Archive for the ‘event’ Category

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!

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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…

Paul Guppy at Mercer Island Library

Washington State tax revenues for the current state budget ($30B) increased this year, just as revenues have increased for each budget in past thirty years or more. That’s right – in this economy, an increase in total funding for state government, about $1.4B more to spend than in the last budget.  When you read about “budget cuts”, it nearly always means a slow-down in growth, not an absolute cut.

That’s one of the takeaways from a talk last night by Paul Guppy, VP of Research at the Washington Policy Center, a 501(c)(3) non-partisan education organization based in Seattle. 

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So why do well-read people not hear more about facts like these?  and why isn’t there a more popular discussion of how to better allocate existing state revenue?  Paul thinks this is because of the narrow perspective shared by journalists in the traditional mainstream media, who in spite of their good intentions, tend to think alike, viewing and interpreting events from the limited point of view you’d expect from people who attend the same schools and live and work with the same community of journalists throughout their careers.

Paul thinks the failure of the Seattle P-I, for example, is simply the result of content competition, and the natural way people turn away from irrelevant information sources when given a choice. In a pre-internet world where news reporting was concentrated in a few hands, you had to read the newspaper – however bad it was at covering issues relevant to you.  But now, with so many rich alternatives available on line, why bother?

About 20 people showed up for the presentation last night, but I’m sure many more interested people would have come if they had known about it. To me, that’s the biggest problem in the post-newspaper world, particularly as the number of news sources multiplies and becomes more fragmented: how do you get the word out to potentially interested people who are not already on your list?  Although each individual news source may be spot-on to the information you want, it can be very hard to spread news and announcements that might be very relevant to you – but that you just didn’t know was there.