Monday, September 15, 2014

Your regular fortnightly blog links. At least something is fortnightly anymore. Wink. (Olyblogosphere for September 15, 2014)

1. Best blog at Olyblog in a long time: Olympia Then & Now. Awesome.

2. They're working to put Old Main on the list of national places of historic importance. I would've assumed it was on that list already, but there you go.

3. Sort of a meta post from the Plum Palate. But, it is important to keep up with your local bloggers.

4. Big News for the People's House. Which isn't a new proposed location to fight about, by the way.

5. I think the Percival just realized the Weekly Volcano died.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I'm really excited about the Oly Town FC Artesians. Even if I don't like indoor soccer

Sure, I'm not the biggest fan of indoor soccer. Sure, its fun. Its no futsal.

That said, I couldn't be more excited for the Oly Town FC Artesians this year.

First off, Brandon Sparks is pretty awesome. He's the hard worker behind Olysports, a very worth your time local sports blog that does all of the little things right.

So, secondly, if you remember the Tumwater Pioneers, then (in my opinion) everything good associated with that team had something to do with Brandon. He didn't run that team the way he's been put in charge of the Artesians, so we can expect to see more of the good with this new effort.

But, yes. Brandon is a good thing.

Otherwise, its great to see organized semi-pro soccer of any sort back in Olympia or Tumwater or Lacey. Especially, this sort of league. I love that we're coming into the Western Indoor Soccer League, and mostly because it has a home-brew feel to it. The league was formed by a group of owners that were upset by the politics involved in a more national league.

A lot of these same owners just got done with their first season in a sister outdoor league called the Evergreen Premier League. This is another home-brew league born out of frustration with national systems. And, for me, this is the real target: a semi-pro outdoor soccer team in northern Thurston County (hopefully Olympia).

I'm not too picky about where an Olympia soccer team should land, but if its a bunch of local Cascadian soccer entrepreneurs going their own way. Then that's the way for me too.

There are of course some other considerations too. The Artesians indoor have their own very nice facility. But, an outdoor team would have to play in a high school stadium for the time being. Or, a recreational soccer field. We don't have a soccer specific facility in Thurston County that could support crowds of more than a few dozen.

We should address that (possibly build stands next too one of the fields out at the Thurston RAC), but in the short term the Oly Town FC Artesians sound like a great idea. I can't wait.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Mars Hill, Cascadian religion and the Seahawks

This quote told me a lot about how the Seahawks phenomena (and sports fandom in Cascadia in general) is informed by how we approach faith. Or, how I know that being a Seahawks fan is nothing like being a person of church:
“Pray that the watching non-Christian world would not be given the opportunity to discredit not only our church but the very gospel of Jesus."

Cascadia is the largest of the few places in the United States that this is true. That the majority and mainstream is unchurched. Or, more importantly, don't consider faith, specifically often Jesus, to be an important cultural touchstone.

So, up here, if you are religious, if you attend church every week and consider it to be an important part of your social and cultural life, you are separating yourself from the pack.

Most importantly isn't just that Cascadia is unchurched, but that those that are churched, are separated from each other because our corresponding high level of religious diversity. Even if you lumped together all of the particular evangelical protestant sects, you would only come up with 25 percent of the 42 percent that consider themselves anything at all.

So, the Mars Hill leaders really are right, the big wide world out there in Cascadia is non-Christian and also non-church.

But, even thought it is pretty unique to here that we don't use religion as a cultural touchstone, we are not without important and almost universal cultural references. Generally speaking, these have often come up when a sports team is good.

In the mid-90s, we were all Mariners fans. Before that, it was the Huskies. These phenomena reach across Cascadia, seemingly uniting a disparate population. But, uniting behind what? That a team is good, the team is from here, we should root for them.

Matthew Kaemingk writing at Christ and Cascadia I think answers it best:

The Pacific Northwest has not “grown out” of religion, Cascadians have simply transferred their religiosity to what the sociologist Meerten Ter Borg calls “disembedded religion” or  “secular spirituality.” Broken free from religious institutions, structures, rules, and creeds this “disembedded religion” is an anti-institutional form of spirituality that seeks powerful aesthetic experiences.
Matt's right, Cascadia didn't grow out of religion, it was in fact never religious ever in its non-native history. And, he hits the nail on the head when he lists "structures, rules and creeds." This is exactly why the Seahawks (when they're good and attractive) are an overwhelming universal force, because literally anyone can like them.

There is nothing special you need to do. You don't need to change your political beliefs, the books you read or take an oath. You don't need to get new friends, dress differently (in large part) or change your life at all. You just need to care whether a team wins. Deeper social, political or cultural values never come up.

A pro-choice, atheist, progressive, Seattle resident can sit next to a pro-life, Christian, conservative Duval resident at a Seahawks game and nothing much in the descriptions of each other would matter.

But, that is not how church is in Cascadia. It has a much more deeper meaning. And, because religion is so fractured here, very specific things like creed, political belief and possibly what you wear really does come to mattering. And, if you are religious, it absolutely should matter.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Why is Joyce McDonald being hung out to dry in the WA10?

When WA10 was first rolled out to the public two and a half years ago, it was supposedly a competitive district. Dino Ross had done fairly well (47 to 53 percent against an incumbent Dem) in the precincts that would make up the new congressional district that now stretches from Fort Lewis through Thurston County to Shelton.

But, since then, one election has indicated that Democrats may well consider this a safe district. Denny Heck beat up on challenger Dick Muri with 58 percent of the vote in the first election for the new CD in 2012. He also out-raised both Republican challengers with over $2 million to their combined $500,000.

Which leads me to my next point. So far this cycle (FEC info here), Heck has out-raised Joyce McDonald $500k to just $33k. She's not even in the money race right now. It seems that even contributors have written off either McDonald or the WA 10 as a GOP district all-together.

Which is odd, because during the last mid-term race, a Republican did fairly well in the WA-10. Now, in a year with a significant GOP tide, the party seems to have not even entered the race.

A recently leaked state GOP memo on the state of the current races offers even fewer clues. While the memo makes strong arguments to try to attract women voters, it singles out a female Democratic congressional candidate as the party's single focus for the cycle. Obviously leaving out a female Republican candidate facing a male Democrat.

WA 10 seems like it could be a competitive Republican district, but I can't tell why they don't make more of an effort here. Not that I really want them to, I like Denny Heck.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Roundups, Rambles, etc. (Olyblogosphere for September 1, 2014)

1. Alec Clayton does a critic's choice, but its more just him pointing out what he liked. Because he really did miss a lot this year.

2. A nice end of summer ramble by Maria Mudd.

3. People sure do like those Mima Mounds. Boy. Or seem they're weird. They're not weird. They just are. Glacial erratics, those are cool.

4. My new favorite Olympia blog is running a poll. Take it!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Here we are now in Olympia (Charles Cross left something out of Kurt Cobain's cities)

Here We Are Now by Charles Cross is a fascinating book. Twenty years after Kurt Cobain's suicide, Cross takes a look at how Nirvana and Cobain changed the world, from music to our own region to how we talk about suicide.

For me, the most fascinating chapter was where Cross took a look at the towns most associated with Cobain, his birthplace in Aberdeen and the city he's most associated with, Seattle. Of course, Olympia is in that mix too. Cross' own biography of Cobain includes five chapters set in Olympia, spanning arguably Cobain's most formative years between 1987 and 1991.

Screen shot of Nirvana - Live in Olympia
But, in this trio, Olympia has always been the silent partner. Olympia isn't like Aberdeen, it isn't the town that he was born in, isn't the town that is the source of Cobain's legendary youthful angst. It also isn't Seattle, a town with a profile large enough to envelope Cobain's legend as soon as it was ready.

Cross seems to acknowledge this silent partnership when he mentions Olympia only in passing in his chapter on how Seattle and Aberdeen have been impacted by Cobain twenty years on. In this chapter, Olympia is a bridge between Cobain's Aberdeen roots and his false association with Seattle. At least using Cross' logic, if Aberdeen spit Cobain out and Seattle sucked him up (once he was good and famous), Olympia was the only place Cobain was truly at home as an artist.

But, that is a pretty over-wrought statement.

Cross in Here We Are Now wasn't making a point about what city impacted Cobain the most. He covered that in Heavier Than Heaven. In this most recent book, the equation is the opposite, what city was most impacted by Cobain?

And, it is worth asking that question about Olympia.

So, if Aberdeen has finally come to terms with their troubled product and have embraced him as a part of their own culture. And, Seattle has become one and the same with a certain type of everyman do it yourself music culture. What is Olympia's Cobain impacted legacy? How did 1987 through 1991 and Kurt Cobain impact Olympia?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Olympia and Thurston should follow Poulsbo and Kitsap's lead (at the very least) and what your PUD candidates think about that

Internet connectivity should be a basic utility, like sewer, water and garbage. Directly speaking, that isn't possible in Washington State. Some local governments can, but PUDs cannot directly connect their customers. They can provide service to businesses that sell retail connections to customers.

So, in Kitsap County, the PUD up there is wiring up the cities of Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island, which then are turning on municipal wifi:
There were four antennas placed in downtown Poulsbo.

“Which was not enough,” Jones said.

An upgraded system will likely equate to more antennas throughout a coverage area.

“I’m willing to put a tower on my house,” joked Poulsbo Port Commissioner Jim Rut-ledge, who attended the May 28 meeting.

“I’m willing to wear one,” quipped Councilman Ed Stern.
Improving the system may require KPUD to further expand its fiberoptic system to accommodate additional antennas.
A few weeks ago, I asked various PUD candidates what they thought about the Thurston PUD rolling out not only internet service, but reaching out to customers.

Here is my question:

PUDs are allowed by law to become wholesale internet service  providers. With the already limited number of private companies providing internet access abandoning net neutrality, we have the opportunity through our PUDs to help provide inexpensive and fair access.

Do you think the Thurston PUD should enter the broadband market?
Here are their responses.

Chris Sterns:
I would say yes, if we could do it with a successful business plan. Each county PUD has entered the Telecom/Fiber Optic wholesale marketplace under their own different business model. This reflected whether or not they were already an electric utility, how big they are and whether or not their model was successful. Noanet is the consortium of PUD's that provides the main conduit of the internet fiber-optic system that everyone already uses including the private telecoms and the cell phone towers which are now hooked up to it! It passes through our county along side of the federal BPA transmission lines. Electric utilities utilize fiber to run their electric utilizes more efficiently (connecting up all their electric substations) that a water utility cannot do. Both electric and water utilities have cut back on Noanet participation due to revenue losses that their electric customers made up. Some had more secure private sector participation, others dropped out since customer density was low in rural counties. I will not enter this business to become a loss leader (lose money just to get into the market). Some other counties had residents who felt this was a good idea, I don't and their commissioners rejected the federal grants to start up services because they felt they couldn't make it work profitably. I have attended along with Commissioner Russ Olsen Washington PUD Association meetings on how each PUD runs their fiber optic system. We are looking closely at what would work best here. The first place to go would be the densest areas in the north county cities. These cities have already laid down dark fiber when they dig up their streets for water line replacement. All it needs is to be connected and lit up. Other areas can be added from a profitable core area. C.S.

P.S. The federal regulators (FCC) are considering overriding our state law that limits us to only wholesale service, we are the only state with those direct restrictions and yet cable remains unregulated. They have better lobbyists! The only other proposed systems are government to government services.
 Brian Hess:
I am still researching this issue and have found some things that I think the PUD can do to assist with the challenge.  One way to assist is being the repository of information not only about telecommunications, but also water and power.  The PUD should have available data for all within the county to look at and research and then be able to make educated decisions about their choices.  The PUD currently puts out a newsletter, but only to those that receive services from it.  I believe that the newsletter should go out to all residents within the county.  While campaigning it has occurred to me that not many know that there is a PUD and what it does.  This is wrong since each property owner within the county pays taxes to the PUD.

One of the challenges we face with telecommunications, or any other utility, is the infrastructure of such utilities.  I have read a story about how cities are being challenged by the telecommunication companies when the city wishes to install fiber optics within their limits.  I am still researching this issue, but my first response is that it is not right that a city cannot provide infrastructure for its residents.  I am still researching this issue and will hope to have a better response soon.

I have also read about a city in Washington that set-up free WiFi for all within the city limits.  I am trying to find that article again to share with you.  I am also wanting to follow-up on it to see how successful it has been.  This is another way that telecommunications can be provided to all.
Hess went on for a lot longer than that, but didn't end up coming back to the internet issue at all.

Basically, Sterns seems more versed on the topic, and makes a great point towards the end. The urban part of the county seems better suited for connectivity soon. Fiber has already been laid and it would just take the PUD to light it up. Since the PUD right now is a somewhat disconnected water utility, it doesn't have the built infrastructure to just add on internet.