Some advice you can really use

July 11th, 2022 by Ken

It was a scene right out of a tear-jerking movie.  The old man lay dying.  The family had gathered around the bed.  Their father and grandfather had been a successful business owner.  He had made a fortune – – and everyone wanted to know what his final words would be.

As he woke briefly from his labored sickness he gestured for his youngest grandson to come closer.  The young man did as he was told and bent over to put his ear closer to his grandfathers lips.  He listened a few seconds, nodded, and then retreated from the bed – – the old man died.

“What’d he say?”, “What’d he say?” – – The others gathered around the bed wanted to know.  “What’d he say?”  What did he tell you?” they all demanded to hear.  The young man looked up at the group who waited with expectation at the final word of advice from this successful businessman.

“Don’t take the first pancake,” the grandson said.  “What?, they all asked  again this time in unison.  “Don’t take the first pancake,” that’s what he said.  “Don’t take the first pancake.”

Anyone who has ever cooked pancakes, know that the first pancake is often doughy inside and not very tasty.  The family is waiting for breakfast and your in a hurry.  So we put the cakes on before the griddle is smoking hot and these first  marvels of flour and water are often not not very good.

Is that what the old man was trying to say?  Or, did his final words have more to do with the world than with pancakes?  Did he mean that going first isn’t the best position to be in?  Did he mean to say that allowing others to go first and make the first mistake gives you an opportunity to learn from that?

Or did he mean to say that giving others the opportunity to go first is a learning experience for everyone?

I don’t know what he meant.  Advice is only as good as the people receiving it.  It you want advice, you have to be willing to accept it  Not taking the first pancake can be read as about anything you want it to be.

Or – maybe, just maybe, the first pancake isn’t the best – – but it can be if you follow these words of advice.

The griddle has to be hot – – at a temperature of 375 degrees.  After mixing, let the batter sit for three minutes to allow all ingredients to mix well.  Pour the batter in one spot and let it spread out on its own.  Cook each side for three minutes on each side.   And, don’t lift up the pancake to see if its done.

Then, you can take the first pancake.

Now, that’s some advice you can really use.

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Marine Terminal must go

July 6th, 2022 by Ken

By Joe Illing

(The following story appeared in The Jolt News earlier this week.)

I own a small commercial property in downtown Olympia, a short
walk from the port peninsula’s Marine Terminal (what most of us
call “the port”). Needless to say, over the years I’ve taken a keen
interest in what happens there, or what doesn’t happen there.

My point of view concerning the peninsula that’s distinctly
different from those who work for, or receive funds from, the Port
of Olympia. They see the Marine Terminal as one of the big
pistons that drive Thurston County’s economic engine. They
shower us with facts, figures, charts and statistics in order to
validate their assertion that the terminal bestows upon us a
bounty of invaluable benefits.

These include five-hundred and sixty-four jobs “associated” with
the terminal (that means some are essentially part-time). They
point to a $135,000 annual profit as proof of the terminal’s health
… if you don’t count “depreciation” and pretend equipment and
buildings last forever, or that a profit margin of a few thousandths
of a percent on “business revenue” of $33,000,000 is laudatory.

All of this information, however, is essentially useless if we’re to
assess the value of the terminal to the general population. It
compares apples to apples and fails to ask the single most
important question concerning the Marine Terminal … does
it meet the needs of post-industrial Olympia? Does it add to,
inhibit or subtract from the public good?

The Marine Terminal occupies a priceless piece of geography, a
peninsula that juts out into the headwaters of Budd Inlet, offering
unparalleled vistas of snowcapped mountains rising out of the
sound. Its shoreline invites incomparable recreational
opportunities. Urban amenities are within a short, easy walk. It’s
truly what the old timers called “The Pearl of the Puget Sound.”

Yet, in spite of its beauty and its unique attributes, and in spite of
a century-long evolution of the community it serves, the terminal
remains stuck in a 19th century mindset … and we use it for a log
dump. It’s like defacing the Mona Lisa.

The Marine Terminal is a vestige of Thurston County’s industrial
past. Over the ninety-five years since the Port of Olympia was
formally chartered, that era has vanished. The peninsula once
hosted thirty lumber mills, five shingle mills, a veneer factory, a
cannery and numerous ship builders.

It was a busy, productive place with plenty of living wage jobs that
generated big ripples in the local economy.

Those days are long gone. All that remains is what’s
called a “weekend port” in maritime lingo (that translates as
“small potatoes”). It has a marina, a children’s museum, a
tragically wrong-placed sewer treatment plant, a couple of fancy
office buildings and a farmer’s market, all of which surround its
once vibrant, beating heart … today’s “log dump,” a mechanized
no-man’s land where monstrous machines belch diesel fumes
while tossing around whole forests of logs like pick-up sticks.

Is this responsible stewardship of a singular asset like the
peninsula? I think not. It’s long since time to consider

To see one such alternative just drive north to Granville Island
in Vancouver, BC. The similarities between it and our port
peninsula are striking.
• They both share an industrial past.
• They both dredged their surrounding waters and expanded
their land mass with its fill from 1911 through 1915.
• They both welcomed manufacturing industries in the early
1920s and prospered through a couple of world wars well
into mid-century.

Then new economies, new methods of transportation and new
ways of doing business changed old business models. And that’s
when the shared destinies of these two entities diverged.
In the 1970s the Canadians decided to bid adieu to the industrial
use of the island and welcomed market activities. Today Granville
Island, with half the land mass of the port peninsula, is alive with
activity … and prosperity. Today that island boasts 275 businesses
that employ more than 2,500 people. It generates more than
$215,000,000 in economic activity each year, and fills
Vancouver’s tax coffers to overflowing.

The Port of Olympia’s Marine Terminal, however, stuck with its
out of date business model. It posts predictably
disappointing results annually. If you compare our peninsula with
Vancouver’s Granville Island you must inevitably conclude that
the terminal is not serving its community well.

It’s time to close the books on the Marine Terminal and develop
the peninsula to the benefit of all. Surround it with marinas and
other maritime uses, provide access to Budd Inlet for all citizens
of Thurston County, create housing for those who want to reurbanize

and turn the un-peopled port of today into a

vibrant neighborhood that contributes in a meaningful way to the
economic and cultural health of our community.

It’s time the Port Commissioners exercised their fiduciary
responsibility to the citizens and taxpayers of Thurston County
and take a critical look at the peninsula and unlock its
matchless potential. It’s time for them to answer this simple
question … does the Marine Terminal represent the “highest and
best” use of the peninsula?

If not, it’s time to begin the transformation of the terminal from
artifact of an industrial past to icon of a dynamic future. It can,
and should, be done.

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The men behind the Fourth of July

June 27th, 2022 by Ken

While it’s not popular in some circles, to tout the Founding Fathers, but with the Fourth of July close by, I think we should take a moment and reflect on the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and what they suffered as a result.

Of the 56 men who signed the document, nine fought and died in the Revolutionary War.  Five were captured, tortured and executed.

Many of them lost children during the war and suffered other hardships.  The men who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their scared honor – gave all.  So, what kind of men were they.

Twenty-four of them were lawyers, 11 were merchants, nine were farmers and plantation owners.  They were all men of means (and as some have pointed out slave-owners).  But they all signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that if the revolution failed, it would mean death for them.

Carter Braxton of Virginia was a wealthy planter and trader.  His ships were sunk or confiscated by the British Navy.  After the war he was forced to sell his home and property to pay his debts,  He died penniless.

Thomas McKean was hounded by the British army and was forced to stay constantly on the move.  His house, lands and other possessions were taken by the British.  He died in poverty.

At the Battle of Yorktown – Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that the British had taken over his home and used it as their headquarters.  He urged General Washington to fire on the house and it was destroyed.

Vandals, soldiers, looters and others destroyed the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walston, Winnett, Heyward, Rutledge and Middleton – – all signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Francis Lewis lost his wife and child who died in a British prison.  John Hart lost his wife and children in the war.

When we hear these tales, we realize that pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor met more than just words on a paper.  We need to realize that the celebration we undertake this week is more than just fireworks and barbeques.   Lets take a few minutes this holiday to remember those men and their families.


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What is the purpose of a city?

June 19th, 2022 by Ken

What is is that makes living in Lacey unique and different?

Recently, “Livability”, a national web page, named Lacey as one of the top 100 cities in the United States in which to live.  Actually, it named Lacey 75th best in the entire country.

Those of us who have lived her for decades have our own ideas of why we love our community.

Every city exists for three reasons – – Security – Transportation- Quality of Life.  Lets take them one at a time.  Though recent events would say otherwise, Lacey is still a safe and secure community in which to live.  While adjacent cities have a significant homeless problem, Lacey has handled the situation fairly well.  Our police force is well-trained, professional and well-paid.  Members of Lacey’s police department are the highest paid city police force in the state, second only to Seattle.  In the near future, voters in Lacey are going to be asked to approve a bond issue to build a new police station.

Lacey has some of the newest and best streets in the county.  The increase in growth and the increase in traffic, has forced Lacey to come up with unique ways of accommodating the thousands of cars which fill city streets.  When new housing developments are built, the contractor pays for road and street improvements.  New traffic roundabouts have improved the flow of traffic and keeps it moving.  Traffic signals have been set to respond to increased traffic flows at peak hours.   And, in a unique arrangement decided several decades ago, the city sets aside money every year to renovate neighborhood streets.   In addition, the city works with national and state agencies to help improve access and egress to Interstate Five.

It’s in the area of Quality of Life where Lacey stands out.  Lacey is home to St. Martin’s University.  The city and the college have a great relationship and the city is currently working with St. Martins on a new baseball facility.  Sports and sports facilities are a major part of Lacey’s  past.  Creation of the Regional Athletic Facility (RAC) has put the city in the forefront of athletics and attracts teams and tournaments from around the state.  At the same time, the city has not forgotten the taxpayers who funded the operation.  Local teams and local residents have priority in all RAC usage.

Quality of Life also centers around supporting those who served in our armed forces.  The Lacey Veteran’s HUB is a well-known and well-respected facility that serves the needs of all veterans.  And, most of the staff are volunteers and many of them veterans themselves.

As a relatively new city, Lacey has done a great job of preserving its heritage.  The city hosts the only museum in Thurston County opened and staffed on a regular basis.  It has just completed a replica of the original train station and is in the process of building a new museum.  When completed, the museum will not only preserve and protect the Lacey community’s history, but will also serve as a cultural center to highlight the many people who have settled here and made Lacey the most diverse city in Thurston County.

And, lets not forget the many parks and open spaces in the city.  While the RAC and the museum are all part of the parks system, Lacey has more park land than any other city in our area.  It’s the city’s goal to have neighborhood parks in all areas of the city, in addition to regional parks which provide opportunity for larger venues and larger activities.

There are many other qualities of life in addition to the ones mentioned, but there is still work to be done.

Stay tuned for information on the future of Lacey.

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Recollections of a Greener

May 24th, 2022 by Ken

(As the school year ends, and The Evergreen State College is still around.  I thought it might be interesting for a student’s perspective on that first year 1971.  Here’s mine.)

Resent research shows that memory at its best is only 70 percent accurate and the further away from the event the less you recall accurately.  With that in mind, here goes my recollection of Evergreen’s first year of operation from a half century later.

I was enrolled in a coordinated studies program called “Causality, Freedom and Chance”.  Its purpose was to explore the idea of “free will”.  Did man really have free will?

We were given our list of reading material in advance of the college’s opening in the fall of 1971.  It appeared we had around 100 students and four (or five) faculty members.

The campus wasn’t ready for opening.  All of the dorms had not been completed and some students were staying at an apartment complex called Village Capri off campus in West Olympia.  I lived off-campus and wasn’t impacted.  The main building on campus was the Library building, which would contain most of the college activities.  The first and second floors contained the library and classrooms while the third floor was college administration and the top floor contained the cafeteria and other admin facilities.  I’m not certain if the lecture hall and student union building were open during that first year but were open for sure by the second year.

Because classrooms weren’t ready, we spent the first week of class on a small island just off of Fox Island.  All faculty and all students were to work together, get to know each other and spend time discussing our readings.  There were two rooms for sleeping and an area for food service.  Most of us slept outside for the few days in sleeping bags, around campfires with guitars and smoors, with an occasional toke.

It was during the height of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the Women’s Movement.  Both events cast an impact on our studies.  When we began unloading supplies from the ferry that took us to the island, the men (boys) created a chain and began moving supplies from the waterfront to the main building.  The women (girls) were standing around watching.   I shouted out at the top of my lungs “I thought you women wanted to be equal, why aren’t you helping?”  A few of the girls started moving towards the line and very quickly, almost all of them were helping carry supplies.

Most of the students were in their late teens, just out of high school.  I was 29, had a wife and a kid and was a military veteran of nearly six years in the service.  I became the leader, because of  my decade of maturity over most of the group, but I was out of step with the tenor of the students.

Because the classrooms still weren’t ready, we spent our second week in the House Chambers of the Legislative Building.  I think we only met twice that week but we did discuss our readings when we finally began to accept our new classroom space.

By late October, we were ready to move into our classrooms.  Each sub-group of about 20 students and one faculty advisor were give a home classroom.  The chairs were all wrapped in plastic and tied together with plastic zip ties.  The classroom phone was still sitting in a box under the outlet, waiting to be installed.  Because the chairs were all wrapped up, some of the students sat on the floor in a small circle, which became larger the more people joined.  Soon we had one large circle around the whole room.  Our faculty advisor initially stood in the center, before he too sat down and began the instructions.  That was our normal classroom style for the whole year, even after the chairs had been unpacked.

The next few weeks are uncounted for in my memory, but we did have seminars with other groups and other faculty members.  We took field trips to farms to study natural growth, visited a lab to examine fruit flies, read books after books and wrote paper after paper.

I found I was a fairly good writer and organized a writing group within our class with the intention of reading each others papers and giving feed back.

My attention soon became focused on The Paper Cooperative which had created a student newspaper called “The Paper.”  I wrote several articles for the paper and decided  I had come upon my profession.  We finished that first year out.

I was signed up to do a contracted study group for the next school year with an emphasis on journalism.  A month before school was to start, I was informed that my professor had been deported for running guns for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and I had to scramble to find something to replace it.  I managed to get an internship at “The Olympia News” and found myself a sponsor.  I spent the whole school year of 72-73 working as an intern for two local weekly newspapers.

I did a contracted studies program over Christmas Vacation to fulfill my attendance requirements and graduated in the summer of 73.

During my time at Evergreen I was selected as the student representative to the Board of Trustees and later become the Vice President of the Evergreen Alumni Association.   In later years I worked at the college in the college relations office and taught a class in journalism.  I also spent time at advisor to the school newspaper.



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They’re all gone now

May 20th, 2022 by Ken

They’re all gone now.  All of the toys and all of the items that brought him so much pleasure – – his truck, his motor home, his boat, even his wheelchair – that he wheeled to the end of his driveway every day and watched the world go by.

They’re all gone now – – except for the flag – – the flag that he flew night and day – and the flag that he had fought for – in one of those foreign wars – – the war that left him confined to the wheel chair.

He sat in his driveway every day – rain or shine – wearing the marks of his service on his jacket, on his cap and on his face.  He seldom talked about the war, but it was obvious that its remnants had a major impact on him.

For years I watched him grow older.  I watched as his toys sat unused.  I watched as the neighborhood visitors grew fewer.  I watched as his flag became more tattered.  And I watched as he slowly slipped away.

But, his flag is still flying.  Like him, it is slowly deteriorating and will eventually be taken down.  Until then, I salute it every time I walk by – – in his memory.

(Dedicated to Steve and all Veterans)

(The above story is in my new book “A Storyteller’s Story”.  PM me on how you can get a copy of the book.)


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What’s up at “The Olympian”

May 19th, 2022 by Ken

I’ve been concerned for sometime now about the decline in local media.  The most recent example of  The Daily Olympian’s publication shows how difficult it is to believe what is written on its pages.

The recent example comes in a headline the newspaper wrote concerning a local learning center.   In the headline for that story, they spelled Lacey – LACY.  What utter lack of professionalism on the paper’s part.

Misspelling a name is a sin in any publication.  Misspelling the name of the largest city in Thurston County – may not be a mortal sin – but it is indicative at how low The Olympian has become.  Perhaps the headline writer didn’t know anything about Lacey and decided to use the more common spelling.  Perhaps the headline writer isn’t even in Olympia but in Tacoma.   Perhaps the story came in at the last minute and no one thought much about the spelling.  Perhaps no one proofed the story and headline before it went to press.

It doesn’t matter.

Mistakes, misspellings and inaccurate information are common.  But, this mistake just reminds us how un-professional the paper was become.   Too bad.  We need more local media.  Thurston Talk and The Jolt can’t do it all.  And, I don’t want to anymore.The Olympia

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Chehalis Western Trail holds a dangerous surprise

May 10th, 2022 by Ken

The Chehalis Western Trail runs for several miles through Olympia and Lacey forming the boundary line between the two cities in many areas.

It’s a calm relaxing trail – – winding through the countryside, past farms, Chambers Lake, and even through new housing developments.  It’s a nice and relaxing way to travel – – see the countryside – – and spend some time outdoors.

There’s one problem with that bucolic scene.  A major natural gas pipeline runs right through the middle of the trail.  A pipeline that is dangerous if it were to rupture.  Many people along its path would be killed and millions of dollars of property would be damaged.

When the Chehalis Western railroad went of of business, Thurston County obtained the railroad and its right-of-way, with the intention of turning the track bed into an urban trail.

But, the county suffered from lack of money and couldn’t find any way to get the trail constructed.  Then came Puget Sound Energy (PSE).  They were looking for a way to put a natural gas pipeline in the area and the old Chehalis railroad right-of-way was the perfect fit.

Under an agreement with the county, PSE removed the railroad ties, lowered the bank and paved the entire stretch of the trail.  In the process it dug a ditch down the middle of the trail and laid its natural gas pipeline.  It was fine.  Everyone came out a winner.  The county got a new urban trail and PSE got a location for its pipeline.

Then came the earthquake of 2001.  The trail suffered several cracks and buckling.    When I reported the damage, the county said it wasn’t their responsibility.  I contacted PSE and they gave me the name of the contractor.   I contacted him and  he said he had checked and there was no damage to the pipeline.   Later, I found that no paperwork had been filed stating the fact.

Why do I bring this up – now two decades later.  Because we have had least one major earthquake since 2001 and more are expected.  It would be nice to know that someone is responsible and that Thurston County and PSE are aware of the potential problem and have coordinated response plans with local fire agencies.

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I’m a math dummy

May 10th, 2022 by Ken

I admit it.  I’m a math dummy.  I had a difficult time with math in high school and barely passed basic math.  When I entered college, I was forced to take a remedial math course and did enough work to be allowed to continue with my education.

Not knowing math caused me trouble a few years later.   I was working for a small weekly newspaper, when I came across an ad from “The Wall Street Journal”.  They were willing to pay and train a working journalist to become a financial reporter.  They would pay all expenses and a salary for two years of masters study at UCLA.  All I had to do was pass the Graduate Record Exam.

I passed the writing portion at the top of the class.  I barely charted in the math portion.   I didn’t get offered the job.

Other than that, I have had and continue to have – almost no need for math beyond the basic addition, subtraction and division, with a little fractions rolled in.

I’m not alone.  Millions, if not hundred of million, of Americans are not proficient in math.  Because, in most professions math is either not needed, or available with a computer.  Many people will tell you they are math dummies and don’t feel embarrassed to say so.

But, as I’ve said, I am proficient in reading and writing.  If someone were to tell me they were illiterate (meaning not able to read or write) I would feel pity and be embarrassed for them.

Why is is OK to say you’re a math dummy, but not OK to say you can’t read or write well?

It’s simple.

We use language every day in many different ways.  We have to understand language to get along in society.  The same is not true with math.  Basic math is fine for most of us.   Knowing basic language is not enough.

There are many professions that require advanced math skills.  But, most people aren’t in those jobs.

So, why do our schools insist that kids learn Algebra and in some cases – Advanced Algebra.   Wouldn’t it be better for them in the long term to have advance reading and writing skills?

Just asking.


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Pity the poor Stechass

May 3rd, 2022 by Ken

By Dale Cooper

 For untold centuries a group of American Indians called the Stechass lived in the Olympia area at the headwaters of what we call Budd Inlet and what the Stechass called Whulge (in Lushootseed).

The Stechass populated the southern waters of the Puget Sound Basin (Whulge) along with the Squaxin, the Nisqually and  dozens of other Southern Lushootseed speaking people from villages up and down the long fingers of the Sound.

Prior to the arrival of American settlers in the mid-nineteenth century, these Indians had no formal multi-cultural or tribal affiliations.  Of course they shared many things and there were certainly familial ties between villages, but among them they recognized no formal alliances, leaders or chiefs.

That all changed post-contact with the treaties of 1854 and 1855.  In order to establish legally acceptable signatories for his Treaty of Medicine Creek, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens designated these native villages “tribes”.  The Stechass tribe was among those tribes, recognized as co-equal with the Nisqually, Puyalllup, Steilacoom, Squaxin, Samamish, T’Peeksin, Squiatl, and Sahehwamish tribes.

Looking back, we can now see the deal Stevens struck with the “tribes” didn’t turn-out well for them.  But for the Stechass that deal wasn’t the end of their misfortunes.  They ran into what we’d now call a cancel-culture, led by the then politically correct pioneer ladies of the early contact days.  They found the word Stechass (i.e. “ass”)  offensive and vulgar and excised it from their conversation, their histories and their lexicon.  In fact, the last known mention of the people known as Stechass is found in the Treaty of Medicine Creek.

But, that wasn’t the final offense against these ill-fated people.  A few days ago, in a fit of “wokeness” and nontheistic sensibility, the good citizens of the Olympia city council voted unanimously to change the name of its popular and spectacularly sited Priest Point Park to Squaxin Park.

This municipal manipulation not only exhibited a benighted historical illiteracy and a lack of due diligence, but delivered a final insult to the Stechass people.  For in the end, these people not only lost their land to the laws of the Americans, their remembrance to the territorial  aspirations of the Squaxins, but thy lost their name itself.

This is a tragedy and a pity, and the final nail in the coffin of the forgotten Stechass.

As a final note, we should remember that the treaty wasn’t all bad news for all the native people here.  In fact, it was great news for some  – – the slaves.  It was an Emancipation Proclamation for them.  As Article 11 of the Treaty of Medicine Creek reads that all signatories “agree to free all slaves now held by them, and not to purchase or acquire others hereafter”.

I assume the woke Olympia city council overlooked this aspect of native life when considering re-naming Priest Point Park.

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The boys at the table

May 3rd, 2022 by Ken

I’ve been playing in a monthly poker game for almost 50 years.  While we have  lost players and gained players, the purpose of the poker game is not often related to money  So who the players are has little impact on the game.

While our players have changed over the years, many of them have been at the table for decades.  We have business-owners and politicians.  We have gentlemen farmers and real farmers.  We have government workers and we have those whose occupations and ways of making a living are obscure.  But we all have two elements in common – – we’re all men and we all like to compete.

When I was younger and played in the group, we would often play until the sun came up on Saturday morning.   Now, when midnight rolls around, we start looking for an ending time.  We all used to drink and most of us smoked.  Now, only one of the players still drinks, but limits it to two beers.  And only one of our group still smokes but is trying to quit.

Pre-Covid, we met at each other’s house, each taking a turn at hosting the game.   We missed a few months of  playing because of the virus, but after the vaccine became available we went back to playing.  Now we have a common playing area, supplied by one of our players who owns a building.

For a short period of time we had debates over political matters.  When the group became concerned that the conversation was interfering in playing the game, we relegated political talk to our mid-game break and the 15 minutes we chose to eat.

Previously, the person hosting the game had to supply the food at the mid-game break.  Often it was the spouse who did the meal preparation.  Now that we moved away from a private home, that mid-game break is often delivered pizza, or sandwiches from one of the many sandwich shops in town.

Even while the players have changed – the location has changed –  the food has changed and the drinking and smoking habits have changed, we continue to meet each month to play poker.

None of us are young.  Our physical powers have deteriorated and our mental state has seen a decline.  We continue to play poker because it gives us a chance to meet with other males and compete.  Competition is the only skill that men never have to learn.  And no matter how old we get, we need to compete.

The money is only a means of keeping score.


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Supreme Court wrestles with religious freedom – again

April 25th, 2022 by Ken

The United States Supreme Court is just about to rule on the most significant religious freedom suit in recent memory, and it has a local appeal.

Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy, had been praying after each football game on the 50 yard line thanking God for the game – win or lose.  He started out alone and was eventually joined by a couple of players and soon every player joined the prayer group.

Despite being told by the school district to stop such activity he continued and was suspended and eventually fired.

The Court heard the case this week.

The question of course is complex.  The first amendment of the United States Constitution says (in part) “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.

The Court has wrestled with this issue in the past.  I’m no legal scholar and I can’t cite all of the rulings, but basically, as far as I can tell, the Court has said that government facilities cannot be used for religious purposes.  The question becomes, does a football coach praying alone after a game on the 50-yard line of a public school  violate separation of church and state.  Further, does the fact that some students joined  voluntarily in prayer with him -which put pressure on all team members to join – in the interest of team unity – void the private prayer.

I doubt that whatever the outcome, not  every one will be satisfied.  But, it is interesting to see whether a country, with a great history of religious freedom and private activities, can keep that separation going.

France couldn’t.  The French Revolution resulted in a ban on all public displays of religion, among other restrictions.

The US Court has to decide, once again, where the line lies.

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We have too many old elected officials

April 22nd, 2022 by Ken

Mike Kreidler isn’t a racist.  And, I’m sure that any inappropriate comments he may have made were unintentional.  Mike has just one fault.  He’s been a public elected official since the 1970’s.  That too long for any one person to serve as a representative of the people.

He’s also 78 years of age.  Like many of our current elected officials – – Patty Murray comes to mind – – he’s just too damn old.  I say that with a heavy heart.  Just being old isn’t any reason to turn someone out of office.  But, being old has one drawback – – it’s difficult to keep up with a changing society.

I should know.  I’m 79 and still writing.   But, there’s a difference.  Being an elected official has one responsibility that I don’t have.  An elected official must represent all of his/her constituents and keep up with their changing make-up.   All I represent is myself and my own view points.

Don’t think the public, and particularly Washington state voters don’t take age into consideration.

A few decades ago, Washington state was well-served by a powerful Democratic Senator – –  Warren G. Magnuson.  After nearly a half century of service  – the voters turned him out of office.

There is a time limit on elected officials.  Murray’s up this year.  Kreidler has two more years left to serve.  He’s not on the ballot this time.    In two years, I wouldn’t want to run on any ticket that has an 81-year old man at the top.  That’s how old Joe Biden will be in two years.   If he’s re-elected, he’ll be 82.

Modern medicine may extended our life expectancy, but it doesn’t do a damn thing to keep our mind young.

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In support of personal responsibility

April 20th, 2022 by Ken

I’m a big supporter of modern medicine.  Because of it, I’ve been able to live far longer than I ever anticipated.  That’s why, when it was announced that we had a vaccine to help fight Covid, I jumped right on it.  It, and all the other boosters that came later.

I think that everyone should have gotten the vaccine.

But, when the mandates came along, I was concerned that the hammer of Big Brother and Big Government had over-reached.   When it was announced that all of the government employees who didn’t get the vaccine – would be fired – I knew it was too much.  Now, most of the firefighters, police,  nurses, and other  government employees who failed to respond to the government mandate have been – or shortly will be – fired.

I salute all of those government workers who rebelled against the mandates.  While I think it was folly not to get vaccinated – I think it was your right and responsibility to do what you think was best.

Government officials, have now tasted the powers of Dictatorship.  In the future, they will be more willing and more ready to again issue and enforce mandates.   It’s just a short distance down the road, as government officials gather to fight “Global Climate Change.”

When that big hammer falls once more on the American public through the issuance of “Mandates” – – those who rebelled against the vaccination mandates will be looked upon as patriots who fought the beginning of an American dictatorship.

Now having come to your defense – do me a favor – – get vaccinated.

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In Defense of Priest Point Park

April 13th, 2022 by Ken

By David Nicandri

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare wrote: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  So it is with the Catholic missionaries of Priest Point. The proponents of renaming the park have honorable intentions, but, having written the history of the mission, let me speak knowingly about these men before we bury the name Priest Point Park.

It is certain that the founder of St. Joseph’s Mission in Olympia, Pascal Ricard, had many faults. He could be impatient and domineering. The most grievous was the hubris of cultural superiority, originating in the ethos of his time and civilization. This pattern was so common that Pope Francis is coming to North America this year in recognition of this Truth in the interest of Reconciliation.

Before we judge Ricard too severely, forbid that any of us should be judged for our actions by the standards of some future posterity. Nor should we be overly severe with a man who took the counter-cultural vow, then and now, of poverty, and another of obedience. For, unlike the other settlers who began to seize Indigenous land on their own volition, Ricard was sent here by a superior in his missionary order, the O. M. I., against his wishes.  Nor was Priest Point his preferred location for a mission site. He wanted to build in the already developed environs of Fort Nisqually, but his request was denied by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

And so, arriving from France, without resources or knowledge of English, this outsider sensibly chose to locate at the only other settlement on the shores of the Salish Sea to which he had been sent. Unlike his contemporaries who came via the Oregon Trail, Ricard was mindful of the colonial nature of making a claim of land owned by others. He refused to take an additional 320 acres that his “Donation Land Claim” might have entailed, writing that he didn’t want to compromise his reputation by appearing greedy for a mere “corner of land.” The announcement for this meeting notes that the missionaries occupied Priest Point for only 12 years, implying that such a transitory footprint warrants the diminution of their memory. But what of their contemporaries who lived upon this land for decades? How many parks or streets are named after them? Indeed, are not most of us beneficiaries of this legacy of this dispossession?

Ricard and the handful of priests and lay brothers who served sister missions north and east of Olympia were so poor in their first years they relied upon the charity of Indigenous people. They attempted to reciprocate. Ricard built shelters for the families of the youth attending the mission school. He became an advocate for a victimized people. Ricard scolded Isaac Stevens about the mistreatment of Indigenous prisoners, at a time when few others dared in their defense. Before Leschi was executed, his last consolation came in the person of Ricard’s colleague, Father Casimir Chirouse. Ricard scorned the corruption of settler society and its excesses in dealing with Indigenous people. He labeled the perpetrators “wolves.” He called out one of Stevens’s more odious Indian Agents as a “provocateur.” After receiving a report from Father Charles Pandosy, who was trying to mediate a peace in the Yakama Valley, Ricard tried to warn-off Stevens from his treaty tour in eastern Washington, citing the great state of agitation among the tribes there. The cause of belligerency, he maintained, was white malfeasance not indigenous iniquity. After war inevitably broke out, Ricard ridiculed Stevens’s invocation of martial law.

The reward that Ricard received for these efforts was repudiation. Because they lived among Indigenous people, the missionaries became suspect as fomenters of rebellion. Ricard was threatened with lynching in the streets of Olympia. Pandosy’s mission in the Yakama Valley was burned by members of Stevens’s militia.

All this, after nearly a decade of constructive engagement with settler civil society. Using resources provided by his order for the self-sustenance of operations in the Pacific Northwest, Ricard constructed two buildings near Swantown and rented them out for much-needed housing and government offices. He essentially gave away a part of his DLC so a steam sawmill could be built for a community desperate for lumber when the water-powered mills in Tumwater were closed because of a legal dispute. The O. M. I. had one of the only two orchards in Olympia proper, and both fruit and produce from the mission garden was provided to the community free of charge after domestic needs were met. The missionaries went from beggars in 1848-50 to running an early version of a food bank half a decade later. Brother George Blanchet signed a petition asking Congress to vacate an order from the federal land office voiding Edmund Sylvester’s DLC because he sold off a portion of it before it was officially surveyed. Ricard was one of `17 investors who provided donated capital for the start-up of Olympia’s first newspaper, The Columbian. The publisher’s records show that many prominent people failed to follow through with the promised underwriting.  Ricard honored his pledge in full.

Ricard and the other priests were men in the middle; a dangerous place in times of extremity. They were compromised in the eyes of the territory’s tribes because government officials used them as translators, having been co-opted unwittingly. Conversely, a fearful settler society saw them as overly friendly and faithful to the Indigenous. Worse came in their place. Should we miss the passing of their memory?

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I am a Mystery Shopper

April 7th, 2022 by Ken

It was one of those unusual calls that you sometime get.

It was early in morning when the phone rang.  The voice on the other end of the line said,, “Balsley, I’ve got the perfect job for you.  All you have to do is eat doughnuts and drink coffee.”  The caller was Gene Dolan, the executive director of the Lacey Chamber.

He gave me the name of a person and a number to call.   That’s how I became a Mystery Shopper.

A regional doughnut company has just opened four stores in Western Washington, and they were looking for someone to keep an eye on them.  Once a quarter I had to visit each store – buy a cup of coffee and a doughnut and eat it there.  Note the cleanliness of the store, the restrooms and the parking lot.  Then I was to buy a dozen doughnuts to go.  While at the doughnut counter ordering, I was to notice the brand name on their equipment, if possible.  I was to pay in cash and see if I received a receipt.  Then, fill out a written report and submit it.

I had two teenage boys at home and they always loved doughnut day each month, because they got to enjoy the fruits of my labor.   I was reimbursed for expenses, including travel and received a small stipend.  I can’t remember how much, but you couldn’t make a living doing it.

I did that job for nearly three years.

Next was a national shoe store.  This was a special case.  The manager was suspected of stealing money by selling returned items.  I went into the store, bought a pair of shoes with cash and got a receipt.  I put them on in the store and then walked out with them.  I returned them the next day because they were too small and exchanged them for another pair.  I made my report.  I never knew the outcome of the event.  I got to keep the shoes.

I did other smaller jobs over the years.  I’d get or call – or more likely an email, asking me to visit a store and make an inspection.   Most recently, just before the pandemic, I was asked to visit two private postal stores just recently opened in Thurston County.  I was to visit the stores, note the time of day and the number of customers, then buy a roll of stamps and see if I received a receipt.   I visited each of the two stores twice in two months.  Then I made my report.  I never received any enumeration  for my work but I got to keep the stamps.   I suspect the mystery shopping firm went out of business because of the pandemic.

But, my name is still out there.   I’ve been on their list for nearly 40 years.

(This story is Not in my new book “A Storyteller’s Stories,”  but several dozen other stories just like this one are included.  If you’re interested in the book, please let me know.) .

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I’m a Traditionalist

April 4th, 2022 by Ken

I’m a Traditionalist.  I believe in three branches of government, nine members on the supreme court and 50 stars in the flag. I believe in the 3R’s, the three ghosts and the belief that the third time is a charm.

I believe in yellow school buses, red fire engines, green grass in lawns and blue jeans.  I believe in family farms, small business and  mom and pop restaurants.

I believe in back yard gardens, back yard barbeques and good fences making good neighbors.

I believe in Coca Cola, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I believe in that old chestnut that a friend is just someone you haven’t met yet. I believe that you can’t make old friends and that friendship is something that can only be garnered through the investment of time.

As a Traditionalist I favor precedence.  I don’t believe in change for changes sake and  that real change only comes from the ground up.

I believe in individual rights, individual responsibility and  the right of an individual to be different and accepted as to he is.  I believe that it is none of my business what goes on in the privacy of the bedroom.

But, traditions change.  The factory whistle no longer blows at 3 pm.  The barn is no longer the pride of the family.  And Walter Cronkite no longer delivers the news.  So, just as I favor traditions I also reluctantly accept change.



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Don’t change school calendar without overwhelming support

March 24th, 2022 by Ken

For the most part, I care very little about school districts moving to a “Balanced Calendar.”

But, I’m a Traditionalist.  I don’t think we need to make change just for change’s sake, or to follow the newest trend which will soon fade away with the next generation.  That’s what I think is happening with the idea of changing the school calendar.

The Only rationale for changing the time frame for educating our children is the idea that “some” children suffer a learning loss with a summer vacation of 11 weeks.  Several studies have shown that poor children, primarily minority children suffer some loss of learning over that period of time.  That learning loss is confined to young children in the primary grades and only a few of them.  Those studies have also shown no loss of learning for children beyond the sixth grade.

Several studies have shown however, that districts which have adopted a Balanced Calendar have returned to the traditional school calendar after having seem little or no change in children’s learning, or because of the significant cost of making the change, or because of parental backlash.

While the Olympia and Lacey school districts are studying the concept and hope to bring a recommendation to their respective school boards later this year, bear in mind that a coordinated effort to stop the districts from doing so is currently underway.  They argue that 35 of the 50 members of the North Thurston district’s committee studying the idea are school employees.  They argue that the consultants hired to do the study have a pro-bias towards a balanced calendar.

Recently the Thurston  County (Olympia) chamber endorsed the balanced calendar concept.  The parents pointed out that Deb Clemens, the North Thurston school superintendent is on that chamber of commerce board of directors.  And, while she may have refrained from voting, she didn’t refrain from the discussion.

The parents opposed to a balanced calendar say that all of the information being given favors a balanced calendar and that information opposing such a move is either not presented – or is ignored in the final analysis.

They also say that the school districts are down-playing the financial impacts of the change, not only for the school districts, but for all of those impacted by the change.  They also claim that the North Thurston district is planning to submit its recommendation to the school board at a future meeting and asking the board to vote on it at that meeting without allowing comments from parents.

As a Traditionalist, I say, changing the school year must have over-whelming support from the community.  I would prefer a vote of the people, but the district knows that such a vote would fail.

My solution to the learning loss – – Summer School.

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The port’s Marine Terminal is in trouble

March 18th, 2022 by Ken

I’m not into predicting the outcome of any action.  On those rare occasions when I do, I’m usually wrong.  But – I’m going to go ahead and make an effort this time because I think its important.

Weyerhaeuser might want to think about finding another port from which to ship its logs, because I believe that in a decade, the Port of Olympia will have to close its Marine Terminal.

Recent action by the state and local government favoring returning Capitol Lake to an estuary, and removing the dam, which created the lake, will have negative results for the Port of Olympia, as well as for the Olympia Yacht Club.  Removing the dam as part of the restored estuary will mean that tons of dirt will come down the DesChutes River and end up in Budd Inlet, filling it with mud and eventually making it impossible for log carrying ships to dock.  Also being impacted is the Olympia Yacht Club which will also be significantly affected.

The dam has been acting as a barrier, keeping the dirt and other debris churned up from the river, from running into the inlet.  The lake has been slowly filling up because of that.   Removing the dam will allow all of that river silt to make its way into the harbor.  It will also sweep much of the mud which now sits in the lake to flow out as well.

I’m not certain how much and how quickly the harbor will fill up, but it will fill up.  The only that can be done is to dredge the harbor on a regular basis and the Federal government is reluctant to grant dredging permits.

For more than two decades, several sides and several views have been fighting over the future of Capitol Lake.  It appears now that the decision has been made and  will become reality as soon as all documents have been signed.

I have been in favor of closing the Marine Terminal at the port for several years.  This upcoming decision to restore the estuary is the right move.  However the consequences of that action will have repercussions for decades and the taxpayers will pay for all of the trouble.

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Replacement named for Courtney Schrieve

March 15th, 2022 by Ken

North Thurston schools have hired a replacement for Courtney Schrieve.  His name is Aaron Wyatt.

According to information provided on the NTPS Key Communicator list, Wyatt was a classroom teacher for 13 years and most recently served as communication’s director for two state agencies – – The Washington State Board of Education and most recently the Washington Student Achievement Council.

Wyatt said in his first news release, that he has contributed to several equity initiatives in his previous job and is looking forward to working with North Thurston schools in advancing equity.  The district’s commitment to equity is one of the reasons he applied for the communication’s position.

I personally, look forward to meeting with Aaron and find out if he is also committed to getting involved in the community and receiving input from parents and community members.  I’ll also try to find out if he is interested in the general good of our education system, or more interested in making sure the district appears in a good light.

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