WA Virus Update

An update on WA’s coronavirus status.

As has been noted in a Twitter screenshot I’ve seen a number of people sharing, one of the key metrics to track is not the number of cases, but the number of deaths, and how quickly that number is growing. According to the Twitter post from Dr. Sam Wang of Princeton, “If the ‘doubling time’ of these slows to more than 3 days, we’re starting to bend the curve.”

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According to a graphic from the New York Times, as of this morning, WA’s ‘doubling time’ is nine days.

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This is good news. WA may have been first in the US to get seriously hit, and there have been some hiccups, but overall, we’ve been doing a good job of social distancing and controlling the situation as much as possible.

I’ve even seen other (currently unsourced) comments indicating that the UW medical center is not only not overwhelmed, but aren’t even as whelmed as they expected to be at this point, and are offering assistance to other places.

None of this means we’re out of the woods yet. But they’re all good signs that we’re doing the right things, however frustrating they may be.

Keep it up, everyone!

OTC Contraceptives Now Covered By Insurance in Washington

Well, this is interesting:

As of January 1, 2019, all Washingtonians with state-regulated insurance can now pick up over-the-counter contraceptives for free at their in-network pharmacies, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Those contraceptives include “condoms, spermicides, emergency contraceptives, and sponges.”
So—if you’re not on Medicaid, and if you don’t work for a mega-company that self-insures—then you can just stroll into a Walgreens (or a Rite Aid, or whatever pharmacy is in your network), walk up to the pharmacy counter, and ask for some Plan B, some condoms, or whatever a “sponge” is, and they’ll give it to you for freeeeeee.
You can also get sterilized or get a vasectomy for free. No copays and no deductibles. You can just walk into your doctor’s office and get snipped!

I’m not a fan of the “whatever a ‘sponge’ is” bit (c’mon, Stranger, this is base-level contraceptive knowledge, and whether that was serious or snark, is a stupid line), and I’d bet that women would still have far more difficulties with sterilization procedures than “walk into your doctor’s office and get snipped” — for men, of course, it likely would be about that easy — but still. Good news!

Hey Look… Squirrel!

From Yeah, Sure, We’re Underinvesting in Education, but Hey Look… Squirrel! | Slog:

Look… squirrel!

That’s pretty much the level of discourse we’ve been having over education funding in Washington state, the kind that’s designed to keep our eyes off the ball by assuming that voters have an attention span shorter than that of the average dog. Another $1.4 billion slashed from K-12 education, about $1,400 per student? Squirrel! 3,700 fewer teachers funded in WA’s public schools? Squirrel! A more than 50 percent reduction in higher education spending over the past two budgets? Squirrel!

Why Doesn’t Washington State Care About Higher Education?

From Why Not Just Privatize Higher Education? | Slog:

Some of the biggest losers in yesterday’s state House budget proposal are our state’s public colleges and universities… or I guess, more accurately, their current and future students.

The House would slash another $482 million from higher education spending, $100 million more than the governor’s already brutal proposal, amounting to a more than 50 percent cut over two biennia. Even after tuition hikes of between 11.5 and 13 percent, our two-year and four-year institutions would still have to cut as much as 5.4 percent from their budgets. Students will be paying more and getting less.

As a percentage of our state economy, higher education spending had already dropped 63.7 percent from a high of $15.53 per $1,000 of personal income in 1974 to $5.48 per $1,000 in 2010. And falling. Dollars speak louder than words, and clearly, as a state, we obviously no longer believe that providing affordable access to a quality college education is all that important anymore.

Although, to be fair, as sad and scary as this is (especially as someone who’s partner is employed by a state university — and, for that matter, I am too, at least for this quarter), thanks to the stupid voters (and the even stupider eligible voters who decline to do so) who refuse to pay an extra penny or two on candy bars and soda because of the big scary three-letter-word “TAX” (and that’s just one example of the stupid, greedy, short-sighted results of recent state votes), the state just doesn’t have as much money as it should. The way things have been going, I’m still not convinced that education would be getting funded as it should even if the state was flush with cash…but I do realize that the current budget crunch isn’t helping matters any.

When will people wake up and realize that education is important, public services are important, and we have to pay for them? The money to run these things doesn’t just magically appear. I don’t particularly care if you whine about paying taxes, really — sure, we all would like to have a little more money in our pockets than we do. But when your distaste becomes outright refusal (through ill-conceived ballot initiatives) to pay into the services that support and benefit everyone in this state, in both the short- and long-term, then I have no use for you — especially when you then turn around and bitch and moan that this country isn’t as great as it could be, should be, or used to be. Your greed is a large part of the reason for that.

Court Briefing/Pleading Template for Apple Pages (iWork)

Here’s another Apple Pages template I created for my school work, this time for my Legal Writing class. This is a court briefing (or pleading) template, based (more or less) on the court standards for Washington State.

It must be stressed that I in no way guarantee that this template exactly satisfies the requirements of the court system of Washington or any other state, or the requirements of any class you might be taking. I have merely formatted it as best as I can, given the information I have available and my instructor’s requirements. I believe it should be fairly close, however, and it should be adaptable to full compliance for other jurisdictions with a minimum of work. I think.

Thanks to the excellent Typography for Lawyers website, which is an excellent resource not just for lawyers, but for anyone interested in improving the presentation of their work.

Feel free to download and use the template (198k .template file). Just download and (for easiest use) place in your ~LibraryApplication SupportPagesTemplatesMy Templates folder.

(I didn’t bother translating this to Microsoft Word format, as there are a number of similar templates for Word bundled with Word or already floating around the web, including some on Microsoft’s own website. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t include any legal templates with Pages, and I didn’t find many during my searches…so here we are.)

##Version History##

  • 2010.11.10: First upload.

Law and Order and the Lakewood Shootings

I’m finding myself quite intrigued by my reactions as I watched last night’s Law and Order, “Four Cops Shot,” which was based loosely on the Lakewood police shootings of last fall. When I saw last week’s promos for this episode, I had wondered about the possibility of it being a fictionalized take on the Lakewood shootings, but it was soon quite obvious that this was the case (and would have been even if KING5 hadn’t run a special “viewer advisory” banner over the first few minutes of the show).

Law and Order, like many of the modern crime shows, does occasionally supplement its totally fictional shows with shows “loosely based on” real events. There have been times in the past when we’ve enjoyed realizing that, hey, they’re doing this story, or that one. Of course, between the realities of compressing events that often take months into a single hour, and the particular demands of the format, these events are rarely, if ever, presented exactly as they happened, and sometimes, part of the fun is catching where the show is true to the source material, and where it veers away for the sake of television drama.

However, that game becomes a little less fun when the subject of the show in question is one that I’m actually familiar with. Suddenly, those moments when events change for the sake of the show — the “loose” parts of “loosely based upon” — seem more jarring, more unsettling.

(NOTE: From here on out, there will be spoilers for this episode.)

For the majority of the episode, they did a fairly good job of mirroring the events as they transpired last November. From the initial shooting of four off-duty officers (but no-one else in the eatery), to the city-wide manhunt for a wounded suspect, to the suspect’s getting assistance from friends and family, to the political fallout for a high-level politician who had earlier pardoned the suspect, everything moved along more or less as it had in the actual case. The first major change was the capture of the suspect, rather than his being shot and killed by an officer on the street, but this had been expected, as a live suspect is fairly necessary for the courtroom drama of the “Order” half of the show.

However, as the investigation proceeded and moved into the trial, some relatively major changes were made to the background of the suspect and the motivations for his actions — changes that, given how recently this happened, how well-known the four Lakewood officers were in their community, and how tender a subject this still is for many people, had both Prairie and me thinking that a number of locals are likely to be quite upset by how the story was presented.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night…

djwudi: “Wow. This Law & Order was staying fairly close with the broad strokes, but just took a sharp turn and gave the shooter a sympathetic motive.”

djwudi: “I’ve got the feeling a lot of locals are going to be upset about how Law & Order decided to fictionalize the Lakewood shootings.”

…and not long afterwards, found this:

politicallogic: “NBC Law & Order Outrage! Dramatizing Lakewood Police murders. Make Cops bad guys & portray murderer as a victim. Disgusting!”

So what did they do? In the real world, shooter Maurice Clemmons was bad news. Here’s the Wikipedia summary:

Prior to his alleged involvement in the shooting, Clemmons had at least five felony convictions in Arkansas and at least eight felony charges in Washington.2 His first incarceration began in 1989, at age 17. Facing sentences totaling 108 years in prison, the burglary sentences were reduced in 2000 by Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee to 47 years, which made him immediately eligible for parole. He was released in 2000.

Clemmons was subsequently arrested on other charges and was jailed several times. In the months prior to the Lakewood shooting, he was in jail on charges of assaulting a police officer and raping a child.

In the days before the attack, Clemmons talked about his plan to shoot police officers:

On November 26, 2008, less than one week after Clemmons posted his bail bond, during a Thanksgiving gathering at the home of Clemmons’ aunt, Clemmons told several people he was angry about his Pierce County legal problems and that he planned to use a gun to murder police officers and others, including school children. He showed a gun to the people in the room and told them he had two others in his car and home. Clemmons said he planned to activate an alarm by removing a court-ordered ankle monitor, then he would shoot the police officers who responded to his house. In describing the planned murder, Clemmons said, “Knock, knock, knock, boom!” Darcus Allen, a convicted murderer who previously served in a Arkansas prison with Clemmons, was allegedly present for the conversation. On November 28, Clemmons showed two handguns to friends Eddie and Douglas Davis and told them he planned to shoot police officers with them; the exchange was witnessed by Clemmons’ half-brother Rickey Hinton, with whom he shared a house.

However, in the Law and Order episode, Kelvin Stokes is presented as a young man, who, though troubled and with a dangerous past, had been working with police as an informant in an attempt to make up for his previous crimes. In a much larger departure from actual events, it comes out that two of the officers killed by Stokes had been the pair working with him, and they had overstepped their authority, pressuring him through threats against himself and his mother to get him to turn in higher-profile targets. Stokes, in turn, who had been getting paid by the officers for his work as an informant, was asking for more money — which eventually became the trigger for the shooting.

So: in the real world, a violent criminal with a grudge against the police who intentionally targets four random officers. In the fictional world, a former thug trying to make good, pushed over the edge into violence by the pressure of two cops who, if not dirty, were certainly overstepping ethical lines.

Of course, the reality is that for Law and Order, the actual events wouldn’t have provided the drama necessary for the courtroom scenes. Had Stokes been shot on the street as Clemmons was, there would have been no courtroom scenes; had the cops been innocent, random victims with no ties to their killer, there wouldn’t have been the “will-they-or-won’t-they-convict” drama in the courtroom.

It seems quite clear to me that the changes made were made for the sake of the story and for the one-hour crime drama format, and I must admit that I don’t feel the “outrage” or “disgust” that politicallogic does on his Twitter account (though from the looks of it, we have extremely different political ideologies, so other differences of opinion aren’t entirely surprising). In the end, this is a fictional entertainment show, and it would be silly to expect it to slavishly follow the events as they actually happened.

I did, however, find my own surprise and initial discomfort with the changes quite interesting to consider, and I’m sure there are many who were more closely affiliated with the Lakewood officers and their families who would be far more discomfited by this episode — and now I can’t help but think a little more about all those other episodes “loosely based on” real events, wonder how close they came to the real story, and how the changes made for those stories affected the people who had to deal with the real events.

Ritz Cameras Closing 11 Washington Stores

My former employer, Ritz Cameras, has just announced that they’re closing more than 300 stores across the country. Of those, eleven are based here in Washington. I’d actually heard a little bit about this through a former coworker whose store is one of the eleven, but I had no idea it was going to be this widespread.

The one bittersweet side effect to this for local photogeeks is that all these stores need to liquidate their inventory, so starting tomorrow, there may be some pretty good deals available if you happen to be close to a store that’s being shuttered. If I wasn’t unemployed right now, you can bet I’d be keeping a close eye on the sales…unfortunately, I don’t exactly have a lot of expendable cash at the moment.

Retail inventory valued at more than $50 million will be liquidated at the stores that are being closed. Store closing sales offering substantial discounts on all inventory at those locations will begin on Saturday, April 4, and are expected to continue until everything is sold to the bare walls.

Daniel Platt, senior vice president, capital markets, for Great American Group, said, “Long-time Ritz Camera customers as well as those with any interest in cameras, photography and video-related products will find a tremendous selection of quality, brand-name merchandise at greatly reduced prices. Shoppers looking for distinctive and unique gifts will find these sales particularly appealing, as well.”

Among the thousands of products that will be available at reduced prices are digital cameras and accessories, digital SLR compact cameras, digital frames, binoculars, camcorders and video accessories, and other popular electronic items.

Taken from this list, here are the eleven Washington state stores that will be closing their doors (looks like my store in the Northgate Mall was spared, but that’s small comfort):

  • Ritz Camera / Kits Cameras Columbia Center 6607 W Canal Dr Kennewick WA 99336-0000
  • Ritz Camera / Kits Cameras #72 Bellevue Square 266 Bellevue Sq Bellevue WA 98004-0000
  • Ritz Camera / Kits Cameras #77 Bellis Fair Mall 1 Bellis Fair Pkwy Ste 126 Bellingham WA 98226-0000
  • Kits Cameras Westfield Southcenter 172 Southcenter Mall Tukwila WA 98188-0000
  • Ritz Camera / Kits Cameras #14 Pavilions Centre 31507 Pacific Hwy South Federal Way WA 98003-0000
  • Kits Cameras One Hour Photo Westlake Center 400 Pine St #300 Seattle WA 98101-0000
  • Ritz Camera / Kits Cameras Downtown Woodinville 13804 Ne 175Th St #104 Woodinville WA 98072-0000
  • Ritz Camera / Kits Cameras #18 Everett Retail Center 910 Se Everett Mall Way #101 Everett WA 98208-0000
  • Kits Camera 1 Hour Photo Olympic Village 5500 Olympic Dr Nw Ste A107 Gig Harbor WA 98335-0000
  • Kits Camera 1 Hour Photo Kirkland Park Place 336 Park Place Kirkland WA 98033-0000
  • Kits Cameras Mill Creek Town Center 15407 Main St Ste 101 Mill Creek WA 98012-0000

This just hurts to see. Say what you will about the Ritz/Kits family — and I know they’ve got their fare share of detractors as well as fans — there’s a lot of good, knowledgeable, passionate photographers employed in those stores, and this has got to be affecting them in very uncomfortable ways. Best of luck to all of you.


First off, the good news: we’re not being affected by the current weather craziness hitting the northwest. While we’re near the Green River, which is pretty high at the moment — the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service has one checkpoint on the Green River, near Aburn (just south of us), which shows it at ‘Action Stage’ but already crested and predicted to drop (check other NW area rivers here — it doesn’t look like it’ll be flooding in our area.

That said, this is nuts! This stormpocalypse hit us in two stages: first the snowpocalypse, and now the floodpocalypse (yes, the nomenclature is silly, but that’s part of the fun). I’ve been watching #waflood on Twitter, and it’s been fascinating watching all the updates appear.

It’s also neat seeing just who all is involved with this method of awareness and communication. In addition to all the “normal people” giving updates, the Washington State Department of Transportation is using WSDOT and @terpening (as well as their Flickr account, the city of Bellingham, FEMA (a far cry from Katrina!), the Red Cross, King County, and probably plenty of other official organizations are joining in. Lots of good information coming out…even when the information isn’t good:

Washington Transportation Secretary Paula
Hammond says Interstate 5 at Chehalis could be closed for four

The Transportation Department is monitoring the flooding. The DOT says I-5 is closed from US 12, milepost 68, to Grand Mound, milepost 88 in Lewis County due to the rising water in Dillenbaugh Creek south of Chehalis.

Hammond says the flooding is similar to the December 2007 flood that caused a four-day blockage on the main north-south route in Western Washington.

Hammond says when the Chehalis River crests Thursday night,
officials expect water to be 10 feet deep over the highway. After
the water starts falling, crews plan to use pumps and breach a levy
to help the water drain out.

Hammond says about 10,000 trucks a day travel I-5 and the
financial impact of the closure on freight movement is about $4
million a day. That’s made worse by the closure of the three major
Cascade passes.

In fact, according to an early morning WSDOT tweet, “There are no north south routes available between Seattle and Portland, or east west routes from Western WA to Spokane at this time #waflood”. Unless you want to go to Canada, Seattle and its surrounding metro area is essentially completely cut off!

Crazy stuff, and I’m counting myself quite glad to not be directly impacted by any of this — though it came close, as Prairie’s dad sent us a shot of the Lewis River just outside his house in Woodland (in southern Washington, just north of Vancouver, which is just north of Portland).

Lewis River Flooding

The river holding, the rising has slowed, four feet to the top of the bank, then four feet to the main floor. Am watching close, a fireman rang the door bell, said be ready to evacuate, have been planning but have taken no action, hope that I don’t have to scramble.

It sounds like the river didn’t get quite high enough for evacuation, but that’s pretty close!

So…what’s going to be Stormpocalypse Part III?