Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An American Tradition

As we celebrate our nation's independence once again, what could be more quintessentially American than...

Fireworks? No, those are Chinese.

A dumb ass with a rifle doing a little target practice at 1:00 a.m. at an auto salvage lot where he worked setting off $80,000 of stored fireworks?

Makes me want to whistle Yankee Doodle.

The towns of Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, Washington stored their fireworks at the lot. The guy knew they were there, but was undeterred. I wonder if alcohol was involved?

Dumb ass?  check.
Rifle?  check.
Alcohol? check.
$80,000 worth of fireworks in storage container? check.

Apply some bug spray and cue the Sousa march, we're honoring America.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Close to Failing

Our home in Portland is located on Northeast 64th Avenue, between Beech and Failing Streets. I've been somewhat reluctant to tell people that we live near 64th and Failing, especially given that I'm only 60 and in robust good health. In recent days, through the study of history, I've become emboldened. Indeed, I'm now close to Failing. Josiah Failing was the fourth mayor of Portland, in 1854. His son, Henry Failing was a banker and businessman who was elected mayor three times. Henry's first reelection effort garnered 785 votes in his favor to just 5 in opposition. As mayor, Henry Failing introduced modern practices to the office, some which still survive in the 21st Century. After ending his political career Henry Failing was a Trustee of the University of Oregon, and a Trustee and Treasurer of Pacific University where our son and daughter-in-law did their undergraduate work. Failing Street in Northeast Portland is named in honor of this esteemed family. And I've never been more proud to be so close to Failing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Human Caused Climate Change - Another View

I blame myself. The Midwest Flood of 1993 was a direct result of my decisions and actions. It's a burden of guilt I have borne for too long now. The critical action was purchasing a three-room cabin tent from Cabellas and erecting it in our back yard in Lincoln, Nebraska. Within hours we spawned a tornado.

We bought that tent after being flooded out of campsites throughout the arid West in the summer of 1991. Wanting the kids to experience the joy of camping, our new strategy was to purchase a giant tent to use as a base camp. How giant? Giant enough to house a family of five, a dog, and numerous Leggo sets during the occasional rain experienced by campers. We bought a giant tent, and brought on a giant rain event. The Great Plains suffered as a result.

We're at it again. Only just now dried out from our last camping attempt, Sally and I have spent $1,200 to embrace the Simple Life that backwoods camping affords. I can't remember the exact amount we paid for that Cabellas tent, but it wasn't $1,200. Given the ratio of dollars we spent to the financial losses sustained in 1993, I'd guess that the meteorological reaction to our latest camping investment might even convince the most stubborn Republicans as to the reality of human-caused climate change. Coast lines will change. Micronesia is at risk.

Batten down the hatches and brush up on the definition of cubits. We're going camping.

Friday, May 25, 2012

To Whom Do I Owe the Gratitude?

A couple weeks ago Sally lost her hat, again. It's a knitted cap that our daughter, Erin, made for her, and one that she wears often. A month or so ago she misplaced it, but it turned up. This time Sally wasn't so lucky.

We were on a walk on a typical Portland day - it started out cool and damp until the sun broke through - Sally had already taken off her hat and put it into her jacket pocket, and then removed the jacket. That's when the hat went AWOL. Sally missed the hat before we got home, and suspected the location where she had dropped it. We jumped into the car and drove there, to no avail. The hat was not to be found. Later we rode our bikes over the route with the same result. The hat was gone. Sally told Erin, who graciously knitted another hat.

Fast forward to yesterday.... I was returning home from the Post Office on my daily constitutional when I saw Sally's hat perched in a bush by the sidewalk. It was beyond surprising, almost surreal. We have walked by that spot at least ten times in the last two weeks without noticing the hat. And there it was.

As I walked home, hat in hand, I thought of the person who picked up the hat and laid it on the bush. I thought of all who left it there as they walked by. Scores of tiny kindnesses led up to my being able to interrupt Sally at a meeting with the welcome text, "found your hat".

I'm uncertain as to the efficacy of being grateful in general, and don't know who to thank in particular. So I'll thank you. Thanks for the kindnesses that you do, expecting nothing in return other than the satisfaction of having done the right thing. Your acts matter to someone. They matter.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Gun Raffle

I wish I were making this up....

A former Oregon legislator now running for the Clackamas County Commission raffled off a Glock 9mm handgun to help finance her campaign. (You're probably wondering about her party affiliation.) The gun was subsequently won by a man recently ejected from a Clackamas County Commission meeting for disruptive behavior!

Of course, any wacko can obtain guns without a direct supply line from elected officials. And wackos can carry concealed weapons in many states, including Oregon, thanks to the efforts of other elected officials. Did we need all of this highlighted for our attention?

I know I feel safer now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Feast of St. Honore

Today is the feast day for St. Honore, a sixth century bishop in northern France, and the patron saint of bakers. Alas, we did not buy anything from Portland's St. Honore Bakery... today. Indeed, it's been a week and a half since we ate anything from there!

We did have some lovely croissants from Delphina's that we picked up on our bike ride home. They were lovely and delicious.

I am thankful for the bakers in my family and in our community, and for all such artisans who perform the magnificent alchemy that gives us bread and cakes, apple fritters and croissants, biscuits, muffins and scones. Bless you all, and bless the legacy of St. Honore.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Simple Question....

So, in the reality I inhabit, the Earth is larger than the humans who dwell on it. Earth is larger than human endeavor, including economic activity. Earth is really big, quite magnificent, and also finite.

In the dominant economic model of our era, the economy is larger than the planet we (currently) occupy. Nature is reduced to "natural resources".  Planetary capacity for absorbing our waste materials is not even considered. The economy can continue to grow at an increasing rate toward infinity without ever reaching a limit. The limiting factor, Earth itself, has been defined as being within the economy, rather than external to it.

So, there follows a simple question: Which planet are you from?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Getting My Head Examined

Today was my long anticipated visit to a new dermatologist. I have been experiencing some strange symptoms in the place where I had a basal cell carcinoma removed last summer. My new doc also thought it strange, and so injected the spot with lidocaine, which caused it to swell and pop up, and then sliced it off to be biopsied. Tonight I have a bit of a headache, which is not surprising.

I should have known better. I should never have gone out without a hat or sunscreen, no matter the impact on my free-spirited good looks. I was warned about skin cancer, but it just didn't happen quickly enough. Had the really negative consequences followed my behavior immediately, I might have changed my habits.

Sally just told me of a climatologist who said that, had we started in 2005, a 3 percent carbon dioxide reduction would have sufficed. Now we need a 6 percent reduction. In 10 years, a 15 percent reduction will be required. Somewhere, some day, someone will be thinking, "We should have known better."

We all need our heads examined.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Silver Falls State Park

Very nice hike yesterday with Sally and Erin at Silver Falls State Park east of Salem. It was an 8.7 mile hike with 10 major waterfalls and a host of smaller cascades. Lovely! Last evening we spent with Megan, AJ, and his folks at Toji Korean Grill on SE Hawthorne. Megan and AJ wanted to buy dinner as a Mothers/Fathers Day gift. We finished the evening off with delightful pastries and coffee at La Petite Provence on SE Division. Superb!

Friday, May 11, 2012


The last time "Bully" was associated with the White House, it was an exhuberant expression by Theodore Roosevelt. Should Mitt Romney be elected this November a very different sort of "Bully" will reside on Pennsylvania Avenue. A brief note to Mitt: Those subjected to bullying rarely refer to the incident as "youthful hijinks". Further, those who suffer humiliation at the whim of another most likely will not forget the incident as quickly and easily as you apparently have.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Sal and I watched a really good program on OPB Tuesday evening. It was Oregon Experience: The Grapes of Place, an account of the beginnings of the modern wine industry in Oregon. There were several aspects of the program we found compelling, including the fact that we once resembled the bearded, Bierkenstocked subjects in the photos of those 1970's pioneers.

I was especially taken with the concept of Terroir, from which the name of the show was derived. Terroir is a French term which pertains to the soil, but also to region. Every aspect of a place that goes into the make up of a grape - the soil, precipitation, terrain, climate - is the Terroir. No two places are the same, and the grapes reflect that reality.

Those wine-making pioneers transplanted grapevines from California and France and wound up with some really fine Pinot Noirs. As we watched the program I was overtly aware of my own status as a recent Oregon transplant, hoping that I too will flourish in this unique and beautiful environment.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Time Flies

I can tell it's been too long since I posted.... My blog hosting site has been "updated" to improve my blogging experience. I am left wondering what teenaged wunderkind decided my experience needed to be improved. In one of my last posts I wrote that Spring was in the air. It remained a possibility, just beyond grasp, for the past two months. Turns out that Portland is cool and wet in March, April and ________. Still, the flowers, shrubs and trees are stunning, and we are pleased as punch to be here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nice Weekend

We were blessed by Evan's company late this week and this weekend. He flew in to interview at WSU-Vancouver for a position in their graduate program. Coincidentally he heard that he has been accepted into a PhD program in Fish and Wildlife at Oregon State. In the latter case he has been offered a Provost Fellowship that will make his study there possible.

Erin was planning on driving up from Corvallis Friday, but wasn't feeling well and decided to stay home. We drove there instead, enjoying a brunch and a walk along as she and Evan played disk golf.

Evan left early this morning, and Sally and I busied ourselves with a nice walk, some yard work, and a bike ride to the library. It felt like Spring. True, it is likely going to snow tomorrow, but Spring is in the air, and feels imminent at last. Huzzah!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Amish

Intriguing show on PBS - American Experience last night on the Amish. I think it would have been interesting anyway, but the coincidence of watching it while keeping an eye on the GOP primaries was surreal. Having kids pulled out of school after eighth grade... the submission of women... the rejection of modernity... the absolute confidence in their views... the irrationality!

And then there was the show on the Amish.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Academy Award

I confess to being inordinately pleased with myself. You see, I don't generally watch movies and almost never go to the theater. I have trouble sitting still that long. But I made an exception last week. The Artist was playing at the Roseway Theater, just a short walk from our house. Sally and I strolled over and enjoyed the film. We didn't know we were watching an Oscar favorite.

A few days after our viewing, articles began appearing in the news touting The Artist as the best picture favorite. I had my fingers crossed. On Sunday evening it all came together. The Artist won five awards, including best picture, best actor, and best director. I'm nominating myself for the "Best decision to walk to the neighborhood theater to see my one movie per year" award.

What? ME? I WON?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

What do you mean I have to share the statue with Sally?

Friday, February 24, 2012

On Sleeping Eight Hours

I just read about a study that questions the normalcy of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. The gist of the article was that references to "first sleep" and the like were common in the past. The argument is that our species more naturally sleeps for four hours, is awake two, and then sleeps four more hours.

This would explain the common experience of staring at the ceiling at 2:00 a.m. wondering how we're going to pay the mortgage, or why I took the job, or how clever web-based thieves are stealing all our money from the bank at this very moment. Apparently I would be better off getting up and doing something rather than trying to sleep during that period. Sounds good, as long as I'm allowed to adjust my alarm clock for the two additional hours I need on the far end.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why do corporations make stupid decisions?

Amidst the ups and downs of the GOP primary process, a dominant news story this first week of February has been a really stupid corporate decision.

  • The Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure announced it would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving grants for breast cancer screening, and then reversed that decision amidst an amazing outburst of protest toward Komen and support for PP. The damage to Komen's reputation will likely be long-lasting.
There have been other recent, stupid moves:

  • Late last summer Netflix announced a new pricing policy that would have doubled the price of their service for us, and then created a new entity named Qwikster to handle DVD mail-based films. Netflix would continue as an on-line streaming movie service. The public outcry brought about the death of Qwikster before it was launched, and huge losses of subscribers (including me).

  • Wells Fargo was one of several banks that announced monthly debit card fees last summer. The fees never materialized, again because of tremendous negative reaction.

Analysis of these stories has focused on the power of social networks to bring about rapid change, and I can but concur. Frustrated consumers are no longer isolated, and can mount movements against corporate abuse. My question is this: Why do big, successful corporations make such stupid decisions in the first place?

I believe corporations do stupid things as a result of a version of "group think", first documented after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in the early 1960's. Group think was described as a process in which people in groups, boards, and the like withhold negative opinions they feel they alone harbor and instead try to be as positive as they can. Being the cynic and pessimist I am, I believe corporations create group think by placing a premium on compliance. People who raise questions and objections are not team players. Meanwhile, those who nod their heads most vigorously rise to the top, there to occupy positions beyond the level such uncritical thinkers deserve. Over time the entire organization becomes stupid.

A clue to this type of group think is found in the utter astonishment expressed by corporate leaders when one of their idiotic decisions is ridiculed. They had never considered the possibility of a negative reaction precisely because they weeded out of their midst any employees bright enough or brave enough to argue with them. Where are the court jesters when you need them? Unemployed. Probably blogging.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Downton Abbey

Like gadzillions of others, Sally and I build our weekends around Masterpiece Theatre's Downton Abbey. If you are not already a viewer, I'd say that it is simply splendid in more ways than you'd wish to hear me recount.

Beyond being entertaining, this new classic is thought provoking. Using customs and mores of the early 20th century as a lens, it has brought one of the major social questions of our day into clear focus. While conservatives wail about the need to protect the institution of marriage, Downton Abbey reminds us that marriage has always reflected the times and culture. Beyond being open to reinterpreting marriage, I believe we are compelled to do so. That the State of Washington is on the verge of voting marriage equality into law is good news for many people I hold dear. The truly good news, however, will be the realization of the hope that marriage equality will become the law of the land. And someday some new classic will be written portraying the silliness and pettiness and tragedy that preceded that reality.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another Step

Yesterday Sally and I closed all our commercial bank accounts and opened a new, e-checking account with a small, neighborhood bank that exists to reinvest in North and Northeast Portland. Today we took the MAX downtown after work and deposited the last of our funds from our former bank to the credit union where the bulk of our funds have been held. It feels good.

We have more such moves to make. Following Netflix's 60% fee increase we cancelled that service. Red Box is fine, should we need it. In the month's ahead we will switch cell phone companies to put our money, mouths and ears into an organization that emphasizes corporate social responsibility.

OK. All this is a drop in the bucket. And our hands are not clean. We are continuing the effort to downsize and simplify. Doing without is often a responsible choice, but isn't much fun. Still, we are determined to continue making decisions that put our beliefs and values into action. Our banking choice was just another step.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Sally and I finally figured out how and where to see the new episodes of Portlandia without having an extensive TV package: we're taking in a free showing tonight at the Hollywood Theater! The Hollywood is one of our local icons, a non-profit theater on Sandy Boulevard that we drive or ride by several times a week. That they have a free showing of anything tells you a lot.

And Portlandia? It is really funny. I've long considered caricature one of the most basic and original forms of humor, taking reality and subtly distorting or overextending it until it becomes ridiculous. Portlandia IS ridiculous, but then, many of the characters protrayed bear an extraordinary resemblance to our new neighbors....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Event

We're having some weather here this week. After a dry December and early January we are finally on the receiving end of some winter weather. We had heavy wet snow yesterday and again this morning, not so much accumulating as inundating. I tried to shovel the walk but it kept flowing off to the side. Kind of a sidewalk smoothie.

There was a 110 mph wind gust on the coast this morning, and there are wind advisories for the city for this afternoon. Batten down!

I welcome the messy weather. We need the snow pack, for one thing. I also look forward to riding my bike on nicer days, thankful that the storm has subsided.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


We're back to owing the bank for only one house, which is a relief. We aren't sure what will happen to the Spokane house now, as it is the property of the relocation company. One positive outgrowth of the time that has passed since we left, and some of the struggle we had in the process, is that we have pretty much lost our emotional connection with the house. Given that we haven't developed a connection with the new one, we are a bit adrift.

It's snowing in Portland this morning, which is headline news. A little snow here is hazardous as the city is not set up to remove it, and drivers are not accustomed to driving in it. We may get several inches, which would exceed the annual average. It's actually lovely.

We are turning our attention to some remodeling ideas this week. We need to get some idea of cost so we can set priorities. We won't engage in anything large scale this time around, but some closet revisions and a fireplace insert are likely.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really.
Agnes Sligh Turnbull

We have lost a dear friend. I wanted to write about it yesterday, but couldn't see the keyboard through my tears. Cayenne, our companion and shepherd, breathed her last on Monday night. The end came quickly. She started panting heavily at about 7pm, and then began hemorrhaging. The vet at Dove Lewis did enough tests to rule out the non-lethal diagnoses. Cay apparently had a mass that had ruptured. Given her age and general health, we asked the doctor to put her down.

We knew the day would come, and dreaded it. Everyone in the family was tightly bonded to Cayenne. She has been such a part of our lives that it's hard to imagine being without her. I especially want to acknowledge how much she taught me about life. This is not hyperbole. She was an exceptional being.

Grief is the price we pay for loving deeply. I have preached this to many others. Now our entire family is living out that truth, and paying that price.

We trust that we made the right decision. The end for Cayenne was gentle and quick. She did not deserve more pain. I struggle with the decision, but would rather have the emotional turmoil myself than watch her struggle with physical distress. So we bid her farewell. Our lives were enriched and deepened by her presence. And there is an empty place left behind that I am certain will never be filled.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital

This isn't how we expected to spend the evening. Cayenne started panting during our dinner, and then came in from a trip outside bleeding profusely. We aren't sure what's going on, but most of the likely outcomes are dire.

We called our vet, and were directed to Dove Lewis. This is a much nicer experience than we had taking Sally to the emergency room in Spokane. The facility is well lit, well maintained, with a friendly and helpful staff. They also do euthanasia here when needed. I'm keeping one of their cards for future reference. If I start to fail this seems a better final destination than some.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Changing Icons

I remember my excitement in 1998 when we first obtained a Washington license plate featuring the image of majestic Mount Rainier. We weren't in Kansas anymore. Today I am excited that our car are sporting new plates with the huge, green fir against the backdrop of the mountains. It's good to have completed one more transitional task. Besides, the neighbor with whom we share a driveway is a Portland police officer. I'm guessing she noticed that we changed plates.

The move continues. We are doing well, and continue to create lists and cross off items. We're really excited to be riding our bikes so much in late December and early January - Sally rode to work today, and I rode much of the way with her twice.

Our animals are liking the move less. We are doing our best to help them get accustomed.