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A Tale Of Two Lunches (Il Corvo/Lecosho)

Il Corvo in Pioneer Square.

Il Corvo in Pioneer Square.

Recently I had two lunch dates in one week: one to welcome a new arrival to the Emerald City, and the second to say goodbye. Since I’m a brown-bagger most days I was thrilled when they were both willing to come into my neck of the woods for lunch and let me pick the restaurants.

The farewell lunch was with a former colleague who is heading off to Tanzania (can you see me turning green with envy?) for at least a year and maybe forever. We met at Il Corvo, which I’d been dying to go to ever since it moved from the Pike Place Market hill climb to just a couple of blocks away from my office. For some reason I had yet to make it; maybe because it takes a little effort to get there early if you don’t want to wait outside in a long line in the rain. Il Corvo, which means “the crow,” is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm. Three pasta dishes are offered daily based on the season and the chef’s whim, and when they run out you have to go somewhere else. It’s a tiny place and we were lucky to get a table at 11:30am, as just a few minutes later the line was out the door and up the street.

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Birthday Eats (Joule/PiDGin)

Milk chocolate mousse with sesame and miso caramel.

Milk chocolate mousse with sesame and miso caramel.

On my birthday I can typically go one of two ways: either I want to spend it being completely low key with takeout from my favorite local gyro joint, or I want to use the occasion to try a reportedly fabulous and new (at least to me) restaurant. This year, it was the latter with a long overdue visit to Joule, run by husband and wife team Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, who cook modern Korean cuisine in a gorgeous and bright space in Wallingford. Joule’s been around since 2007 but moved to their current locale in 2012, when they also changed up their menu. They say change is good, and it holds true here because Joule made Bon Appetit’s Top 10 new restaurants in America this past year.

We had reservations at the slick white marble chef’s counter, and as soon as we were seated we started to peruse the cocktail menu. It was a beautiful evening with light streaming in through the glass storefront, and the Patti McGee drink sounded like the perfect potion to start things off with. It was a lovely concoction of pink peppercorn vodka, shiso, rhubarb and lemon – light and refreshing with a slightly spicy, earthy twist. I’m not completely sure how the ingredients of the cocktail fit in, but Patti McGee was the 1965 Woman’s First National Skateboard Champion, just in case you were wondering. Craig went in the opposite direction with his choice of Coughlin’s 3rd Law. This is a reference from the movie Cocktail, a film I’ve never seen so I’ve yet to figure out what the 3rd law is, but it proved to be a luxurious elixir of scotch, cynar, maraschino, and grapefruit bitters.

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Remembering Hansa

Remembering Hansa on the seventh anniversary of her death.

Remembering Hansa on the seventh anniversary of her death.

On Saturday, June 7th, several dozen supporters of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants gathered at the Zoo’s west entrance under the mid-morning sun of a beautiful spring day to hold a silent vigil in memory of the seventh anniversary of the death of baby elephant Hansa. Hansa died from EEHV, having been passed the herpes virus from her mother, Chai, who herself was exposed to EEHV while at Dickerson Park Zoo. Woodland Park Zoo was well aware of the danger of Chai contracting EEHV from Dickerson when they sent her there to be bred, but decided that the possibility of Chai coming back pregnant and the subsequent gate receipts an elephant calf would bring far outweighed any potential health risks.

Former Woodland Park Zoo Director David Hancocks’ summed up Hansa’s life, some of the abuse she endured, and the reason behind her breeding in a June 2007 article for the Seattle Post Intelligencer following the calf’s death: Hansa’s Short Life One of Deprivation.

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Profiles – Alyne Fortgang + Nancy Pennington

It’s gotten to the point where the Zoo can no longer ignore the science of elephants, and they can’t ignore public opinion. And at this point, they can no longer ignore the media. The time has come for the Zoo to finally take care of the problem and let the elephants go.

-Alyne Fortgang

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants co-founders, Alyne Fortgang + Nancy Pennington (and Dougal + Jimmy)

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants co-founders, Alyne Fortgang + Nancy Pennington (and Dougal + Jimmy)

If Woodland Park Zoo is to be believed, Alyne Fortgang and Nancy Pennington, the two polite women seated opposite me and the co-founders behind Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, are “extremists” bent on undoing all the good the Zoo has created by insisting the occupants of its elephant exhibit be moved to one of two sanctuaries to allow them to live out the rest of their days in a space and climate more suitable to their species’ status as Earth’s largest land animal.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. Nancy did repeatedly insist I have some banana bread during our interview, also offering me almond milk for my coffee as Dougal and Jimmy, her two very intimidating canine man-eaters, sat on her lap eyeing me menacingly the entire time. And Alyne, Nancy’s pachyderm partner in crime, did gesticulate passionately while describing where the Zoo has failed Watoto, Bamboo, and Chai, and where zoos in general are failing elephants. I can only imagine these two ladies, average age in their mid-sixties, clad in black balaclavas with crowbars in hand doing whatever it is “extremists” like them do under the cover of darkness and disguise.

Like many of Woodland Park Zoo’s other assessments, they miss the mark completely.

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Profiles – Barb Hautanen

As a child, I would spin my globe with my eyes shut, then I’d touch it to stop the spinning, open my eyes and wherever my finger landed I said to myself that I would go there.

-Barb Hautanen

Ahangama, Sri Lanka at Animal SOS, a dog and cat shelter. (Photo courtesy Barb Hautanen.)

Ahangama, Sri Lanka at Animal SOS, a dog and cat shelter. (Photo courtesy Barb Hautanen.)

Craig and I had just returned from our first global volunteering experience in Zimbabwe and we were so head over heels that it felt like our hearts had literally been ripped out of our chests as we reluctantly re-engaged with our “real” lives. To this day, we’re pretty sure our hearts are still being held hostage in Africa and patiently waiting for our return. That experience was the beginning of a life-changing passion for us and we were eager to meet others who had also traveled to global destinations and volunteered with animals, either working to conserve endangered species or helping with rescued animals in sanctuary. We had questions and concerns, dreams and ideas. But what we didn’t have were resources for first-hand knowledge beyond those we met during our time in Africa, most of whom didn’t have any more experience than we did.

Cut to a year or so later when I first heard about Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. As I started to do my research I posed a question to some of the volunteer friends we had made asking if anyone knew about ENP, and a friend of a virtual friend suggested I get acquainted with Barb Hautanen. Living in the U.S., Barb was an experienced world traveler and global volunteer and she was, literally, at ENP at the time of my inquiry. I contacted her immediately, and ever since she has been kind enough to allow me to pester her on several occasions to glean some of her sage advice.

Since that initial introduction I’ve followed tales of Barb’s adventures as she’s traveled to destinations such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Romania, to name just a few. Barb has been able to consistently incorporate travel and volunteering into her life and I’ve been eager to learn her secrets, ask some questions, and discover what makes her tick.

I’ve never met Barb in person, but one day I will I hope to. When I do, I’m pretty sure it will not be in North Dakota or Washington State, where we each live, but in a sunny, warm climate with an ocean breeze, sights to see, and animals in need. Barb has volunteered with more organizations and in more locations than anyone else I’ve ever met and she has become a source of inspiration for me. I’m thrilled to give her the opportunity to share her story so she can inspire others as well with her wealth of experience, passion and energetic attitude.

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Skagit Tulip Festival

Skagit Tulip Festival

Skagit Tulip Festival

At 1pm on a sunny Sunday in mid-April all three northbound lanes of Interstate 5 are backed up a full ten miles south of exit 226 outside Mount Vernon, Washington. Thousands of cars are trying to make their way onto Kincaid Street and out west into the rich fields of Skagit Valley to see the tulips in bloom. Thankfully – very thankfully – we are heading south on the freeway past the backup, having arrived much earlier in the morning to roam the rows of flowers. Every April for over thirty years now the Skagit Tulip Festival has attracted visitors from around the world.

Most of the flowering fields are owned by RoozenGaarde, the largest bulb grower on the continent, and estimates put attendance during the four official weeks of the festival at around a million people. Judging by the crowds that turned out on this particular day, it’s a believable number. Despite the massive turnout and the inevitable few who ended up walking deep into rows of flowers, onto adjoining private property where they shouldn’t be, or repeatedly trampling over the corpse of at least one dead bird, it was a beautiful day day to be out among millions of tulips blooming in a dazzling array of colors and nothing could take away from our enjoyment of the springtime splendor.

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SAAS STREAM

Artist's rendition of the SAAS STREAM building. (Photo copyright The MillerHull Partnership.)

Artist’s rendition of the SAAS STREAM building. (Photo copyright The MillerHull Partnership.)

We’ve all heard about STEM education by now – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – and the importance of today’s students pursuing and excelling in these subjects in order to be leaders in the local and global economies of tomorrow. In the coming decades, more and more jobs will require these areas of expertise and more teachers of these subjects will be needed to ensure the knowledge continues to expand to future generations. And yet today, only sixteen percent of American high school seniors are proficient or have an interest in STEM careers. How, then, do we prove to students that STEM subjects are interesting, important to their future, and that they shouldn’t be intimidating?

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Profiles – David Ridgen

I like ideas. What they can do. Anytime an idea grows into something that makes a tangible progressive impact, even if only on an individual basis, it makes me proud. From abstraction to completion. As a filmmaker, the proudest moment is when the idea leads to something that has a life of its own, that will continue after you die.

-David Ridgen

David Ridgen wins 2007 Gemini for Best Director of a Documentary Program for "Mississippi Cold Case." (Photo courtesy of Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television ©2007)

David Ridgen wins 2007 Gemini for Best Director of a Documentary Program for “Mississippi Cold Case.” (Photo courtesy of Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television ©2007)

He’s an award-winning filmmaker whose documentary work has taken him to, among numerous other places, the Middle East to follow his subjects, into the Deep South to investigate Ku Klux Klan members and their involvement in decades-old racial killings, and to the outskirts of Ontario to confront suspected child murderers. His investigative work has resulted in cold-cases being reopened and murderers being convicted, and at one point put him down the road for what many thought would be a well-deserved Oscar nomination.

But when I first met David Ridgen he wasn’t chasing murderers in search of justice, he was sticking his camera into a truck full of watermelons that several of us volunteers were emptying out at an elephant sanctuary in Northern Thailand and generally getting himself in the way. A bit of posturing and a few grunts between us and I still wasn’t sure what he was up to – unless it was work on a sequel to one of the all-time great watermelon films – but over the course of the next several days we warmed to each other and spent a fair amount of time discussing conservation, motivation and, of course, gear fetishism. That is, when he wasn’t insisting that I randomly shovel dirt into a wheelbarrow for his camera as some means of replicating the wholly inaccurate notion that shoveling elephant poo is romantic. It’s not. Elephants, however, very much are.

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Woodland Park Zoo Announces Elephant Exhibit Expansion Because “Conservation”

On March 28th, Woodland Park Zoo finally announced its long anticipated “strategic vision” for the zoo’s aging elephant exhibit. The five-year plan, based in part on feedback the zoo received from the hand-picked task force it convened last year on the heels of growing public pressure from a series The Seattle Times published on elephants in captivity, would see the zoo transfer its one female African elephant, Watoto, to another facility and bring in a third and possibly fourth Asian elephant to complement their remaining two Asian elephants, Bamboo and Chai, presumably in the hopes of restarting their elephant breeding program. The zoo would also commit between $1.5 to $3 million “to strengthen the Asian elephant program at the zoo, as well as play a key role in multiple elephant conservation arenas.”

While the details of the announcement were unsurprising, the news was still unwelcome by those who’ve been petitioning the zoo and the City of Seattle to close its elephant exhibit and retire the elephants in it to a sanctuary, and it goes against a growing body of evidence that says the earth’s largest terrestrial mammal – extremely intelligent, shown to be self-aware, and who by nature would live out their normal lives in tightly bonded matriarchal herds – fare poorly in confinement. Woodland Park Zoo’s decision to expand its elephant exhibit also contradicts a growing trend among other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Twenty-seven other zoos have already shuttered their elephant exhibits, or have plans to do so.

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