Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pacific Northwest Trip June 2013 Day 7 Saturday June 22

This is the sixth of a series of posts dealing with my tenth and most recent trip to Seattle as adult. I’ve made minor corrections to these reports.  What few updates there are indicated by NOW in brackets.

Minor editing to fix typos/incorrect names.

One woman in my room nonchalantly changed out of her pants with the lights on last night. Probably good prep for what was to come this morning.

In the morning I walked to Pike Place Market and saw Rachel the giant piggy bank.  I also visited Target.  Heading towards the Bell Street Bridge I discovered, much to my shock, goals penned in below the freeway ramp at Elliott & Blanchard.  I walked along the Bell Street Bridge though the observation area ion the other side was locked due to a tour.  I returned to the hostel for breakfast.

I walked to Westlake Station and took the 72 bus (all busses this day Metro Transit) to the University of Washington, where I saw Drumheller Fountain. I walked to the nearby University Village, where I saw a couple of smaller fountains: Water Frolic (frogs & turtles), Water Break (turtles & birds), a couple of animal statues, and the Stonehenge Fountain.

I walked to the shopping area of the University District and visited Bulldog News, University Bookstore, Half Price Books (bought some DVDs; the dealer noticed that one was missing a disc before ringing it through so I passed on that one obviously), Cinema Books, Neptune Music (more DVDs), Scarecrow Video (got a bunch of DVDs on sale).  I skipped a few stores in the interest of time, taking the 44 bus to NW Market & 8th. I visited a branch there of Rain City Video. I'd passed it before a number of times but failed to notice it because it was attacked to a Shell station. I decided to move Ballard to tomorrow to take in more of the Fremont Fair in that district.

Aside from hundreds of market tents, saw the usual plant dinosaurs (more full green than usual), Fremont Rocket, Lenin (some of the crowd had put some political party slogans on it), Center of the Universe signpost, Jive Time Records, Ophelia Books (pet the cat), Fremont Troll, JP Patches & Gertrude: Late for the Interurban statue (the memorial stuff was now gone), Waiting for the Interurban statue.

I wandered to the start of the parade route. One bodypainted woman walked naked the other direction, probably one of the cyclists.  That's actually the highlight of the parade, albeit an unofficial part: it always starts with nude bikers.  Bikers included lots of people painted as superheroes, many painted as animals, some as death imagery.  About half and half in terms of gender,  and about half or more the women were full naked, not just topless.  One guy had a woman dressed as a tiger wheeled in a cage, no doubt an animal rights statement.

In terms of the non-biker parts of the parade, truth to tell, not much to say: I knew the festivities were continuing at Gas Works Park nearby in Wallingford, and those festivities interested me more than the parade, so I skipped the parade proper: you can see usual parade stuff a few times a year; I wanted to the stuff you don't get to see everyday. I can tell you there was an Uncle Sam in the parade though.

At the park it was pretty much anything goes in terms of dress; lots of photographers too. Some of the bikers used Lake Union there to wash off the paint. Technically you're not supposed to go in the other there but the police were hardly going to stop them today. There was a special beer section. Lots of live music playing at different locations and different times. Some danced to the music.

Hours later I decided to head back. The busses were running late due to the detours and traffic. Finally took the 32 to Dick's Drive-In near Seattle Center. I ordered fries, a Coke, and a shake. No burgers because they call come with mustard or diced pickles (mandatory).

I made it to the International Fountain just as it was shutting down for the day, but did manage a few spray shots at least.

Pacific Northwest Trip June 2013 Day 6 Friday June 21

This is the sixth of a series of posts dealing with my tenth and most recent trip to Seattle as adult, this time also covering Portland. I’ve made minor corrections to these reports.  What few updates there are indicated by NOW in brackets.

Minor editing to fix typos/incorrect names.

Forgot to mention: the day before my short sleeved pants split. Probably the elements plus wearing under jeans in rain were too much for them. Luckily on a whim I had packed a spare.

Also got a rash with my jeans sticking to it. Probably from that Boring walk. My shoes have fallen apart to the point that they'd be tossed if I wasn't for wanted to stick close to the Customs limit. Will probably have to withdrawl more money despite the financial penalty for doing so here: strip worn down on VISA, many kids running tills don't know how to punch in numbers, and they still don't use the chip reader for credit cards in the US.

[NOW: Luckily I managed to avoid having to withdraw anything.]

After checking out of the hostel in Portland, I ate breakfast at the nearby McDonald's and then wandered down to the downtown core.  En route I noticed that a fetish store was open at 6:30 am; probably 24 hours then; I passed west Portland's Everyday Music and Powell's.  Arriving downtown I took photos of a few statues again (the cloaked woman, the animals fountain), then did one last visit to Mill Ends Park and Salmon Street Springs.  I arrived at the bus stop 1 1/2 hours ahead of time, too tired to move any more with all the stuff.  One guy was also there then but hadn't bought his ticket.  Unfortunately there was one other person on standby and only one seat so he didn't make it on. Managed to snag the front seat myself.

A little less than three hours later we arrived at the International District/Chinatown Station entrance (Downtown Transit Tunnel) in Seattle.  I put money on my ORCA (transit) card and inside the tunnel took a 106 bus (Metro Transit) a few stops to Westlake Station. I had lunch at a nearby McDonald's before taking the 2 bus (Metro Transit) to City Hostel Seattle.

It was too early to check in but I paid and stored my stuff in storage. Heading out, I noted a few areas blocked off in part due to a rock festival tomorrow. Deciding to skip Issaquah this trip (its zoo has nothing on the Oregon Zoo despite a similar price), I took the 578 bus (Sound Transit) to Puyallup.  This is where I really started to notice the rash. I only saw a couple of the art pieces as most were temporarily gone for a huge outdoor market called Meeker Festival Days (Salutation, the nude woman statue in particular might make some parents upset).  In a way I'm relieved: listing all the art in photos can be very time consuming! I also visited Ace Pawn.

I took the 502 bus (Pierce Transit) to the Commons in Federal Way, deciding to skip Fantasium Comics this time. I cut through the Commons' parking lot and visited Al's Music Games Videos and Action City Comics. Walking to Federal Way Transit Center, I took the A Rapidride bus (Metro Transit) north. I had already decided to skip Angle Lake Park in SeaTac due to weather etc but it was closed anyway due to renovations.

At Tukwila International Blvd Station in Tukwila I took the 140 bus (Metro Transit) to Burien.  For years I kept missing Platinum Comics due to its late opening time and then last year because it was closed this year, so I was determined to make it just this once... and it was closed down.  I took another 140 the other way and got off at Westfield Southcenter in Tukwila. I visited f.y.e. and got some Latin DVDs. I crossed the street to Buybacks and then went to the nearby Half Price Books, getting a couple more DVDs.

After a short walk (passing through Tukwila Pond Park and looking at the pond itself), I took the 150 bus (Metro Transit) back to Westlake Station. I walked to the McDonald's across from Seattle Center, passing the giant red popsicle statue and the Chief Sealth statue en route.  I was too frazzled by credit card issues to notice if the McDonald's still had the sports balls in polls; I imagine that one still does.

[NOW: confirmed later in the trip.]

In Seattle Center I rested at the International Fountain, the half dome with the water jets shooting different directions. Still my favourite Seattle locations.  I walked over to Silver Platters... only to find they had moved to the SoDo district. I'll still get there at least once this trip, but now all the stores I liked to visit in the general vicinity of Seattle Center have closed/moved. :(

I returned to the fountain for a bit, then wandered to the hostel, checking out Rite Aid and a store near the hostel en route (got a drink). I then finished checking in.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Is an Email or Facebook Post Real, a Hoax, or Outdated?

I’ve noticed quite a number of e-mails and nowadays more often Facebook posts have a very strong whiff of male cattle fecal matter. Therefore for the sake of everyone’s sanity I’ve written out these tips that I hope will make the air just a little bit more hygienic. While I’m at it I’m also including tips on stuff that may not be BS per se but have become outdated. Note that having a few of the below doesn’t automatically make something inaccurate, but these should at least set off some alarm bells, Many of these overlap in some ways but have some nuance that I felt was worth pointing out separately.

1.      The information is badly sourced. Either there’s no source listed at all or if there is, there’s no link or other proof that it came from the source. You cannot even assume that a post that claims to have info that has been verified by Snopes really does have material that Snopes has verified.
2.      Unsourced percentages in particular deserve special mention. If you see a lot of percentages but no source, the percentages may have either been taken out of thin air or be misrepresented.
3.      The information is designed to evoke a strong emotional response. This isn’t always a bad thing but strong emotions can sometimes cloud judgement.  A well written piece will state the facts and let them trigger the emotions. A bogus piece will usually make the facts secondary to the emotion.
4.      The post asks you to share it. If something is factual, and something the public should know about, chances are, people will share the information without being asked. If the post has to ask you to share, there may be a reason you wouldn’t otherwise do so.
5.      The post tries to guilt trip you into sharing the post, trying to make you feel terrible if you don’t pass along the information. This is basically a combination of points 3 and 4; if the author is doing this, there is likely something they really don’t want you to figure out before spreading their information.
6.      The post feels like it has an axe to grind. If you get the sense that the author has a vendetta against a group, organization, or whatever, it’s possible that they are skewing or making up facts to target whoever they see as the enemy.
7.      The post is about a hot button topic. If it’s about a topic that a number of people are really POed about at the moment (e.g. immigration, religion, animal cruelty) it’s worth pay extra attention to the facts presented and trying to verify them.
8.      The math doesn’t feel like it would add up. Here’s where emotions are actually a good thing: if your gut tells you that the stats don’t feel right (e.g. a calendar pattern not recurring for over 100 years; more on this in a separate blog post), it may be worth doing the math and see what actually comes up.
9.      A unsourced comment is attributed to a well-spoken celebrity. Right or wrong, an opinion from Morgan Freeman will carry more weight than a stranger or even a friend or a friend. But did the celebrity really say it?
10.   A post is a funny incident. Lots of humour refers to real incidents, and of course a lot of posts are intended as gags from the start. But unfortunately a lot of strange but true stuff ultimately proves to be strange and untrue.
11.   The post comes with a photo. Photos appeal to emotions and therefore are sometimes doctored or taken out of context so that the reader gets so steamed up about the image that they fail to properly consider the evidence.
12.   The post has emotion laden font. Is the font bold, large sized, etc. in key emotional parts of the text, even beyond the title?
13.   The post is regarding non-local missing person/animal. Usually these start out accurate, but by the time they go beyond the area of disappearance, the person or animal has been found. These are generally not hoaxes (some are but not usually), just outdated information.
14.   A Facebook post indicates that you will gain something or not lose something if you click Share and/or post a statement on your wall. In some cases it involves an individual or group that simply doesn’t have access to your Facebook account. And if they do (e.g. Facebook themselves) it is unlikely they’re monitoring your page that closely. Statements on your wall cannot ward off legal matters (though obviously they can be used as evidence) and there are limited circumstances where you’re going to get free stuff from a stranger.

Again, not all of these in of themselves are proof a post is false. It just means it needs to be verified. There are a number of ways:
a.      Visit sites devoted to debunking urban legends. Snopes is the best known one but there are others. If using Snopes, I recommend having a pop-up blocker turned on.
b.      Do a keyword search in a search engine, the keywords being the gist of the post and the word “hoax”. This brings the confirmed hoaxes to the top of the results. Also, even if something turns out to be real, chances are the search engine will also find a few results that don’t use the hoax keyword.
c.      The above two are usually as far as I go, but you can also try the previous step but without the word “hoax” and see if any of the results are from actual newspapers/news shows.
d.      If the suspicious post claims a source, you can visit the source noted and see if the information is in fact on the source site.

So practice smart sharing everyone.  When in doubt don’t pass it along. After all, there are plenty of funny jokes, cute animal photos, and, yes, legitimate news out there to share without passing along misinformation.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

10 Memorable Things About 2013

These recollections are a stream of conscious perspective from a Victoria BC resident. I do not claim that these are the ten most important things that happened worldwide, just things that jump to mind (with a little help from scanning my Facebook newsfeed, etc).
1.      Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield completed a well documented two-month tour in a space station.
2.      Another Canadian, Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto was the target of a well-publicized drug and alcohol scandal.
3.      Numerous 20th century icons passed away in April. Arguably topping the list for that month were British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, film critic Roger Ebert, and DC publisher/Flash (Barry Allen) co-creator Carmine Infantino (the latter two died on the same day), and prolific B-movie filmmaker Jesus Franco.
4.      The 206, including cast and crew from Almost Live!, successfully brought Seattle comedy back to TV.
5.      Much to the shock of many people, the Liberals won the provincial BC election by a sizable margin.
6.      The Canadian movie theatre chain Empire Theatres breathed its last.
7.      For the most part the US and UK versions of the Blockbuster chain closed down (or were in the process of closing in December 2013), though some US franchises that licensed out the name instead of being owned by Blockbuster will remain open for the time being.
8.      Two Toronto icons, Honest Ed’s and World’s Biggest Bookstore were sold to developers. The former is expected to remain open for another two to three years but the latter is expected to close in early 2014.
9.      Pope Benedict XVI stepped down and was replaced by the more progressive Pope Francis.
10.   CNN took heat for discussing how the rape convictions of two Steubenville athletes ruined their promising football careers.