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KUOW Blog

News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind the scenes. Check back daily for updates.

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  • What to expect from NW weather ahead: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
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    • January was pretty light as far as winter goes in the Northwest. But a state climatologist says winter is not finished with Washington just yet.
    • Got art? Luckily, KUOW has a bevy of recommendations for what to do around here, from cage fighting poets to shoeless art exhibits and sculptures you can pet — check out what's happening.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for February 3, 2023.

    La Niña was supposed to bring cold, wet weather to our corner of the planet this winter, but it seems that the Northwest was spared that fate. Instead, other parts of the USA got hit, especially California, which suffered massive floods. But as Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond tells KUOW, Washington's turn will come around soon. Winter is not done with the Northwest.

    "The month of January was kind of a dud," Bond said. "After the first of the year, during La Niña winters, we tend to have some cool wet weather; not the case this past January. But looking ahead to February into March, we should have a return to more normal weather."

    That means more snowpack in the mountains, which is good. Some areas still need more snow. That's important for summer when we rely on water coming down the mountain.

    "I think it's going to be our turn with some storms coming out of the Gulf of Alaska into the Pacific Northwest over the course of February into March," Bond said.

    In short, when spring comes along, Washington can expect things to dry out amid some warmer temps. Same for the upcoming summer, though it's important to note that climatologists and meteorologists are never quite certain when it comes to looking out that far ahead. Check out all of Bond's weather insights for what's to come here.

    Got art?

    One thing I'm very proud of KUOW for lately is our arts and culture coverage, which is producing a lot of recommendations for things to see and do. From cage fighting poets to shoeless art exhibits and sculptures you can pet — check out what's happening.

    Writer and Seattle's civic poet Shin Yu Pai points out a few events of interest for KUOW this week. Poet and former cage fighter Jenny Liou will read from her new book of poetry "Muscle Memory" on Feb. 6 at Elliott Bay Books. She also recommends "Shapes of Things to Come," at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. This exhibit offers a collection of book art from local to international artists. I have to say, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is a hidden gem in our region. At the risk of sounding snobby, you don't often expect an art museum to be that well done in smaller towns, but Bainbridge really has something going on over there. Check out Shin Yu Pai's recommendations here.

    KUOW's arts and culture reporter Mike Davis is also sharing his adventures in art through his new weekly post ... Mike's adventures in art. It spans everything from museums to the stage, and even what to stream at home. This week, Mike is pointing you to a few attractions that are slated to close soon, so you better act fast. For example, "Thoreau at Home," at the 18th and Union Art Space, is streaming for home audiences through this weekend. The performance is apt for fans of classic literature, as well as for Seattleites who love "screaming about people needing to be outside."

    The Museum of Museums is Mike's pick of the week. The "Gum Baby" exhibit requires folks to remove their shoes. Apparently, you find out why once your there. Another exhibit, "Soft Touch," is like a petting zoo for sculptures. The tactile and soft-sculpture art featured here is meant to be interacted with. Check out all of Mike's adventurous recommendations here.

    Continue reading »
  • Scientists try to keep up with chemical blizzard entering Puget Sound

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: A “Welcoming Figure” sculpture in Coast Salish style looks out over Puget Sound at Richmond Beach Saltwater Park in Shoreline on Jan. 16.
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    A “Welcoming Figure” sculpture in Coast Salish style looks out over Puget Sound at Richmond Beach Saltwater Park in Shoreline on Jan. 16.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/John Ryan

    Wastewater treatment plants are sending hundreds of unregulated chemicals into Puget Sound.

    The plants sterilize sewage and remove solids and organic materials from it. But they were never designed to remove things like antibiotics, cosmetics, hormones, pharmaceuticals, and other consumer products that wash down household drains.

    “The latest estimate of the number of chemicals that are used in commerce is 350,000. That doesn't include degradation products and metabolites that may also be in the environment,” said Western Washington University environmental toxicologist Ruth Sofield.

    “The work that we're doing, we're looking at chemicals in the low hundreds,” she told the Puget Sound Partnership’s Science Panel on Wednesday.

    Sofield and other scientists are trying to help the state agency identify and prioritize the most harmful substances in the dilute chemical broth that is wastewater.

    “We know that we're missing the large universe of chemicals,” Sofield said.

    The researchers, who expect to submit their findings for publication in a peer-reviewed journal later in February, have identified 57 high-priority chemicals, including the antibiotics tetracycline and ciprofloxacin, the steroid prednisone, and the plasticizer BPA. They’ve put another 84 on their “watch list.”

    Nearly half of the priority chemicals are antibiotics, about 18% are hormones, another 18% are pharmaceuticals, and 10% are perfluorinated substances, according to Sofield.

    A new study from King County (see page 23 here) focuses on these so-called "chemicals of emerging concern" in wastewater.

    It finds that most of the substances that have been examined are not at levels high enough to harm fish or marine mammals.

    But some of the long-lasting chemicals could be building up in Chinook salmon.

    Continue reading »
  • Oh. My. Gawd! FRIENDS Experience lands in downtown Seattle

    KUOW Blog
    caption: The FRIENDS Experience in Seattle offers recreated sets from the iconic sitcom. 
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    The FRIENDS Experience in Seattle offers recreated sets from the iconic sitcom.
    Credit: Dyer Oxley / KUOW

    This is the one where fans squeal and cry, "Oh ... My ... God!" around every corner, while snapping endless photos in the world of "Friends," the iconic 1990s sitcom.

    The FRIENDS Experience opened in Seattle this week, offering a deep dive into the sitcom. While the attraction certainly offers a fun time for the casual viewer, hardcore fans will find moments of awe — the sort of fans who clap at the right moment during the theme song, and who have an opinion about whether Ross and Rachel were on a break.

    "We are fans of the show, too, and we spent a lot of time doing our research ... we worked with the Warner Bros. archive team. We got every detail," said Stacy Moscatelli, copresident of Original X Productions, which tours the FRIENDS Experience from city-to-city.

    The attraction is part immersive experience, and part museum. Expect to spend around an hour meandering through a range of recreated sets apt for photos, and behind-the-scenes exhibits for loyal viewers.

    "People are blown away by how much we have here, not just sets and photo moments, but there is a museum aspect, there's a history, there is storytelling," Moscatelli said. "We have a signed script from the pilot ... if you're sort of a surface-level fan and want to sit in Central Perk and get a picture, knock yourself out. If you want to read everything and pose next to Rachel's hair, we've got that for you, too."

    Then there are "Friends" fans who don't want to openly admit it, but we know, and they don't know that we know they know.

    There are also deep cuts, some of which require the keen eye of a "Friends" devotee. If you've ever wondered what was in the letter, it's all on display, front and back. So is the hand drawn "Science Boy" comic book. If you listen closely, you may hear the sound of a baby chick chirping in a corner of Joey and Chandler's apartment. An entire exhibit is dedicated to Rachel's hairstyles. Then there are the wardrobes, the props, the scripts, and other aspects of show.

    "Over the course of 10 seasons, there are all sorts of little differences on the sets," Moscatelli said. "In the boys' apartment we have black La-Z-Boys, but there were some seasons when they had brown La-Z-Boys. So we had to ask, 'What did they have the most of that we think will be recognizable?' But we've had really big fans come in, they'll stand in the room and say, 'Wait a minute, those chairs were brown.'"

    Moscatelli also pointed to one exhibit featuring an interview with Debra McGuire, the costume designer for the show.

    "She gives a really interesting and thoughtful perspective on how she created personalities for each of the cast members through their wardrobe, and the thoughtfulness she put into into everybody's color pallet ... she really thought about what goes into the lengths of somebody's personality through their clothes ... I think that is something that very few fans have seen."

    Continue reading »
  • Let's talk about downtown Seattle: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
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    Downtown Seattle was taking hits before the pandemic struck and exacerbated its challenges. Locals reflect on what downtown has to offer, and what it doesn't. Could the neighborhood be due for a comeback?

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for February 2, 2023.

    I found myself downtown a couple days ago with some time to kill, so I opened my handy pinball map to see if there were any machines nearby. No luck. I mean, there were a few listed at Gameworks, but you have to buy one of those prepaid cards, so ... no. Consider that next door in Belltown, there are nearly 60 pinball machines within a few blocks of each other.

    My pinball dilemma is just one issue — a very superficial and unique-to-me issue — facing downtown Seattle. But it speaks to a larger woe — downtown Seattle is suffering. Not just economically, but as Seattle Now puts it, it's having an "identity crisis."

    "Family visits me and they're like, 'Oh you have a Cheesecake Factory,' and I'm like, 'We're not going to Cheesecake Factory mom, please,'" Millie told Seattle Now.

    Millie lives downtown, but they note that there isn't much to do in the neighborhood, filled mostly with chain stores and restaurants. The local options that are around are pretty expensive.

    "All the shops tend to be really kitschy or not really useful to me. The ones that I would go to before are all closed, like Barnes and Noble," Millie said.

    "It's a food desert. There used to be a good grocery store on Third and Pike, but it closed a while back, so now it's just Target and PCC, and I don't make PCC money, so it's Target."

    Millie's comments on Seattle Now had me thinking about my advice to visitors, who are usually seeking the unique, genuine Seattle that locals know. I don't think I've ever recommended that they visit downtown (outside of Emerald City Comic Con), especially if travelers are on a budget. I can already see the emails coming in, so let me clarify that while downtown has never had much to offer me, that doesn't mean it isn't important to the success of the city as a whole.

    "Sure, you can get Pike Place Market out of the way, and MoPop is great," I've told visitors, listing off my best hits of Seattle. "But head over to Ballard for some great local bars and restaurants. Fremont has a troll, a rocket ship, antiques, and more. A walk on Alki Beach is worth it. Sunset at Golden Gardens. Georgetown preserves the spirit of Seattle that you wish the rest of the city could have held onto. The night life on Capitol Hill is a thing, and yes, folks really do eat at Dick's, not for the fries though, but if you don't want to wait in the lines, there is more than one location..."

    Or I'd say something like, "Frasier lives in a Seattle with fine wine and sherry, and rare caviar. That's downtown. But if you want to know where regular ol' Martin Crane hangs out, follow me."

    I understand that my above comments are like salt in the wound of downtown Seattle. The neighborhood has been hit pretty hard in recent years and pandemic switch ups exacerbated its challenges. Macy's left town in 2020. Sales at Nordstrom are in a slump. On my walk through downtown this week, there were a lot of vacant shops.

    Continue reading »
  • Winter isn't done with the Pacific Northwest

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Homes are shown blanketed in snow on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.
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    Homes are shown blanketed in snow on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    January might have been a "dud" in terms of typical La Niña winter weather patterns, but Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond says there's plenty more winter ahead.

    "Looking ahead to February into March, we should have a return of more normal weather and growth in the snowpack," Bond says. "And here's hoping that snowpack comes around, because there's some places that we could use a little bit more."

    (For what it's worth, Punxsutawney Phil seems to agree with Bond. The groundhog saw his shadow Thursday, predicting another six weeks of winter.)

    A healthy snowpack bodes well for water supplies across the state and less severe conditions heading into the summer months.

    Bond says this summer is likely going to be on the warmer, drier side. That's no surprise as summers have been getting warmer over the last few decades, he notes.

    Continue reading »
  • Seattle CM Mosqueda aiming to leap over to King County Council

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Teresa Mosqueda is a Seattle city council member. She announced her campaign for King County Council on Feb. 2, 2023.
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    Teresa Mosqueda is a Seattle city council member. She announced her campaign for King County Council on Feb. 2, 2023.
    Credit: Teresa Mosqueda campaign

    Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda will run for a seat on the King County Council this year.

    Mosqueda told KUOW that she hopes to bring the issues she has worked on at the city over the past six years to the larger county level.

    "I've been focused on worker protections, expanding access to good living wage jobs, increasing access to child care, building housing, but we really need to build that out for the broad and diverse population that lives across our region," Mosqueda said. "The issues that we're seeing play out in Seattle are not just restricted to Seattle's borders and if I can work at the county in partnership with the County Council, the executive, or state legislative team, we can braid together funding and programs and services to support residents of Seattle and more broadly, the county and District 8 residents."

    While others who are exiting the dais at Seattle City Hall cite a toxic political atmosphere, Mosqueda says that is not the reason she is attempting a run for the county council.

    “I am running for King County Council District 8 to improve the opportunity for working families to be healthy, housed and resilient,” Mosqueda said in a statement. “We can do this by investing in greater behavioral health and public health supports, expanding housing and displacement efforts that make it possible for people to stay stably housed, and investing in what working families and small businesses need — affordable childcare, accessible transit, and good job opportunities.”

    Her campaign says she wants to work on these issues by creating "local, regional, and state partnerships." Mosqueda describes herself as a "labor Democrat." She previously worked on statewide policies for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and the Children’s Alliance.

    “Throughout my career, I have brought diverse coalitions together to pass landmark policy changes,” Mosqueda said. “From passing historic investments in housing, to leading the statewide minimum wage raise and implementing Apple Health healthcare for all Washington children, I have united diverse interests and voices to get things done. I’ll bring that commitment — and experience working at the local and state levels — to solve problems, make a difference, and support our communities across the County.”

    Mosqueda is aiming for the King County Council District 8 seat that Councilmember Joe McDermott is vacating. McDermott opted not to run for re-election this year. His term concludes at the end of 2023.

    Mosqueda is currently a Seattle City Council member and represents Position 8, an at-large seat. She first entered office in 2017 and was re-elected to the role in 2021 with 59% of the vote. If she is elected to the county council, Mosqueda would exit her role at the city before her current term ends in 2025. This would leave an open seat to be filled for the remaining year of her city council term. The City Council would then appoint a replacement member.

    She is also pointing to her record on the city council, such as establishing protections for hotel workers, sick leave for gig drivers, small business grants for women and people of color, affordable housing investments, and reproductive rights.

    Continue reading »
  • Mike's adventures in art: A trip down the rabbit hole

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Gum Baby exhibit by Tariqa Waters at Museum of Museums
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    Gum Baby exhibit by Tariqa Waters at Museum of Museums
    Credit: Mike Davis

    If you are looking for some tips on how to experience art in the Seattle area, you are in the right place. In this weekly post, KUOW Arts Reporter Mike Davis gives you tips on what to do around Seattle over the weekend so you can have your own adventures in arts and culture.

    VISUAL ART

    Museum of Museums is my pick of the week. I had a sneak peak of two upcoming exhibits and, if you are looking for an adventure in art over the weekend, this is the place to be.

    "Gum Baby," an installation by artist Tariqa Waters, exists somewhere between "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wonderful Land of Oz." This new exhibit, which also features glasswork by Waters, is a fully immersive experience that requires visitors to begin by remove their shoes. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say – on my visit, I almost couldn’t find it! But once I did, I was pleasantly surprised and took a wonderful trip down the rabbit hole.

    "Soft Touch" is a survey of tactile and soft-sculpture art. Most of the pieces are not only meant to be touched but designed specifically for interaction. From shaggy rugs with sprawling arms to hug you, to relaxation stations where snuggly sweaters connect you to seats, these pieces encourage people to physically engage with art.


    Exhibits open for the winter season starting at 12 p.m., Friday, Feb. 3, 900 Boylston Ave., Seattle, Washington 98104

    FILM

    The Grand Illusion Cinema is proof that even though movie theaters may (or may not) be disappearing from downtown, people still love seeing movies, and Seattle neighborhoods have plenty of theaters. This one-screen theater in the U District is a film lovers dream, showing carefully curated classics that you won’t see anywhere else. I recently went to a sold-out midweek showing of the 1990 romcom "Wild at Heart," starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern (with a great performance from Willem Defoe). Armed with a box of Junior Mints from the cold freezer and a classic soda, I was in cinema heaven.

    "Wild at Heart" plays at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2.

    Continue reading »
  • Mayor pushes for more culturally sensitive response to immigrant deaths

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Seattle mayor Bruce Harrell at a press conference on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at Seattle City Hall.
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    Seattle mayor Bruce Harrell at a press conference on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at Seattle City Hall.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Mayor Bruce Harrell signed an executive order Wednesday that aims to improve the city's response to the unexpected death of someone from Seattle's immigrant communities.

    Harrell’s order calls for the city’s crisis response teams to adopt practices that meet various language, cultural and religious needs.

    The order would bring together the Seattle Police Department, the Human Services Department and the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to look at measures the city could take in the future to be more culturally aware and sensitive.

    The order also calls for equitable language access for people who seek out victim and family support services, or medical treatment.

    The announcement comes a week after a graduate student, Jaahnavi Kandula, who is from India was fatally hit in a crosswalk by a Seattle police vehicle.

    Yahya Suufi, the executive director for the Burien-based Muslim American Youth Foundation, attended a press conference with the mayor Wednesday. He said improving the city's cultural awareness and sensitivity is especially important when families are grieving according to their own traditions and practices.

    “It will translate to us having better practices that increase accessibility for our community,” he said, “especially the community of color, and the immigrants that need to have certain needs to be met.”

    Suufi says in his faith, there’s a desire to bury someone who’s died, as soon as possible.

    A team from various city departments is due to report back to the mayor in 90 days about a strategy to improve access to city resources and make the city's response more coordinated and culturally appropriate.

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  • Changes down the road for Washington drivers: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Rush-hour traffic along Interstate 5 on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, from Northeast 92nd Street in Seattle.
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    Rush-hour traffic along Interstate 5 on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, from Northeast 92nd Street in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Washington's roads have become more dangerous over the past couple years. Now, local and national officials are attempting to curb the trend.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for February 1, 2023.

    My apologies to regular TSF readers for my absence yesterday. Without getting into details, I had a special appointment at my dentist which resulted in me feeling pretty groovy. I imagine that if I did try to crank out a newsletter, it would have been far out, man. But the experience did offer an interesting "Did You Know" factoid, which you can read about below.

    On a recent morning drive into Seattle, Nina and I watched as two cars sparred across all lanes of traffic. It wasn't clear who made the first offense, but one driver clearly made the other driver mad, and a chase ensued. One car would dart to the far right lane before screeching into the far left lane in an attempt to get away. The other car would catch up and steer into the other, forcing it to sway into yet another lane to avoid a collision. I have no idea who was behind the wheel, but it's safe to assume that critical thinking is not strong with them. This dangerous dance went back-and-forth amid countless other vehicles on I-5. We had a view of this drama from about Federal Way to Tukwila before they sped far ahead and out of view. Nina and I had the same comment at the time: "Things feel a bit more chaotic on the road these days."

    Road rage is just one problem among a range of issues plaguing Washington's roads ever since the pandemic first struck. From speeding, to recklessness, to driving under the influence, conditions have grown increasingly dangerous whether on a Seattle street or a state highway. Washington's roadway dangers have now garnered attention from local, state, and federal officials who are aiming money and new laws at our roads. Whether it's your ability to turn right on red, or an increase in protected bike lanes and speed bumps, there are some changes coming down the road.

    “There were 745 fatalities on roads in the state of Washington in 2022, the most in more than 30 years,” U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell recently said in a statement. “We must reverse this alarming trend."

    Cantwell is targeting millions at Seattle and Washington state roads through her "Safe Streets for All" program. Grant funds are headed to 16 Washington cities and counties. Seattle is getting about $25.7 million, primarily for safety upgrades to roads in SoDo.

    "The streets in SoDo are some of the most dangerous streets in the city," Urbanist editor Ryan Packer told Seattle Now this morning. "They have a lot of lanes and the streets are designed for freight traffic ... so people are able to head through that neighborhood extremely quickly, and places to cross are few and far between ... SoDo lacks any real way for people on bikes to travel safely through the neighborhood. It also lacks a lot of pedestrian crossings and places for people to safely navigate on foot."

    SoDo's street design creates issues unique to the neighborhood, but the problems on the road span the entire city and the state. Traffic incidents have risen over the past few years.

    "Ultimately, the pandemic seems to have produced an environment in a lot of American cities, including Seattle, where pedestrians and people outside of cars are at high risk," Packer said, pointing to high speeds, reckless driving, and driving under the influence as common problems.

    From Packer's perspective, Seattle needs to steer away from "decades old line of thinking that prioritizes people getting from A-to-B and not the people who live in between and the people trying to get around who are not in cars." That's means "reallocating the vast amount of space that we have in our city away from cars."

    Check out Seattle Now's conversation with Packer here. Also, check out Seattle Now's previous conversation about the dangers surrounding Seattle's Rainier Avenue.

    Continue reading »
  • Surge of federal funding targets 'alarming trend' on Washington state roads

    KUOW Blog
    seattle traffic commute commuter
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    Credit: Jimmy Woo / Unsplash

    Washington's roadways are the target of fresh federal funding, following a rise in unsafe driving and traffic fatalities in the state.

    “There were 745 fatalities on roads in the state of Washington in 2022, the most in more than 30 years,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said in a statement. “We must reverse this alarming trend."

    Sen. Cantwell is chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. One of her recent efforts has been a federal grant program called "Safe Streets for All." The program aims to address a recent increase in traffic fatalities in Washington state. The result is nearly $9.2 million in grants for Washington communities from the Department of Transportation.

    RELATED: Roadway carnage has lawmakers pitching everything from more photo radar to fewer right turns on red

    "I created the Safe Streets for All grant program which will provide 16 Washington cities and counties with this timely federal funding to improve transportation safety planning and build infrastructure that will save lives," Cantwell said.

    The 16 Washington cities, counties, councils, and other agencies include:

    • City of Ellensburg: $160,000
    • City of Lacey: $68,000
    • City of Montesano: $200,000
    • City of Toppenish: $80,000
    • Grant County: $280,000
    • King County: $800,000
    • Kittitas County: $429,504
    • Thurston County: $264,000
    • Walla Walla County: $201,696
    • Whatcom Council of Governments: $200,000
    • Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments: $200,000
    • Island Regional Planning Organization: $403,200
    • Northeast Washington Regional Transportation Planning Organization: $352,000
    • Puget Sound Regional Council: $4,860,363
    • Spokane Regional Transportation Council: $400,000
    • Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council: $300,000

    The grant funds are part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Cantwell's office says is funneling $7.6 billion into Washington state for transportation investments. So far, it has funded about 500 transportation projects in the state.

    Seattle gets $25.7 million

    Safe Streets for All is also delivering $25,654,000 to the city of Seattle, which is specifically targeted at the city's SoDo neighborhood. The aim is to make streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists in SoDo.

    Cantwell said the money "will help improve 117 intersections where 60% of the fatal and serious pedestrian collisions occur, create 1.4 miles of new sidewalks, and four miles of protected bike lanes" in SoDo.

    Continue reading »
  • Robot joins the ranks at Spokane hospital

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Moxi the robot
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    Moxi the robot
    Credit: Photo courtesy of Diligent Robotics

    Hospitals across Washington state continue to struggle with staffing levels, and some are getting creative with potential ways to lighten the load for nurses.

    A Spokane hospital has welcomed a robot named Moxi to its care team.

    It's about 4 feet tall, it moves around the hospital on its own, and its main purpose is to help give nurses more time for patient care.

    "Our nurses were spending, on average, 70 minutes out of a 12-hour shift moving equipment from here to there, getting supplies, taking specimens somewhere,” said June Altaras, executive vice president and chief quality, safety, and nursing officer for MultiCare Health Systems.

    “A human being doesn't need to do that,” she said.

    MultiCare Deaconess Hospital in Spokane is the first in the state to try out this specific bot.

    They’ve got four Moxi robots that they’ll use on a trial basis for three months, before they decide whether to roll out more at other locations in the state.

    Moxi does no patient care but can run errands like taking samples to the lab, getting equipment, or delivering medication to providers.

    Equipped with a pincer arm, the robot can press elevator buttons, pick things up, and carry items in its drawers.

    Continue reading »
  • NW Wizards forced into a saving throw: Today So far

    KUOW Blog
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    Perhaps it emerged from a forest of middle-management cubicles, or worse, the bowels of C-suite offices. Nobody knows for sure. What is known is that someone at Wizards of the Coast summoned nefarious warlocks who speak legalese and practice the dark arts of corporate law. Dabbling with such forces is dangerous, which is what this Washington company just learned as its fans revolted.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for January 30, 2023.

    Whether or not you play "Dungeons & Dragons," this is a lesson for anyone relying on a fanbase, or merely a customer base — know your product and know your customer. Or if you just want to know why your geeky loved one has been so irate in recent weeks, read on.

    "It's a lot of corporate stupidity," said Woody Arnold, an indie comic book publisher and game creator. "The problem they are faced with is they have destroyed the foundation on which their brand was built."

    Recent drama surrounding D&D has put indie creators like Arnold in a tough spot, and has prompted fans to pack up everything into their bags of holding and march away, despite the company's attempts to smooth things over.

    Wizards of the Coast is based in Renton and produces highly popular games, such as "Dungeons & Dragons" and "Magic: The Gathering." These are social, fantasy based games that have had an immense impact on pop culture. But Wizards is now backtracking and nursing some wounds after a campaign of drama surrounding D&D. The game has had an "open gaming license" (OGL) since 2000. That means fans could take its rules and lore and make their own games and products. Large companies have risen since then, using this OGL. But fans were recently spurred to rebel against the Wizards after a corporate document was leaked. It indicated that Wizards was considering changing its gaming license. The "open" part of it was threatened.

    "It's one of those things where people are essentially being told by a giant corporation what they can do with their imaginations; after 23 years of Dungeons and Dragons saying, 'Do what you want,' and now 'Maybe not everything you want,'" Linda Codega told KUOW's Soundside.

    Third-party publishers using D&D as a foundation for their own games became worried. Could Wizards come for royalties, no matter how large or small they are? Would Wizards attempt to take control of fan-created content? A rebellion formed across the landscape of D&D. Codega notes that there was a mass unsubscribe movement targeting Dungeons & Dragons Beyond, the game's paid online extension.

    "Wizards of the Coast paid attention because the reaction was so swift and so great," Codega said. "If those subscriptions don't come back, it will have a marked impact on their bottom line at the end of the year."

    In short, Wizards rolled a 1. That's what the company said when it issued a sort of saving throw apology. Wizards has since stated that it's placing its core aspects in the creative commons for anyone to use. A statement from the company added that it never considered concerns that emerged among fans (it eventually did a fan survey), such as threatening fan-created games. Rather, it says it was attempting to find ways to prevent D&D from being used and published in hateful or discriminatory products. It also wanted to address how the game will exist in online formats, and make a distinction between small creators and large companies.

    One such creator is Arnold. After publishing his indie comic "Cybersymbiosis" for years, he decided to expand it into a role-playing game. This got rolled into a Kickstarter that aimed to compile the first editions of his cyber punk comic into a graphic novel, while also producing a few extras, like the game. The plan was to fund the project and have it ready for Emerald City Comic Con in March. The Kickstarter was successful. He was fully funded, which meant he had work to do. But then news of the OGL dropped.

    "I have spent the last three years playtesting and developing this game," Arnold said. Playtesting is the process of playing a game, testing it, and making adjustments until it is ready. "I was getting ready to send this to the printer. I was going to have books at Emerald City Comic Con."

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