Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Winning in Sports Isn’t Everything. It Is Everything

Associated Press
Ichiro on Monday goes from playing for the team with the worst record in major league baseball to playing for the team with the best record.

But that’s not like Rosie the Waitress winning the lottery. Rosie got lucky, good for her. Ichiro’s worked at his craft for his whole life and cashed in on his equity.

Give the younger players a chance, he reportedly said, putting the best spin on past and current seasons of miserable losing seasons brought to us by disappointing player management.

Ichiro now gets a chance to be on a winning team, to play in the league playoffs and maybe the World Series on what’s been called “the best team money can buy.”

Give our Seattle fans credit for showing they are a class act. They gave Ichiro a standing ovation at his first at-bat in Yankee pinstripes.

Sports and baseball aren’t metaphors for life. Sports is a business based on revenue and expenses and returns on investment. Be wary when qualities that we might seek and find in real life — truth, honor, character — are talked about in any business  (“We make money the old-fashioned way... We earn it.”)

Penn State and coach Joe Paterno branded their business of college football as an embodiment of character and honor, thereby making the uncovering of years of child molestation and cover ups all the more disgustingly squalid. But they get to keep their football business by paying a fine and having all the games they won during the years of shame wiped off the record books. Like banks and bankers, they get to play again.

After all, it’s not just a game.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Governor’s Visit to the Samish Bay Taylor Shellfish Farm – Wed. July 18. - An Eyewitness Report

By Pete Haase

About a week ago I got an e-mail from the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) inviting me to a “small” luncheon and conversation, at the local Taylor Shellfish Farm, with the Governor and some PSP folks and other locals involved with the Clean Samish Initiative (CSI).  I was invited because I have been an active member of the “Storm Team” – a group of volunteers that do intensive watershed sampling for fecal coliform pollution during/right after rain storms.  I have done quite a lot of sampling in the Samish in support of the CSI and have contributed quite a lot of feedback, comments, and suggestions to the effort.

Turns out the “small” luncheon was actually the second of three visits the Governor and her group were making this day – all celebrating some activity in the endless effort to improve Puget Sound.  And it coincided with the first annual “Shellfish-tival”, a moderately attended family-oriented day at Taylor’s, with activities, education booths, food, and a bit of entertainment.  So there were quite a few people there, including plenty of press coverage.  It was also cloudy and cool.  As most know, the Taylor Farm is a small, old, working farm with dismal parking, not at all fancy, but right there on the shores of Samish Bay.  The tide was way out and all in all, it was really a nice setup; informal, great smells of shellfish cooking, lots of nice people and kids and action.  The arrangement for the Governor’s “luncheon” was just some picnic tables out near the bay with a little buffet table, and the Shellfish-tival crowd sort of intermingled with the “official” crowd.

The official group included Governor Gregoire, Bill Ruckelshaus who is Puget Sound Partnership Leader-emeritus, Martha Kongsgaard who is the current Chair of the PSP Leadership Council, Tony Wright who is the brand new Director of the PSP.

Attendees I knew included: Steve Sakuma, who is on the PSP Leadership Council, Tom Eaton who is the local EPA Manager, Ron Wesen who is a Skagit County Commissioner and member of the PSP Eco-systems Coordination Board, Mike Shelby with the local Western Washington Agricultural Association, Jon-Paul Shannahan from the Upper Skagit Tribe, Doug Allen and Mak Kaufman with the Bellingham Department of Ecology Field Office, Carolyn Kelly who manages the local Conservation District,  Kristen Cooley who is with the Outreach effort of the PSP,  Duane Fagergren who is the PSP representative on the Clean Samish Imitative, Rick Haley from Skagit County and the Manager of the Clean Samish Initiative, and Bill Dewey representing Taylor Shellfish and also a member of the PSP Eco-systems Coordination Board.  There were also other representatives from local Tribes and several of our State legislators.   There were about 30 in all.

The Governor then introduced her entourage and thanked us all and made a few brief remarks.  Next, Steve Sakuma welcomed and thanked us and encouraged us and said that when it rains you just have to work around it; a lot of spring rains having caused much Samish Bay pollution.  Then Rick Haley gave a brief recount of the past few months of effort and the disappointing results this spring. He asked the Governor to do all she could to keep various State agencies working on this effort.  He said this spring showed that there are often mysterious pollution sources we don’t yet know about and need to keep working on.

Mak Kaufman, the full-time “in the field” inspector with the Bellingham Field Office of the Department of Ecology, said that, in the fall the ground is not soaked up, so heavy rains that have dissolved the livestock manure in the fields have a good chance to soak in before reaching a ditch or stream,  but by late winter, the grounds are so soaked that new rains just sheet right off into the ditches and streams, carrying heavy loads of manure along. He said this is a Farm Management problem, rarely a septic problem.  The Governor asked Carolyn Kelly from our local Conservation District how they were dealing with that and Carolyn said they have to do a lot of follow-up, a lot of coaching, and that it is usually folks who have some other full time job and when they come home to the “farm” they might not get to the chores of mud and manure management.  Carolyn said there is a lot of “Incentive” money for farmers.

Doug Allen, Mak’s boss, said “Yes, continuing education is important but that we need to ramp up inspection and enforcement – an awful lot of education has already happened and results are not real good yet.”  Carolyn then said that many of the Best Management Practices that they have prescribed can’t be done except in the dry “construction” season (now) so we should see improvements this next fall.

Governor Gregoire gave some closing remarks.  She said the goal for the Samish pollution issue – only one pollution-caused closure of the shellfish harvest during March, 2012 – June, 2012 (there were 10!) – was a tough one but we should feel good about the progress and we would make it next year.  She reiterated that more and sterner enforcement was needed and encouraged continued education efforts and financial aid for farmers needing to make expensive changes.  She stressed that we must clamp down on those who don’t/won’t cooperate in order to keep it fair to those who do and have. She said that, as a private citizen, she will continue to do all she can to protect and improve Puget Sound.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Victoria Sewage: Now Can We Flush?

Mr. Floatie
Twenty years ago, Puget Sound was finally flushed with pride as many of its municipalities were on their way to upgrading to secondary sewage treatment. Victoria, the capital of "Beautiful, British Columbia” (as the province once brand itself in its advertisements) was simply filtering its sewage through a metal screen then piping its raw sewage about half a mile offshore smack into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

They still do but earlier this week there finally appeared some light at the end of that discharge pipe when the federal, provincial and regional governments announced a deal to fund a proposed $782-million secondary sewage treatment plant in the capital region.  (“Three governments announce deal for Greater Victoria sewage plant”)  

Seattle PI.Com reporter Joel Connelly this week recalled the decades-long political refusal of British Columbia politicians to step up to the loo and remedy the festering issue in his column, “Victoria: A sewage treatment plant at last.

Joel takes us down memory lane by recounting how Puget Sound yachting groups protested and boycotted the annual Victoria Swiftsure Yacht Race in the mid-’90s and by resurrecting the six-foot tall “Mr. Floatie” who ran for mayor of Victoria. Connelly also reminds us how the then-B.C. Environment Minister David Anderson adamantly defended the use of the Strait as a fine dumping ground because of its tidal action.

Well, Mr. Anderson remains an outspoken critic of secondary treatment and defender of dumping raw sewage into the Strait, jumping again into the effluent this week with a guest editorial, “Sewage-treatment plan serves no one well.”

For my part, I’ve always believed that my Canadian friends and Victoria businesses have long wanted to treatment their sewage and be good neighbors. Boycotting Victoria because of poor political leadership unfortunately would hurt the wrong people so in the mid-’90s our protest took the form of the “When you go to Victoria, don’t flush” campaign.

And we’ve held fast to that all these years. Now can we flush?

--Mike Sato

Monday, July 16, 2012

Box Jellyfish and Rats in Paradise

We were glad to get all of the family out of Waikiki and Ala Moana waters by July 13, 10 days after the full moon. That’s when the stinging box jellyfish ( Carybdea alata )  begin showing up in local waters.

It’s one more thing to worry about with little grandkids cavorting about in the water, although I don’t recall the prevalence of box jellyfish when I grew up in Hawaii or when my children played in Hawaii waters.

More of a threat when growing up was the prevalence of the Bluebottle “Portuguese man-of-war”  after a patch of rough weather. Get stung by one of those and you’ll always remember to keep your swim shorts dry on the days they’re in the water.

The earth’s climate is changing and jellies are on the increase in the world’s oceans so maybe that’s why box jellyfish are now prevalent in Hawaii waters.

On the other hand, the state has eliminated its rat control program due to budget constraints, leaving the rat abatement policing in Waikiki to the city and citizens. Less control, more Waikiki rats, the local paper reported last weekend ( “Waikiki's rodent woes city, citizens take lead in Rat control “) .

Both box jellyfish and rats are bad for the tourism business— but visitor counts are up both from eastbound and westbound.  And the influx of newly-minted Chinese tourists is on its way.  I think the early Saturday morning crowd at the highly reputed farmers market at Kapiolani Community College was more than 50 percent Japan nationals.

Of course, very little between the Zoo and Ala Moana Center is real. Box jellies and rats are real. Maybe there’s still a bit of the real island under the banyan at the Pink Lady or in a corner of her lobby where for a few quiet moments you can sense what a magical place this south shore was for the natives and the locals and the visitors before tourism became a business.

Las Vegas, Disneyland, Safeco Field, the Washington State Fair— there are lots of places I go that are not real, where I trade some dollars for a few hours or days of entertainment. If I get good value, I’m satisfied. People get paid, investments recouped. I will 
still watch out for jellyfish and rats.

--Mike Sato

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Why Is Watching Grass Grow Interesting?

Who reads this? You do. The Salish Sea News and Weather blog is 10 months old and received 2,001 visits in June. The Salish Sea Communications blog is 9 months old and received 2,456 visits last month.

The most visits by far among the 7,996 total visits to the Communications blog are 2,451 visits to the April 2, 2012 blog about “Watching the Grass Grow,” which featured the web site “Watching Grass Grow: The most exciting/boring web site in the world.”

I find that fascinating, that readers find watching grass grow fascinating.

Time-lapse photography is fascinating.

I grew up watching the Disney film The Living Desert, a 1953 documentary about the plants and animals of the desert of the Southwestern U.S. I remember there’s this big thunderstorm and flood waters, then all the desert plants burst into bloom. That fascinated me and made me an environmentalist.

Bill McKibbon, however, in The End of Nature says that documentaries like that and those that show action scenes of predator and prey spoiled our sense of the natural world. Most of the time, in nature, nothing happens. Nothing you can see really happens— and we get bored. Like some people get bored watching baseball. Or watching grass grow.

On the news and weather blog, something’s happening— or seems to be happening-- every day.

On the communications blog, the second most-read blog was about eating: “Toro, Poke and Ceviche

Thank you, readers. You fascinate me.

--Mike Sato