After having worked for companies and corporations for thirty-plus years now, I can say that the biggest reason why they fail is due to incompetence. Or, to put it another way, people are idiots.
NOTE: No pics yet, as I'm trying to reacquaint myself with blogging, and my digital camera literally has dust on it. I could use my smart phone to take a picture. But I still work (incorrectly) under the assumption that pictures from a smart phone are for suckers.
We at Casa de Hopkins have taken up a challenge that involves creating the best sandwich using ingredients culled from local supermarkets. The reason? Well, two reasons, really:
- We like sandwiches, as they make for an easy dinner project.
- There is a novelty to finding out what works for us. In essence, we're using a loose version of the scientific method to creating the best sandwich. We critique each meal we create, and try to find each one's weakness and strength. This amuses both of us to no end.
What we've learned thus far?
- The bread used is critical. That may sound obvious at first, but even when you start playing around with using baguettes, ciabattas, or other similar "artisinal"-type breads, there are still winners and losers. But mostly we've learned that sliced bread is not the place to start. Our favorite thus far? Pretzel rolls.
- Meat by itself is not enough for a great sandwich. Not even if you add bacon or some version of salami.
- Mouth-feel is critical, equal to that of taste.
So far, our top sandwich is a turkey breast with genoa salami and havarti cheese, heated at 500 degrees for 7 minutes, and then served on a non-toasted pretzel roll with lettuce, tomatoes and some sort of dressing. It's good, but not great. I will try to document future sandwiches (along with pics) in the future.
There's a reason for silence. I've long believed that if one has nothing to say, then nothing should be said.
I want to let you know right off of the bat that I am weird. Unlike some, I do not wear this as a badge of honor. Rather, I make the claim to forewarn you, as some of the stuff I will write will be difficult to understand without understanding its context. To explain that context would require reams of expository text as well as a fair bit oftime. These are indulgences that I'd rather not give in to at the moment. So, as a shortcut, anything that you read that you do not understand from this point forward, just chalk it up to , "Well Kate? Kate is weird."
With that in mind, let me open the door to my past just a wee bit. When I was in third grade, so many, many years ago, I believed that a baloney sandwich was the height of adulthood. In my mind, children ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Adults? Adults ate baloney sandwiches.
It was soon afterwards that I amended this theory. Adults ate salami sandwiches. Children ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Baloney? Baloney was dull and uninspired. Especially on white bread.
I state all of this because I am about to begin on a new quest. I am going to explore the world of charcuterie and cold cuts. And this little bit of insight into my my youthful mindset is going to be the foundation of all of this.
See? What did I tell you? I might as well have written toyou that I collect butterflies, or have an extensive beer can collection. Instead, you get a first hand exploration of the deli counter.
If you want to push my buttons, it's to put the topic of food under the 'Lifestyle" category. Food is no more of a lifestyle choice than our biological excretions.
At the very beginning, food is simply a means of gaining nutrition andenergy, and is therefore biological. From that point, it becomes a commodity, bringing it under the 'Economic' umbrella. As we are biologically omnivores, it means that we are not dealing with one commodity, but thousands. The selection of food from those thousands of options rely upon its accessibility, putting it under, at first, the geographical umbrella, and then back to the economic, as we seek different types of food not readily available in our immediate region.
At the macro-level, because one metric of economics is currency, this lends itself to the political. Once you establish the political, it establishes the need for the historical, in order to better understand the context of the current era.
At the micro-level, the economics of food can confer status (i.e. those with more money can afford types of food that those lacking money cannot). It is this that helps drive the cultural. Only at that point does the word 'lifestyle' become applicable.
It gets more complicated at this point, as the word 'lifestyle' can connote intent. But in reality, everyone has their own food 'lifestyle', even if one does not consciously choose one. The act of deliberately choosing a food 'lifestyle' is a privilege conferred by the state of one's finances or associated class status.
Let me be clear, 'privilege' is not something one needs to address, but neither is it undeniable. Today, as of this writing, I have the ability to purchase a ticket to Alinea and a round trip ticket to Chicago, without undue financial burden. That matters to some degree. Or rather, my ability to do that, and the inability for others to do that, matters. That difference shapes our relationship to food.
Is food a 'lifestyle'? But it is so much more than that. By focusing solely on the lifestyle aspect, it does a great disservice to the topic and how food relates to us as individuals, how it relates to our immediate environment, how it relates to the country in which we live, and how it does so to the world at large.
Whenever someone pursues an 'artistic' path, it's easy at first. This is due to being clueless. "Ignorance is bliss", as the old cliche goes, and that lack of knowledge allows most people to approach any artistic pursuit with abandon.
After pursuing said endeavor for a while, some patterns become clear. You learn things - what works, what doesn't - and then you rely upon what works for a period of time.
And then? And then things stop working.
This is where I am at in regards to writing.
It was easy at first. I wrote about myself for a while, on a long-retired blog, and connected with some folks. I moved onto writing about food, on this blog, and connected with even more people. I was able to parlay that into a small book deal with a major publishing house, and that's where things went awry.
The books reached a far smaller audience than this blog did in its heyday. But the standards to which they are judged are rigorous, in ways that blogs are not.
Books are judged by the bottom line. In other words - Did you make the publisher money? This I had little problem with. Books will find an audience, and the major publishing houses ensure that the proper amount of exposure is given. My publisher did fine work in that regard.
Books are also judged in more nebulous ways, and the one that trapped me was that of authenticity.
The punch line here? It's me doing the judging. I am the one who is unhappy with my writing. I am the one who thinks that there has to be a better way to make food history palatable than tying that history to a glorified road trip.
At any rate, here I am, still alive, still trying to figure things out. I know I should up my game. I just don't know what that looks like.
The perception of Seattle’s weather boils down to one word: rain. If you were to talk to anyone who’s not from the area about the Emerald City, that word is brought up a fair bit. The problem is, it’s not an entirely fair assessment of the local climate. The basic understanding of Seattle’s weather comes down to this - Seattle's climate has cool, wet winters and warm, relatively dry summers.
What’s in dispute is when does summer begin and end, and when does winter begin or end. The running joke in the area is that summer doesn’t officially start until July 5th. And winter? Well, winter in Seattle looks quite a bit like autumn on the East Coast. It’s often overcast, dreary, and punctuated by light rain. Where, say, Boston has distinct winter season, with snow and ice ending up on the ground in copious amounts, Seattle rarely sees a snow day or has problems with ice, although they do happen every few years or so. So when the region has a wet autumn, wet winter, and wet spring, it’s easy to say it rains in Seattle all of the time.
The statistics also tell us something else. Over the course of a year, a Seattleite will only see the sun about 23% of the time. There’s some amount of precipitation one-hundred and fifty two days a year. However, Seattle only sees about 34 inches of rain a year, and the airport has reported an average of 37.49 inches of rain. Compare that to Tampa, Florida which receives 46.5 inches per year or New Orleans, which brings in around 62.7 inches of rain a year.
It’s further convoluted by the fact that many areas within driving distance of downtown receives more rain. Bremerton, WA, fifteen miles to the west and across the Puget Sound, gets 56 inches of rain a year, and the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park can get 142 inches per year. Seattle’s reputation for rain is believed to true due to circumstance. It is overcast a lot, the areas around it receive a fair amount of rain, so therefore Seattle must get a lot of rain.
But this isn’t true. Yes, it’s cloudy, and yes it’s wet, but the rain here is more of a mist than downpour. Seattle rarely sees a cloudburst, let alone a thunderstorm. Many residents pay attention to the type of rain, and then react accordingly. If it’s a light rain, many folk will go out without the urge to protect themselves from the weather. The locals can tell the tourists because the tourists bring the umbrellas.
The summer is a different story entirely, and the statistics bear this out.
This is one reason why people love living in Seattle. As dreary and wet the other eight months can be, the summer months are fantastic. It’s not too hot, and the rain is minimal.
** all data above culled from usclimatedata.com and http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov
The Puget Sound, including the Seattle region, are seismically active. This is due to the dozen or so different fault lines in the region. If you’re visiting Seattle, the Seattle Fault is the one most local, but all provide some measure of risk, some greater than others.
The Seattle Fault was first identified in 1965,, but wasn’t classified as an actual, active fault until 1992. It runs east/west. Its eastern most terminus (where it starts/ends) is likely where it intersects with the Rattlesnake Mountain Fault, somewhere around Fall City, about 40 miles to the east. Its western terminus is still unknown for certain, but it is known that the fault line extends beyond the Puget Sound through Bremerton.
As for the specific location of the fault line? Take a look at the location of Interstate 90 from Seattle to Bellevue. The Seattle Fault line parallels that nicely. You’ll also note that the fault intersects through the stadium district, just south of downtown. All of that land there? Much of it is man-made, filler created from the dirt of the Denny Regrade. This is the city of Seattle’s biggest earthquake risk, a fault line that runs underneath a section of land that is likely to liquefy when the big one arrives.
However, the Seattle Fault is not the only fault line in the region. There’s the Tacoma Fault down by, well, the city of Tacoma. To the north, running north-west/south-east is the South Whidbey Island Fault, which also runs into the aforementioned Rattlesnake Mountain Fault. These are but a percentage of the amount of fault lines running in the Puget Sound area. Many, if not all, of these faults are actively seismic to some degree or another. The bulk of the earthquakes in the area occur either in the area between Mount Rainier and Mount Saint Helens, or in the immediate Puget Sound vicinity. The fact that these regions contain a great majority of the State of Washington’s population is a well-known risk.
Why are there so many faults in the region? It would be simple to point out the fact that Seattle, as well as the rest of the Western states in America are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, that stretch of earth that starts many miles south of New Zealand, heads up north through Indonesia and then Japan, turns right north of Korea and the Kamchatka Peninsula, through the Aleutian Islands, and then turns south along the west coast of Canada and the United States, and then continuing south through Costa Rica, Peru, and Chile. But this tells us more of “where” rather than “why”.
One of the theory as to why, harkens back to glaciation and the last major ice age to hit the area. Yes, this would be the same glaciation that helped shaped the Sound as well as the many lakes in the region. The theory is that, if you have an ice sheet that is five times taller than the Space Needle, that amount of weight is bound to do some measure of damage to the tectonic plates.
Speaking of tectonic plates, the third major risk of earthquakes comes from the Juan De Fuca plate as it drives itself east under the Cascadian subduction zone. While technically not in the immediate Seattle vicinity (the Juan de Fuca plate is several dozen miles off of the Pacific coast, well into the Pacific Ocean), the sheer amount of potential energy that the plate can release will have an impact on all of the Puget Sound area to some degree or another. As a point of consideration, many experts believe that the Seattle Fault has the potential to produce a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Any sudden movement in the Cascadia Subduction zone has the potential to release a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. In fact, that area had already demonstrated that level of destruction with the 1700 Cascadia earthquake.
Rank Peak State Elevation
1 Mount McKinley Alaska 20,236 ft./ 6168 m
2 Mount Saint Elias Alaska 18,009 ft./ 5489 m
3 Mount Foraker Alaska 17,400 ft./ 5304 m
4 Mount Bona Alaska 16,550 ft./ 5044 m
5 Mount Blackburn Alaska 16,390 ft./ 4996 m
6 Mount Sanford Alaska 16,237 ft./ 4949 m
7 Mount Fairweather Alaska 15,299 ft./ 4663 m
8 Mount Hubbard Alaska 15,016 ft./ 4577 m
9 Mount Bear Alaska 14,831 ft./ 4520 m
10 Mount Hunter Alaska 14,573 ft./ 4442 m
11 Mount Alverstone Alaska 14,564 ft./ 4439 m
12 Mount Whitney California 14,505 ft./ 4421 m
13 University Peak Alaska 14,470 ft./ 4410 m
14 Mount Elbert Colorado 14,440 ft./ 4401 m
15 Mount Massive Colorado 14,428 ft./ 4398 m
16 Mount Harvard Colorado 14,421 ft./ 4396 m
17 Mount Rainier Washington 14,417 ft./ 4393 m
18 Mount Williamson California 14,379 ft./ 4383 m
19 La Plata Peak Colorado 14,343 ft./ 4372 m
20 Blanca Peak Colorado 14,357 ft./ 4376 m
So if you think that the lakes in the area have been around for a while (they’re roughly 12,000 years old or so, they are mere babes when compared to the Mount Rainier. “The Mountain” as it’s called by some in the area had its start some 840,000 years ago, when its earliest lava flows can be determined. It took 340,000 for those lava flows to form the cone found serves as the foundation for the volcano/mountain we know and love today.
Mt. Rainier is an active stratovolcano, which is a formal way of saying it’s a conical volcano with periodic eruptions from time to time. If you made a volcano for your science fair, chances are you made a model of a stratovolcano. . Other well-known stratovolcanoes include Krakatoa and Vesuvius. For residents, that can be a terrifying observation if they were to give it any in depth thought. However, because Mt. Rainer can currently be considered “at rest”, it’s easy for the locals to ignore the sleeping giant south of Seattle. It’s important to note that “At rest” is just another way of saying that the volcano is currently between eruptions, with the implications of that sentence being intentional. Mt. Rainier will erupt again, someday.
The last noted activity of Mt. Rainier was in December 1894, when local newspapers reported black smoke rising from the mountain’s summit. But whatever activity had occurred on the mountain was minor in nature, and no lava flow was detected. The last lava flow eruption of Mt. Rainier likely occurred 2200 years ago. It’s easy to ignore the threat of Mt. Rainier when it hasn’t been destructive since the heyday of the Roman republic.
The Mountain top most peak has an elevation of 14,417 ft. Geologists believe the mountain was once 16,000 feet but due to mudflows, glaciations and avalanches, its elevation decreased over time. Mount Rainier has 26 major glaciers, and has 35 square miles of permanent snow fields and glaciers. It is the United States' most glaciated mountain.
Mount Rainier's river valleys, forests and meadows were once inhabited by various Native American tribes, long before those of European descent had shown up. . The local tribes included the Muckleshoots, Puyallups, Yakamas, Cowlitz's, and the Nisqually. They referred to the mountain as Tacoma, Talol, Tahoma, Tacobeh, and Pooskaus, depending upon the tribe and era.
George Vancouver gave the volcano the name Mount Rainier in 1792, in honor of his friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. In his journal of his trip to the Pacific Northwest, he states:
"The weather was serene and pleasant, and the country continued to exhibit between us and the eastern snowy range the same luxuriant appearance. At is northern extremity, Mount Baker bore by compass N. 22E.; the round snowy mountain, now forming its southern extremity, and which, after my friend, Rear Admiral Rainier, I distinguish by the name of Mount Rainier, bore N(S) 42 E."
The news got around fairly quickly, as Lewis and Clark's map from their 1804-1806 expedition refers to Mount Rainier as Mt. Regniere. Sure the spelling was off, but the name was recognized. However, throughout the 19th century the mountain was called both Mount Rainier and Mount Tacoma. It wasn’t codified as “Rainier” until 1890, when the United States Board of Geographic Names deemed that it would be named after the British Admiral. As late as 1924, however, a resolution was introduced in the U.S. Congress to call it Tacoma.
The first people documented to have climbed Mount Rainier were Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump, who successfully completed the ascent in 1870. The first female to complete the climb was Fay Fuller, in 1890. American naturalist John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888. He wrote of the climb:
"The view we enjoyed from the summit could hardly be surpassed in sublimity and grandeur; but one feels far from home so high in the sky, so much so that one is inclined to guess that, apart from the acquisition of knowledge and the exhilaration of climbing, more pleasure is to be found at the foot of the mountains than on their tops. Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach, for the lights that shine there illumine all that lies below."
Approximately 13,000 people attempt to climb Mount Rainier each year, and it can take up to two to three days to climb to its summit. Its summits include Liberty Cap, Point Success, and Columbia Crest. From the top of the primary peak one can see a great distance, including Mount Hood, Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens which is around 90 miles away.
Thanks to the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas that help shape the Puget Sound, Seattle ends up situated between two mountain ranges. There’s the Olympic Mountains located on the Olympic Peninsula approximately fifty miles to the west. To the east, also roughly fifty miles away, is the Cascade Range. Within the Cascade Range, located about 80-ish miles to the south east is Mt. Rainier.
Looking from Seattle across the Puget Sound, one can easily see the Olympic Mountain Range. Compared to the height of many of the peaks of the Cascade Range, the Olympics are smaller. The highest peak is Mount Olympus, clocking in at around 7900 feet.
However, what makes the Olympics notable is the fact that the range is part of the Pacific temperate rain-forest ecoregion, noted by the World Wildlife Fund as the largest temperate rain-forest ecoregion on the planet. This region runs from Prince William Sound in Alaska, all the way south through the Pacific Northwest, down to northern California. The forests that this massive, interconnected region contains are larger than any other ecosystem on the planet.
However, to visit the Olympics from Seattle takes some planning, due to the Puget Sound. Either one has to wait in a car to pick up a ferry in order to cross the Sound, or the other option is to drive an hour or so to Tacoma, and cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. From a purely logistical perspective, it is far easier to access the Cascade Range to the east. Due to this, when a Seattle-ite talks about the mountains, they primarily mean the Cascades.
Specifically, the Central Cascades, which have loads of hiking, climbing, and skiing. A quick 30 minute jaunt to Issaquah, WA via Interstate 90 is all that’s needed to get to the foothills of the Cascades.
The Cascade Range is considered part of the Ring of Fire, a region of the planet that contains about 90% of the world’s earthquakes, and contains about 75% of the world’s volcanoes, both active and dormant. It runs from the west coast of Chile, up north through the western coast of South America, then through the west coast of Mexico and the United States, up through the Pacific Northwest and into Canada. Around Alaska, it turns west, and heads over to Russia, before turning south to Japan, and the Philippines. It runs east-west around Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Guinea, before turning south again around Fiji and Samoa. It ends up just east of New Zealand. Or, to put it another way, the Ring of Fire encompasses the border of the Pacific Tectonic Plate. What this means is that Seattle shares similar risks to volcanoes and earthquakes as Japan and even New Zealand.
The mountain range of the Cascades run from northern California, to the Fraser River in British Columbia, which separates the Cascade Range from the Coast Mountains. Included in this range are some of the more well-known mountains in the United States, including Mount Shasta in California, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount St. Helens in southwest Washington, Mount Baker near the Canadian border, and Mount Rainier, about 85 miles south/southeast of Seattle.
At the southern portion of Elliot Bay, beyond the man-made Harbor Island, is the mouth of the Duwamish River is the name of the lower 12 miles of the Green River.
The river has had a history of man-made upheaval and…well…Industrial contamination/poisoning. Until 1906, the White and Green Rivers joined around present-day Auburn, about twenty-eight miles to the south of Seattle, and then joined the Black River near Tukwila to form the Duwamish River. In 1906, after a massive flood, the White River changed course with the result being it emptying into the Puyallup River as it does today. With the confluence now gone, the lower portion of the White River is now simply considered part of the Green River.
In 1911 the Cedar River was diverted to empty into Lake Washington instead of into the Black River, the result of which included less water flowing in to the Duwamish. Finally, in 1916, with the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the lake's level dropped nearly nine feet and the Black River dried up. From that time forward, the point of the name change from Green to Duwamish is no longer the confluence of the Green and Black Rivers, though it has not changed location.
In other words, today the Duwamish River is part of Green River, but it used to be the result of the confluence of several other rivers that have since dried up, or have been diverted elsewhere.
Seattle’s economy used to be primarily driven by manufacturing, and all of the industrial aspects of that in which it entails. While the Seattle of today has a more diversified economy, what with the technology, financial, and bio-genetic companies in the area, manufacturing still exists. This can be seen in the area of south Seattle, including the region bordering the Duwamish River.
The result of over one hundred years of industry in this region has resulted in a heavily polluted river. So much so that the Environmental Protection Agency has labeled the river a Superfund site, the environmental program established to address hazardous waste sites.
These pollutants have affected the local wildlife, including the chinook, coho, chum and steelhead, salmon that inhabit the waterways. Many of the animal species found in or around the river contain an unhealthy amount of contaminants. In a memo from the EPA in 2008, they stated, “any type of fish or shellfish found in the river is unfit for human consumption. It was found that PCB levels in fish and crab that live in the waterway most of their lives are 35 to 110 times higher than in Puget Sound salmon.” Their Ecological Risk Assessment also found that river otters from the Lower Duwamish River might be exposed to such high levels of PCBs that the growth or survival of their offspring may be reduced.
Efforts are underway to clean up the area, with current estimates on completing the project pointing to sometime between 2016 -2020.
Lake Union from Gasworks Park
While Lake Washington is the de facto eastern border of Seattle, and technically outside of the city limits, Lake Union is a part of the Emerald City, as the city has developed around it.
It, like Lake Washington, was formed by the retreating Vashon Glacier, although it is certainly not as deep, and at five-hundred and thirty-eight acres, it is neither as wide nor as long as the lake to the east.
Native Americans of the Duwamish tribe lived on the shores of Lake Union for more than 5,000 years. They called it by two names that compared it with Lake Washington. In Lushootseed (the Duwamish tribe’s primary language), it was XáXucHoo or Ha-AH-Chu (“littlest lake”). In Chinook it was “Tenas Chuck” which means “small water”.
In addition to the lake’s year-round residents, there are also stories of other extended members of the Duwamish tribe coming from the local area to spend their winters in a seasonal camp at the south end of the lake. The coastline of the lake provided wild roses, red currant and squaw berry bushes for the gatherers, as well as deer, elk, bear, and cougar for the hunters.
When pioneers arrived in Seattle in the 1850s, the Duwamish camp was in the southwest corner of the lake, near where Thomas Street and 8th Avenue North meet just north of Denny Park. The native inhabitants remained there, albeit with dwindling numbers, until 1875.
Lake Union also received its present name from Thomas Mercer, who predicted that canals would join Lake Washington to Puget Sound in a "union of water", with Lake Union being the body of water that binds Lake Washington to the Sound.
If you look at Lake Union on a map, it looks sort of like a deformed head of a rabbit, with the canal to the north-west forming its left ear, and the right ear being the water way to Portage Bay. The northern shore of the lake is home to Gas Works Part, and southern end of the lake is called the South Lake Union area. Eastlake and Westlake are the neighborhoods found on each respective shore. The names surrounding the lake are far more underwhelming than the use and impact of the lake upon Seattle’s history.
Lake Washington is the largest lake in King County and the second largest natural lake in the state of Washington. Seattle is found on the Western shore of the lake, Bellevue on the eastern, Kenmore on the Northern, and Renton on the south. Mercer Island sits just off of the western shore, in the southern half of the lake, which you'll barely get to see if you take Interstate 90 from Seattle to Bellevue.
The lake is fed by the Sammamish River at its north end and the Cedar River at its south. However, when we talk about "rivers", don't expect the grandeur of the Mississippi or Alleghany. These are smaller rivers, akin to creeks to those of us imagining the Thames or the Danube when we hear the word 'river'.
Lake Washington is a deep, narrow, glacial trough, created by the Vashon glacier as it receded from the area, roughly 12,000 years or so ago. The lake is 20.6 feet above mean lower low tide in Puget Sound, to which it is connected via Lake Union, the Lake Washington ship canal, and the Chittenden Locks. The canal is the only discharge from Lake Washington via the locks and dam at the western end. The development of the canals, dam, and locks resulted in the lowering of the lake 9 feet to its present level
Lake Washington was named by Thomas Mercer in 1854, when he suggested it be named after George Washington, as the new Washington Territory had been named the year before.
Other names for Lake Washington have included the Duwamish/Lushootseed name HAH-choo or Xachu ,(translating into "great-amount-of-water"), as well as Lake Geneva, Lake Duwamish, and in Chinook (Chinook being the intertribal trading language), it was called "Hyas Chuck," which means "Big Lake."
Part of the Puget Sound includes Elliott Bay, and it is in this bay that Seattle is located. The bay is easily defined, and extends southeastward between West Point in the north and Alki Point in the south. The Bay is fed by the Duwamish River, found at the southern end of the bay. Viewing from downtown, the river is obscured a bit by Harbor Island.
No one knows for certain for whom Elliott Bay was named. We do know that it was named by Lt. Charles Wilkes during the United States Exploring Expedition that took place between 1838 and 1842. Wilkes had the command of the expedition and had several ships under his command. However, there were three Elliotts under his purview. Jared Elliott, ship's chaplain, was disliked by most of the crew, including Wilkes. George Elliott, a ship's boy, had little stature in the crew, and had been recently in trouble for insubordination when Wilkes had named the bay. Midshipman Samuel Elliott was a member of the USS Porpoise survey crew that charted the bay. Considering Wilkes’ opinion on the former two candidates, it seems probable that Elliott Bay was named for Samuel, but there’s little in the way of objective evidence supporting this.
The British arrival into the Pacific Northwest in 1792 was a very big deal, for many, many reasons. Chief amongst them? The names of many of the places that we take for granted today had their origins with the British Captain who led his ship into the region.
George Vancouver was the captain of the HMS Discovery, a 10-gun survey ship, who was tasked with wresting control of the Pacific Northwest from the Spanish, either by diplomacy or by force. The Discovery used this opportunity to explore the Pacific Northwest, in hopes of better establishing their claims to the region.
Vancouver used this as his impetus to start claiming and naming everything in sight, with hopes of insinuating the British and British influences into the region. The Puget Sound was so named due to the existence of 3rd Lieutenant Peter Puget, who served beneath Captain Vancouver. Puget explored the waters of the area in longboats from the Discovery, while Captain Vancouver busied himself with other duties.
The name "Puget Sound" was initially meant only to refer to the region of water south of Tacoma, with the waters north of present-day Tacoma to be called Admiralty Inlet. The latter name fell out of disuse, and Puget Sound soon represented all of the waters south the the Port Townsend and Fort Casey.
The location of Seattle is unique insofar as it is one of the largest cities in America to be situated upon a sound. It’s not the largest city in America to have this distinction – that’d be New York City, who finds itself on the west end of the Long Island Sound.
What defines a sound is dependent upon which geological definition you use; either the Scandinavian definition, which means a strait, or the narrowest part of a straight, or the 18th century English definition, which means a sea inlet that contains islands. This is the definition used for the Puget Sound.
This definition helps explain the fact that Seattle is a coastal city located upon the Pacific Ocean, even if it is around one hundred miles or so from open sea. This is a fact that is easy to ignore at times due to looking across the sound and seeing various aspects of the Olympic Peninsula.
Puget Sound is defined as all waters of the Hood Canal, the Admiralty Inlet, the Possession Sound, and the Saratoga Passage, among others. Essentially, if one were to draw a line from Mount Vernon, to Port Townsend, Puget Sound would include all waters of the inlet from that line, down to Budd Inlet in the south by Olympia. That’s a body of water that stretches approximately one hundred miles.
Seattle is located on the Eastern Edge of the Puget Sound, and this aspect of the city is the primary, but certainly not only, defining geologic feature of the region.
All of the Puget Sound region was shaped in larger part due to the Fraser Glaciation. Evidence of glaciation is easily seen today all along the Puget Sound area. The Fraser glaciation lasted about 10,000 years and consisted of 3 periods of ice expansion (called “stades”) and 2 ice recessions (called “interstades”). The Puget Sound was shaped by the Puget Lobe portion of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet that was part of the Fraser Glaciation that shaped much of the Montana, Idaho, Washington, British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska. The Puget Lobe portion of this ice sheet made it as far south as modern-day Olympia. As it retreated over the course of many thousands of years, it geologically shaped many of the water ways of the region, including Puget Sound, as well as Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Lake Sammamish to the east.
The retreat also helps explain the hilly nature of the region, though not so much the mountainous portions, whose shapes were created under different forces.
Yesterday, I wrote about how I define the cultural, and how it relates to when we travel. Obviously culture is a big topic, but we can use some of the more high-level aspects of culture to quantify what to consider when we visit a new place. The idea here is to avoid going to new places uninformed, and waiting for the city or region come to us, when instead we travelers should be the ones doing the leg work in trying to understand the places that we go.
The starting point for me is the list of L. Robert Kohls' aspects of culture. His list here isn't in particularly in depth, but for our purposes, we don't need it to be. It just needs to be a starting point. To revisit, Kohls says that culture consists of the following:
In reviewing the above, I've arrived at a list of aspects of cities that either inform, or result from some, if not all, of the above. There's some overlap here. This is also my baseline position, one that will likely evolve as I explore this path in more depth and detail as we go forward.
Firstly, we have the environment, which is the foundation of culture. They include aspects such as:
- Indigenous Wildlife
- Time Zone
Then we have the people who inhabit this environment, and the various sub-tribes found within each area.
- Founding of the region/city by people
- Who arrived later
- How they categorized themselves
People tend to create or provide either goods or service to the community that has been created. This includes the following:
- Guilds/Small businesses
- Visual Art
People then use some type of institution to hold sway over them. They include:
- Governments (to provide guidance and leadership over known issues found within the geographic area that they claim)
- Religion (to provide guidance and leadership over the metaphysical)
- Economics (to provide guidance surrounding the exchange of goods and services)
- Businesses (large)
Finally, after some course of time, all of these items above result in a history, in some form or another. Depending upon one's taste and knowledge, this history can have varying degrees of importance. But the key thing to understand about history, is that it is theghostly remains of culture.
All of these items intermingle with one another to create a melange that results in a "place". And of course, life isn't as simple as the list above might suggest. Each item listed very likely informs another. For example, a State Fair may have resulted from a group of guilds that agreed to meet once a year to celebrate the harvest as well as sell various wares. They invited many members of the community to attend, and the government may have provided a subsidy to support any cost overruns, or a centralized place where the fair could occur. As with anything surrounding humanity, there's always a complex intermingling of cultural ideas at play with one another, far to complex to quantify simply.
Let's take a quick rundown of a few touristy places and/or events, and see if we can place them into a category listed above.
Grand Canyon - Geologic
Crossing a border - Geographic/Governement
Eating a meal - small business/food/Indigenous Wildlife
Oktoberfest - Crafts/Goods/Government/Industry
Broadway show - Art/Theater/Music
Gettysburg - History/Military/Government
Soccer Match - Sports/Entertainment/Community
The point of this exercise here is to point out that using culture as the basis of travel, one can create an itinerary of sorts, based off of their interests as they relate to the lists above.
In fact, that's what I entirely intend to do. Not just for myself, but for all of us.
So here's a loaded question - What is culture? A person can spend their entire life trying to find an answer to that query. I'm not planning on going into that level of detail, but for those of us intent on exploration of new and possibly strange lands, it's an important part of the traveling experience. As I have noted before, the moment one steps off of the airplane, one is immediately immersed in the culture of that land.
When some of us think of culture, we end up thinking of the arts - ballet, classical music, opera. Ifone has an appreciation of these, we tend to think of these people as 'cultured'. However, not only is this a misappropriation of the term, it leaves out aspects of our society that have far more impact upon the day-to-day lives of every day folks like you and I. We are all cultured.
Culture is the language of life. It is how we communicate our interpretation of the world to others. Yes, art is the most obvious example of this, but so is our collective morality, which ends up informing where we put our faith. Sometime we put our faith in religion, other times with government, other times with our community or immediate environment, sometimes we even put our faith in individuals. Our expression of these faiths results in the cultural.
"All right," you may be saying. "How does this affect the poor, lonely traveler?"
"How does it not?" I would respond. Your first decision on how to get to your destination is steeped in culture. Stepping into a car in order to get to the airport is an exercise in the cultural. The car is an invention created to a quick method of transportation between extended distances because the natural environment, as well as our natural bodies, are ill-equipped to get from point A to point B in a timely manner. The car you drive reflects either your values and class status. The roads your drive upon inform your interaction with that environment, and may even dictate where you can live.
"Okay," you say, a little exasperated. "But this doesn't tell me about the place I was going to visit."
Fine, fine. If you head to Tucson, and try out Sonoran Hot Dogs? You'll be eating a food that found its way from Sonora University, where it fed the local students cheaply, to the streets of Tucson by those who had come from that region. It is a dish created from the local resources that reflect the region.
Every time you cross a border, or go through customs, you are embarking on a bureaucratic process implemented by a local government designed to control the influx of visitors. Governments are but an legislative extensionof the culture of the local citizenry.
If you go to London, and visit St. Paul's Cathedral? You're visiting the manifestation of the local citizen's interpretation of the unknown communicated through architecture.
If you go to Tokyo, and take your beer along with you as you walk the streets, you're indulging in the city's (and by extension, its citizens) lack of concern over public consumption of alcohol. My examples here are admittedly high-level. I can go on, but hopefully these communicate how culture informs the traveling experience.
Don't take my word for it. L. Robert Kohls, in his primer Survival Kit For Overseas Living, defines culture in the following way:
The food you eat while visiting New York City? That's an artifact of the culture. The bus you use to get from the airport to the hotel? That's a tool used for transportation. Have you visited Oktoberfest in Munich? That's both a ritual and a ceremony.
My point here is that everything we do when we travel is related to the cultural. And if you're someone who seeks out these things, the experience you have is exponentially greater if you understand the hows and whys of these things and how the end up impacting the place your visiting.
The other day I posted my take on the reasons people travel, conveniently distilling them down to four types of motivation. I wish to explore the one category to which I feel applies to myself - Those who go towards something. In the post, I defined them as such:
A point of fact is that we all wade into foreign culture the moment we step out of our preferred method of travel and arrive in the city or region other than our own. It's as unavoidable as dealing with the weather. To be cognizant of it, however, is a skill unto itself.
There are two possible reasons how this manifests itself -
a) The person traveling seeks to experience something completely new and novel to them, that they can't get at home. Think about the tropical locations that many people head towards in order to avoid the snow and wet found at home during the winter months, or the festivals that are particular to a specific city or region. These are but the most obvious examples out of many.
b) The person traveling seeks out similar experiences to those available at home, and either consciously or subconsciously compares the two. This can be as exotic as having breakfast in Hong Kong, to as subtle as seeing how the news is reported in Chicago as compared to ones home town. The experiences may having one or two common denominators, but the local culture has added new variables that make the experience different to some degree. As an example, visiting a coffeehouse in Genoa, Italy is a different experience than visiting a coffee house in Seattle, Washington, even though the core activity (getting a cuppa) is exactly the same.
Guide books are notoriously challenged when trying to deal with this aspect. They cannot talk about culture in the way that would benefit the reader, almost by design. If they tried to explain the hows and whys of every location they recommended, the resulting book would be too large to carry around. The result of this design flaw is that they may recommend that one visit the Dom Cathedral in Cologne, but cannot provide little more than cursory insight into the location. The result? People visit the cathedral, and can appreciate the aesthetics of the place, but have little reference to how is was made, and why it is important to the local populace.
This context is important, and this dissonance between what the traveler sees and intuits and the local citizenry knows to be, matters to some degree. If all I do is appreciate a locations aesthetics, without seeking to understand any more than that, then my only take away from that city is that they have some interesting things to do or see.
From my perspective, this does the region or city visited a disservice. My goal with this site is to address that disservice, and help provide the context that connects a foreigner to the land being visited.
Culture is context, and it takes some measure of effort on the part of the traveler to understand that.