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Check It Out: Say cheese with books on art of photography
Author: Jan Johnston

When my mom passed away earlier this year, the home that my parents lived in for nearly 50 years was filled with family photos. I was able to bring my grandmother’s photograph albums back to Washington after the house was sold, but it wasn’t until very recently that I unpacked those albums and spent some time reacquainting myself with my grandmother’s past.  There are two albums, and they are in fairly good condition considering their age. My mom kept them in a safe place where they weren’t exposed to light or the normal wear and tear that the more contemporary photo albums received.

Growing up, I loved looking at the family albums, especially the ones put together by my grandmother. My mom encouraged me to look at them, and I’m so grateful that I am now the keeper of these special mementos. It means the world to me.

Perhaps you have special photos you want to preserve; or, you have an interest in photography and would like to learn how to improve your technique. No matter the situation, the library is here to help. Today’s reading suggestions are brief, so I encourage anyone interested in photography — do-it-yourself or an appreciation of the art — to search for photography-related titles in the library’s collection.

Say cheese!

  • “How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally” by Denise S. May-Levenick.
  • “Photo Basics: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Great Photography” by Joel Sartore.
  • “Photo Organizing Made Easy: Going from Overwhelmed to Overjoyed” by Cathi Nelson.
  • “Photography Exposure: Basics Photography” by David Prakel.
  • “Photography: History, Art, Technique” by Tom Ang.
Clark County residents learn to share backyards with deer
Author: Scott Hewitt

My newest neighbors are four-legged, furry and — to use the latest scientific terminology — totes adorbs.

This year, a doe and her fawns began nosing through my yard several times each day. They meander down the block, silently exploring other yards. Occasionally the energetic fawns start leaping and chasing around. Their calm mom hurries up only when there’s a sudden disturbance, like a car approaching on the street or even a curious observer appearing in a doorway.

Deer live all around us — as invisibly as possible — in suburban and even urban Clark County, said wildlife biologist Stephanie Bergh of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Black-tailed deer are everywhere in Vancouver,” Bergh said. “Anywhere they can make a living.”

They do that by browsing shrubs, trees, grasses, nuts, fruits and garden crops, then bedding in tall grasses or nearby woods. Deer are often called an edge species because they hang out on ragged fringes of our orderly landscapes, the transition zones with both greenery to nibble and dense cover in which to disappear.

There’s nothing new about deer in this area, Bergh said. What’s new is us taking over the landscape in ever increasing numbers.

“Green spaces and woods — that’s absolutely deer habitat,” Bergh said. “It’s being lost to development. There is so much development and so much infill.”

Two patches of forest were leveled within earshot of my Felida home earlier this year, making (noisy) way for construction of new housing developments. That’s precisely when local deer went from visitors to residents of my block.

While Columbian black-tailed deer are the species usually spotted in and around cities and suburbs in Western Washington, Bergh said there’s no good method for estimating their population. The only meaningful numbers regarding local black-tailed deer are annual hunting tallies, which have been stable in recent years. (Endangered white-tailed deer have enjoyed a resurgence in and around the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge thanks to reintroduction efforts.)

“We don’t do surveys for deer in urban areas,” she said. “I don’t know how we would count them. They live in the forest and the brush. They’re very secretive. They’re not going to come out and let you see them.”

But that may be changing as deer and people get increasingly accustomed to sharing neighborhood turf. And since habitat is shrinking fast these days, making your yard a more natural habitat for deer isn’t a bad idea, Bergh said.

“People love to watch wildlife. Watching deer in your own yard can be really fun,” Bergh said.

Just be aware that there are right and wrong ways to coexist with deer.

Corn = cardboard

The wrong way, Bergh said, is feeding deer anything the landscape doesn’t naturally provide. The growing tips of trees, shrubs and grasses are ideal deer food. Well-intended supplements are unnecessary, even harmful.

“We very strongly discourage feeding deer,” she said. “It can literally kill the deer to feed them foods that aren’t from their natural sources.”

Deer tend to grind and yank at twigs and shoots, leaving evidence behind in the form of a ragged “browse line” no higher than 4 feet. Twigs that look ripped and torn rather than bitten cleanly are a telltale sign of deer.

But deer are not picky eaters. They’ll gladly gobble up treats that seem healthy and wholesome to us, like corn, apples, alfalfa, potatoes, bread, even peanut butter. But those foods are bad for them.

Despite a complicated assemblage of four stomachs, deer have a tough time extracting nutrients from anything but woody roughage. Too much sweet or starchy food can make them ill or even kill them.

“It’s about the same as people eating cardboard,” Bergh said. “We could physically do it, but it wouldn’t be good.”

Specially formulated deer pellets are equally bad, she added. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife discourages people from feeding deer in any way other than letting them browse on natural brush.

But Fish and Wildlife does encourage the creation of healthy habitat for deer and other creatures. The agency’s extensive list of native trees, shrubs and flowers that are compatible with deer’s complicated tummies includes local landscape favorites like vine maple, blackberry, oak, Doug fir and red cedar.

Town deer

Beyond loading them up with undigestible food, there are other reasons why encouraging deer to depend on people is a bad idea, Bergh said. Concentrating deer at feeders or water features can spread disease and draw predators like cougars, bears, coyotes and even domestic dogs.

It also encourages deer to make themselves at home in our hazardous built landscape.

“We see a lot of town deer get into precarious situations,” she said. “They get stuck in fences. They get stuck in buckets. They get dog chew toys stuck in their mouths. When somebody calls you about a deer with a toilet seat stuck around its neck, that’s not good.”

Dogs on the loose are a frequent reason why running-scared deer get hit by cars, Bergh said. Worst of all, it’s not uncommon for Fish and Wildlife to take calls about deer that have been shot with arrows, still alive and suffering.

Call 911 if you’re experiencing a genuine wildlife emergency or danger. If it’s a less-pressing problem (including an injured or stuck animal) call WILDCOMM, Fish and Wildlife’s enforcement program, at 877-933-9847.

Creatures of habit

Deer don’t get around much. It’s typical for black-tailed deer to range only within limited home turf — an area only as large as 3 square miles and perhaps as small as half a mile — and to retrace the same routes and pathways over and over again. It’s easy to spot their footpaths, which look like people paths.

Deer aren’t adventurous. They don’t usually stray far from easy hiding places like shrubbery and stands of trees. But they’ll also hang out in wide-open green spaces that stay relatively quiet and undisturbed, like parks and golf courses. Big patches of matted-down grass indicate their sleeping spots.

Deer may go browsing at any time of day or night, but they’re generally crepuscular — that is, most active at dawn and dusk. Family groups usually consist of a doe and her fawns. Bucks (males) are, as they say, rolling stones.

Deer are sensitive to the slightest movement and have excellent noses. To watch them, stay very still and downwind. And good luck with that.

Fences, friends

If your deer-friendly feelings stop at the edge of your flower or vegetable garden, a tall, sturdy fence is your best bet.

“Preventing deer damage is a big concern … and the research leans heavily on the concept of 9-foot-tall fencing to keep them out of areas where they are not wanted,” Erika Johnson, coordinator of the WSU Clark County Extension Master Gardener program, said in an email. “Of course, this can get expensive fast.”

Fences aren’t effective unless they’re sufficiently strong, tall and flush against the ground, according to Fish and Wildlife’s detailed online discussion of living with deer and preventing conflicts.

“Deer will wander the perimeter of the area until they’ve found an opening,” the webpage states. “Incredibly, deer will try to either crawl under or squeeze through a fence before jumping over it.”

In Hockinson, gardener Karen Palmer has reached a compromise with local deer.

“We decided early on not to fence our entire cultivated property, but rather to learn to get along with nature,” she said.

Palmer installed limited fencing around critical garden areas, and uses chicken-wire cages around young starts. To protect her favorite ornamental flowers, she sprays them with nontoxic Liquid Fence, which adds a garlic-and-sulfur reek that’s even more repellent to deer noses than to human ones.

But Liquid Fence and other repellents need frequent reapplications and deer get used to them, Johnson said. The same goes for scare tactics like scarecrows, bright flashes and loud noises.

“Noises and flashy things … only work until the deer discover that they aren’t too big a concern,” Johnson said.

In the end, Palmer said she figures that sacrificing some plants is the price of befriending deer.

“We find that the pleasure of getting visits … makes up for the extra headache of finding a plant nibbled almost to the ground,” she said.

“The deer who visit our yard grew up here, probably first came here as babies with their mom, know my voice and know that I am not going to hurt them,” Palmer said. “They just sort of look at me with a ‘Yeah, yeah, I know you don’t want me to eat this plant’ look, and then mosey on.”

In Our View: Kimsey superior choice for Clark County auditor
Author: The Columbian

For more than two decades, Greg Kimsey has served with integrity, honor and transparency as Clark County auditor. The Columbian’s Editorial Board strongly recommends that Kimsey be reelected to a position that includes overseeing local elections.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

An informed examination of Kimsey’s performance reveals that his office effectively manages and protects free and fair elections. He has earned sterling recommendations from both Republican and Democratic organizations, community leaders, labor and economic organizations, and private citizens who share an interest in effective and transparent government.

At a time when election results are subject to fabricated accusations of malfeasance, the transparency demonstrated by Kimsey’s office is particularly important. He diligently responds to inquiries about Clark County’s election process, and he told the editorial board during an interview, “I’m happy to talk with anyone about elections as long as they want.”

His stated goal is to conduct elections in a “transparent, responsible, secure manner” so “that you end up with more confidence in your government.”

Notably, the elections office publicly conducts hand counts of a portion of ballots for a high-profile race in each election, then compares those totals with the machine count. The results unfailingly match the machine count, and certification of those tests for each race are available on the office’s website.

Kimsey’s challenger, Brett Simpson, has embraced and repeated outlandish conspiracy theories about our election system.

Simpson had agreed to meet with the editorial board and Kimsey for a joint interview, but he canceled at the last minute through his campaign manager.

In public appearances, Simpson has claimed that elections are controlled by an international cabal and that George Soros and various power brokers have stolen American democracy, perpetrating “massive amounts of fraud in our elections here, and it’s not just in our county it’s in the entire state.”

In Washington, federal courts and the state Supreme Court have found that such claims are without merit. Throughout the country, dozens of courts and audits in numerous states have rejected claims of massive fraud during the 2020 election.

Simpson has filed lawsuits against Kimsey in conjunction with a state election integrity group. That group and its lead attorney have been fined by the state Supreme Court for bringing meritless lawsuits.

While questions about election security must be asked, Simpson’s approach is irresponsible and damaging to democracy, fomenting unfounded doubts in the public. He has embraced a shotgun approach to campaigning — firing out every half-baked theory he finds on the internet and hoping that something hits the target.

As Kimsey said: “Anyone who has evidence of fraud should contact law enforcement, the attorney general’s office, the state auditor’s office, the secretary of state’s office, the sheriff or the county auditor.”

In considering the candidates, we prefer somebody who has a history of integrity and transparency and can be relied upon to follow the facts of a situation. The Columbian’s Editorial Board strongly recommends a vote for Greg Kimsey as Clark County auditor.

Yakima Valley winemakers say grape crop high-quality
Author: Santiago Ochoa, Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA — Winemakers in Yakima County are in a race against time to finish picking what many expect to be a historically high-quality grape harvest.

The perfect confluence of weather and ground conditions came together to create an ideal season for winemakers. High levels of moisture in the ground during winter, a cool spring and a hot, sunny, mostly smoke-free summer have led to abundant and flavorful grapes. The focus now is picking the grapes before the season’s first frost comes.

Jonathan Sauer, manager of Red Willow Vineyard in Wapato, said the cool spring forced his vineyard to start picking about a week and a half later than they normally would have.

Sauer said Red Willow starts picking its white wine grapes like pinot and chardonnay around Aug. 20. This year, the harvest began Thursday.

Though these initial picking times were only off by a few days, Sauer said once red wine grapes like syrah start gaining more color and are ready to pick, the harvest will be off by closer to two weeks.

“April through July was pretty cool and fairly wet. Even the winter before there was moisture in the ground. That set up the vines for developing a full canopy,” Sauer said. “After the cooler wet spring and early summer, we had one of the warmer Augusts that we’ve had.”

The rate of growth for grapes this season was so high that vineyards like Red Willow reported a higher-than-expected yield.

Vicky Scharlau, executive director of Washington Wine Growers, said based on a July measurement, the statewide wine grape yield could be as high as 310,000 tons, a record for the state. While it was an early estimate with more information to come, she said it’s a welcome statistic following two years of declining output due to erratic weather during the growing season.

Other vineyards in the county, like Dineen Vineyards in Zillah, did not begin picking until the last week of September.

Patrick Rawn, vineyard manager for Dineen Vineyards, and a crew of harvesters took to the fields for the first time Thursday. Workers there picked away at vines full of small, plump, deep purple syrah grapes.

Compared to last year which saw record-breaking temperatures as early as June 2, Rawn said the picking schedule is behind by weeks in 2022.

“We’re a little bit behind compared to the last couple of years. Everything is a little more condensed so we’re just trying to get everything picked. But fruit quality looks great, so we’re excited,” Rawn said.

One of the only challenges Rawn said he faced this year was organizing larger crews to pick faster. In a year with an earlier-starting picking season, fewer workers have more time to pick.

With about 15 percent of Dineen’s harvest picked so far and 1,300 tons left, Rawn said he expects to be picking up until late October.

At the Cold Creek Vineyard near Sunnyside, harvesters are dealing with an unusually large crop of cabernet grapes. The yield is high enough that combined with the late start to the picking season, manager Joe Cotta said he fears the entire crop may not be picked in time for the first frost of the season.

“The cabernet crop is quite a bit larger this year. Because it’s a late-ripening variety in a later year with a big crop, we’re concerned that we’re going to be right up against the frost window. We’re going to need to get lucky and have a warm fall like last year,” Cotta said.

To avoid losing grapes to the frost, Cotta said Cold Creek is considering picking earlier than they would, given this year’s weather. While this brings up concerns about the quality and flavor of the grapes, Cotta said initial tests showed that picking early would have little effect on the wine being made from the grapes.

“The good news is that on an average year, a lot of times the sugar is high and the acid is low and we’re waiting for the flavors to catch up. This year that’s not the case,” Cotta said. “Actually, the flavor profile we’re getting from the fruit is fantastic. That’s alleviating our concerns about picking early. I think we’re going to get some great flavors in the wine, even if the alcohol content is lower than it would typically be.”

Other winemakers in the area like Paul Beveridge, vintner for Wilridge Vineyard, Winery and Distillery in Yakima and Allison VanArnam, owner of VanArnam Vineyards in Zillah, said their harvest is looking just as good.

Should the warm weather hold, Beveridge expects an “epic vintage” while VanArnam said she is looking forward to an amazing harvest.

Amazon still says no to drugs, and is booting marijuana businesses
Author: Lauren Rosenblatt, The Seattle Times

For nine years, Arnold Marcus had been making a living selling spice grinders on Amazon.

His company, Golden Gate Grinders, had several colors available, repeat customers and an invitation to join the Amazon Accelerator program, a path toward becoming a supplier for Amazon’s private label. Marcus, 68, would package orders and take customers’ calls from his living room in San Francisco, proud that he was involved in every aspect of the business he built.

That changed overnight last year when Amazon removed his listings, flagging his products as a violation of company policy prohibiting the sale of drugs and drug paraphernalia. For the uninitiated, a grinder can be used for spices like oregano or rosemary, or for weed.

Marcus spent months fighting his ejection from Amazon’s online marketplace, to no avail.

“There was no indication in all those years that this is a prohibited product,” Marcus said this summer. “One day, they were supporting me and then one day it ended.”

Amazon says its guidelines around drugs and drug paraphernalia are longstanding and state that products can’t be primarily designed for making, preparing or using a controlled substance. Grinders that are equipped with features specifically for marijuana-related use are not allowed on the platform.

“Third-party sellers are independent businesses and are required to follow all applicable laws, regulations and Amazon policies when listing items for sale in our store,” a spokesperson said. “We have proactive measures in place to prevent prohibited products from being listed, including drug paraphernalia, and we continuously monitor our store, remove any such products and take corrective actions when we find them.”

For sellers, the language of the policy is clear but enforcement is ambiguous.

In some cases, Amazon has flagged products that have been sold on the platform for years. It has removed some spice grinders, like those that Marcus was selling, while allowing similar products to remain for sale. One grinder that is still on sale includes in its product description that users can “just keep your weed in it until you need it.”

A search for “spice grinders” on Amazon.com brings up more than 8,000 results. “Spice grinders for cannabis” has over 660.

“They’ve always said there’s no drug paraphernalia but there were lots of products that were ambiguous products that were able to sell on the platform for years and years,” said Lesley Hensell, co-founder of Riverbend Consulting, which helps third-party sellers on Amazon.

For sellers, there was a period of very little enforcement followed by a period of very strict enforcement, leaving them with a lot of questions and a lot of products in their garage, Hensell said. “These guys are talking about unloading stuff at flea markets.”

Riverbend Consulting started hearing from more sellers about problems listing grinders last year when, Hensell says, Amazon changed the artificial intelligence it used to search for contraband on the site. Now, listings that slipped through the cracks are flagged by the software right away.

The cannabis industry is inherently risky, said Chris Shreeve, co-founder and vice president of business development at PrograMetrix, a Seattle-based ad agency with a cannabis and CBD division. Shreeve also co-owns The Bakeréé, a dispensary with two locations in Seattle.

“We have to play the hand that we’re dealt in the cannabis space,” he said. “It’s a difficult hand, but we’ve got to do it.”

Platforms like Google, Meta and Amazon are “tiptoeing around acceptance,” Shreeve said, hoping to follow federal rules and keep up with changing guidelines across state lines — while also finding some way to tap into the roughly $30 billion cannabis industry. Amazon has campaigned for marijuana legalization at the federal level and, in June 2021, announced it would no longer include marijuana in its drug screening program.

The tech giants tend to leave gray areas for products that are not “plant facing,” like grow lights that can be used for lots of different kinds of plants and grinders that can be used for lots of different kinds of herbs, Shreeve said.

That ambiguity has left many companies in the cannabis industry looking for workarounds, Shreeve said.

On Google, a company can share information about cannabis but can’t sell the product or a related product. So brands will market blog posts about the industry in the hopes potential customers will click through and later make a purchase. Meta allows companies to market topical CBD or hemp products but not anything that users would smoke or chew. So brands will create separate landing pages for different products, hoping again to reach new customers.

“Each platform has its own hoops to jump through and red tape to navigate but there are brands that are sidestepping those rules and regulations because of the importance of exposure for the company and the product,” Shreeve said.

“I don’t fault cannabis and CBD brands for trying to navigate the ambiguous rules and regulations on some of these larger platforms,” he continued. “But it needs to be done under the assumption that there is risk.”

Marcus, from Golden Gate Grinders, has spent the past year tweaking his product and the way it appears on the website to respond to Amazon’s concerns. His seller account is still active, but his products aren’t listed for purchase, meaning he can’t bring in any revenue.

One Amazon representative suggested his product was removed because he had a mesh screen. He removed the screen, relisted the grinder and watched it get flagged again. Another representative told him the product was taken down because there were keywords related to tobacco. Marcus checked his listing and didn’t find any references to tobacco. Yet another representative pinned the blame on specific semicolons and quotation marks.

After months of small changes, Marcus scrapped his listing entirely and created a new product: a 2.5-inch silver spice mill without any key words, photos or descriptions. Amazon still flagged and removed the product.

“I’m done, there’s nothing else I’ll do or can do that will change what’s going on,” Marcus said. “I feel even if I create a Golden Gate Grinders toothbrush, it’ll be removed.”

Many third-party sellers outside the cannabis industry have run into similar problems, reporting that a confusing decision — often driven by an algorithm — has kicked products off Amazon’s platform with little explanation and little room for recourse. Last year, Benton County-based Chukar Cherries was removed suddenly when Amazon’s fraud-prevention algorithm inexplicably linked it to another seller in China that had been deactivated for violating company policy. It took 67 days to get the sweets back online.

In online forums for third-party sellers, concerns specific to grinders have cropped up again and again. One user posted that they “can’t understand why others can sell” but they cannot. Another said it was unclear what triggered it, “but for whatever reason [the] majority of the listings were yanked.” Another said Amazon’s “one size fits all policy makes sellers lose millions.”

Before Golden Gate Grinders ran into its own trouble, Marcus had been a vocal supporter of Amazon on these types of forums. He posted that being a third-party seller on Amazon gave him, “a burnt-out software engineer, an old man, an opportunity to recreate himself.”

Now, he is considering filing for bankruptcy, has had to ask his brother for a loan and has taken on credit card debt.

He had been buying inventory to prepare for the moment Amazon relisted his products but, after nearly a year off the platform, he’s no longer optimistic he could build his business back up. He’s lost customer reviews that are crucial to getting his product on the top of the search results and his competitors have been operating while he’s been sidelined.

“Even if somebody woke up one morning and said ‘Let’s let him back on,’ that would be very challenging,” Marcus said. “I have to start from the beginning. They seriously damaged and hurt my company.”

At Riverbend Consulting, Hensell has started to tell third-party sellers in the spice grinder business it’s probably time to switch markets.

“At this point, I don’t think anything will work. I think what Amazon has done is working as intended,” she said. “They need to find other products to sell or sell it somewhere else. It’s not going to happen on Amazon anymore.”

Avoid these common real estate scams
Author: Hunter Boyce, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

From buying to renting to selling, real estate scams can target landlords and local residents in many situations. It’s a criminal practice that can seriously damage your wallet, credit and peace of mind.

  • Wire scams

According to realtor.com, one of the common real estate fake-outs is the wire scam.

“This is basically a scam where someone pretends to be your real estate agent by hacking into or copying their contact information and calling you to deposit good-faith money or an earnest deposit into a fake bank account,” Ron Wysocarski, a real estate broker based in Port Orange, FL, told realtor.com.

Before fulfilling any money transfer requests, Wysocarski said it is important to meet your real estate agent face to face to ensure everything is on the up and up.

  • Foreclosure relief scams

For those on the brink of losing their homes, not all financial relief opportunities are legitimate.

In foreclosure relief scams, scammers target individuals on the brink of losing their homes, Rocket Mortgage reported. A fake company will reach out to the victim with promises that it can stop the foreclosure or modify a loan in exchange for payment. It’s a scam.

To avoid the scam, Rocket Mortgage said that you should never pay for a service before it has been completed. The company also suggested researching the individual or company that is promising to help you.

  • Fake listing scams

Another popular scheme is the fake listing scam, according to Bank Rate. Scammers will post fake property listings on Craigslist, social media or any other platform that interested buyers may wander onto. While the photos they use may be from real listings, their offers are anything but.

The scammers will usually ask for an upfront payment to allow you to visit the listed property. Be suspicious of anyone that asks for upfront deposits to see a property.

“Avoid doing transactions via email or on the phone,” Nicole Durosko of Warburg Realty told Bank Rate. “It’s best to be face-to-face to confirm the property ownership, sign any required documentation and make a payment.”

  • ‘We buy homes!’ scams

Somewhere along the road in your travels, you have likely seen a flier that advertises a business or individual willing to buy your house. More often than not, according to Finance Buzz, it’s a scam.

The scam usually promises homeowners quick cash for their houses. To convince you to sign over your deed to them early, they will promise a fast payout. However, the scammers will have control over your property once the deed has been signed over — still leaving you on the hook for the monthly mortgage payments.

Finance Buzz reported that it’s important to pay attention to the details to avoid these scams. It is unlikely that a legitimate business is advertising their services on a cheaply printed flier placed on the side of a road or ask you to sign partially blank or complicated documents.

Ex-Capitol Police chief nets deal for Jan. 6 book
Author: Associated Press

NEW YORK — The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 siege has a book deal. Steven A. Sund’s “Courage Under Fire: Under Siege and Outnumbered 58 to 1 on January 6” will come out Jan. 3, just shy of the two-year anniversary of the riot by supporters of President Donald Trump.

“It’s time to break my silence and reveal everything that I know happened,” Sund said in a statement released by Blackstone Publishing.

Sund resigned under pressure soon after Jan. 6 and testified the following month that he hadn’t seen an FBI field report warning of potential violence. He said the overrunning of the U.S. Capitol was the result of widespread failures.

According to Blackstone, Sund will provide “a detailed and harrowing minute-by-minute account of the attack.”

Host Arnett, ‘Lego Masters’ return for season three
Author: Rodney Ho, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — The challenges on Fox’s “Lego Masters” often take 10 to 12 hours. The editors pare them down to mere minutes for each episode.

Will Arnett, as the gleefully wisecracking host, spends much of that time goofing around with the teams, most of which will end up on the cutting room floor.

During one of the final challenges, with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution present at ATL Film Studios in Hiram in April, Arnett asked the teams: “I don’t want to make this all about me because you’re the builders but how have I done as a host?”

“So good!” a contestant said.

“Do you like me?” Arnett asked all the teams.

A couple of people murmured, “Yes.”

Arnett looked faux offended: “That was not convincing!”

Indeed, actor Arnett of “Arrested Development” fame is the glue that keeps the show percolating. (Lego themselves, of course, require no glue.)

“I’m the in-house cheerleader,” he said during a brief break in the day’s shoot. “It’s ten hours of improvising a day.”

Arnett said now that the show has entered its third season, the quality of the teams have only gotten better.

“A lot of big-time builders watched us doing this show and realize it has value in the Lego world,” Arnett said. “Now the big Lego builders from around the country and world want to be part of this. It’s a great endorsement.” (Last year’s winners Mark and Steven Erikson are brothers from Newnan and pocketed $100,000.)

And the show itself generates more adult Lego fans, he said, the types who spend $179 on a Rolling Stones tongue logo, $250 on a Marvel Sanctum Sanctorum or $315 for a facsimile of the “Home Alone” house.

“The adult Lego community is massive and thriving and growing by the day,” Arnett said. “And people build as families now. So our audience cuts across all demographics.”

Arnett himself was first attached to the Lego world after he voiced Batman in the hugely successful “The Lego Movie” from 2014 and its multiple sequels. “I couldn’t have conceived back in 2014 what an impact it would have on my life,” he said.

Indeed, he said he absolutely adores hosting “Lego Masters.” He said challenges this year include one involving live dogs as models, a show built around bull riding and an entire episode focused on treehouses. Jeff Gordon shows up for a race-car challenge and Chris Pratt arrives to promote “Jurassic World Dominion” for a dinosaur-themed build.

“They have to show some technical skills, sometimes with power and light,” Arnett said. “There’s a water challenge. We provide them water pumps and they have to incorporate them into the build.”

Arnett said he loves mocking the constructs of a reality competition show and the hyperbole attached to it. He opens season three, for instance, by stepping on set and saying, “You like what I’ve done with the place?” Then he paused. “It’s the same. Literally exactly the same.”

Jamie Berard and Amy Corbett, who are actual Denmark-based Lego designers, are back again as judges.

“We get inspired by what the teams create,” Berard said. To him, Lego has survived 90 years because the bricks serve multiple purposes, even for people well into adulthood. “You can use them as a way to relax and an outlet to unwind,” he said. “You also have the other spectrum where it gives people a chance to express their ideas. This is an art form.”

While adult Lego building has been very male heavy, Corbett said the show has helped attract more women into the field. Of the 12 teams this season, two are all female and five are male-female combos.

“I do love Lego,” Corbett said. “We have to support each other and encourage each other.”

Clark County History: Clark or Clarke?
Author: Martin Middlewood for The Columbian

Why Clark County once tagged an “e” on Clark and now doesn’t is curious, more so because the errant letter stubbornly clung like a cocklebur to a wool shirt for 70 years. Likewise, the county and city names were similarly unsettled after Congress in 1853 split the Oregon Country into two territories — Oregon and Washington.

Clark County’s namesake William Clark headed the Corps of Discovery mapping great swaths of the Louisiana Purchase. His signed documents tell the story. He never wrote his surname with a final “e.”

The Oregon Territory sent its first representative, Samuel Thurston, to U.S. Congress in 1848. The anti-British Thurston wrote the Donation Land Claim Act and worded it to assign the Hudson’s Bay Company land claim to the Oregon Territory. To the dismay of the British, the act passed in 1850. It awarded 640 acres to any married couple who’d occupy it for four years. Every family settling in Oregon land weakened the British claim.

Until 1849, much of the Washington Territory was one county, Vancouver County. It extended from the Columbia River to the Canadian border and from the Pacific into today’s Idaho and Montana. In 1849, the Oregon Territorial Legislature changed that, declaring “the name of the county of Vancouver be and hereby is changed to Clark.” From then, the Oregon Legislature seems to have consistently shunned that final “e.”

When Congress split Washington Territory from Oregon in 1853, it came dangerously close to being dubbed the Territory of Columbia. Fortunately, a Kentuckian representative, Richard Stanton, explained its potential confusion with the District of Columbia.

So how did the errant letter sneak onto the county’s name? Historian Edmond Meany, in his book “Origin of Washington Geographic Names,” claimed it an error. So, it’s likely a long-dead proofreader failed to strike the “e” because he thought it correct, was unaware of the Oregon Legislature’s and Clark’s spelling, or simply imagined the silent vowel added flourish to Clark’s surname.

Regardless, Washington’s new territorial Legislature was at least consistent, and so the “e” crept into legal documents. In its first session in 1854, the Legislature spelled the county’s name as Clarke. Even the county commissioners’ seal designed that year carried the flaw. From there, the weed of error spread through early newspapers, including The Columbian. So, it’s no wonder the same weed flourished locally, sticking like a burr.

The looming 1925 Fort Vancouver Centennial sparked the Washington Historical Society’s interest in the spelling. In 1923, Meany had predicted the misspelling was “too deeply imbedded in law, literature and custom to be completely corrected.” Yet Charles Hall, a state representative from Clark County, introduced a 1925 bill to drop the extra letter. It passed, lopping that final “e” from the county’s name for good.

Martin Middlewood is editor of the Clark County Historical Society Annual. Reach him at ClarkCoHist@gmail.com.

How North Bend, Wash., became a true Northwest mountain town
Author: Gregory Scruggs, The Seattle Times

NORTH BEND — In March 1993, ski shop owner Martin Volken pulled over in North Bend on his way home to Seattle after a day at Snoqualmie Pass. It was a rare cold, sunny day with a white carpet running halfway down Mount Si, normally too low in elevation to hold snow.

The snowcapped mountain framing a pair of rivers with a village nestled in between reminded him of his childhood in the Swiss canton of Valais. That pit stop sparked an idea. In 1994, the aspiring mountain guide moved his young family to North Bend as an early visionary that the ailing logging town and Interstate 90 truck stop had a future as a true mountain town, a community where outdoor recreation in the mountains is a central part of the culture and economy.

“I was still a small town Swiss mountain boy,” Volken said over a cortado at Arête Coffee Bar on a bustling morning in August.

Today, Volken owns Pro Ski and Mountain Service, a flourishing outdoor gear store and guide bureau. The coffee bar, named for a term that describes a sharp mountain ridge, sits inside the shop. Both the Northwest Avalanche Center and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance recently relocated to offices upstairs, bringing several outdoor nonprofit jobs to town.

Volken and two business partners bought the two-story building, formerly North Bend City Hall and Fire Station, in 2019. To purchase the property, they started a venture whose name speaks to the spirit that Volken has helped cultivate in North Bend, inspired by his Swiss upbringing: Mountain Culture, LLC.

That culture was on display Sept. 25 during the Mount Si Hill Climb — the current iteration of an up-and-down race that Volken started in 2013, inspired by similar races in the Alps — which starts and ends at Pro Ski, with post-race beer from North Bend’s Volition Brewing.

As the racers climbed Mount Si, they used a trail dedicated in 1931. For lifelong residents of North Bend — a frontier outpost once named Mountain View — the town has long been intertwined with the outdoors. North Bend has grown considerably since a building moratorium expired in 2009. New residents and businesses involved in the outdoor industry are a considerable part of that growth, but so are other new arrivals in this community within relatively easy commuting distance of the Seattle metro area.

Mount Si isn’t the tallest or toughest peak in the Cascades, but for North Bend residents, the mountain still offers over 3,000 vertical feet of training out their back door. For Volken, that access makes North Bend an ideal Pacific Northwest mountain town. There are opportunities to rock climb and mountain bike from town, with skiing just 25 miles away.

North Bend may not hold a candle to Moab, Utah, or Bishop, Calif., but Volken and over a half-dozen outdoors-related businesses and organizations who followed in his footsteps to the town, especially over the last six years, have found the raw material for a bona fide mountain lifestyle in proximity to big-city amenities like plentiful jobs and an international airport.

“It’s all about access for an outdoor lover,” Volken said. “It doesn’t have to be world class — it just needs to be good.”

Mountain town backbone

On an August morning, a dozen people work an assembly line as a half-dozen shop dogs roam inside snowboard binding manufacturer Karakoram. By the loading dock, boxes await shipment to France and Japan.

It would have been easier for Karakoram’s co-founders, twin brothers Bryce and Tyler Kloster, to set up shop in Auburn or Kent, where industrial land is plentiful, after the business outgrew their Snoqualmie Ridge condo. But they insisted on staying near the prime testing grounds of Snoqualmie Pass. The area around North Bend is also where the brothers — and judging by the bike rack, many of their employees, for whom Karakoram is an offseason job from the ski resort — spend their summer free time riding mountain bikes.

“It’s where we want to be even outside of work,” Bryce said.

Mountain views alone don’t make a mountain town. North Bend’s growing roster of outdoor businesses and organizations provide the economic and cultural backbone. Across the street from Karakoram, mountain bike coaching service The Line occupies an old auto-repair shop. A half-mile down the road, Seattle Mountain Rescue is working feverishly on the Mountain Rescue Center, a centralized search-and-rescue hub and outdoor safety training center a stone’s throw from the Little Si Trailhead.

Some outdoor entrepreneurs are doubling down in North Bend. Former teacher Luke Talbott left the classroom in 2007 to start Compass Outdoor Adventures, which hired ski and climbing bums as instructors for kids activities like introductory rock climbing, biking the Snoqualmie Tunnel and jumping off boulders into Rattlesnake Lake.

This past summer saw 200 campers, with another 200 on the wait list. In 2015, the company added corporate team building events to its slate — a hike up Little Si with a gaggle of Googlers was its first booking — a line of business that doubled in revenue from 2019 to 2022.

Now Talbott and business partner Karin Ayling are throwing open the doors of South Fork, an all-day restaurant and bar catering to the mountain, river and lake crowd.

“What if we could build a place to stop on all your adventures?” Talbott said of the establishment’s concept over a curry bowl lunch last month before paddleboarding home on the South Fork Snoqualmie River. The restaurant is slated to open Oct. 6.

“North Bend is the last town between here and Cle Elum,” Talbott said. “There’s wilderness at the next exit.”

A town on the edge of the wilderness drew in Scott Rinckenberger, who grew up in King County and skied for K2 as a sponsored athlete. He’s now 20 years into a career as a mountain photographer. Rinckenberger’s studio sits on the second floor of a building on North Bend’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it main street.

“Look out the window and you’ll get a pretty good indication why I’m here,” he said.

Rinckenberger spent plenty of time in internationally renowned mountain towns like Tahoe, Jackson Hole and Whistler during his ski model career in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While those towns have large destination mountain resorts with high-end hotels, Olympic pedigree and mass tourism, he prefers what North Bend and the Cascades offer, and set up his studio here nearly seven years ago.

“I like being in wilder, less densely populated mountains,” he said.

Building an outdoor brand

When Volken was trying to persuade his Seattleite wife to move to North Bend in the early 1990s, there were no gear or bike shops, mountain photographers, adventure-themed watering holes or outdoor industry businesses. Not that Volken was the first to see North Bend’s potential as an outdoor gateway.

“It was a town that used to be a logging town,” he said. “The public perception was that it was a backwater.”

Some “Twin Peaks” fans rolled through on weekends to take photos at Twede’s Cafe. Long-haul truckers pulled off I-90 while driving through the Cascades. The town flirted with faux-Bavarian à la Leavenworth — an old motel sign still bears vaguely Germanic script — but never committed. At best, it was known for the outlet mall that opened in 1990 in an early effort to reinvent the town.

Settlers began farming in the Snoqualmie Valley — the traditional home of the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe — in the 1800s. North Bend was founded in 1889 in anticipation of a railroad from Seattle, which baked in some day-tripper tourism from an early date. Logging took off in the early 1900s, but eventually sputtered. The last Weyerhaeuser mill closed in 2003. The first cross-state highway opened in 1913 and eventually became I-90. Until 1978, North Bend had the dubious distinction of being the last traffic light on I-90 in Washington, with the horrendous traffic backups to prove it.

“Why do you want to move all the way out there?” Volken said, describing the reactions he got at the time. Even though North Bend is only 30 miles from Seattle — closer than Tacoma, a hair farther than Everett — the urban-rural contrast made the trip seem longer to the couple’s Seattle social circle. “The different mentalities artificially increased the perceived distance,” he said.

The weather was also an obstacle. Without the benefit of the Olympic rain shadow, North Bend receives twice the rain of Seattle. Inland from the cooling saltwater, North Bend also runs hotter in the summer — though the abundance of swimming holes helps.

Volken commuted to his Aurora Avenue shop, ProSki, for five years before realizing he could be a catalyst in North Bend. He opened Pro Ski North Bend in 1999 and added a guide service, the same year he wrote a seminal guide book on backcountry skiing in Snoqualmie Pass. (He sold the Seattle location, which retains the ProSki moniker, in 2005.)

But that same year froze North Bend in amber for a decade. The City Council imposed a building moratorium due to insufficient water rights. In 2007, North Bend struck a deal with Seattle Public Utilities and let the moratorium expire two years later, unleashing pent-up demand for exurban development in growing King County and allowing North Bend to fulfill its obligations under the Growth Management Act. At the time, Volken recalls, a mountain view was a selling point, but more for aesthetics than for ogling climbing routes from the porch.

In 2012, city planner Gina Estep invited Volken to join North Bend’s economic development commission along with other residents in the outdoor industry like Guy Lawrence, general manager of The Summit at Snoqualmie. The commission volunteered its time to conduct a brand audit and asset inventory. Volken finally had a vehicle to push the idea that the mountains, rivers and lakes were integral to North Bend’s future.

“We can decide what businesses we’re going to recruit and how it will affect zoning,” he said. “With consistent, disciplined execution of an agreed-upon outdoor brand, it will start to take on a life of its own and attract residents.”

In 2015, North Bend revealed its new brand statement, which currently reads: “We are a highly livable small town that is the premier outdoor recreation destination in the Puget Sound region. Easy to reach — hard to leave.”

But Volken realized a brand was worthless without political follow-through. The next year, both he and Trevor Kostanich, a fellow mountain guide and committee member, won election to City Council. The alpinist caucus, as it were, oversaw legislation that requires the council to analyze whether proposed developments will help or hinder the town’s outdoor brand. That question was put to the test as the council weighed a proposed housing development on 32 acres before eventually approving a joint purchase to conserve the land and instead build a mountain bike park.

Volken admits those decisions were a tough sell on the council, as elected officials less invested in the outdoor brand pointed to the loss of some $5 million in impact fees, while the value of a mountain bike park is hard to quantify.

Looking back on the decision, Ken Hearing, mayor from 2004 to 2020, does not believe the debate came down to housing versus recreation.

“It was more philosophical: Do we need to retain more open space?” he said. “Everyone finally agreed it was a good thing.”

Hearing, 71, was born and raised in North Bend. He considers himself an outdoorsman — he hunts and fishes — but worked in a different industry, running burger joint Scott’s Dairy Freeze for over 20 years. While he lauded the economic development commission’s work preparing the brand statement and attests that it has widespread support, he regrets that they did not include any lifelong residents like himself.

“You have to include a bigger variety of people from different walks of life and longevity [in town] in order to get a buy-in from just about everybody,” he said.

Growing pains

To some, the surging outdoor recreation around North Bend is too much.

For North Bend’s original inhabitants the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, who know the mountain as q??lbc?, a competitive mentality disrespects this sacred site.

“Too often q??lbc? is looked upon as a challenge, instead of embracing how unique and special it truly is, how our interaction with place is part of a larger interconnected and dynamic relationship,” the tribe writes on the website of Snoqualmie Ancestral Lands Movement.

North Bend likewise is under pressure to house its newcomers. The residential flywheel is spinning, just as Volken envisioned, though perhaps too fast when it comes to escalating home prices.

In May, Dan Henning and Michelle Howden closed on a 1,600-square-foot house in North Bend. The couple is thrilled to live where they can bike to rock climbing or hit mountain biking trails without having to drive. “It lowers the threshold to getting out there,” said Henning, 40, an emergency physician. Howden is a former EMT and technical rescuer for wildland firefighters now studying to become a physician assistant.

But when it comes to real estate, “This is not a step down from Seattle,” Henning said. They bought for a cool $1.06 million after selling Henning’s Wallingford home for $1.03 million.

The median sale price in North Bend has roughly doubled since April 2020. While new residential construction is almost as constant a sight as Mount Si, local real estate agent Jason Gibbons said the market remains out of reach for many and that “the housing is not suitable for the solo first-time homebuyer.”

The outdoorsy crowd is a “notable demographic” among North Bend homebuyers, but they’re not the majority, Gibbons said, noting that they also compete with folks drawn by larger homes, bigger lots or more conservative politics.

“They just find they can commute to Redmond and they have the money to buy the house. In a lot of cases, they came from outside Puget Sound,” Hearing said. “They came here for the same reason my grandfather came here in 1924: quality of life.”

That sudden lurch into unaffordability pains many.

“Cost of living weighs on us a lot,” Tyler said. “What can we do as a company for our employees to have the ability to live here and buy a home? … With tech money, it’s hard to compete.” Karakoram pays $17-$22 per hour on the production line, but some employees commute from as far as Seattle and Cle Elum, Kittitas County.

“This issue is not limited to North Bend or the Snoqualmie Valley. Today’s housing market is affected by many elements that are out of the city’s control,” wrote Mayor Rob McFarland via email. “While we are pleased to see an array of new, diverse housing options being built right now in North Bend, we acknowledge that affordable housing is a real, immediate challenge.”

“We don’t have enough living-wage jobs,” Volken said.

“I like mountain culture, and you can’t have the culture without the people,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Volken takes the long view. “It’s a better town now than it was 30 years ago,” he said.

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