10 February 2008

Washington Caucus

This is a major election year, perhaps the most important in our voting lifetimes. We've always made an effort to participate in the election system, and this was our year to experience our first Washington Caucus.

I didn't know much about how a caucus works, so let me briefly explain. The WA caucus this year was scheduled for 1-3pm on February 9th. To participate in the caucus, voters must show up at the site designated for their party affiliation; in our case, our Democratic precinct caucus location was at a local county building. Once at the site, the voters divide into groups by district. Voters in each district then cast a paper ballot for their candidate of choice. The votes are then tallied and announced, and an opportunity is given for one person to speak on behalf of each candidate. Once the speakers have finished, all voters are given a chance to change their vote, the votes are recounted and the "winners" for that district are announced. Since the Democratic caucus awards delegates proportional to the votes (rather than "winner take all"), the voters for each candidate who received delegates then convene to choose delegate representatives (and alternates) to go to the next phase of the caucus, the county caucus where county-wide delegates are then awarded using a similar mechanism. The Washingon State Democrats Caucus Information site has a much more complete description of the process, including an instructional video.

In my view, the caucus process is something that was probably a good idea 100+ years ago when it was harder to coordinate and implement a statewide balloting system. But today the caucus is a bit confusing and intimidating, and ends up disenfranchising a number of groups. Our Trout Lake district had what is considered a good turnout: for a town with a population of 900 and a generally high level of community participation, our caucus participation was around 50 people. Granted not everyone in Trout Lake is a Democrat, but even using a conservative estimate of 50% that is only ~10% turnout; other districts were much lower. Additionally, we noticed no Hispanics at the caucus even though the population in this area is substantial. Even if you put aside all of that, why couldn't they choose a day and time that isn't smack in the middle of a Saturday?

To make things worse, the Democrats in WA actually have BOTH a primary and a caucus, but only the caucus is used to determine how the delegates are awarded. So while the primary is more accessible and understandable to the public at large, it doesn't have a direct bearing on the election! It's a weird situation which I hope will be resolved and simplified before the next presidential election.

I ended up getting selected to be an alternate delegate for our district, so it's possible I'll be going to one of the follow-on events.

- Mike (& Corinne)

06 February 2008

We Picked the Wrong Year

Looks like we picked the wrong winter to start plowing our own driveway. We've just had heavy snow warning after heavy snow warning. We've lost count of how much snow has fallen, but in one 8 day period we received 42". Klickitat County (and several other WA counties) has been declared a state of emergency as a result of all of the snow.

On the other hand, maybe we did pick the right year to start. The person who we hired to plow our driveway the past two years worked his pickup so hard pushing snow that he split the frame. He's a woodworker and furniture maker by trade, only doing plowing as a side thing, so he's decided it's not worth doing it anymore. As a result of a number of requests, our neighbor then reluctantly agreed to take over some of the plowing work. After billing a few thousand in plows, he blew the clutch on his tractor (as he told us, "there go the profits".) So now he's not doing it either. When we last heard, a few operators from Trout Lake Farm were planning to take over the work.

Our driveway may not be the prettiest, and it did require 4-wheel or all-wheel drive to get in and out, but we haven't broken anything and there was only a little over a week where we decided to just park at the end of the driveway rather than risk getting stuck. When you factor in all of the money we saved on plows, maybe we're not doing so badly after all!

- Mike (& Corinne)

04 February 2008

Taryn & Mazzi Visit

In early February Taryn came for a weekend visit, bringing her standard poodle Mazzi with her. Having nothing in particular on the agenda, we filled our days with walks in the snow and delicious food (of course). Snowfall levels were very high with snow continuing to fall, so we had some pretty interesting excursions around the property.

Our first walk was down the street to the neighbors for some farm eggs. With fresh snow all over the roads, virtually no cars, and Mazzi along, the walk turned into a game of kickball/fetch in the road. We did stop occasionally to look at some of the local 'wildlife'.


We also used this opportunity to take our first walk through our woods in quite some time and were very surprised at the snow conditions. Some of the more exposed trees had up to 5' tree wells surrounding them! Inside the stands the snow had accumulated in a series of connected tree wells, forming "snow dunes". Walking through snow is tiring, but continually walking over 2' to 3' snow mounds really added to the workout. Thank goodness we had enough snowshoes for all 3 of us. (Mazzi had to get by wearing doggie booties to keep her feet dry.) In the clear areas the height of the snowpack we walked on changed our perspective so much that it was sometimes difficult to recognize where on our property we were. We even walked directly over the top of some of our fences.

The photos don't quite capture the full effect; I did my best to adjust the exposure to compensate for the bright snow.


So, what did Max think of the visiting dog? Surprisingly, he actually ventured partway down the stairs while Mazzi was still here.

But alas, the weekend was over all too soon.

- Mike (& Corinne)