Odds, ends from the editor’s desk — Dec. 28, 2016

In case you’re curious, the Washington state Elections Division compiled some interesting statistics on voter population for the 2016 General Election. Out of an estimated 5.58 million (or so) residents who were eligible to vote (by age) in the state 2016 General Election, about 4.27 million (76.83 percent) were registered last year and about 3.36 million votes were cast.

So only a little more than 60 percent (3.36 million out of 5.58 million) folks in the state who were old enough to vote actually voted. Your vote does count … a little more than you might think.

The two highest turnouts in the General, by age, were the 30- to 34-year-olds (503,000) and 25- to-29-year-olds (494,000), with 55-to-59 not far behind (492,000).

About 2.2 million females in Washington state voted in the general election or 79.4 percent of those registered. That number is a little less for males, with 2 million casting ballots (77.1 percent).

Check out www.sos.wa.gov for more data.

Dems gear up for a busy 2017

The House Democratic Caucus recently approved the committee chairs and vice chairs for the upcoming legislative session.

Rep. Steve Tharinger (Sequim) will chair the Capital Budget committee while also serving on the Appropriations and Health Care &Wellness committees.

Rep.-elect Mike Chapman (Port Angeles) will serve as vice-chair on the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee under chair Rep. Brian Blake (Aberdeen). Chapman also will serve on Public Safety and Transportation committees.

Nice job, Clallam County

Hey pols, want some advice on debt reduction? Just ask us.

According to SmartAsset, a New York-based financial technology company, Clallam had the lowest per capita debt among Washington state’s counties in 2016.

SmartAsset used three factors — credit card, auto and mortgage debt as percentage of income — to determine the “debt index.” Clallam came out with a 68.32 to top the list, out-low-debting Asotin (66.15), San Juan (65.29), Okanogan (62.15) and 30 other counties (five weren’t ranked because of lack of data).

Clallam had the fourth-lowest credit card and auto debt, and seventh-lowest mortgage debt. Highest debt per capita county in the state? Adams. King County was 13th.

Get to the gym, get ‘Unified’

Sequim High is bringing back a fantastic night of basketball — and so much more — on Jan. 6. At halftime of the SHS girls basketball team’s game against North Mason, staffers and students are putting on a Unified Basketball game. Similar to Special Olympics, Unified competitions see students with disabilities, dubbed “athletes” for the game, compete side-by-side with students without disabilities, dubbed “partners.”

With all the doom-and-gloom in our world (see later on in this column, for instance), this event is worth the price of admission.

The girls varsity game starts at 7 p.m.

Take a break already

A new report from Bankrate.com asserts more than half of U.S. workers who are offered paid vacation days won’t use them in 2016. Workers are leaving an average of seven vacation days on the table. Excuses for not taking company-provided time off vary, Bankrate.com found. Some workers blamed having too much work, while others said they enjoyed their work and others report they can’t afford a vacation or fear they might lose their job.

The “dedication” to the job seems to backfire, Sarah Berger, a personal finance expert at Bankrate, said. “You can get sick and your relationships can suffer if you don’t strike that work-life balance that will help you excel at work and in your career.”

This week’s sign of the apocalypse, part one …

The latest edition of ACT’s recently released annual STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) report, The Condition of STEM 2016, indicates many 2016 high school graduates are interested in STEM majors and careers but few are well prepared to succeed in first-year college STEM courses.

About half (48 percent) of the 2.1 million U.S. students who took the ACT test in 2016 indicated they had an interest in STEM majors or careers, but only 26 percent of them met or surpassed the ACT’s STEM College Readiness Benchmark.

The findings were virtually unchanged from 2015.

… and part two

CNN recently reported the Earth is on the verge of a sixth “mass extinction” (others were about 420, 360, 220, 200 and 75 million years ago). Species are going extinct at a rate that’s roughly 100 times higher than normal and that three-quarters of species we have now would disappear by the end of the “mass extinction” period. With poaching rates the way they are, African elephants could disappear in 20 years, experts say.

Bumblebees, coral, orangutans and monarch butterflies and several kinds of frogs are particularly at risk.

Causes? We’ve got plenty of them. Climate change. Agricultural changes to the landscape because of human population growth (and corresponding changes to land for crops and grazing). Poaching. Pollution (By 2050 researchers expect the ocean to contain more plastic than fish, by weight). Oh, and disease.

(Check out www.cnn.com/interactive/2016/12/specials/vanishing.)

There is still time, some scientists say, to do something about all of it: end the era of fossil fuels by switching to cleaner energy sources, protect wildlife habitat and stop wildlife trade.

Or, there’s another option. Theoretical scientist/astronomer Stephen Hawking says we have about 1,000 years left before the planet is too toxic or dangerous to live on.

“Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years,” Hawking said in a speech at Oxford University Union in November, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race,” he said.

The 300,000-foot view

Speaking of space …

Sure the world is changing, but how much, and what does that look like? Get a satellite’s eye view of changes to topography with Google Earth Engine’s time lapse map (earthengine.google.com/timelapse).

Made from 33 cloud-free annual mosaics — one for each year from 1984 to 2016 — the map is interactive thanks to Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library. Using Earth Engine, Google combined more than 5 million satellite images over the past three decades by five different satellites.

Type in the city, state or region and watch the Earth transform.

(Thanks to former Gazetteer Mark St.J. Couhig for passing this on.)

Reach editor Michael Dashiell at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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