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J425 News: 45 Indictment, Step Inside the Metaverse, Local Train Skips Tracks + a Can't Miss Highlight
We're continuing to beta test our news aggregator post formats ahead of an April release and today we've got two searing national stories + a solid collection of local links for your weekend & beyond
Editor’s Note: As we’ve mentioned before, J425 will be implementing aggregated news update posts sent to subscribers either four or five times weekly starting in April. We’re adopting this practice in order to fill the gap left by the lack of traditional outlets and the lack of quality provided by the options that remain.We’re playing around with the format and tempo. I think our news aggregator products can be of a great help for a couple reasons. First, I’m a lifelong news junkie and professional journalist who spent a near decade-long sidetrip through politics. I read a ton and know where a lot of the good stuff is published. I have a pretty good filter for what’s important and what’s garbage. And I’m willing to risk your ridicule if you disagree. That said, I think I can pick out five to seven important pieces from around the region and send them to you free of political bent, but with a helpful bit of context or reasoning as to why this information will help you better navigate the information environment. That’s the goal and that’s why we’re fiddling around with the format and frequency for these posts moving into the launch of this feature next month. Feedback received on previous test posts indicate that I was providing too many links. I can understand how that’s hardly a help. I’m going to pare down the volume and focus on the quality of the provided information.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m leaning towards the promise I’ve given on my J425 Culture posts: if I’m sending it to you, it’s going to be worth your time. In other words, the following has been vetted and there’s a damn good reason why it’s in your inbox or on our website. It’s my goal to build your trust to the point that you both look forward to a news aggregation post and leave it feeling like you’ve been handed some insider information or, failing that, a different way to think about something of which you were already aware. There’s gotta be a damn good reason why I’m recommending a link to you, or it won’t be included. And I think it’ll also be helpful if I give you a one or two sentence pitch on the relevance or reason behind the inclusion of the link.
So going forward, I think I’ll curate the most important links of the day up top and start each item with a note from J425 explaining why the item is important, followed by an excerpt for you to preview before you decide whether to jump into the provided link. The top stories will be followed by the next three or four links with shorter descriptions, followed at the end by a few multimedia/amusing links at the bottom. Items will be rank ordered by importance so you can just kinda check out if you find yourself not necessarily intrigued by the material.
With that said, I’m going to do things a bit differently on this post as we’re still experimenting and I hardly think it qualifies as a quick-hitting news aggregation piece if it starts out with a 400 word Editors note. So we’ll just call this a one off. But I’m gonna give you some straight dope here so hold on a minute.
Today, I’m going to give you two extremely highly recommended general interest stories that I know will leave you thinking about things differently. Following those, I’ve got one key local news story from the Times, then four or five items from the City that have piled up in the inbox… as well as a cool video highlight from the LSHS boys soccer game last night that you really won’t want to miss. My future news aggregator posts (snazzy title on the way by April) won’t begin with a long discussion like this, but I just figured it was past time to explain some of the reasoning behind the adoption of this format (these news posts are not in place of anything, I’m simply adding this new feature to the usual stuff. In short, we’re picking up the pace next month and giving you more for the time and support you’ve given J425.)
With that said, let’s get to our recs.
1. EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes of Trump grand jury
Jurors hear third leaked call, discuss findings
J425 notes: The AJC’s unprecedented reporting on this subject is providing us with an early glimpse into what is likely to be the biggest news story of the year: the indictment of the 45th President. (EDIT: 9:21 am…starting to look like the financial crisis is going to be a bigger story than pretty much anything else including a possible state attempt to jail a former president/current presidential candidate. I’m sure that will work out well.) Read this reporting for yourself, but after taking a look at this story, it’s pretty clear that the ship has sailed in Atlanta and an indictment for 45 cannot be far off. But give it a read and share your thoughts if you like. Regardless, by reading this story you’ll be several steps ahead of those who get their info from cable news.
In an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, five of the 23 special grand jurors recounted what it was like to be a pivotal — but anonymous — part of one of the most momentous criminal investigations in U.S. history; one which could lead to indictments of former President Donald Trump and his allies.
“One of the most important things we’ll be a part of in our life was this eight month process that we did,” one juror told the AJC. It was “incredibly important to get it right.”
Over two hours, in a windowless conference room, the jurors shared never-before-heard details about their experiences serving on the panel, which met in private, often three times a week.
They described a process that was by turns fascinating, tedious and emotionally wrenching. One juror said she would cry in her car at the end of the day after hearing from witnesses whose lives had been upended by disinformation and claims of election fraud.
2. Who Is Still Inside the Metaverse?
Searching for friends in Mark Zuckerberg’s deserted fantasyland.
J425 Notes: This part hilarious part darkly ironic feature story gives us an update on what’s happened to that alternate-reality product on which Mark Zuckerberg bet the future of his company on. Remember why Facebook changed its name to Meta? Yeah, this is why. And since Zuck told us we’d all be living inside this thing by the end of the decade, it’s probably smart that we keep tabs on it. And that’s exactly what this story does. Check it out. I bet you’ll be hooked by the excerpt I picked for you…
The Party House itself is a square purple building, surprisingly blocky and primitive, as if it were made out of cyber-Duplos. Most worlds look like this, in fact; the dominant architectural style throughout the app, whether you’re in Hipster Café or Winter Wonderland, is what you might call “early Minecraft.”
There’s a rectangular blue pool you can “get into,” though this isn’t especially rewarding, and a terrace with a DJ playing house music. The top halves of people wander about (People in the Metaverse don’t have legs. It’s explained in the story. - kev).
A man in a fedora bobs by, his username, Nutsacksandwich, floating over his head.
“Hi,” I say.
“He said he wanted to eat my penis,” Nutsacksandwich says to me in a high-pitched child’s voice.
This is my first conversation in the metaverse.
3. Seattle Times: Burlington Northern Derailment Dumps Diesel in Skagit
J425 Note: The PNW is the latest location for a high-profile derailment as a BNSF accident hit the national news. But with NTSB stats pointing out that, on average, we see multiple derailments per day across the country…what exactly are we to make from this info? Other than the obvious takeaway that train infrastructure is just another part of the national infrastructure that is aging poorly as monies that other countries typically reinvest in internal improvements continue to get diverted in order to fund the never ending array of foreign conflicts that the US seems to remain perma-engaged1.
“This stuff happens every single day … This is kind of heightened because of the Ohio derailment and that’s what’s on everybody’s mind,” said Ty Keltner, an Ecology spokesperson, referencing last month’s derailment of the Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials in East Palestine, Ohio. READ MORE HERE.
Spotlight on Spring Sports
Check out J425 video of the incredible pitch-long run followed by a Match of the Day-worthy goal from the 2025 Biking soccer standout Elijah Manansala — above.
After a frigid start to the unforgiving (weather-wise) Spring Sports season, athletes are beginning official competition in the school year’s final season of competition. The Lake Stevens Vikings were team state champs in track and field last season and J425 will be at the Viks’ home opener tomorrow.
Baseball and softball are in action as are boys and girls golf. We hope to attend all of these sports and bring you some of the best action.
Last night we hit the boys soccer home opener. The Vikings made quick work of Ferndale 6-0. Three Vikings had a brace each (two goals): Senior forwards Macray Flanders, Lucas Joehnk and Sophomore midfielder Elijah Manansala.
Lake Stevens Civic News
Farmers Market Back in June 7
Great event returns…with inexplicable early closing date intact
From a City release:
The Lake Stevens Farmers Market returns to North Cove Park Wednesdays from June 7 - August 30 (no market on July 26), 3 - 7 pm. The Lake Stevens Farmers Market will return for the 2023 summer season. More details coming soon…
The market was certainly a hit during the pandemic, I remember how nice it felt to get outside on a sunny day at North Cove park and stroll around while kids played on the grass and vendors sold local, natural products.
The market is a great way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. However we are once again puzzled about the dates.
We’ve received considerable reader feedback on the early stoppage of the market – and we agree, and passed on the complaints last year.
Shutting a farmers market down before Labor Day is just … highly unusual.
Farmers markets are typically best at end of summer/early fall. That’s when the crops come in around here anyway. And shouldn’t one be able to shop for pumpkins and corn at the market? That’s certainly how it usually is.
J425 spoke to multiple vendors about the early stoppage of the market and each one said they wished they could continue through a more typical market schedule.
J425 will follow up with the City and find out what is stopping the City from letting residents enjoy September and October summer afternoons at North Cove.
Eagle Ridge Community Garden Plots Open
With daylight saving upon us and a high in the sixties forecast for today through the weekend, gardeners will likely be returning outside for the first time this year. And for those of you without the space you need to partake in one of the most rewarding outdoor hobbies around…look no further than Eagle Ridge Community Park, adjacent to the Senior Center near Soper Hill.
The community garden features a bevy of excellent raised beds that are there for the tilling. In case you’re unfamiliar with the idea, basically you can sign up for your own gardening space within the community garden, where you can come and garden to your heart’s content, in an area surrounded by other local gardeners who are doing likewise. It’s really a great idea, and J425 used a community garden in Los Gatos, CA when space was at a premium. It’s a great experience and you’re encouraged to check it out.
Here’s the link for info and sign-ups.
Decyphering the City’s Cryptic News Flashes
Sometimes the news releases I get texted by the City are a bit bewildering. Nonetheless, as we move towards the implementation of 4x per week J425 news update posts, we plan on running whatever the City puts out. We figure you can decide what’s useful.
But just for fun, here are the last two news items received through the City’s News Flash update system.
Festival Street Restroom/Concession Building Bid Tabulation
Yesterday, at 10:34 am I received a text from the City that stated “Festival Street Restroom/Concession Building Bid Tabulation” with a hyperlink for info.
This sounded interesting to me. A new concession building? Where? For Aquafest? Consider me interested.
So I followed the link, thinking this might make an interesting news item. The link took me to a City website that simply said “Festival Street Restroom/ Concession Building Bid” and informed me that the status was “open”.
Aside from that, there was a button that said “more documents”. That’s it. I guess the info they want us to read is in the “more documents”. But more documents took me to a data entry field.
The City wanted my name, two email addresses and a phone number in order to view this info that they’d sent to me (us) to read. Fine, I’m trying to get the info out to you guys, I’ll give them my emails and phone numbers that they already have.
Upon receipt of my info, I was given access to this trove of information:
That’s it. Nothing else. And yes the lettering errors are on the document as received.
What does this mean? Is this info even supposed to be public? I mean, if the bidding for this concession building is still open (it is, according to the info provided on the link we were sent that said “Bidding: open”)...then don’t you think the next bidder is going to want to beat Langsholt Contracting’s $472,099.49 and Moon Construction Company’s $344,224.00?
I’m thinking so.
And in an attempt to figure out what the hell these companies are bidding on and why the City would put this cryptic information on its News Flash list, I went to the City website and searched “festival concession building” and quickly found links for a multi-page project description that looked to provide all the info we’d need to figure out.
Here’s the description provided:
The City of Lake Stevens is seeking bids from a qualified contractor to: Remove dedicated concrete panel and construct a 15’x25’ concessions/restroom building at the Lake Stevens festival street location. This project will be bid as a Small Public Works Contract not to exceed $350,000.00, any bids exceeding $350,000.00 will not be considered. Bids must be received by the City by 10:00 AM on March 14th, 2023 at City Hall located at 1812 Main Street, PO Box 257, Lake Stevens, WA 98258. Bids received after the deadline will not be considered.
Hmm. Welp. I gotta think that Langholt didn’t read those rules too closely. Anyway. At least after a whole bunch more digging than should be required of a citizen opening a new link sent by the City, I think we’ve figured out that Moon Construction is the leader in the clubhouse for whatever this building is. Let’s move on to the next adventure in City news flash releases.
Lake Stevens Health & Wellness Festival
I’ll just direct quote the entire body of this news release. Then we can try to figure it out together, pretending we are just Joe Sixpack opening up this news release we’ve just been texted.
Lake Stevens Health & Wellness Festival
June 25, 2023 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Come join the fun at the Lake Stevens Health & Wellness Festival this year on Sunday, June 25th from 10 am - 4 pm at North Cove Park. All the events will be free this year and a free festival T-shirt will be given to the first 100 visitors to the information booth.
Okay, there you have it. Nothing about what this health and wellness festival represents or offers, no info on why we’d want to go or what’s happened in the past. Just a save the date for something happening pretty far off in the future. First 100 get a shirt though. So there’s that. Hell, I’m in.
Listen, to be fair I’m definitely glad the City is sending information out. I’ve given Mayor Gailey a good-natured bit of ribbing about the City’s public relations and communication strategy because this type of stuff just perplexes me. Why would such unpolished/unexplained/context free items be shipped off to a city full of residents who are going to click the link while pushing a cart at Safeway…and in the case of the Concession bid item, be rewarded for their interest by getting routed to a data input field that wants two email addresses, a name and a phone number just so the citizen can look at a database that they were prompted to open by a City release. I’m guessing 98 out of 100 people put their phone down in disgust at this point. So what’s the point of any of it?
Working in politics for elected officials as I did for nearly a decade, my bosses taught me that every single bit of info that is sent out to constituents needs to be treated as a valuable opportunity that can either sway an opinion or cause someone to tune out altogether – sometimes for eternity – if you don’t make the most of the opportunity. That’s why I’m always wondering what exactly is the thinking behind items like these last two. Oh well. Maybe this can be our little weekly humorous item. Or maybe this good-natured prodding will get the City to adopt a streamlined press release strategy that makes it clear to constituents and media what the purpose of the communication is and what information/action we are expected to partake in after receipt of the info.
City: Take Our Climate Mitigation Survey
The City has a survey asking residents to chime in on climate mitigation steps the City is considering in order to offset local climate impact. You can check out the survey here and find more info on the workshop here.