Mercer Island Races

The racial dot map is an open-source project from the University of Virginia’s Cooper Center for Public Service.  Using public information from the 2010 US Census, it maps all 300M+ people in the US to their locations on a map, with the color of each dot representing the race of each person.  Here’s what it shows for the area around Mercer Island:

2010 Census Seattle Eastside by Race

The complete Python source code is available on GitHub.  Read more at Slate.

How do you spell Dan Grausz?

Those of us who know City Councilman Dan Grausz like his hands-on, practical approach to city politics, and his friendly responsiveness to anyone with a question or concern about the City, in spite of his busy full-time job outside the Council.  But as he himself would admit, he’s old-school when it comes to all this new-fangled web technology.  Although he’s been using a Blackberry religiously for years, Web 2.0 has definitely passed him by.

But as he gears up for his Fall Re-election campaign, this has all changed.  He’s now got a web site, a Facebook group, and even a Twitter account, set up by friends who want him re-elected for another four year term.


Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t remember how to spell his name, so how are we going to find those web sites?  Is it Dan Grausz?  Or Dan Grauzs?  or Dan Grouse? 

I guess it’s good for Dan that he’s running against somebody who has a similar hard-to-remember spelling.  Is it Ira Appleman or Ira Appelman?


First Farmers Market of the year

We’re big fans of the Mercer Island Farmers Market, which started last year and is opened today again for the summer.

Mercer Island Farmers Market

Today seemed much colder and drearier than the unseasonably sunny weather we’ve been enjoying for the past month, and maybe the chill kept the crowds away because it didn’t seem as packed as last year.

Mercer Island Farmers Market

The beginning of the season limits the wealth of produce available, especially since the organizers discourage sales of anything that wasn’t picked within a biodiesel’s drive from Mercer Island.Mercer Island Farmers Market

There is a lot of cheese this year (yum!) and more stands selling fish and meat (including fresh goat!).  Strawberries are everywhere, and cherries, though I didn’t see much other variety in vegetables, no doubt because it’s too early.  

As always, the best part of the Farmers Market is the friends we meet there. It may have been my imagination, but they seem to have added more tables, making it an even nicer place for socializing.  Now if only they could do something about the cold and rain!

Gary Paulsen at Mercer Island High School

"Nothing tastes better than Beaver meat", says Gary Paulsen. "I’d take it over filet mignon any day". He should know: much of his life has been spent in the wild, from his boyhood in northern Minnesota to years living off trap lines and dog sleds. Speaking to a surprisingly large (300+ person) crowd tonight at the Mercer Island High School, he dresses and talks more like a man of the woods than the best-selling author of more than 200 books.

Gary Paulsen (4)

Now aged 70, he hasn’t been a famous author for all that long. Until his mid-40s he was flat broke, after a string of dead-end jobs and marriages, each failure punctuated only by time spent healing in the woods. In fact, that’s where he spent much of his boyhood, a lousy student with no friends, living off the land while running away from his alcoholic parents. Befriended by a librarian, he began reading books only through much struggle, but kept at it when he joined the army. He hated it, and ended up working for a defense contractor, which he quit when he decided he wanted to become a writer. He found himself at a small publisher in Hollywood when he met his first "real" writer, who gave him the advice that has stuck to him till today: always, always write something every day: a chapter every weekday, and three each weekend.

That discipline brought him a taste of success, if that’s what you call $750/book. But he cranked them out by the dozen, until his first hit Dogsong won him a Newbury award and $30,000. By then he was working a lot with dogs, eventually running the Alaska Iditerod race, and writing the smash best-selling book Hatchet (which he says is number 87 on a list of all-time best-sellers including that Bible).

It’s one of my favorite books too, recommended to me originally by my 8-year-old boy, who hadn’t been particularly interested in reading until discovering it and who found it a real treat to be able to meet the author himself, right here on Mercer Island.

Gary Paulsen’s appearance tonight was sponsored by the Big Read program of the King County Library System, which a great way to get kids more interested in books and writing.  Now if only I can get myself some of that beaver meat…

Goats at Work (video)

Looks like somebody posted video of that goat herd seen on SE 46th Ave last month.  It’s a nicely-edited clip of the farmer discussing the reasons goats are better than the alternatives at clearing land.

My favorite: you don’t have to cart away the clippings.  All that mulch just disappears into the animal.  Well, sort of.  I mean, it gets converted into something else, right?

Mercer Island Schools Foundation Breakfast Video

A new 9-minute professionally-made video showing highlights of students from the Mercer Island school district. 


Snippets from music classes, drama, the swim team and more.

“We need $2M to close the budget gap”. That’s $500 for each student.

The end of the bubble

DamienM posted this fun video showing how they take the bubble off the Shorewood swimming pool:

Look at how many people it takes to get that thing off.  Seems like a lot of work, but it’s probably even harder to put it back on again.

Nice to think that somebody has enough confidence in the weather to get rid of the winter protection over the pool.

Rent a Ruminant

Look who’s eating this empty lot near the Congregational Church on SE 46th Ave:

Rent a Ruminent : goats eating blackberry bushes.

That’s a herd of goats, from Rent-a-Ruminant.  The animals are voracious eaters, and one of their favorites is blackberry bushes – the invasive species that seems to have taken over every vacant lot on Mercer Island.  Supposedly the goats eat every trace of the bushes, down to the roots.


So what does it cost to get rid of the weeds on your property?  The farmer charges by the day, usually in increments of a quarter acre.  Something like $825/day, plus moving fees.   That sounds like a deal to me, especially if they do a thorough job without leaving toxic herbicides that will run off onto other lots.   I wonder if you can also work out a deal to eat your weed-eater when it’s done.  Did you know that goat is the most widely-consumed meat in the world? Yummy.

Farmers Market video

Another new 5-min video, this time from last Summer’s Mercer Island Farmers Market.

Like the others the City has recently posted, this one is well-produced, with video from last year’s market combined with interviews of vendors and passersby.

I think it’s so nice to see news and video like this.  I wonder who pays for this, and what the budget is for doing more of them?

Island Crest and Merrimount Video

Mercer Island continues its race into the 21st Century, with some new videos posted on Youtube.  The first one is a 5-minute overview of the situation at Island Crest Way and Merrimount.  It’s a well-done video, not just a boring head shot, with video from the intersection as well as scenes of the citizen’s panel doing their deliberations.


I have just a couple of comments:

  1. Shorten the intro to no more than 10 seconds (right now it’s a long, 30 sec). and same with the conclusion.
  2. Use wide screen and HD, instead of the SD format as posted.  They probably take the video in HD, so this is probably a consequence of posting to Youtube more than anything else.  Still, nothing beats HD quality.
  3. Where are the maps?  video of traffic accidents?  etc.  [I’m kidding!  obviously more production work would make this a very expensive video, and harder to publish]

“The best is the enemy of the good”, and I’m glad that these videos are out there in any format and any quality.  We need much more of this!