. Similarly, a commercial-themed social networking night happens every Wednesday at Rain. We hope these “after work casual” and other “dress to impress” events will remain accessible and interesting to the general public. To the skeptic on the street they can seem highly artificial and just plain overpriced.

Either way, it is interesting to observe how a venue markets itself and eventually becomes defined by the collective identity that gathers there. These social associations become so sticky a business has to go through significant re-branding if it is to overcome an unwanted stereotype. Try this simple experiment: What do you see when you imagine yourself at Trick Shot Dixie’s?

 

Anyways, Spokane has always had its fair share of seedy bump-’n-grind style dance clubs. And let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with these. They serve their purpose and are a natural component of any city’s social  ecosystem. The funny thing is when a dance venue tries to get it’s patrons to step it up a notch by enforcing dress codes, changing cover requirements, and introducing a section for VIPs. The public response to this policy at Studio 23 was surprising. Some people didn’t know what to make of the command “be sexy” and many were turned away at the door. Now that the location is Envy people know the general drill and it’s not a big deal anymore.

LET US END WITH A RANT: This whole process of growing pains goes to the heart of Spokane’s tortured (or dare we say it, non-existent) fashion identity. At some point we need to stop and consider the social meaning of the popped collar. Just like gentrifying low-income housing in the downtown core, the question of how clubs can impact Spokane culturally is a loaded one. Does squeezing ourselves into a mini-dress make us sophisticated? Or does it paper over the need for a deeper process of authentic cultural soul-searching? Spokane has the potential to be a truly distinguished “best kept secret” kind of place. Little old Spokane can balance the best of high-brow and low-brow in ways that larger cities can only dream of. As we continue to grow and shape our own modern regional ethos, let us do so with intention. Let us not sell ourselves short of our true potential, and lets enjoy to the fullest the fruits of our labor – sans pretension.

Learning to Love Spokane Again

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Spokane can be a hard place to live. OK, Spokane is a hard place to live, for me at least. Since I’ve stopped writing the Spovangelist, which wasn’t intentional, I’ve fallen off the Spokane wagon– causation or correlation is up to you. Probably since I lost my job in April due to the federal sequester, I’ve lost interest in the daily goings on, the gossip, even the woes of urban planning. I make jokes about being a “Sequestrian” or “Funemployed” but it actually just blows. For a while I embraced the darkness, using it as fuel for other projects I had been dying to do, but now it’s just pure darkness.

Spokane is hard for a lot of reasons, partially because it can be so easy. Easy to fall into a daily schedule of: wake-up, read arbitrary stuff on the internet, attempt to get some work done, maybe go for a walk, try to finish whatever work thing I started, take a nap, walk down the block for cigarettes (SORRY MOM) and coffee, then back to Googling weird stuff. Maybe after all of that, I might make it down to Baby Bar for some awkward run-ins with everyone I’ve ever met or perhaps Mootsy’s if I want to smell toilet deodorizer. Side note: Mootsy’s bathroom graffiti says “Alayna sux dix”, so obviously I have a fan club.

It’s a hard habit to shake; difficult to reengage in our city.

I don’t really mean to whine, it’s a classic, “It’s not you, it’s me” situation. I know I shouldn’t complain anyway; Spokane already gets enough flack for things it really has no control over, or at least things it’s working on (#weallbuildthis, right?). But I’m whiny and apparently have blame issues. Hating on this place is kind of cliché anyway, everyone has done it, will do it, or is doing it right now.

Clichés are often clichés for a reason, but as I turn this conflict over in my head time and time again, I find that this particular cliché is tired. And so am I. I’m tired of resenting a place I once loved. As short of a blood oath as I can come, I’m recommitting.

I spent the last few weeks talking to friends, acquaintances, and my cat about why we all still live here. We came up with a few good reasons to stay. A lot of the reasons people listed had to do with the great opportunities here. They don’t always present themselves, that’s part of the trick: you have to seek them. But once you find them, you can build whatever your heart desires. Also the Santa Fe chicken sandwich at the Elk.

Point is: hey guys, I missed you.

101 Reasons to Ride Your Bike in Spokane

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Spovangelist is not a bike blog for the simple reason that there are so many other outstanding local bloggers covering the topic. For some reason biking and blogging seem to go hand-in-hand. Four out of twelve of the blogs featured in the Spokane Blog Bible could be considered bike blogs, or at least strongly bike sympathetic. Here is an alphabetical list, please mention any I have left out: 100 KM, 26InchSlicks, Bicycles, Brewing and Bitches, BiketoWork Barb, Cycling Spokane, FBC Spokane, Fixed the Race, Fresh – Fresher – Freshness!, Joe Blogger, Out There Monthly, Shallow Cogitations and Spokanarama.

Awhile back I wrote 101 Things to do With a Surface Parking Lot. The list was a challenge and took a couple of attempts to complete. Coming up with 101 reasons to ride bikes in Spokane, however, was a breeze. I sat down and whipped these out almost without pause. In no particular order:

  1. your engine is in your butt
  2. people in bike shops don’t try and swindle you for repair costs
  3. cleaning your windshield is as easy as blinking
  4. people think you’ve “got guts”
  5. wearing bike accessories makes your fashion distinctive
  6. insurance doesn’t cost an arm and a leg
  7. changing a tire can be done in less than fifteen minutes
  8. biking daily adds spring to your step
  9. you are more likely to wear comfortable shoes
  10. pulling up to lock your bike is a great conversation starter with pedestrians
  11. people admire your dedication
  12. skip the lines, buses and craziness on your way to Bloomsday
  13. you remind traffic to pay attention
  14. takes a huge chunk out of your carbon footprint
  15. you don’t have to buy gas – this should be reason enough!
  16. no license required
  17. great compliment to regular exercise
  18. people think you’re sporty even if you aren’t
  19. bikes come in more colors than cars
  20. you never have to worry about parking availability again!!!
  21. you can’t lock your keys inside of a bike
  22. good for your heart
  23. way more likely to stop and smell the roses
  24. pot holes are easily avoided
  25. you set a good example for kids
  26. arrive at work refreshed and ready to contribute
  27. cold temperatures locally make biking more comfortable, not less
  28. make new friends, volunteer with Pedals2People
  29. about 70,000 people die from air pollution annually (this equals the number of deaths from breast and prostate cancer combined)
  30. Spokefest will feel like a vindicating joy ride
  31. you learn the art of layering your clothes
  32. breaks aren’t mysterious and are easy to repair
  33. reconnect with the day-night cycle
  34. stop fueling the war machine
  35. improve your flexibility
  36. be prepared for spinning at the gym
  37. encourage your friends to ride bikes with authority
  38. burn more calories every day to earn that fattening dessert
  39. win free prizes on MyCommute.org
  40. don’t leave a stinky trail of carcinogens wherever you go
  41. squeeze through narrow openings when necessary
  42. harness the power of evolution in making your transportation energy efficient
  43. you can carry your transit up the steps
  44. better your balance
  45. help people cost share when you carpool to an event
  46. you’ll never be caught off guard by the weather in inappropriate clothing
  47. hit up three times as many galleries during Art Walk
  48. make the Centennial Trail your freeway
  49. free yourself from guilt about hastening peak oil
  50. tread lightly on Spokane’s battered roads
  51. be invested in watching the local bike culture grow
  52. donate your old bikes to the Village Bicycle Project
  53. become thankful for red lights instead of being angry at them
  54. remove the temptation to answer and talk on your phone
  55. get discounts on drinks at Coffee Social
  56. improve your coordination by breaking while hand-signaling
  57. what a great excuse to get to wear neon!
  58. walk the talk when you pull up for a meeting at City Hall
  59. you only have to have two functional tires instead of four
  60. enjoy carpooling across town with friends you otherwise wouldn’t get to see
  61. get some mileage out of that backpack in your closet
  62. feel the elation of coasting down a long hill
  63. support your local bike materials economy
  64. create green collar jobs with your bike service purchases
  65. more easily reuse your bike parts across different brands and models
  66. flashing lights, light ropes and accessories are legal and encouraged
  67. whoever spent years paying off their bike payments?
  68. think of biking as a non-dietary “cholesterol cleanse”
  69. you are less liable to accidentally kill a warm and furry friend
  70. take advantage of existing bike infrastructure
  71. create the demand for more bike infrastructure
  72. bump total transit costs down from #2 on your household budget
  73. invent fun biking rituals
  74. pour aggression into powering up a hill
  75. vintage rigs are just as fuel efficient as new ones
  76. earn a rad “bike muscle” above your kneecaps
  77. stave off the risk of diabetes
  78. improve your posture
  79. beat the bus to your destination
  80. increase neighborhood property values
  81. slip through the traffic jam and be on time for dinner
  82. cycling promotes mobility for seniors
  83. cut your noise pollution down to “Near Nothing, Near Perfect”
  84. get rid of the need for the volume and overhead on that 2-3 car garage
  85. British Medical Assosiation says health benefits outweigh accident risks 20:1
  86. reduce the depreciation on your transit investment
  87. give your bones a daily workout
  88. a non-pharmaceutical/barbituate way to reduce anxiety and depression
  89. boost your LDL and HDL readings
  90. reduce your mortality by 40% – commute 3 hours a week for 15 years
  91. let speed function as your AC system
  92. bicycling is a physical meditation – a must for anyone living with ADD
  93. smell the pine, orange blossom, and lilac in the air
  94. become a crusader against America’s obesity pandemic
  95. merging your commuting and exercise time frees up hours for other pursuits
  96. ditch the concrete jungle and take the scenic route
  97. bicycling contributes to economic justice and equal opportunity for all
  98. contribute to Spokane’s urban/enlightened image
  99. protect your global neighbor – air pollution exceeds traffic fatalities 3:1
  100. foil the meter maids and parking Nazis
  101. cars pollute our lakes and groundwater; bicycles don’t

Earning Our Ovals

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By The Apostate

This week both The Inlander and the Spokesman were kind enough to remind us about Washington’s disengaged youth. In “Geriatrics vote. The youth don’t care.” Nick Deshais cited some data released by Secretary of State Sam Reed. In the last primary about 4,000 people below the age of 25 cast their ballot, making up about 3.5% of the vote. The second group, ages 25-34 made up another 5.9%. You ready for some math? That adds up to a not-so-grand total of 9.5% of ballots cast by people under the age of 35.

This is appalling because while young people make up about 23.9% of the electorate, they only made up about 10% of the electors. In 2008, the Obama campaign turned young voters out and transformed many in to young activists. And as you know, these young activists weren’t just poli-sci majors. They were bloggers, artists and apathetics alike. So what gives, young people? How did civic engagement seem to go from “hot to not” in one election cycle?

 

Here’s my thought: politics aren’t marketed to young voters because as the numbers suggest, old folks vote. It’s a nasty catch-22, young people aren’t involved because political ideas aren’t presented to them in a way that motivates because people cashing in their social security are more likely to vote. The best way to approach this problem is to vote. When numbers suggest that young people give a shit, politicians will return the favor by being concerned with the young vote.

Moreover, young people can champion their own causes and change the way we elect people in Spokane and in Washington State. Few young people operate in a way that shows concern for suits and marble walls, what’s wrong with politics in jeans and a hoodie? Oh yeah, and why can’t we vote online? Good laws require good people in elected office. We must support young, forward focused candidates and make sure our generation has champions in Olympia.

The first line of action in Spokane comes from The Washington Bus, an organization devoted to politics by young people for all, and NextUp Spokane, a new group that seeks to motivate more participation from other young people through fun local projects. This fall the two groups have come together to get upwards of 1,000 young voters to pledge to vote by addressing a post card that is mailed back to remind them to follow through on their pledge. In addition, NextUp and the Bus are hosting a massive get-out-the-vote canvass on Halloween called Trick-Or-Vote (stay tuned for details later this month) that involves a friendly costumed reminder to vote and a killer after party. Awesome, right?

 

If you aren’t sure if you’re registered or you need to change your address you can visit MyVote, a cool online program from the Secretary of State. Young people are not a lost cause, we just need to make our voices heard so we can remember why voting matters. If you’re interested in getting involved with these efforts in Spokane please email: alayna[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.

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