Kiribati lockdown: Remote nation in the Pacific imposes Covid restrictions


(CNN) — The remote island nation of Kiribati went into lockdown for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began two years ago after dozens of passengers on an international flight tested positive for the virus.

In a statement posted to its official Facebook account on Tuesday, the Kiribati government confirmed that 36 out of 54 passengers on a flight that had come from Fiji on January 14 had all tested positive for the virus. Authorities had “taken all precautions” and have been “managing” the passengers from the time they entered into pre-departure quarantine in Fiji until their arrival and quarantine in Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, the statement said.

Of a population of just 122,391, only 3 confirmed cases had been identified in Kirbati before last week’s flight. That’s partly due to the island’s strict entry controls during the pandemic and its isolation. Kiribati sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) away from North America.

Kiribati’s government said it will enact on Monday a 24-hour curfew in South Tarawa — the main hub of Kiribati — and the nearby township of Beito.

Residents must stay home unless they have to leave for essential work, access emergency services or shop for food or other essential goods, the government said in its statement.

No public transport will be in operation; social gatherings will be banned; and all bars and nightclubs will be closed.

Kiribati at the moment requires all people to wear masks in public spaces, including on public transportation. There is already a curfew in place from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., and social gatherings are currntly limited to 10 people.

Kiribati and other Pacific nations were spared the worst of the pandemic because many states closed their borders foreign nationals shortly after the virus emerged in late 2019.

The decision to go into lockdown over a handful of cases is not without precedent in the South Pacific. Tonga declared a weeklong lockdown for the main island Tongatapu after authorities there discovered the country’s first Covid-19 case in November.



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Beginner Tips For Nobody Saves The World


Nobody Saves The World is the latest indie RPG to take the gaming industry by storm. Developed by Drinkbox Studios (the people behind the Gaucamelee series), Nobody Saves The World is a fresh and irreverent take on the RPG formula that makes it a worthy addition to January’s Xbox Game Pass lineup.

RELATED: The Best Games On Xbox Game Pass

With its quirky characters, eye-catching art style, and innovative gameplay, Nobody Saves The World has everything it needs to be a hit. But there’s a surprising amount of depth to the game, and with that depth comes added complexity that can make it difficult to know what to do when first diving in. For all those players just starting out, here are some great tips to succeed in Nobody Saves The World.

10 Switch Forms Often


a skeleton in a dark robe stands in a cave with a wheel of different characters centered over him

Nobody Saves The World‘s central gameplay mechanic is the titular character’s ability to transform into a variety of different magical forms, each with its own skills and powers. At first, players will only have access to a single form, the Rat, but they’ll quickly start unlocking new forms the more they play.

It pays to switch between these forms as often as possible, both to fully experience everything the game has to offer and to earn Stars to unlock the main dungeons. Each completed quest also awards experience toward the player’s overall level, reducing the need for dedicated time spent grinding later on.

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9 Customize To Suit The Challenge


Customize-To-Suit-The-Challenge-NSTW From Nobody Saves the World

At a certain point early in the game, players will unlock the ability to customize their forms with any other perk or attack. This opens the game’s combat up in some incredible ways and allows for in-depth build crafting to suit just about any challenge the game might dish out.

And this customization is there for a reason, as the dungeons only get more intricate from that point on. New parameters like reduced mana regeneration, explosive enemy corpses, and wild damage multipliers will force players to think carefully about both the form and abilities they’re using to overcome each obstacle.

8 Focus On Unlocking New Forms


a cartoon turtle dramatically posing with the word

One of the most fun and innovative elements of Nobody Saves The World is the ability to unlock new forms. Each form comes with its own suite of new attacks and passive perks that dramatically alter how the game is played. It takes some work to unlock every one of them, but it’s a worthy investment to get the full roster.

RELATED: Nobody Saves The World: How To Quick Select Forms

It can be tempting to stick with one, reliable form, but the game gates progress on them behind specific milestones in the main story. Having a wide variety of forms available provides access to a greater suite of abilities as well as a wider selection of form quests that can help players level up faster.

7 Explore Off The Beaten Path


a horse standing on a torch-lit cliff-side road with cacti and abandoned tires nearby

Nobody Saves The World is a massive game that is bursting with secrets and hidden collectibles just waiting for players to find them. Treasure chests, mana boosts, and side quests can be found around almost every corner, but many of these treasures can only be found by straying from the path.

Almost every inch of Nobody Saves The World‘s map can be explored, especially after unlocking some of the more specialized forms, and it pays to spend time just exploring. In fact, to unlock the powerful Dragon form players will have to explore to find five hidden bird nests scattered throughout the land.

6 Check The Map


a parchment map with scattered, green castle icons, reddish brown pathways, and a large white reticle in the middle

Nobody Saves The World‘s map is one of the most useful tools in the game, especially for finding new pathways and discovering every collectible. Whenever players find themselves on the wrong side of a set of wooden spikes or a dense copse of trees, pulling up the map is always the best option for finding an alternate way around.

The map also comes in handy for keeping track of various other points of interest, including the optional demi-dungeons that dot the landscape. If players find themselves under-leveled for a particular dungeon, all they have to do is check the map to find a region or dungeon at their level to get some much-needed experience.

5 Break Warded Enemies First


a dark cloaked character facing two monsters with a brown tint all in a sickly-looking cave

Warded enemies are some of the most challenging elements of Nobody Saves The World, particularly when they’re grouped up with baddies protected by a different type of ward. It’s always the smartest move to prioritize breaking the wards on all enemies before trying to take down the group.

Just about every attack in Nobody Saves The World can hit multiple enemies at once if used properly. Take note of which ward types are in a dungeon by checking it on the map first, then build a customized form that can deal with each of those forms with ease. It’s also a good call to pick a form with a ward-breaking standard attack to balance out mana costs.

4 Pick Up Infinite Quests ASAP


a quest menu screen with a parchment paper background and the cursor over a quest marked

There are a variety of different quests types in Nobody Saves The World, from side quests to form quests to story quests. Each of these quests awards a certain amount of experience before disappearing forever. This is why it’s crucial that players buy the Infinite Quests as early as they possibly can.

RELATED: Nobody Saves The World: How To Fall In Love

The merchant woman who can be found throughout the world will periodically sell Infinite Quests, which are simply quests with simple criteria that can be completed an infinite number of times. They get progressively harder with each completion, but they’re the most consistently reliable source of experience in the entire game.

3 Forms Have Environmental Uses


a horrifying, cartoon mermaid swimming through a green lake with a smile on her face

There’s so much variety to each form in Nobody Saves The World that it can be easy to miss certain elements of them. Early on, the game introduces the environmental uses of the forms by showing that the Rat can crawl through tunnels, but other forms have specific uses as well.

The most notable of these is the ability to travel across water, which is something the Turtle, Mermaid, Ghost, and Dragon forms can accomplish. Certain side quests also require very specific form combinations to complete, like one quest that challenges players to solve a series of riddles using the forms as answers.

2 Choose Upgrades Carefully


upgrade menu on parchment paper with the cursor over the upgrade for

There are so many viable builds in Nobody Saves The World that it can be difficult to pick which abilities to upgrade first. Upgrade coins can be hard to find, and certain abilities require several coins just to upgrade a single tier. While all the ability upgrades are useful additions to the player’s arsenal, some are more valuable than others.

Upgrades that reduce mana cost, like those for the Ranger’s Arrow Flurry, are always a good option especially if it’s an ability the player uses frequently. Boosting power is another good upgrade choice, like the Bodybuilder’s Strongman passive perk. It’s also a good call to upgrade the Egg’s Incubate ability as often as possible, as it’s the most reliable source of healing in the entire game.

1 Pay Attention To Form Quest Objectives


quest menu screen with several quest tiles on the left and a closeup on

The Form quests in Nobody Saves The World are arguably the most important quests in the game, as they’re the only way to level up each individual form and unlock its full potential. These quests start out fairly easy with simple instructions to defeat a certain amount of enemies with an ability or inflict a status effect a certain number of times.

As the form levels up, though, these quests become more complex, and players will need to pay close attention to their objectives. Many of these quests, dubbed Custom Quests, require the use of specific abilities from different forms, so it pays to read the quest’s description carefully to make progress.

Nobody Saves The World is currently available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

MORE: Nobody Saves The World: How Long To Beat



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Nobody Saves the World: How Long to Beat

Nobody Saves the World from Drinkbox Studios is finally here, so find out how long it takes to beat the cute dungeon crawler.

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Winter Blog: Second round of snow in Greensboro


There is a black ice warning in effect. If you must travel, leave early and drive slow!

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Stay updated with the latest weather and road conditions as our Weather team is working around the clock to monitor what’s next. 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch our live team coverage.

Share your weather photos and videos by texting them to 336-379-5775 and make sure to include your name and location.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2021

9 a.m. — City cancellations and changes

The city of Greensboro is canceling Saturday waste collections. Friday routes will run Monday, the 24th. 

GTA will operate using snow routes/main streets. HEAT service begins at 1 p.m.

Several Greensboro library branches are closed

High Point Public Library and Museum will open at noon today. The transit system will not run. 

The City of Winston-Salem shares updates on waste collections

8:45 a.m. — A look at downtown Greensboro covered in snow

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist delays opening its COVID-19 testing location at Providence Place until noon. The testing site will close at 3 p.m. 

8:15 a.m. — Greensboro closures

Greensboro Parks & Recreation closes all facilities

Greensboro Science Center closes for the day

Photojournalist Ryan Gavette shares an early morning look on I-40W in Whitsett

A Winston-Salem update from Randy Britton on road conditions

7:45 a.m.– Flight cancellations and delays at PTI airport Saturday morning.

7:25 a.m. — Check out this beautiful picture of downtown Greensboro taken by Jeb Brooks! 

7:20 a.m.– Snow moving out towards the coast!  

7:15 a.m. — A viewer picture of Adams Farm in Greensboro 

7:00 a.m.– Check out this surveillance video showing a person stealing a church bell in Greensboro. 

6:25 a.m.– If you have any air travel planned this weekend, PTI Airport is asking that you call your airline before leaving home. Airport officials said it’s important to check in just in case there are any cancellations.

5:30 a.m.– Roads are covered and the sun is on its way out to help us out later on today. 

5:25 a.m. — Saturday morning blizzard in the Triad! 

Have weather pictures and videos to share? Text them to us at 336-379-5775

You can also share straight from your phone through the WFMY News 2 app. Just tap weather at the bottom of the screen and scroll to “What’s Outside Your Window”. 

Stay in the know. Sign up for the WFMY ‘Let’s Get 2 It’ Newsletter 

You can track the winter storm and stay up to date with the latest weather conditions on our website.

Download the WFMY News 2 App: If your power or cable goes out, you’ll still be able to connect online. 

Text the word APP to 336-379-5775

DOWNLOAD FOR IPHONE HERE

DOWNLOAD FOR ANDROID HERE

►For the latest weather conditions, text the word WEATHER to 336-379-5775

►For traffic alerts text the word TRAFFIC to 336-379-5775





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Carolina Hurricanes New York Rangers Tony DeAngelo Jesper Fast


Friday night, the previously 26-8-2 Carolina Hurricanes faced the 26-10-4 New York Rangers in a high-level matchup between the top two teams in the Metropolitan. The Canes were able to head out on top in a 6-3 win, with the help of quite a few former Rangers.

Aho’s landmark night

Friday night was full of big moments for Sebastian Aho, as he reached his 400th career game and notched his 200th career assist. Since he was drafted 35th overall by Carolina back in 2015, his time with the Canes has been monumental. He’s amassed 162 goals and 200 assists for a total of 362 points, and he’s given this current Canes squad the starpower and playmaking they need to (hopefully) make it far.

“Time flies, I guess,” Aho said. “It’s already my sixth year here and it feels like I just got here.”

With a few minutes remaining in the first period, Aho tallied his 199th assist on Seth Jarvis’s wrist shot that put the Canes up 2-0, and with just five remaining in the second period, he scored his 17th goal of the season with a gritty rebound shot that gave the Canes a three-goal lead.

Finally, he was able to grab his 200th career assist on Tony DeAngelo’s power-play goal. It was a well-deserved night for Aho.

“His evolution right now, as a player, has been great,” Rod Brind’Amour said.

Just last week, it was announced that Aho made the 2022 All-Star Game, his second appearance of the kind. He’s claimed the top-line center spot in the lineup and won’t be a free agent until 2024, so here’s to looking forward to more of Sebastian Aho in the future of Carolina.

Former Rangers shine

A number of Carolina’s current players have spent some time with the New York Rangers, but Tony DeAngelo’s first appearance against his former team was definitely notable.

And his performance was no different than what Canes fans have learned to expect. Just over 13 minutes into the first period, DeAngelo notched his 12th power play assist of the year on a tip-in from Trocheck.

Then, early in the second period, another former Ranger extended the lead to 3-0, and it was Jesper Fast with his ninth of the year (and first against his former team), with a helper from DeAngelo.

To finish it off, DeAngelo was able to score the last goal of the game and end it with a three-point night.

“He’s a great player for us,” Aho said.

The former Rangers were scoring, and it was for their new squad instead of the red, white and blue.

The kid scores again

Seth Jarvis has been making waves ever since he entered the league earlier this season, and Friday was no exception. Jarvis scored his eighth goal of the year to extend the Canes lead late in the first period.

In just 27 games, the rookie now has 17 points and has been consistently promoted by Brind’Amour, now logging solid minutes on the top forward lines.

Svechnikov is everywhere

We’ve always known how impressive Andrei Svechnikov’s playmaking is— it’s absolutely no surprise. This game was just a reminder of that fact, as Svechnikov was able to set up two key goals last night.

First, he tallied the secondary assist on Trocheck’s first goal, but more impressively, his playmaking abilities were put on full display when he set up the Nino Niederreiter goal that gave the Canes a 5-1 lead. He faked the Michigan move and was able to deke out the Rangers defense and hand it over to Niederreiter to finish it off, getting his 100th assist along the way.

“His ability to pass the puck is elite,” Brind’Amour said.

The Canes offensive abilities have been clearly demonstrated lately, especially following the 7-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, and Svechnikov seems to always be a part of setting up these victories.

Penalty kill struggles, power play thrives

Carolina’s penalty kill went 1 for 3 Friday night, which is somewhat of an anomaly for this team. Throughout the season, special teams have never seemed to be too much of a struggle, but last night, they were what allowed the Rangers to fight their way back into the game with a goal on the man-advantage during the third period. This gave the Rangers the offensive momentum that led them to score another quick goal, cutting the Canes lead to just two goals at 5-3.

Luckily, play with the man-advantage went 2 for 2 Friday night, which was able to propel the Canes to this impressive win. Their power play is now 30 for 112 (26.8%) and their penalty kill is now 119 for 134 (88.8%).

What’s next?

The Canes have now won three straight and are looking to continue their streak as they travel to New Jersey tomorrow to face the Devils (14-19-5) at 7pm ET at the Prudential Center.



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Non-essential travel should be avoided – The Suffolk News-Herald


Suffolk residents are advised to avoid traveling unless absolutely necessary, according to a city press release.

Suffolk Public Works personnel have been working throughout the night, applying materials and plowing on primary roads. Major roads are passable, the press release stated, and the arterials are starting to show pavement, with some roads still being covered with snow.

Conditions are expected to improve with daytime temperatures and traffic, along with continued plowing and treatment by Public Works staff. At present, 22 plows are up and running to address roadway conditions. Operations are in effect 24 hours a day with 12 hour shifts.

The National Weather Service is calling for temperatures to remain at or below to freezing Saturday. Tonight’s temperatures will be down in the teens and could result in refreezing.

If you must travel, remove all snow and ice from the entire vehicle before driving, drive cautiously and slowly, and leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles on the road. Drivers should also stay back and avoid passing snow plows, as snow or abrasive can come from the plow while operating.

An interactive map of the City’s priority routes for public paved roadways within the City can be viewed online. Removal timeframes and priority are subject to change with weather conditions.



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Easthampton’s Union Street on the verge of complete rebuild


EASTHAMPTON — One of the city’s major thoroughfares is about to get a major overhaul.

From a complete underground replacement of gas, sewer and water utilities to the installation of new handicapped-accessible sidewalks, Union Street will soon undergo an extensive facelift with an estimated price tag of more than $5 million.

Plans to renovate the street have been several years in the making. Visioning work on the project began in 2015, said City Planner Jeff Bagg.

The majority of the infrastructure project is being funded by the state Department of Transportation’s Transportation Improvement Program, which requires a very specific process in order to secure that funding, said Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, who commended Bagg and the city’s Department of Public Works.

“The road is really old, like a lot of others in town. It was made for horse and buggy travel and has clay and wood pipes underground,” said LaChapelle. “We’ve maintained a very broken, old road for decades. Now we’re in the homestretch.”

The project will go out to bid in March with construction starting in late spring or early summer.

One of the last steps in the process before construction begins is taking property through eminent domain.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, councilors approved a motion to take slivers of property from more than 30 owners along Union Street for permanent and temporary easements. Property owners were notified by certified mail on Dec. 9, which included an appraisal, the plans for easement and the fair market value offer.

Councilors also unanimously approved a motion to compensate the landowners a total of $89,500 for the easements. Nine property owners donated both temporary and permanent easements to the project.

Temporary easements will be taken for a five-year period as a safety precaution, Bagg explained. While he doesn’t anticipate the project taking that long, if there is an area that exceeds an anticipated timeline and the temporary easement isn’t in place, the city would have to start the process all over again. Temporary easements include where a sidewalk will be removed and replaced in front of a storefront and where construction workers will be present and walking.

This infrastructure project will be conducted in phases, rather than having everything ripped apart for the duration of the work, Bagg said.

Aside from the underground replacement of utilities and the installation of new sidewalks, the project also includes reconstruction of the road from Big E’s to the intersection at Cottage Street and Williston Avenue; the installation of new ADA-compliant crosswalks, curbs and streetscaping; on-road bike accommodations, including sections of bike lanes and shared lane markings; an upgraded raised crossing for the Manhan Rail Trail, including improved alignment with Union Street; and a new crosswalk from Riverside Industries to the Nashawannuck Pond Promenade.

The permanent easements taken will aid in the widening of the street.

The project also includes permanent utility easements. If a utility pole has to be moved two feet onto private property, for example, it becomes a permanent utility easement.

One such property is owned by building co-owners, David E. Pascoe and James C. Pascoe. Together, the Pascoe brothers own the Union Package Store and Pizza House as well as the building it resides in, located at 66-68 Union St. While they are being compensated for both temporary and a permanent utility easement as a part of the phased construction, the brothers do have some concerns about the elimination of parking on one side of the road for a bicycle trail.

Their business has parking in the back of their building, but after navigating through tougher times with the pandemic, both expressed concerns for their business and others once the parking is removed on one side of the street. The Pascoes also own the building that Studio 72, a hair salon at 72 Union St., occupies. Compensation for the permanent easement taken on that property totals $15,710.

A permanent easement taken from property owner, Stephen C. Robinson, at his 46-54 Union St. building totals $7,320. For 42 years, barbershop Razor’s Edge has resided at 54 Union St., said owner Keith Lenkowski. Though he, too, is fortunate to have parking across the street as well as the back of his building, Lenkowski fears that once roadwork begins, people may not visit some of the neighboring businesses.

“A lot of them are going to struggle and (some) are not gonna make it,” he said in an interview, scanning up and down the street. “In the time that I’ve been here, every storefront on this street has changed except for Big E’s and this barbershop — every one, from light to light.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, while some of his customers stopped coming, he’s gained new ones that patronized other barbershops in the area that have since closed, including Premo’s Cuts in Northampton.

Lenkowski said that in the four decades he’s been working from his Easthampton shop, he estimates that Union Street has been resurfaced maybe twice. Although he’s wary about the impact of the roadwork, he is looking forward to the final product. He’s hopeful that with the consolidation of the elementary schools that one or more of the sites might be utilized for parking.

“In the long run, this will be a positive thing. This road is just awful. It needs to be done. It has to be. It’s progress,” he said. “People will figure out a way to get here. I’ll be fine.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at [email protected]





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Travel trend – Santa Barbara News-Press


Midweek is the new weekend

COURTESY PHOTOS
Art Spot on Wheels allows people to paint in scenic locations such as vineyards. It’s among the special programs in the Midweek Membership Club.

With the pandemic allowing people more flexibility in their work schedules, midweek has become a new travel trend for 2022, one that the Midweek Membership Club in Visit the Santa Ynez Valley is offering through March 31.

Approximately 30 hotels, restaurants, wineries and other venues are participating. 

Guests who book an eligible consecutive two-night, Sunday-through-Thursday stay, will receive five digital passes, each of which can be redeemed at the locations for a wine tasting for two or $20 credit at restaurants, retailers and activity providers. Midweek Membership Club travelers will also receive club member pricing on wine purchases.

Three of the more unique venues are Art Spot on Wheels, Broken Clock Vinegar Works and The Ultimate Escape Rooms. 

“We’ve combined some of the best things in the world — art, wine, nature and people,” said Christi Belle, owner and founder of Art Spot on Wheels, which allows people to paint in special locations. “Imagine you and your friends surrounded by the unparalleled beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley with a paintbrush in one hand and a glass of estate wine in the other.”

“Art Spot on Wheels is a full-service art studio operating on wheels,” said Christi Belle, owner and founder. “We’ve combined some of the best things in the world — art, wine, nature and people. Imagine you and your friends surrounded by the unparalleled beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley with a paintbrush in one hand and a glass of estate wine in the other.

“Not just another pain-and-sip class, our signature ‘Painting in the Vineyard’ events will delight your senses with fantastic views and delicious wines from local wineries.”

Charles and Jody Williams started Broken Clock Vinegar Works in their home kitchen before expanding to Mission Drive in Solvang in late 2017.

“We use a double fermentation method to produce our vinegars,” said Ms. Williams. “First, whole fruits are fermented into a dry wine. Then that wine is fermented into acetic acid. Our lineup of vinegars, shrubs, pickling kits and lacto-fermentation products are designed to promote a healthy, probiotic lifestyle and provide a means of reducing food waste through preservation.”

They offer tastings along with pickling and fermentation classes at their production facility in Solvang.

“Midweek is such a special time to enjoy the valley. It’s a slower pace and visitors can really settle into the small-town feel,” said Ms. Williams. “So many of our customers are coming from big cities. The rural atmosphere is just what they need to re-charge and immerse themselves in the open-space.”

The Ultimate Escape Rooms is a type of physical adventure game in which people are locked in a room with other participants and must use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues and escape the room within a set time limit.

“The rooms are a little like video games come to life. They are filled with gadgets, puzzles and clues that teams — usually of two to eight people — have to solve in order to escape,” said co-owner Annette Cortez.

“I personally love doing fun things during the weekdays when things aren’t so crowded and hectic,” Ms. Cortez said. “It’s such a great opportunity to enjoy a relaxing and fun getaway with friends and loved ones without having to fight the crowds. The added bonus of saving money makes this a deal that can’t be passed up!”

Other participating venues include Ampelos Cellars, Brick Barn Wine Estate, Coquelicot Organic Estate, Crawford Family Wines, Dana V. Wines, First Street Leather in Los Olivos and Solvang, Grassini Family Vineyards, Renaissance Antiques, River Grill at the Alisal and Toccata Tasting Room.

“A special experience any day of the week, the Santa Ynez Valley is particularly appealing midweek when the bustle has quieted, and the valley provides an even more relaxed respite to visitors,” said Shelby Sim, president and CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. “With the continued popularity of work-from-home and remote working, there’s never been a better time to visit. 

“It doesn’t take long to do the math and realize the value that this program presents, particularly when midweek hotel rates are already typically discounted from their Friday and Saturday night counterparts,” he added. “Yes, there are still deals to be had in travel. Yes, midweek is the new weekend. 

“And yes, the Midweek Membership Club from Visit the Santa Ynez Valley is the very best of both.”

email: [email protected]

FYI

Midweek Membership Club passes cannot be redeemed for cash or applied toward gratuity and are valid Sunday through Thursday only. For more information, including a complete list of participants or to plan and book a Midweek Membership Club visit to the Santa Ynez Valley, go to www.visitsyv.com/midweek.



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‘Hey, boys, you’ve got to keep it down’: In Ballard, noisy sea lions are a real scene


It’s gray out. Again. It is gloomy. And damp. And dark.

And the virus won’t go away, and there’s the tenuous state of democracy, and the planet keeps getting warmer.

Do yourself a favor. Go see some sea lions.

There are a lot of them down in Ballard. They are bouncy. They are noisy. They are ebullient. They don’t care about your rules and regulations.

They are at once chunky and sleek.

They lounge, they frolic, they float, they bark.

They are a joy.

Their activity is focused on a long floating pier in Shilshole Bay, off Seaview Avenue Northwest, right next to Ray’s Boathouse.

There are usually 10 or so resting on the pier, while a handful more amble and dart in the water nearby. Sea lions are a consistent presence in Puget Sound, especially in winter, when males stray north in search of food while females remain with their pups in southern breeding grounds. Why have they chosen this alcove, this pier, as a temporary home? Could be prey, could be shelter. They talk a lot, but they’re not saying.

They vault out of the water, propelling themselves onto the platform. They joust for room — there is plenty, but no one likes sharing.

Some lie prone, eyes closed, insouciant as they absorb whatever rays pierce the cloud cover.

Many of their colleagues are, seemingly, less content. Flippers flayed, they sit at attention — backs arched, noses in the air, pointed skyward. They yell at each other, at the world, at anyone listening.

Their honking, crying, bleating never stops. “The stonks of resolution,” Richard Reeve, a New Zealand poet, called the incessant wails.

It’s become background noise, a night and day marine soundtrack for much of southwest Ballard.

Doug Zellers, general manager and co-owner of Ray’s Boathouse, likens them to pre-dinner entertainment. Skip the movie, see the sea lions. He estimates there are 60 of them in the neighborhood.

“You hear the cacophony as soon as you get out of your car in the parking lot,” he said.

Travis Sheffield is a lawyer at Sheffield & Associates, which has had their office on Seaview Avenue, a half mile from Ray’s, for 30 years. Sea lions have been around a lot over those three decades, but only in the water. This year, for the first time that Sheffield has seen, they’ve parked themselves on the dock next door.

There are enough of them that they’ve submerged the dock, at times, with their heft.

Rich Garibaldi owns the dock. He’s counted 21 sea lions out there at one time. He put kayaks on the deck, to try to dissuade their lounging. It did not work. They lounged on the kayaks.

Sometimes he sprays a hose. But only when they’re really noisy.

“I’ll threaten them with it first,” Garibaldi said, describing how he wields the hose. “I’ll say, ‘This is a warning,’ and usually they’ll listen.”

Garibaldi likens them to frat boys, albeit ones he’s very fond of.

“Sometimes I can’t even be on the phone,” he said. “I’ll just come out and be like ‘Hey, boys, you’ve got to keep it down.’”

The hose provides only temporary reprieve.

“They all just jump into the water, make a lot of noise, kind of bark at him,” Sheffield said. “They circle in the water and then jump back up as soon as he’s gone.”

Back at Ray’s, the long, cylindrical, floating pier offers an unstable platform. It tilts, threatening to spin like a floating log, depositing the pinnipeds back in the water.

As it tips, the bleating increases. The sea lions throw their girth to one side, trying to get the pier back to equilibrium. Sometimes, they go too far. Their collective bulk tips the floating wharf in the other direction, threatening to eject them all off the other side.

More barks, more yells. Tip back, fellas, tip back.

It’s a lesson in cooperation, but also in game theory. Nobody, it seems, wants it to tip so far that everyone tumbles. But if you tip just far enough that your less stable brethren get tossed, well, that means more room for you.

A few common mergansers swim by, elegant in black and white. But they don’t have the sea lions’ charisma. Few do.

In the water, the sea lions will often float on their backs, with one or more flippers sticking straight in the air. This is not a signal of distress, like a belly-up fish, but a system of temperature regulation, allowing the flippers to absorb or release heat, as the case may be.

There is a whole world right in front of you.

These are California sea lions, the smaller of the two species that live on the West Coast. Still, they are not small. Males can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, females about one-quarter of that.

There are around 300,000 California sea lions up and down the Pacific Coast, a dramatic rebound from a half century ago. Populations had fallen as low as 10,000 before the passage of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits their killing.

They’ll travel the coast from Mexico to southeast Alaska, looking for food, hospitable waters, contentment.

They are not picky eaters. Salmon, steelhead, whiting, herring, mackerel, candlefish, lamprey, codfish, walleye, pollock, dogfish, squid — all satisfy sea lion appetites.

They’re usually in the Sound between fall and spring. They’ll head back down south soon.

Kristin Laidre, an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, studies marine mammals for a living. She trekked over to Ballard recently to see the sea lions just for fun.

“They are hanging out in what is probably a calm spot with access to some good fish in Puget Sound before they head south for mating season in the spring,” Laidre said. “California sea lions are well known for being very mobile and will basically go wherever the conditions suit them.”

Ben Anderson, a spokesperson with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it was tough to pinpoint why they’ve taken up residence in Shilshole Bay, but it’s not new.

“This particular area is a little more sheltered from windy winter weather, which may be why it’s especially appealing,” Anderson said. He also speculated they could be preying on squid or getting ready for a herring spawn.

“Sea lions are smart animals that learn behavior,” Anderson said. “If one sea lion finds a good sheltered spot to haul out that’s relatively close to prey availability, odds are good that other animals will follow.”

They have, notoriously, occasionally gone a little farther east from where they now hang, to the mouth of the Ballard Locks, where migrating salmon ditch the saltwater and head to rivers and streams to spawn.

There, salmon in search of the concrete chute of the fish ladder become easy prey. In the 1980s a sea lion named Herschel and his compatriots allegedly devastated a whole run of steelhead in the Locks.

As salmon runs have declined in Puget Sound, some have pointed the finger at sea lions, using firecrackers, noisemakers and even a fake orca to try to scare them off. In the Columbia River, Congress and federal regulators have OK’d killing up to 716 sea lions, in an effort to preserve salmon and steelhead runs.

Two years ago, a crew of scientists tested a system of underwater speakers that send sound signals intended to startle seals away from the Locks. Rob Williams, chief scientist for Oceans Initiative, which ran the program, said it was successful, but isn’t currently operating, as they wait on funding.

Williams says it has “tremendous potential” to work on sea lions as well, potentially with a few tweaks to volume and frequency.

For now though, the sea lions seem focused on the floating pier next to Ray’s.

The pier has three identical signs on it, each citing the Revised Code of Washington and Seattle Municipal Code. “No Trespassing, No Loitering, Violators Will be Prosecuted.”

But the sea lions, they trespass. They loiter. They flaunt their lawlessness. Damn the man.





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