Monthly Archives: June 2009

Twitter+Real-Time Restaurant Reviews

New restaurants almost inevitably have kinks to work out when they first open. That’s why the guidelines for professional restaurant critics say to wait at least a few weeks before visiting. The experience diners have that first week is probably not the same one they’ll have later.

But people want to eat at new restaurants regardless in those exciting first days. A few years ago, curious food-lovers would rely on writeups on forums like eGullet andMouthfulsFood a day or so after those dinners, and get an early look at what was working and what was not. And now, for better or worse, those first glances are being broadcast to a larger, viral audience, able to follow these meals even as they’re happening. Like anything else involving social media, it’s a work in progress.

Last night, for instance, was the eagerly-awaited opening of Bastille, a restaurant I haven’t stopped thinking about since a recent tour. Backed by an all-star cast, the Ballard restaurant has the most impressive interior I’ve seen in a Seattle restaurant in years. There are endless careful details — a 45-foot zinc bar, a Parisian metro clock — a lovely rooftop garden designed by Seattle Urban Farm, and a menu from chef Shannon Galusha that fits a big niche of dinnertime cravings, from a French rotisserie (with chickens specially raised for Bastille by an Eastside farm) to a takeout window for felafel.

I wanted to storm the place on opening night — even knowing that neither the food nor the service were likely to be as good as they would be in weeks to come — but when I (anonymously, not that I necessarily have to be these days) called, I was told the place was too packed. So we indulged in Chicky Pub for our date night, but saw a stream of updates through my Twitter feed from people who had scored Bastille tables. And the results? A mix of ups and downs, from various visitors who know the city’s restaurant scene well. A few edited excerpts: “one hour later, no food yet.” “Lamb burger and mussels best at bastille. Fries barely browned.” “French 75 at Bastille out on the patio, v. tasty.” “It was a so-so experience.” “Agree w/you re: chicken (dry) and frites (undercooked/has potential). Peanut butter ice cream was good” ”Loved @bastilleseattle’s octopus salad so far.” 

Keep reading here.

Budget reality: no outhouses

The state Department of Natural Resources sent out this press release. Apparently, the state’s budget cut means that people can still camp on state land, “but there will not be any amenities such as outhouses, picnic tables, signs, or garbage service at these sites. In addition, gates to some of these sites may be locked and the only way in may be on foot.”

As the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants the public to know that it will be reducing services to many facilities at DNR-managed recreation sites.

 DNR begins reducing services this week. A list of recreation sites affected by reductions in service is available at: www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/amr_rec_sites_list_reduced_services_063009.pdf . A map of these sites is at www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/amr_rec_sites_reduced_services063009.pdf (1.9 MB PDF file).

 The public can still recreate on state trust lands that have reduced services; however, there will not be any amenities such as outhouses, picnic tables, signs, or garbage service at these sites. In addition, gates to some of these sites may be locked and the only way in may be on foot. DNR asks that people visiting these areas pack out whatever they pack in and observe other principles of outdoor stewardship such as ‘Leave No Trace’. ( http://www.lnt.org/programs/principles.php )

“As a result of budget cuts, DNR has had to make some difficult and painful decisions,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “It is unfortunate that we need to start reducing services just as summer activities get into full swing. Although services are being reduced at some sites, public lands will remain open to the public.”

These measures are needed to address the decreased funding of DNR’s Recreation Program in the upcoming two-year budget cycle, which begins July 1. DNR may need to make further reductions in services to its recreation areas this fall.

During the 2009 legislative session, DNR’s Recreation Program budget suffered a nearly 50 percent loss of funding. The biggest cut came with the loss of grant funding from the Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities (NOVA) Program. In addition, the program’s general fund budget was cut by nearly half.

Many recreation groups and individuals have expressed a great deal of concern over impending reductions in service. DNR’s recreation staff will be working with the public and recreation user groups to look for creative ways to keep from reducing services at other recreation areas. Several groups have already stepped forward with donations of volunteer time and money: the Northwest Paragliding Club, the Skagit County Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, and the Tahuya Focus Group.

 

Criteria used to reduce services

To determine which facilities to cut services, DNR developed the following criteria:

  • Trail Access. DNR’s role in providing outdoor recreational opportunities has evolved during the last 40 years from camping and dispersed recreation to being the primary provider of low-elevation trails and forest roads (motorized and non-motorized use) in Washington . Service reductions will focus on those facilities that don’t support access to DNR trail systems.
  • Level of use. Service reductions will occur at many sites that are more remote and little used.
  • Maintenance costs-to-visitor ratio. The cost of maintaining a facility is driven by the distance from the field office, amount of vandalism, number of sites to take care of, number of outhouses that need to be pumped out, and number of visits. We looked at reducing services at those sites that are greater than two hours from a DNR work center, experience higher than average vandalism, have less than 10 sites to maintain, and receive less than 2,000 visitors per year.
  • Service area considerations. Many DNR recreation facilities are in proximity to other public recreation opportunities. We reduced services at some of our facilities that were near other sites to make sure the public still had recreation opportunities in that area.

 

For more information about changes at DNR’s recreation facilities, contact Mark Mauren, assistant division manager with DNR’s Asset Management and Recreation Division, at 360-902-1047 or mark.mauren@dnr.wa.gov .

 

Recreation on DNR-managed lands

 DNR manages more than 5 million acres of state-owned forest, aquatic, agricultural, conservation and urban lands. Most recreation on these lands takes place in the 2.1 million acres of forests that DNR manages as state trust lands. By law, DNR manages state trust lands to produce income for schools, universities, prisons, state mental hospitals, community colleges, local services in many counties, and the state’s general fund. State trust lands are also managed to provide fish and wildlife habitat and educational and recreational opportunities.

 

DNR-managed lands provide a variety of landscapes throughout Washington State . Recreational opportunities include hiking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, motorized vehicle riding, mountain biking, and boating.

DNR’s main recreation focus is to provide trails, trailhead facilities, and a primitive experience in a natural setting.

 

State says DOT worker padded her overtime

      OLYMPIA – The state Department of Transportation said Tuesday that a former employee had paid herself more than $67,000 in unearned overtime pay by adding falsified extra work hours into the agency’s payroll system.

     The agency said the employee, who resigned after the unearned pay was discovered, admitted she had padded her time for two years.

     Department spokesman Lloyd Brown said the agency will try to recover the money. The case has been referred to the State Patrol and Pierce County prosecutors to investigate possible criminal charges.

     The agency’s chief of staff, Steve Reinmuth, said the agency had taken steps to make sure the abuse does not recur. “We work hard to be highly accountable in our use of taxpayers’ dollars.

“We are disappointed in our employee’s actions,” he said.

      A routine review of overtime reports turned up the overpayment, the state said, and the employee admitted adjusting her work time in the system to include hours she never worked. The actual amount of the loss to the state will be determined by the investigation.

    The employee was not identified, but Brown said she worked in Pierce County in an administrative support job and had been with the agency four years. The woman performed time-keeping duties and had authorized access to the system. Brown said no other cases of false time reporting have been found so far.

     In March, the state Auditor’s Office issued a “management letter item” indicating concern over unauthorized access to the department’s Labor Distribution System. Auditors found that 71 people with no time-keeping responsibilities had access to enter and update hours in the system.

     The department said it now regularly reviews access authorization and is adjusting the system so no employees can enter it and adjust their own hours.

Film review: ‘Public Enemies’

An honest to goodness grown-up epic in the season of adolescent fantasies and overpriced empty action spectacles, “Public Enemies” is Michael Mann’s take on the gangster glory days of the depression, when the most flamboyant and notorious bank robbers became the outlaw heroes of the day. That makes Johnny Depp great casting as John Dillinger, whose spree of daylight bank robberies and daring getaways between May 1933 (when he was paroled after serving an almost nine-year prison stretch for armed robbery) and July 1934 got him branded “Public Enemy Number 1″ by the FBI and made him a folk hero to many Americans.

Mann plays on that mystique in “Public Enemies.” Depp’s Dillinger is a charmer and a cagey media player. He targets banks not just because that’s where the money is, but because in the depths of the Depression, many dispossessed Americans saw banks as the enemy and Dillinger as a kind of Robin Hood figure getting some back for them. And while he has no compunctions about taking civilian hostages as human shields, he acts more like a host than a kidnapper, sharing jokes with his temporary captives and turning their ordeal into an adventure that they’ll be able to tell the papers and newsreels. Depp gives Dillinger a natural geniality born of confidence and courage that borders on thrill-seeking. He seems to thrive on the charge of executing a heist, whether it be a bank or a prison break. He’s cool and cagey, keeping his emotions in check on the job but for a cocky little grin that he lets slip when things are going his way, while off the job he lets himself fall for Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful hat check girl that becomes the love of his outlaw life.

The film opens on a carefully executed prison break masterminded and personally guided by Dillinger. He’s never rushed and won’t even break into a run when making for the getaway car, but as the guards fire on them, Dillinger spins, digs in and blasts back with a spray of machine gun fire as if he’s marking his territory. Unnecessary but satisfying. In contrast the vibrant and charming Dillinger is his FBI counterpart Melvin Purvis. As played by Christian Bale, he’s the loyal officer in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, all tight restraint and modest behavior, just as cool as Dillinger and far more patient. He gets his introduction chasing Pretty Boy Floyd through the rural countryside into an orchard. As Floyd huffs in a panicked escape, Purvis stops to set himself and take careful aim with his precision rifle, never rushing, never giving in to emotion. And as Floyd lies bleeding, there no gloating, no arrogance, just a respectful silence as he watches solemnly over the dying man. His entire being is devoted to the FBI and Mann’s screenplay (co-written with Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman) doesn’t give him a life outside of his job. In the battle of wills, Purvis may be stronger but Dillinger is far more fun to watch.

Mann is a director who loves to dissect the details of men at work and admire the professionalism of his characters in action, whether it’s the mechanics of a successful prison break or the systematic efforts of Purvis and his squad to patiently gather evidence and tail suspects until he pieces enough together to find his man. This is Mann’s world to be sure, for every missed opportunity or thwarted engagement is the result of someone failing to follow the plan. As Dillinger is forced to work with less and less reliable characters (teaming up with sociopath Baby Face Nelson is surely one of his worst decisions), you can see his reign at the top unraveling. Mann’s focus is intensified by his continued use of digital cameras, which gives the film a crispness that sometimes feels out of sorts with the era but also gives it a clarity that seems to carve the characters out of the darkness. (The screening I attended had distracting graininess to a few scenes and bright bursts of light that would blow out on the screen like cheap video; I haven’t found similar problems mentioned in other reviews so I’ll chalk it up to bad projection.)

“Public Enemies” is a thinking man’s gangster film, less about thrills than the mechanics of Dillinger’s heists and Purvis’ investigation, which he executes with his usual precision. But it’s also about end of the gangster era, shut down not just by the efforts of the FBI but the increasing power of the mob syndicate as it leaves violent crime behind for the less public activities like gambling. Dillinger and his cohorts are bad for business. Mann doesn’t pretend that Dillinger is any kind of hero. He’s a ruthless bank robber who thrives on violent crime, but he’s genuinely loyal to his partners and brave to the point of recklessness. He makes a show of never robbing the civilians in the banks and only taking money from the vaults and the tellers cages and makes a point of not hurting civilians. It’s all part of cultivating his image, to be sure, but it gives him a gravitas that the other machine gun punks of the era lack. In the era of live fast, die young and leave a bullet-riddled corpse, he is the gangster rock star, a machine gun-toting thug as pin-up acting out the anger that everyday Americans feel. His genius was tapping into those feelings. His downfall was his arrogance in thinking it could go on forever.

Directed by Michael Mann; screenplay by Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann & Ann Biderman; featuring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, David Wenham, Jason Clarke, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, Billy Crudup. Rated R for gangster violence and some language. 140 minutes.

Gas Works parking lot to close

Seattle Parks and Recreation will permanently close the parking lot on the northwest corner of Gas Works Park as part of the Gas Works Park Landscape Master Plan.  The parking lot on the northwest corner of Gas Works Park, located adjacent to N. Northlake Place, will be fenced off on Friday July 10, 2009 at 5 p.m. and landscaping work will begin.

Parks will landscape the area with western red cedars, native ground covers and create an entrance with birch trees and decorative shrubs.  A new pathway will be constructed with ADA- compliant crushed surfacing material.  The project will also construct two rain gardens to manage storm water runoff.  This work is being done as part of the Gas Works Park Landscape Master Plan that was developed in 1971 by Richard Haag Associates.  The project will be completed by fall 2009. 

Nickels to hold youth violence summit

Here’s a press release from Nickels’ office

Mayor Greg Nickels announced today that he will convene a

youth violence prevention summit on July 7, 2009. The keynote speaker

will be Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s

Defense Fund and a nationally recognized advocate for disadvantaged

Americans.

Last fall, Nickels proposed the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention

Initiative with the goal of reducing incidents of youth violence by 50

percent. In his State of the City speech last February, Nickels promised

to hold a summit to explore best practices and call our entire community

to action.

“This gathering will bring together parents, young people and

community members to motivate and support each other in our efforts,”

said Nickels. “We are fundamentally changing the way we prevent youth

violence. It will take everyone working together to engage our young

people and offer them a better path.”

With the theme “Inspiring Hope and Making Change,” the summit

begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club/Rainier

Valley Teen Center, located at 4520 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Other

speakers include Nickels and Mariko Lockhart, director of the Seattle

Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. The summit will also include young

people performing and reading poetry. Community groups will staff a

resource fair to sign up volunteers and provide help for families in

need.

“The summit will continue our community-wide conversation about youth

violence and demonstrate the city’s strong desire to protect our

 

children, to listen to them, and to provide them with options for the

future. It will also be an opportunity to support those in the community

who are saying loud and clear that violence is not acceptable and must

stop,” said CouncilmemberTim Burgess who chairs the Council’s Public

Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee.

Nickels proposed the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative as

part of his 2009-2010 budget, and the City Council approved $8 million

for the effort. The initiative focuses on about 800 youth who are at

highest risk of perpetuating violence or becoming victims. The goal is

to reduce youth violence in half during the initiative’s first year of

operation.

The initiative seeks to help young people at difficult points in their

lives:

● Re-entering society from state or county detention programs.

● Arrested for crimes but released because they don’t meet the

admission criteria for county detention.

Middle school truants and students at risk of suspension.

● Victims of violence and their friends and relatives who may seek to

retaliate.

Seattle’s initiative includes a new approach to street outreach with

the use of violence interrupters who are privy to information on the

street and may actually prevent violent acts and retaliation before they

occur.

The initiative also calls for establishing extended hours at some youth

centers, giving children a safe place to go, or be taken, to stay out of

trouble. In addition to case management, anger management and recreation

programming, the city will support more community-based projects that

engage and mentor young people. In April, four Seattle police officers

were assigned to four middle schools to focus on crisis intervention,

guidance, and mentoring.

For more information about the initiative:

http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/issues/youthInitiative/

Sound Transit bus and train schedule changes for the holiday weekend

From Sound Transit:

Sound Transit trains and buses will operate with special holiday hours this Friday, July 3. There will be no Sounder commuter rail service, and Sunday schedules will apply for all ST Express buses and Tacoma Link light rail in observation of Independence Day.

 On Saturday, July 4, all Sound Transit services will run their typical Saturday service schedules. People throughout the region will be able to enjoy the many community celebrations and festivities by riding ST Express buses and Tacoma Link to their destinations.  On Sunday, July 5 typical Sunday schedules will be in effect. Per the typical schedules there will be no Sounder service on Saturday or Sunday.

 Riders can sign up to receive automatic e-mail service alerts for Sounder Seattle-Everett, Sounder Seattle-Tacoma, Tacoma Link or ST Express. Rider Alerts can help you plan you trip around construction, inform you about special service to events, and alert you to schedule changes for holidays. Visit www.soundtransit.org to learn more about the three-day weekend service schedules for Independence Day and to sign up for e-mail alerts.

FRIDAY, JULY 3

ST Express buses: Sunday schedule

Sounder: no service

Tacoma Link: Sunday schedule

 

SATURDAY, JULY 4

ST Express buses: Saturday schedule

Sounder: no service

Tacoma Link: Saturday schedule

 

SUNDAY, JULY 5

ST Express buses: Sunday schedule

Sounder: no service

Tacoma Link: Sunday schedule

Holiday changes for Metro

Here’s a notice from the King County Department of Transportation:

Bus riders preparing for I-90 disruptions: Starting Sunday, July 5,westbound Interstate 90 across Lake Washington will be narrowed from five lanes to two while crews replace the expansion joints on the westbound floating bridge. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is warning all motorists that the traffic delays could last an hour or more and stretch from Issaquah to Seattle. The delays will also affect bus riders. Find out more:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/NewsCenter/Tr          

Check holiday transit schedules for July 3 & 4 before you travel: King County Metro Transit will operate with a Sunday schedule this Friday, July 3 for the observed Independence Day holiday.If a bus route does not normally run on Sunday, there will be no service on July 3. On July 4, there will be normal Saturday service, but there could be some disruptions in neighborhoods that are closing streets for parades, festivals, and fireworks. Check it out: 

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/NewsCenter/Tr 

New Redmond Park-and-Ride Garage opens July 6: Metro Transit will open its new Redmond Park-and-Ride Garage on Monday, July 6. The $10.5 million garage is the second half of a project to revitalize transit facilities in downtown Redmond. The new three-story garage is located at 16201 NE 83rd St., and replaces a surface park-and-ride lot that was opened by Metro more than 30 years ago. Bus riders will find the new garage convenient to the adjacent Redmond Transit Center that opened on Northeast 83rd Street in 2008.

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/NewsCenter/Tr  

Early closing hours for transit tunnel July 6-10: The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) will be closing early Monday through Friday, July 6-10. On each of those nights, the tunnel will close at 7 p.m. for drills and testing leading up to the July 18 startup of Link light rail. When the DSTT is closed, tunnel bus routes will stop on downtown surface streets. More information about those locations can be found on Metro Online.

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/NewsCenter/Tr

                                 

Road projects in northeast King County start in July: The King County Road Services Division is beginning work on three key road safety projects in July, and all are located in northeast King County on: West Snoqualmie Road Northeast; 140th Place Northeast; and Union Hill Road Northeast. Read more at:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/NewsCenter/Tr 

Spot auction this Wednesday: The next King County Spot Bid auction will take place Wednesday, July 8 and features surplus office equipment, computers, and commercial kitchen equipment. Check out what’s up for auction this month:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/NewsCenter/Tr 

 

 

ROADWATCH: Keep on top of road closures and traffic disruptions throughout unincorporated King County:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/NewsCenter.as

 

 

Weather-related road closures can be found online.

 

Twitter posts about Metro Transit disruptions are also online.

Constantine and Jarrett call for more transparancy from other candidates

In a campaign, in which frontrunner Susan Hutchison has been accused of holding her positions close, some other candidates are trying to use transparency as a buzzword in King County Executive’s race.  On Tuesday, the campaigns of Fred Jarrett and Dow Constantine jointly “pointed out they are the only two candidates who have been fully open and transparent in making public the detailed questionnaires they have submitted to a wide range of constituency groups and organizations.”

They said State Rep. Ross Hunter have made some available, but the other candidates, Hutchison and Larry Phillips, have not made any available.

Hunter spokeswoman Cynara Lilly said the campaign released all it had, and has given out answers when asked. But she said she’ll update the  campaign website to include those that have been omitted.

The Phillips and Hutchison campaigns didn’t immediately respond.

To see their responses, go to Jarrett and Constantine’s websites:

Free scooter parking in Seattle?

City Councilman Tim Burgess has an interesting post on his Facebook page, asking people: “Hey, should street parking for 2-wheel cycles and scooters 500cc and smaller be FREE citywide?”

He just said in an email that he and Councilwoman Sally Clark are indeed researching what that would take, but have no specific proposal yet.

A few people responded to his post that they liked the idea, though a couple noted it would be easy for people to steal the parking stickers.