This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in December 2003. They are listed from newest to oldest.
November 2003 is the previous archive.
January 2004 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
Based on a flurry of intelligence reports warning of imminent, continuing holiday revelrie, the blogging level here is being lowered from thin to nonexistent until next weekend. Happy New Year, everybody.
While I'm gone from the blogosphere, I'd appreciate readers' thoughts on a quandary I've been in. Last year I posted both a Top 10 Nitwits list and a Top 10 Favorite Public Figures list. This year I'm not feeling as motivated to do either as I was last year. What do you think? If you say, do it, please help me out with some nominees.
The New York Times ran its seventh Demo prez candidate profile, on Howard Dean, at the top of page 1, and on a Sunday no less, in recognition of his front-runner status. Dean is pictured with a bunch of youthful supporters, furthering his stereotype as a McGovern-type candidate who won't get enough gray-haired votes to win a general election.
"[H]e has great political instincts, good at sizing up people and situations," crows one friend and supporter who was interviewed for the story. "Howard was always two or three moves ahead on the chessboard."
Guess that means he'll have his concession speech ready by mid-October.
Don't get me wrong. In my heart, I know he's right. (Just as in my guts, I know Bush is nuts.) And if Dr. Dean gets the nomination, I'll vote for him. But he can't beat Bush, whereas somebody like Edwards, Clark, Lieberman or even Gephardt could, if their party would just give them the chance.
Later in the day, Dean had the cojones to claim that he's the only candidate who can beat Bush:
"If I don't win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they're going to go?'' he said during a meeting with reporters. "I don't know where they're going to go. They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician.''
It's exactly this kind of arrogance that makes the man unelectable.
Dean could be the last Democratic presidential candidate I vote for in a while, because I would rather sit the election out than vote for Hillary, the likely nominee next time.
This is the week for nostalgia, right? Well, I managed to kick things off with a major jolt to my auld lang syne nerve tonight, as I greased up a pair of high-top Danner hiking boots that I've been wearing a few times a year for nearly 25 years. These guys may not be the oldest item of clothing I own, but they are by far the oldest item I'd ever consider wearing. And on they will go again tomorrow.
These are some heavy footwear. They were built long before today's lightweight materials appeared on the scene. Back then, the price you paid for durability was weight. I gladly pay it to this day. There's nothing wrong with these boots, at least not yet, and so I keep wearing them.
As I rubbed in a half tube of Biwell "impregnation of leather" (I love that phrase) tonight, I couldn't help thinking: Who was I when I first bought these boots at that Danner outlet store in Milwaukie, Ore.? Who was I when I stood on the in-store rock and checked out the fit? Where have these shoes taken me over the years? How am I different now?
I was exactly half the age I am now when I first laced them up. Talented, promising, but still largely unformed. Rebellious, cocky, exuberant, but with so much to learn.
I wish I could say all that talent and promise has been fulfilled, that the restlessness has calmed down, and that I've got so much more learning under my belt. But I'm not sure I can honestly say that.
What I have now that I didn't have then are so many riches and gifts. But I still haven't successfully answered many of the questions that were following me around when the boots were new. And I haven't yet made the contributions that I'm capable of making.
I hope I get another 25 years, either in these boots or out of them. In the time that's left, I need to find some answers, and to give more back.
The Christmas action at our house started a week ago, and it shows no signs of letting up. One bonus provided by the extended festivities has been a chance to dig a little deeper into the Christmas music pile before putting it away for another year.
Today we got around to a beautiful album by Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel called The Gift. It's mostly a single acoustic guitar and a lone wind instrument -- particularly an oboe, I think. Can't imagine a nicer audio backdrop to gift opening or adult holiday entertaining. Cheers!
Through the miracle of eBay, I have been reunited with one of the Christmas albums that used to get played around my house when I was a kid: Christmas Sing Along with Mitch, by Mitch Miller.
Mitch was the musical director at Columbia records back in the '50s, and he scored some major recognition when he and a "gang" of singers appeared in the infant medium called "television" in the early '60s. The program was called "Sing Along with Mitch," and as Mitch led the group in song, viewers were urged to do just that, while the song lyrics were being flashed along the bottom of the tiny, black-and-white TV screen. As I recall, the graphics in those days were done via a "tel-op" machine -- a huge contraption that required an operator to slide trays of printed words into it, to be photographed by a TV camera and superimposed over the pictures of the singing group. With all those lyrics going in and out, I wouldn't be surprised if several tel-op men were required for a Mitch show.
The Mitch Miller Gang's music was incredibly corny. Think "Toot Toot Tootsie" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Rock and roll and jazz were exploding all around, but Mitch, with his tacky goatee and three-ring sign in each hand, tried to keep America croaking out "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." Frank Sinatra despised the material that Miller made him record when he was a young man, and as soon as Blue Eyes could get out of the Dodge, he bolted for Capitol Records. Tony Bennett, who stayed with Columbia, no doubt suffered some of his low periods singing along with Mitch.
Like all the Mitch albums, the Christmas effort is a cheapie. The singers -- God forbid Mitch should allow them to be named anywhere in the credits -- perform largely a capella. They do a great job with some very traditional harmonies, and the lyrics to the dozen or so Christmas hymns are set out on a half dozen lyric sheets included in the gatefold album cover.
Mitch, Andy Williams and Phil Spector -- these are the definitive Christmas albums for me and my siblings. When a burst of nostalgia is called for in the Christmas season, they are proven performers.
When I was small I believed in Santa Claus
Though I knew it was my dad
And I would hang up my stocking at Christmas
Open my presents and I'd be glad
But the last time I played Father Christmas
I stood outside a department store
A gang of kids came over and mugged me
And knocked my reindeer to the floor
"Father Christmas, give us some money
Don't mess around with those silly toys
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread so don't make us annoyed
Give all the toys to the little rich boys
"Don't give my brother a Steve Austin outfit
Don't give my sister a cuddly toy
We don't want a jigsaw or monopoly money
We only want the real McCoy
"Father Christmas, give us some money
We'll beat you up if you make us annoyed
Father Christmas, give us some money
Don't mess around with those silly toys
"But give my daddy a job 'cause he needs one
He's got lots of mouths to feed
But if you've got one, I'll have a machine gun
So I can scare all the kids down the street
"Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread, so don't make us annoyed
Give all the toys to the little rich boys"
Have yourself a merry, merry Christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin'
While you're drinkin' down your wine
"Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread, so don't make us annoyed
Give all the toys to the little rich boys"
I'm not a Bible-thumping kind of guy. But I do get a lot out of the church that I've been attending for a little over a year now. One of the staffers of the parish is a woman named Barbara who serves as director of religious education.
Earlier this month, Barbara had a great column in the parish bulletin about Santa Claus. I was hoping it would get posted to the web so that I could link to it on this blog, but it hasn't made it yet. It's so good that, rather than wait, I'm going to keyboard it all in myself just so that you can read it. Here goes:
At a time when the celebration of Christmas was entirely religious, children were told the Christ Child brought them gifts in celebration of His birthday. So where did Santa Claus come from? Well, he's a little bit bishop-saint, Father Christmas, Christmas Man, and the Norse mythological god, Thor.
The veneration of saints was abolished in most Protestant countries soon after the Reformation (1520's). Of course, also banned were the religious traditions that went along with these saints. Even St. Nicholas (celebrated since the 4th Century) was scratched. According to legend, Bishop Nicholas of Myra (Turkey) was very generous with his personal wealth. One story depicts him secretly placing small bags of money through a window so that the three daughters of a poorer family could afford the dowry to be married. Because of his concern and loving kindness toward children, he became the patron of children. As years passed, it became the custom for "St. Nicholas" to appear in his bishop's red robes and long white beard to question the young children about their behavior, encourage them to prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas (religious celebration only), and to give out simple gifts of candy, fruit or a toy. Sometimes this little visit was "secret" -- during the night, and shoes put out by the children were filled with gifts. On Dec. 6th our family still celebrates this custom, even though our daughters are in their twenties now. They make sure that their now-larger shoes (which of course hold more candy) are left on the bannister in our home for St. Nick.
Only the Dutch Protestants after the Reformation kept the ancient tradition of a visit from St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas). They brought this tradition and name to the American colonies and, as a matter of fact, their first church in New York City was named after St. Nicholas. When they lost control of their colony to the English, the English-speaking children envied the Dutch children's gifts from Sinter Klaas (which they pronounced "Santa Claus"). However, their parents, as you can well imagine, did not want to participate in a tradition which involved a Catholic saint -- especially a bishop.
So -- being very creative, as parents sometimes have to be -- the secret visit with gifts was transferred from the eve of Dec. 6th to Christmas Eve and absorbed into other Christmas festivities. The good saint was replaced, except for his name, by an entirely new character, which was a mixture of Father Christmas (England), Christmas Man (other European Protestant countries), the mythical god Thor (Scandinavian), and a little bit of St. Nicholas. The red and white robes could be either a little bit St. Nicholas or a little bit Thor, who hailed from the freezing north.
In 1809, Washington Irving (Knickerbockers History of New York) contributed to Santa's evolution by describing St. Nicholas as a heavy-set Dutchman, smoking a pipe, riding over rooftops in a wagon and dropping presents from his pockets down chimneys. In 1822, Clement Moore ('Twas the night before Christmas) expanded the image of St. Nicholas to "a jolly old elf." In the late 19th Century, cartoonists with their own renditions of "Santa" contributed to our current Santa. Thomas Nast, one of the cartoonists, put the final touches on Santa Claus by a series of drawings to help lighten the mood of people during the Civil War. The result of the cartoonists' efforts: (primarily using details from mythology about the Norse god Thor) elderly, jolly (even though he was the god of war), with white hair and beard, friend of the common people, living in the freezing northlands, traveling through the sky in a chariot pulled by goats, and as god of fire, partial to chimneys and fireplaces.
But -- Santa Claus still wears the red and white robes of a bishop!
'Twas The Night Before Christmas, Legally Speaking
Found in the e-mail in-box tonight:
Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to, a mouse.
A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter.
The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.
Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter referred to as "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)
Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.
At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter referred to as "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the vehicle appeared to be and in fact was the previously referenced Claus.
Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)
The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.
Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.
Said Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stockings of the minor occupants, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minors pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)
Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.
However, prior to the departure of the said Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear said Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words substantially to that effect.
Today is my day to be the guest blogger for the "sixth day of Christmas" at Blue Hole. Hope you go over, check out my piece, and enjoy it. A couple of errata, though: The garbled word is "Cliché," and the "nice picture" is here.
More controversially, the story links to the full campaign contribution reports, which in some cases contain fairly private information like home addresses. That's a thinly veiled invitation to harassment, and I don't condone it, although you would-be harassers out there will have to catch the Federal Elections Commission reports when they're not mostly down, which means you'll have to be very, very patient.
Some of the names on the list raise your eyebrow. For example, Mrs. Neil Goldschmidt popped W. $2K. I did not know that Harold Schnitzer had gone Republican, but he sprang for $2K. The folks who run Timberline, the head of Columbia Sportswear, the head of Hoffman Construction, the CEO of NW Natural, Earle Chiles, Olympic gold medalist Don Schollander, Bob Pamplin -- they're all there, and plenty more. Along with GOP politicians and candidates like Jim Zupancic, Molly Bordonaro, and Kevin Mannix.
A message to all the Beaver State lefties who are running around telling themselves, "Howard Dean is going to take back the White House for the people!": Read this list. And weep.
UPDATE, 11:18 a.m.: Emily at Strangechord links here, but taking a tip from Emma of The Oregon Blog in the comments to this post, Emily does this topic one better. Here, she says, is a search engine, with which you can figure out any person's contributions to federal races. I've tried it; it works. Check it out.
Just to give an example, Harold Schnitzer, whom I listed above as giving $2K to Bush, also gave $2K to Lieberman! Since 1997, he's listed as giving $36,000 in federal races alone. Fascinating.
The New York Times ran its Demo Presidential candidate profile on Carol Moseley Braun yesterday. So insignificant is she as a candidate that the Times didn't start the story on Page 1, as it had with the previous contenders it has written up. It ran the story way in the back of the news section, with only a small box on the cover pointing inside.
The profile was pretty dismissive as well. Her strongest quote: "If I were not a woman -- if I were a guy -- with my credentials and my experience and what I bring to the table, there would be no reason why I wouldn't think about running." The reporter finds a few, however, including "all the old questions about her mother's Medicaid payments, campaign accounting, and her visits with a brutal dictator in Nigeria."
That's six out of nine for the Times, with Kucinich, Dean, and Edwards still to go. Meanwhile, Braun: Gong!
In the same edition, the Times also reported:
In a potential sign of concern for Democrats who are contemplating the prospects of a contest between Mr. Bush and Dr. Dean, one-quarter of registered voters already have an unfavorable view of Dr. Dean.
The New York Times and CBS News conducted what were in effect back-to-back polls, before and after Mr. Hussein's capture, offering an early glimpse of how the events in Iraq might affect the primary contests.
In one very rough measure, the number of voters who said they had a favorable view of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the field's strongest supporter of the military campaign in Iraq, jumped over the weekend. Mr. Lieberman was the first pro-war Democratic contender to attack Dr. Dean's antiwar position, winning him the publicity that the candidates have been struggling for in their crowded field.
My daughter and I went up to the Oregon Zoo in Washington Park the other evening to see the zoo's annual Zoolights festival. It was fun, albeit mildly so.
The zookeepers have figured out a great way to boost attendance and make something out of the dark days of December -- come nightfall, they flip the switch on hundreds of colorful outdoor light displays depicting wild animals and holiday themes. If you're a fan of animated light shows (and who isn't this time of year), it's pretty impressive.
Setting the festival in the zoo is a little odd, however. There are very few real animals in view, and the ones who are around look more forlorn than ever. Only the bats seemed to be grooving on all the winter nights' company. And the way most of the lights are laid out, the impression you get when you first see each display from a distance fades as the path brings you closer to it. As a result, most of the impact of each scene fizzles a bit before the display leaves your view.
Up on the hill, the zoo is exposed to some pretty brisk breezes this time of year. After a while, you just get cold. Now, with a layer of snow on the ground, that would be fantastic, but without it, the chill puts an uncomfortable little edge on the stroll.
I'm a zoo fan, I'm glad we made the trip, and we'll likely return in a couple-three years. (We skipped the train and the thrill ride; next time we'll hit them both.) If you've never been to Zoolights, you should see it at least once. But don't beat yourself up if it takes you a while to get around to it.
Nth of Pril reports on a hot controversy out on the Oregon coast. It seems that the folks who make Bandon Cheese are demanding that people stop using the name "Bandon" in their businesses.
The problem with this is, all the businesses that the cheese people are hassling are actually in the town of Bandon, whereas the Bandon Cheese operation moved out of town (to Tillamook and Boardman, the latter of which is way the heck over in eastern Oregon) quite a while ago. Now the true Bandoners (Bandonites?) are considering suing to stop the cheesemakers from calling their product "Bandon," since it isn't made there any more.
I'm with the true Bandoners on this one. No Bandon Cheese for us until this is resolved. No whey!
Lately I've been so caught up in Saddam and Christmas that I've neglected my duties to readers who come here looking for news and commentary about my home town and home state. Let's get back on track in that regard with a couple of follow-ups on, as they say on the nightly news, "stories we've been watching."
First, the Neil Goldschmidt Influence Store may be temporarily closed for remodeling as one of its high-paying clients just got badly burned for patronizing it. The two top honchos at Saif Corporation, formerly known as the State Accident Insurance Fund, have resigned under major pressure after the news broke that they have been paying more than a million dollars in Saif funds to Goldschmidt for his priceless political insights.
Saif is a quasi-public player in the field of workers' compensation insurance -- a role that spawns enmity among its private competitors, particularly an outfit called Liberty Northwest, run by ex-Saif executives and committed to get even with Saif for its perceived unfair advantages. Saif is also a quasi-public cash cow in a state that's as broke as its ever been -- an attractive slush fund for greedy people. It's been that way since an earlier executive perk scandal in the '80s, and although the latest brouhaha may result in things being cleaned up for a while, without a major shakeup Saif will always merit suspicion.
Saif hired Goldschmidt to keep it out of trouble, and the resulting backfire is quite remarkable. Forgive me if I laugh.
Tossed aside at the end of The Oregonian's front-page banner-headline story was the fact that the defrocked Saifers made around $314,000 and $233,000 a year at Saif. After all, the story noted, the CEO at Liberty makes around $500,000. Yeah, well, a fine job they're all doing for that kind of money.
Governor Ted has made it three -- three Republican state legislators, that is, whom he's appointed to jobs in the state bureaucracy, thus removing them from the lawmakers' roll.
The latest is Sen. Lenn Hannon (R-Ashland), whom Gov. Kulongoski has named to the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision. Since the new job is considered full-time (and anyway I hear it's illegal for a legislator also to have a paying job in the executive branch), Hannon will be leaving the Legislature.
Hannon is perhaps best known to Portlanders as a staunch opponent of state financing of a stadium in Portland for a major league baseball team. He single-handedly stopped state support for the project in 2001, when the financing would have been much easier for baseball proponents than it turns out to be now, after the 2003 session authorized it. In the Bogdanski Influence Index, in which 0 out of 18 indicates a high degree of sway over colleagues in the last legislative session, Hannon scored a 9, tied for the highest score among senators, indicating that he was very much out of the mainstream.
I have it on good authority that he is an honorable man who fights tough but fights fair.
Hannon's appointment to a state desk job follows the similar, recent appointments of (a) Rep. Max Williams (R-Tigard, Bog. score 2) to be the state's corrections director, and (b) Sen. John Minnis (R-Wood Village, Bog. score 6) to be director of public safety standards and training.
Is the governor --
(a) buying off his stronger political nemeses,
(b) showing bi-partisan spirit in an effort to unify Oregonians from all regions and political persuasions,
(c) both of the above,
(d) saying, "I like Republicans in public safety and law enforcement roles," or
I'm fascinated to read about the hut next to Saddam's hole. It sounds an awful lot like my old bachelor pad down in the Mountain Park section of Lake Oswego, where all the yuppies went a-four-wheel-drivin' down to the Thriftway, circa 1990. My place was a basement apartment in a grim little complex, inhabited mostly by the castoffs of recently dissolved marriages (including me) -- so much so that my friends and I called it the Divorce Detention Camp. A borrowed card table, a sleeping bag on the floor, and one bare light bulb swinging. I'm no heir of Muhammad, but I can relate.
There was no spider hole, per se, but there was a tiny swimming pool where you could lie flat and hope you wouldn't be noticed. And if you wanted a dark, dirty, disgusting, smelly pit, there were numerous strip clubs within driving distance.
The inventory of goods found in Saddam's hovel (which I believe shares the name with a bar up on Sandy Boulevard) also sounds familiar. You've got your 7 Up, your Mars bars, a candy bar called "Bounty," hot dogs, a cake of Palmolive Naturals soap, a bottle of Dove moisturizing shampoo, a supply of moisturizing cream (you're living alone, you make do), a stick of "Lacoste deodorant pour homme," three pairs of white boxer shorts, and two white, sleeveless undershirts (XL and XXL) still in the plastic.
It's not clear whether the shirts were "muscle shirts" or tanks, but what is clear is what the wily old coot Hussein was up to. He was going to try both of the sizes on, maybe even wash one of them to see if it shrunk, and take the wrong-sized one back to the Tikrit Target for a refund.
For reading, the former dictator had a book on interpreting dreams, volumes of classical Arabic poetry entitled Discipline and Sin, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. What, no Esquire?
The only things Hussein had with him that I didn't have down in Mountain Park were the guns and the money. Granted, I wish I'd had the money. But at least I had Al Menashe as my divorce lawyer, and believe me, he'd take Ramsey Clark to the freakin' cleaners.
Like Saddam, I also could have used a couple of doubles to make public appearances.
I wonder who'll live in that hut now. I know I should be taking this more seriously, but I keep hearing Fred from the B-52s in my head: Wearing next to nothin' 'cause it's hot as an oven! Funky little shack! Fun-ky lit-tle shack!
It's been the custom here to note the passing of each 10,000 visits to this site. Lately it's been taking about three months to reach a new 10,000 milestone.
Until yesterday, that is, when a favorable link by the mighty Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit led to another such link on National Review Online's "Corner" blog. Prof. Reynolds apparently found out about the linked blog entry in question when I e-mailed him about it early yesterday morning. The deluge of hits that resulted from the two links to it (more than 23,000 for the day) cracked the 40,000 and 50,000-visit marks on the same day, with the 60,000 mark likely to be passed very early this morning.
There's a surprising new scapegoat for the Columbia disaster: PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation software.
An alert reader notes that The New York Timesreported in its Sunday magazine on a portion of the safety board report on the destruction of the space shuttle, as follows:
NASA, the board argued, had become too reliant on presenting complex information via PowerPoint, instead of by means of traditional ink-and-paper technical reports. When NASA engineers assessed possible wing damage during the mission, they presented the findings in a confusing PowerPoint slide -- so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle. ''It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation,'' the board sternly noted.
PowerPoint is the world's most popular tool for presenting information. There are 400 million copies in circulation, and almost no corporate decision takes place without it. But what if PowerPoint is actually making us stupider?
This year, Edward Tufte -- the famous theorist of information presentation -- made precisely that argument in a blistering screed called The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. In his slim 28-page pamphlet, Tufte claimed that Microsoft's ubiquitous software forces people to mutilate data beyond comprehension. For example, the low resolution of a PowerPoint slide means that it usually contains only about 40 words, or barely eight seconds of reading. PowerPoint also encourages users to rely on bulleted lists, a ''faux analytical'' technique, Tufte wrote, that dodges the speaker's responsibility to tie his information together. And perhaps worst of all is how PowerPoint renders charts. Charts in newspapers like The Wall Street Journal contain up to 120 elements on average, allowing readers to compare large groupings of data. But, as Tufte found, PowerPoint users typically produce charts with only 12 elements. Ultimately, Tufte concluded, PowerPoint is infused with ''an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.''
As a confirmed PowerPoint user, I'd like to say, hogwash. The problem is not with the medium. If there's a problem at all, it's with the user. PowerPoint is just a vastly, vastly improved version of what used to accompany verbal presentations -- a chalkboard, "white board," flip chart, or overhead. It's unfair to criticize the program for not doing what it never was intended to do. Thirty years ago, such a critique would have read like this:
NASA, the board argued, had become too reliant on presenting complex information via blackboards, instead of by means of traditional ink-and-paper technical reports. When NASA engineers assessed possible wing damage during the mission, they presented the findings in a confusing array of inscribed chalkboards -- so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle. ''It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this blackboard and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation,'' the board sternly noted.
Chalkboards are the world's most popular tool for presenting information. There are 400 million chalkboards in circulation, and almost no corporate decision takes place without them. But what if chalkboards are actually making us stupider?
This year, Edward Tufte -- the famous theorist of information presentation -- made precisely that argument in a blistering screed called The Cognitive Style of Chalkboards. In his slim 28-page pamphlet, Tufte claimed that the ubiquitous blackboard forces people to mutilate data beyond comprehension. For example, the low resolution of handwriting on a blackboard means that it usually contains only about 40 words, or barely eight seconds of reading. Chalkboards also encourage users to rely on bulleted lists, a ''faux analytical'' technique, Tufte wrote, that dodges the speaker's responsibility to tie his information together. And perhaps worst of all is how blackboards render charts. Charts in newspapers like The Wall Street Journal contain up to 120 elements on average, allowing readers to compare large groupings of data. But, as Tufte found, chalkboard users typically produce charts with only 12 elements. Ultimately, Tufte concluded, the chalkboard is infused with ''an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.''
If people can't figure out what PowerPoint can and cannot do, they shouldn't use it. But don't blame the program. In the hands of a skilled author/operator, it has all other presentation systems beat hands down.
They don't officially start until next week, but Alan over at Blue Hole is celebrating the 12 days of Christmas over the 12 days before the 25th, and so we're already up to Day 3 as of today. He's got a group of guest bloggers, each of whom is offering a post for one of the days. I've written for the sixth day, which by my calculations will be this Friday.
The latest in the 12 Days Project starts here. I'd bet that readers who join me over there will find some good new bloggers to read further.
Well, that's just what we have with the Subway on SW Sixth between Washington and Alder in downtown Portland. Yesterday the helpers told me, after I bought a sandwich and was getting ready to sit down, "Our building manager won't let us open our restroom."
Say, what? Isn't there some kind of law against this?
UPDATE, 12/16, 12:03 a.m.: I contacted the state health department, and was told in an unsigned response that it's a city or county concern. I'll try the county next.
Holy moly. State Rep. Max Williams, R-Tigard, one of the up-and-coming members of the Oregon Legislature (and a former student of mine), is chucking his lawmaker gig and becoming the head of the Oregon Corrections Department.
Williams, who until now has been listed as "counsel" at the Miller Nash law firm in Portland, was expected to be one of the leaders of the big state Capitol tax debate in a special session in 2004. I guess that's out the window. Just the other day his op-ed piece on the need for civics education in Oregon schools ran in the electronic version of The Oregonian. That must have been the swan song for his days in the House.
In the Bogdanski Influence Index, in which 0 out of 18 indicates a high degree of sway over colleagues in the last legislative session, Williams scored a 2, meaning he was very much in the mainstream. I wonder who will take his seat.
Governor Ted seems to like to pick off some of the more influential members of the legislative branch -- including members of the oppositiion party -- and plop them down into bureaucratic state jobs. Why does that make me a little uneasy?
And Max, I know you've got mouths to feed at home, but is this really what you want to do?
The Dems may indeed sink like the Titanic next year. But I don't think Dr. Dean is the problem -- at least, not yet. The problem is the party itself. God and the Republicans have blessed the Democrats with the high ground on one important issue after another, from the war in Iraq to national economic policy to health care to education to the environment.
But like the Union general George McClellan, the Democrats have been too timid to take full advantage. It's a party for the faint of heart. The Republicans are hijacking elections and redistricting the country and looting the Treasury and ignoring the Constitution and embittering our allies, while the Democrats are -- let's see, fumbling their way through an incoherent primary season and freaking out over Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean.
The Thursday New York Times this week was almost as thick as a Sunday's, and it wasn't just because of all the Christmas ads. There was a ton of editorial content, all of it interesting. Glad I'm on break and had a chance to look at it all, even if I didn't get around to it until it was officially Friday.
On the front page, of course, was the good news that the U.S. Supreme Court has come to its senses and stopped blocking campaign finance reform on First Amendment grounds. As with the court's groundbreaking (and misguided) mid-'70s decision in Buckley v. Valeo, the new case spawned a weird-looking cluster of longwinded opinions on various issues, including one highly unusual co-authored majority opinion. But the basic vote was 5-4, with my fellow Stanford Law alum Sandra Day O'Connor once again calling the shot from the Court's center.
It's amusing to me that when it comes to corporate money controlling politics, Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy are the champions of "free speech," while the Usual Suspects -- Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens -- are the defenders of government's important interests in restricting what special interests can and can't buy ads about. After Bush v. Gore, though, what do you expect? There's really no sense in pretending that we're looking for "neutral principles" any more, I guess.
Hey, I'm not complaining. Any time the ACLU and the NRA lose in the same case, I'm happy.
Also on the front page, W. showed why I call him "Boner," as he stepped in another deep pile of foreign policy kim chee. Just as he's making all nicey nicey with our lukewarm allies, asking them pretty please to forgive Iraq's debt, somebody over at the Pentagon decides to break the news to them that they're not getting any contract work to rebuild Iraq because they didn't send troops in with us. There's that trademark Bush diplomatic timing. "Eh?" say the Canadians. "Ach," say the Germans. "Mon dieu," say the French. "That'll be $2.64 a gallon," says Dick Cheney.
I'm sure W.'s going to go after Dean as knowing nothing about foreign policy. Takes one to know one.
Speaking of which, the Times also reports that everybody in the Bush camp now thinks that Dean will be their opponent in the general election. They're cautioning the GOP faithful not to be overconfident against Dean, which is a sure sign that deep down they, like I, believe that the President will be opening up a major can of whup-a*s next summer.
You know they're gonna produce Saddam Hussein right around Fourth of July, don't you? You just know it.
What else? Oh yeah, inside there's a piece on how hard Memphis, Tennessee is trying to be as hip as places like Seattle and Portland. Down there the goatee-and-black-t-shirt types are all cooing the "creative class" mantra that we hear about on Portland Communique from time to time. Sounds like some guy named Florida is where they're getting it from. Anyhow, so far it ain't working in Memphis, despite a lot of indicators that suggest that it could indeed become a pretty hip place. In the meantime, the coolest thing there besides Dead Elvis is still boomer-going-geezer John Hiatt, whom The Times doesn't mention.
The "Circuits" section gets into the new wave of phone cam regulation. That's not really news, except for a statistic that I hadn't read before: There are now 6 million of those little buggers out there. Scary. (On a related note, tonight on the local TV news I watched a home surveillance video of a truly dopey couple of scuzzbags stealing a lady's Christmas packages off her front porch. The two thieves are sick, but then I noticed that the homeowner had three different cams trained on her front yard. What motivated her to do that? I smell dog poop!)
Thomas Friedman thinks that the occupation of Iraq will make Israel more moderate, since it can no longer point to an Iraqi threat. And op-ed contributor and retired super-high NATO poobah Andrew Goodpaster offers (among other things) a thought-provoking quote from his old boss, George C. Marshall:
Tyranny inevitably must retire before the tremendous moral strength of the gospel of freedom and self-respect for the individual. But we have to recognize that these democratic principles do not flourish on empty stomachs and that people turn to false promises of dictators because they are hopeless and anything promises something better than the miserable existence that they endure.
When I get the quarterly bill for my daily Times subscription, I usually wince. But on days like yesterday, that paper's worth its weight in gold.
All the Christmas music tinkling around these days reminds me of my days in grammar school glee club. I remember the year the club started. I was in the inaugural group, and we gave a Christmas concert.
The glee club was founded and run by the coolest nun in the school, Sister Michael Charles. She split the many kids who wanted to sing for her into two groups: one for the older kids in the seventh and eighth grades, and the other for the younger ones. Within each group, our tiny little voices were sorted into sopranos and altos, and each subgroup learned its own part separately from the other until very near the end of the process.
Sister Michael Charles was a dynamo, the likes of which hadn't been seen at that school in ages, or maybe ever. I had the privilege of being in her class in fifth grade, where we learned more than we did in several other years combined. I knew biological phyla. I could name all the members of the then-current presidential cabinet (JFK), as well as those in the original cabinet (Washington) -- a feat I couldn't replicate today. She had a great sense of humor, and there was a real person under the blue Sisters of Charity habit that she wore. We loved her.
Which brings me back to the glee club. I was one of the boy sopranos in the group, and I was among the shorter members. This gave me a strategic spot in the front row center of the stage, right in front of Sister Michael Charles, who would lead us in song. Piano accompaniment wasn't available -- the poor nun probably couldn't recruit anybody good to do it -- and so all of our numbers were performed a capella. Sister Michael would arrange most of the music herself. She'd blow the opening note on her pitch pipe, remind us with a whisper of the first word of the song we were about to sing, and off we'd go.
We spent a lot of after-school hours in rehearsal, and over the course of repeating "My Favorite Things" (then a hip, current song) over and over, a boy's mind could wander. There was always a lot of mystery about the nuns and what they did after they went back to the convent. Did they really shave their heads bald under those habit hats? Did they really sleep on wooden boards? No one knew for sure.
Well, as puberty approached, other aspects of the sisters' lives also became a curiosity for us boys. Particularly with Sister Michael Charles, who was so young and beautiful -- a fellow couldn't help but wonder.
Then one day, about halfway through rehearsal, the good sister's nun-shoe -- a bootlike black thing that covered her up over the ankle -- came untied. She motioned for us to keep singing and she bent over to tie it, but before she did, she actually hitched up her habit above her knee. Both I and the boy next to me -- I think it was Tommy Jackamas -- watched intently. As in, very intently. As in, way too intently. There was the dark nun hosiery over this beautiful woman's calf, and her knee! And it couldn't have been more than two feet away. Our eyes nearly popped out of our heads.
And when the good sister stood up, she noticed. She blushed. I'm sure we blushed too, so badly that we would have glowed in the dark at that point.
And then, beautiful, smart, funny Sister Michael Charles playfully flipped up her skirt, flashing both legs up to the knee for a split second. We all laughed, but man, what a moment. Neither of us boys knew what we were feeling.
Very soon after I graduated from grammar school, one of my classmates, whose aunt was a nun and the head of that convent, informed me that Sister Michael Charles had left the religious order. She had gotten married and moved to Florida. I never heard another word about her.
By now she would be collecting Social Security. If you're out there, Sister Michael Charles, whatever your name is now, I want you to know, you were it. And I have no doubt that you still are.
We did it! We broke through the 1,000-hit mark at around 4:20 p.m. Site Meter's moving a little slowly keeping track of all our visitors, but readers have clearly broken the bank and made Buck-a-Hit Day a smashing success.
I'm grateful to all those bloggers and others who are sending readers my way today. These include:
A complete list of referring sources for the last 24 hours can be found at the very bottom of this page. Excellent! Thank you, everyone!
Now, some folks have asked me whether my family and I are willing to keep going above $1,000. Unfortunately, though willing, we aren't able. But perhaps there's a patron out there who would throw in, say, a dime a hit above 1,000, up to $100 additional? Just a thought.
There's quiet beauty in the academic life. One aspect of this is its cyclical nature. Unlike most jobs, where the work just keeps on coming, and there are always tasks at various stages of completion, in the world of education each term has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Yesterday I reached the end of another semester with the giving of my final exam. I tortured the students for four hours, after which we disappear out of each other's lives -- some for a while, many for good. I have a pile of bluebooks that I have to grade now, but the shows and the grilling are over until mid-January.
What a pleasure to open one's eyes after a long night's sleep and realize there is no need to be anywhere at any particular time. For that it's worth sacrificing the big bucks that might be available outside the classroom.
My mother had three sisters and two brothers who survived childbirth. (I believe her parents had a couple of other children who didn't make it past infancy during the Depression.) The family of eight lived in a tiny house in Down Neck Newark that you would swear couldn't possibly house more than four people under any circumstances. But they made it work, God love them.
Mom and two of her sisters had their first babies all around the same time. They were all boys. One of them was me, Jackie. The other boys were Bobby and Bernie. Each one of us was named after his dad.
Bobby's and Bernie's parents got them out of Newark while the getting was good. Bernie's family headed off to the Philadelphia suburbs, where they lived in a nice little subdivision off Route 1. Bob's folks packed themselves off to California -- light years away, really -- where they re-settled in the San Fernando Valley.
Once those guys left town, we didn't see Bernie much, and of course we never saw Bobby at all. But Philly wasn't too far a drive, and every once in a while we'd head down that way to visit with the cousins. Bernie had two sisters, and I had a brother and a sister, and the party of 10 was always fun.
Being a kid and visiiting your cousins could be so odd. There were always the comparisons and the contrasts. We were the same in so many ways -- as I recall, Bernie and I have the same birthmark, and I think Bob might have it too -- and yet there were so many differences. Life in the suburbs was not the same as life on the sandlots in Newark. The food was a little blander in the 'burbs; the accent was different, especially the o's. And they had a garage, an actual garage, where your car was parked inside the building. But my mom and her sister had a lifetime of shared experiences and perspectives that rubbed off on all of us kids.
I remember that during the Newark race riots, when half the city was up in flames and it wasn't clear whether the violence was coming to our part of town, my parents quickly and quietly whisked us off to stay with the Philly relatives for a couple of nights. We came back to Newark when the coast was clear.
I can also recall Bernie and his family's horror when they would visit our house, and the huge jets roared overhead on their way to landings at the nearby (too nearby) Newark Airport. The engines were deafening -- all conversation in the house stopped for a good five to ten seconds until each plane passed -- and for hours on Sunday night the flights would be only a minute apart. The Pennsylvania relatives were downright frightened by this, not to mention what they must have felt about the public housing project half a block away. I'm sure they sped down the Turnpike with a sigh of relief when the day was over.
Once I got fully involved in high school, my trips to Bernie's stopped, and we grew far apart. But when I got my driver's license and was a young college guy still living at home, there was no reason why I couldn't hook up with my long lost cousin in the 'burbs for some hard core partying once in a while. And so I'd drive down there. We'd run over to the package store -- I think they were operated by the State of Pennsylvania in those days -- and pick up a couple of sixpacks of some wicked malt liquor in wide-mouth green bottles. Then we'd head back to the house for a friendly dinner with Aunt Terry, after which Bern and I would head up to his room with the six packs. There we'd listen to Led Zeppelin IV. "Black Dog," baby, over and over. And I think Humble Pie and the Who were in heavy rotation as well.
There were only a couple of weekends like this, but the one that sticks in my mind most clearly is the one that went down when Bobby came to visit. He was in the Army at that point, and stationed somewhere in Virginia or the Carolinas. He rode up to Jersey on a bus or a train, all by himself, to stay with my family. And on that Saturday afternoon, he and I hopped in my mom's car and took a spin down to Bernie's.
It was a special night, full of beer, laughs, and the mysteries of who the three of us were. There was a little snow on the ground, and after we got a nice rosy glow on, we headed down to the little park on the corner for a taste of late night sledding. As I recall, Bob hadn't seen snow in more than a decade at this point, but he got right into it as we took turns recklessly whipping down the hill. I remember, too, that there was a cute neighbor girl there with her kid sister. Even the older one was, at least for the time being, too young for Bernie. But you could tell that she liked him, and that there was potential there, in just a few more years. We talked with her for a while about a number of things, including the latest music, and she told Bernie that she really liked the song "I Think We're Alone Now."
Whoa. Quite a night.
Anyway, the stories of the recent snowstorms back east started me thinking about that fantastic sled party. And when "I Think We're Alone Now" came over the radio yesterday, I was right back there with Bernie, Bob, and that girl, whoever she was.
We're all around 50 years old now, and I must confess I'm totally out of touch with those guys. Bob and I spent a fair amount of time together over a couple of summers that I lived in LA, but that was in the mid-'70s, and we're almost strangers now. The last I saw him, for a few minutes in Vegas with our moms in tow, was maybe a decade ago. Bob looked strong, but I'm not sure I knew him any more. As for Bern, he sent me a photo of himself and his family a few years back, and darned if he didn't look a lot like me. We both have a lot of our maternal grandfather in us. Pop-Pop died when when we were 4, but the three of us probably know a little bit about him in our bones, because he is a part of us.
Perhaps it's time to reach out to those two. What with the internet at our disposal, there ought to be some way to commemorate, at least minimally, the 32nd (or whichever) anniversary of that night that we zoned out to "Stairway to Heaven."
Thanks for coming here on Buck-a-Hit Day, where each visit takes $1 out of my pocket (up to $1,000) and sends it over to the Oregon Food Bank and the food pantry of St. Philip Neri Parish here in Portland.
I've never gotten 1,000 visits in a single day on this site. Back when a legion of sickies was looking for the Kobe Bryant accuser one day last summer, a post of mine that mentioned his case drew around 700 people here. If Howard Bashman at How Appealing drops a link to me, I might have 300 or so. But 1,000? Wow. We'll see.
For those of you who are new here, here's a nickel tour. If you scroll down, you'll see what this blog looks like in a typical two-week period: lots of largely disconnected stuff flowing out of my size 7½ head. Things are organized (more or less) by date and topic over to the left, in the various categories under "Archives." Just below that is a Google search box, where you can word search to your heart's content. Before midsummer of this past year, this blog was hosted on Blogspot, at bojack.blogspot.com. If you head over there, you'll find a Google search box for the prior life of the blog (just over a year) as well.
So look around, have fun, bookmark if you like what you see, and above all, accept my gratitude for your participation in this noble mini-experiment. (But on top of the ego stroking, heh heh, I get the tax deduction, not you. Unless you go do something like this on your own blog.)
UPDATE, 1:55 a.m.: It's time for me to crash. I'll check in again late morning on the West Coast.
New York Times columnist and Oregon homeboy Nicholas Kristof warned on Saturday (in a column reprinted in The Oregonian today, but forget trying to find that online) that Howard Dean, though perhaps being right-on on the issues, is not electable. You could have saved yourself a dollar (or 35 cents for the days-old Oregonian reprint) by just listening to me, weeks ago, when I said the same thing.
In today's Times, columnist David Brooks rags on Dean for flipflopping on many issues, which Brooks says will make key centrist voters very suspicious. "On the Internet, everyone is loosely tethered, careless and free," Brooks wrote. "Dean is the Internet man, a string of exhilarating moments and daring accusations. The only problem is that us rural folk distrust people who reinvent themselves. Many of us rural folk are nervous about putting the power of the presidency in the hands of a man who could be anyone."
We're starting to sound a bit like a broken record here, but I'm glad to see that the nation's leading lefty paper is seeing the light. Everyone's entitled to my opinion.
I took former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon's name in vain here a few weeks back, and today comes the sad news that he has died at the age of 75. Didn't make it through heart surgery.
Simon, a one-time Presidential hopeful and a major force in the Senate, always impressed me as a decent, responsible man, with his heart in the right place, a keen intellect, and a powerful sense of right and wrong. Not bad for a kid from Eugene, Oregon.
I'll never forget the one and only time I saw him in person. I was getting off a crowded flight into National Airport in D.C. one evening, on some business trip or other. As we exited the plane, you couldn't miss Paul Simon sitting in the deserted waiting area. He was obviously there to pick up someone else who was getting off the flight.
The sight of him startled me. There were the impeccable suit and the bow tie that we all knew from television. But his size and body language were not what I had expected. He was small, and with his chin resting on his hand as he sat there, he looked as though the weight of the whole world was on his shoulders. And though an influential senator at the time, he was all by his lonesome self as the crowd filed by.
I hope that he got the rest and enjoyment he needed out of his retirement. And pray that he gets the Big Rest, in peace, starting today.
We're just a day away from Buck-a-Hit Day on this blog -- the day on which, for every visitor to this site, my family and I will give $1 to charities that fight hunger here in Oregon. Please plan to come back between 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. PST tomorrow, Wednesday, and help us reach our goal of $1,000.
And if you've got a blog or other means of plugging this event, please do so! As we review our progress, we'll be making favorable mention of our referral sources.
I'm aware that there's a danger of people out there throwing a monkey wrench into the day with multiple hits, especially through the use of automated programs that just keep hitting the blog repeatedly from the same source. If you are tempted to do that, please don't! I'll be trying to use Site Meter and my blogging software to weed such hits out of the total anyway.
If you go away and come back more than an hour later, however, that will count as two hits. And I'll try to put up several new posts throughout the day to make it worth your while to come back.
The New York Times' fifth Democratic presidential candidate profile, on Joe Lieberman, ran yesterday.
I could vote for Joe. I respect the guy for a lot of things, particularly his honesty. He may be a deal-doer and a compromiser, but at least he owns up to his actions. Plus, he (gasp) takes morality and spirituality seriously -- quite the no-no among the latté Democrat set.
The image that Lieberman shoots for is "centrist." That's too far right for many in the party -- Lieberman's support for the Iraq War especiallly raises hackles among a fair number of the party faithful -- but it's principled. And if packaged properly, including with the right kind of running mate, he could be electable in November, although overcoming anti-Semitism in some quarters would be more important (and more difficult) than people might want to admit.
Perhaps his biggest liability is that he's too corporate for the noisy left wing of the party. Too many Democrats want to make an angry statement of across-the-board challenge to Bush, and that leaves moderates like Lieberman out in the cold. Too bad, because it's the middle that decides the elections. I disagree with the vast majority of administration policies, too, but above all, I want an opposition candidate who will win the election. Unlike Lieberman, the hard core ACLU'ers are more interested in hearing themselves talk about their ideas than winning the dirty battles of political life.
In other Demo news, Al Gore, creator of the internet, is backing Howard Dean, 'net darling, and that's bad news for Lieberman, Gore's 2000 running mate. I say, to heck with Gore. Unfortunately for those of us who dislike Bush, Al proved himself a particularly inept campaigner, and his jumping on the Dean bandwagon only reinforces my hunch that Dean is a Dukakis waiting to happen.
Meanwhile, Hillary "In '08" Clinton says she still supports our presence in Iraq, although she would go about running the war differently. This is hardly an endorsement for Dean, and seemingly more in line with what Lieberman has been saying. But the ex-First Lady has not endorsed a candidate, and is probably wisely waiting at least until February, when the field will be narrower -- probably Dean and just one or two credible others. (And Al Sharpton.)
Here's an update on my recent laments about the disgraceful state to which the Oregon bottle deposit process has sunk, particularly at Safeway stores.
Others are feeling my pain. A reader writes:
I ignored/forgot your advice and visited the bottle return at Safeway last night. I will not make that mistake again. Only one machine worked and it had to be emptied every twenty minutes (I was there at least an hour and a half). It took at least 15 minutes just to get a clerk to come empty it. Finally, when it filled up on my turn a mute homeless man showed me how to
empty and restart the machine myself. The most irritating part is that as I
waited in line I noticed a sign that informed me the store will only refund up to $7.20 per day, per household! They actually cite two statutes, ORS 164.043 and 164.015. Being a prosecutor I recognized 164.043 as Theft III (I had to look up 164.015 today at work, it is the definitions section of Theft). So after I finished printing my three receipts (totaling $10 or so) I entered the store and (allegedly) committed an act of theft by allowing the clerk to subtract them from the $100 + I spent in the store.
Ironically, this note came in just as I was relishing the fact that I am getting out of the bottle return business myself. The other day I noticed that the local church and school were having their regular recycling drive. I hailed one of my neighbors, who was working on it, and he popped right over with a hand truck and took two cases of empty beer bottles off my hands. The kids get the $2.40, and I get to not have to go to Safeway. I believe that's called a win-win situation.
I missed Al Sharpton on Saturday Night Live -- fell asleep on the couch -- but I did catch his candidate profile in Friday's New York Times (fourth in the series). The Times article basically asks, What is this guy doing running for President? The best answer it can come up with is, To increase his public profile and promote himself as the leader of African-American America.
Completely absent from the story is any mention of Sharpton's platform, or how he may be seeking to influence the Democratic front runners' positions on issues. There's more there about Sharpton's sharp wit and one-liners, which get quite a rise out of his audiences; about the jail time and physical wounds he's racked up in pursuing his various causes; and about questions that surround his finances.
According to the profile, he's trying to be a cross between Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Dre.
He's never won an election, and he certainly isn't going to win this one. He's trying to get us to ask, Why can't an African-American be elected President? But in his case, the question seems more like, Even if this guy were a WASP, why would the majority of the population vote for him?
Tucked away in the Saturday Oregonian was the story of the departure of Franklin "Kim" Kimbrough after a three-year stint as the director of the Portland Business Alliance, this town's equivalent of a chamber of commerce.
Kimbrough was a tough talker and a demanding boss who decided to throw his weight around downtown. He was going to snooker the city into putting up an ice skating rink in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and he was going to bully the city into being more business-friendly by constantly badmouthing the City Council for being anti-business.
The council responded by stripping Kimbrough's group of the lucrative municipal downtown parking operation, and wondering aloud why the taxpayers were getting such negative pronouncements from a group that was being paid by the city to promote Portland as a place to do business. So alienated was much of the public that an anti-alliance blog even sprang up.
From within the circle of wagons today we hear that the departure was for personal reasons, and that the city's business leaders still supported the great job Kimbrough was doing. I don't believe a word of it.
Vera and Erik did the right thing by pushing this guy back to the Midwest, where he came from. "We are not looking for uncritical endorsement of every city decision," The O quoted the mayor as saying, "but we need an alliance that is actively engaged with the city in a positive way, full of ideas and credible solutions." Amen to that.
We turned our Christmas spirit up a notch yesterday with a visit to the Providence Festival of Trees, which runs through tomorrow down at the Oregon Convention Center. I'm not a big fan of the Convention Center, and yesterday it did its best to bring out the grinch in me, but it failed. The festival was great cheap fun ($10 total admission for two adults, one child, and an infant -- with a coupon that you can print out here), and the miserable parking situation and bad traffic that accompany it ($6 to park a couple of blocks away) were relatively easy to brush off. (Of course, there's Max, but in a hard rain with two kids, that wasn't a realistic option.)
The festival is basically one of those huge convention center exhibit halls, turned over to displays of decorated Christmas trees. Each brightly lit tree follows a theme, and the booth surrounding it is filled with items, most of them gifts, dedicated to the same theme. Although this may feed our unhealthy obsession with material goods, at least there's very little advertising in evidence beyond the trees and goods themselves. Off to the sides, other activities are going on. For instance, there are some crafts items for sale -- Christmas stockings that light up were intriguing. But the stars of the show are the trees themselves. They're all good, and a few are stunningly beautiful.
The event is a benefit for Providence Foundations, the charitable wing of the health services giant that runs several hospitals in Portland. Patrons actually "buy" the tree displays, so that more of the proceeds of the event go to benefit the charity.
In addition to the trees, there is an awesome group of toy train sets running through elaborate landscapes made out of small Legos. The set that represents the Convention Center with a Max train running around it is so clever that it alone justifies the trip. There's a neat collection of gingerbread houses, too. My three-year-old daughter and I got a surprisingly strong kick out of identifying the food items that the houses were built out of. Who ever heard of a house with Froot Loops on the roof?
If they're willing to wait in lines, which were moderate on Friday morning, the kids can also visit with Santa, and get their faces painted. And anyone can walk up and immediately play with Legos, order up a custom-made magic wand, or sit and watch any number of family acts on a big stage. We caught a pretty decent juggler, and a few holiday songs by a nice high school glee club that I believe was from Parkrose. It was swell.
So captured was I by the spirit of this event that for a few hours I forgot my multi-level disdain for the Convention Center. My own little Scrooge-Morning-After Moment -- thanks, Providence.
Then we walked over to the nearby Burgerville, my favorite place in town to eat lunch, and had nice burgers (turkey burgers for the mom and dad) and the show-stopping seasonal sweet potato fries. All the regular helpers were on duty; many of them have waited on me in that place for years. I thought about how this was where we ate lunch (one eye on CNN on the TV monitor in the corner) on 9/11/01. Today we felt very at home, in a fast food joint, no less.
As long as I can remember, I have run myself ragged in search of the spirit of Christmas. It's possible to find it on an adults-only basis -- with the help of distilled spirits, I've done it a few times. But it's so obvious with children in the picture. It takes your breath away.
Today's nasty weather in Portland brings to mind the first poem we memorized in grammar school:
by Robert Louis Stevenson
I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass--
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!
I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all--
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!
O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!
I'm writing an exam tonight, and I can't resist the urge to post in multiple-choice format:
Portland Trail Blazer basketball fans seem likely to forgive second-year power forward Zach Randolph, who was arrested the other night for allegedly smoking pot as he rolled down NE MLK Blvd. in his Cadillac SUV. (Despite the similarity to a Chris Rock joke setup, those are the actual facts.)
Why will the fans forgive Zach?
A. He's a young man who still has some growing up to do. Most of us old fogies did some things when we were 22 that we don't want to talk about now.
B. He's got funky clothes and a quiet demeanor that reveal him to be a real person.
C. He does have a license and auto insurance -- he just didn't have them in the car.
D. He's going to pay a price to the criminal justice system, and to the team, if his drug tests come back positive for pot.
E. If they let him, he'll probably sign autographs for the other folks in his diversion classes.
F. He apologized right away, and seems genuinely embarrassed and sorry.
G. The Blazers have already killed one scapegoat by trading Bonzi "Tall Man" Wells, and Rasheed "Meds" Wallace's bags are packed, too.
H. Some of Zach's older teammates' bad habits rubbed off on him. "When you put a dirty shirt and a clean shirt in a bag together and shake them up, the dirty shirt don't get clean."
I. Zach freakin' scored 34 points and snagged 9 rebounds against Indiana last night! Give the rest of us some of whatever he's been smoking!
J. All of the above.
Meanwhile, click here and scroll down a bit to read one Blazer's story of how one of his NBA colleagues gives new meaning to the phrase "that Downy fresh feeling."
Portland Trail Blazer guard-forward Bonzi Wells got his walking papers today. Traded to Memphis for Wesley Person and a draft pick. Wells showed promise when he first got here, but he soon revealed himself to be, as they say in the sports world, a "head case." Cursing the coach, flipping off fans, spitting at fans, tripping opposing players, altercations with police officers outside bars, altercations with convenience store clerks -- clearly not a Portland kind of guy.
The management of the heaven-forsaken Blazer team has finally begun blowing it up. Should have been done long ago. Now we're only about four or five trades away from cleaning out all the trashy characters on the squad.
My sports expert Doug has this prediction, which rings true: Wells will do fine in Memphis, for a while. But by a year from now, he'll be right back to where he is now.
A couple of recent changes in the Oregon Legislature are worth noting. Rep. Wayne Scott (R-Canby) has been named the new House majority leader, replacing Tim Knopp of Bend, who's leaving the Legislature after this term. The appointment is interesting, partly because Scott has only been in the Legislature for less than a year. Guess he's a GOP wunderkind.
Meanwhile, on the Dem side, Rep. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) has been promoted to the Senate to replace State Sen. Tony Corcoran, who resigned last month to take a bureaucratic job. Prozanski's replacement in the House will be named by the Lane County commissioners, presumably very soon.
Hasn't the Legislature already adjourned for this biennium, you say? Technically, yes, but they'll be back for tax reform in 2004 -- probably in crisis mode sometime in February after the state income tax surcharge goes down to defeat at the polls.
In the Bogdanski Influence Index, in which zero (0) out of 18 indicates the greatest influence over the 2003 session, Scott drew a 7 and Prozanski a 4. Seven's a fairly high number, which means that Scott voted no on a lot of important bills that became law.
A friendly reminder: Please stop back here again next Wednesday, Dec. 10, for Buck-a-Hit Day. For every visit to this site between midnight and 11:59 p.m. PST that day, my family and I will donate 50 cents to the Oregon Food Bank, and 50 cents to the St. Philip Neri Parish Food Pantry, up to an aggregate total of $1,000. And so the first 1,000 visits that day will help feed hungry people in Portland and Oregon.
Visits will be counted by Site Meter. If Site Meter goes down, we'll use the site statistics that my ISP provides. Obvious multiple hits by the same person within an hour of each other will be subtracted from the total.
So be sure to come on by again next Wednesday. And tell your friends.
Never before has trolling for hits felt this good.
This guy was going to be the cleancut, young hero, to replace the older louts when their contracts run out. According to KGW, "Randolph was charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicant-controlled substance, failure to drive within a lane, no Oregon driver's license and driving uninsured."
These guys crack me up. They can't afford car insurance?
Some of our municipal "leaders" get all hot and bothered when the city's mentioned in The New York Times. They often seem to care more about looking all sexy and progressive and Euro in the Times than they do about the basics of good governance.
Well, Portland found its way into the front section of Monday's Times no less than twice, and neither writer was heaping the usual glowing praise. One story was neutral, and the other was fairly negative.
First, the neutral: On the op-ed page, Dartmouth med school professor Elliott Fisher lamented that some communities, such as New York City, have a culture of over-doctoring every little hangnail. He compared it to Portland, where annual medical care spending is much lower:
Earlier this year five colleagues and I published a study of regional variations in Medicare spending. In 2000, for example, per capita Medicare spending was $10,550 in Manhattan, but only $4,823 in Portland, Ore. Despite such a disparity, we found that neither the quality of care nor patients' satisfaction with it was related to costs.
The difference in spending is almost entirely due to the way medicine is practiced in high-cost regions. Compared with similar patients in Portland, Medicare enrollees in Manhattan spent more than twice as much time in the hospital and had twice as many doctor visits per year. The additional services provided in higher spending regions are largely discretionary, like more frequent visits to specialists, longer hospital stays and more frequent use of diagnostic tests and minor procedures. Remarkably, more spending does not lead to more people receiving expensive and proven treatments, like cardiac bypass surgery or hip replacement.
Dr. Fisher fails to note the periodic budget crises that cause Oregon to yank publc health care assistance abruptly every now and then, to the point where some folks even die on account of it. It's about to happen again this coming spring once the income tax increase is voted down. Guess the news hasn't reached Dartmouth yet.
The other piece, on the National page, checked in with Portland author Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote "Fight Club" and other works. Palahniuk has a new book out about the "grimy and offbeat" side of the city, including its network of ancient tunnels where whores and nogoodniks once plied their trades. He's not happy with the development that's cleaning up what used to be called Old Town -- and his lack of enthusiasm rubbed off on Times reporter Matthew Preusch, who tells it this way:
And in Portland the fringe may be unraveling rather quickly. The former mill town turned growth management problem has fallen on hard times. Since March 2001 the city has lost 50,000 jobs, giving it the highest unemployment rate among American cities, 8 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year, voters of Multnomah County, which includes Portland, had to agree to a new temporary income tax for schools.
The economic descent has caused something of an identity crisis. Increasingly, Portlanders are turning from their insular ways and embracing a more cosmopolitan vision.
"People are more and more describing Portland as the largest European city in America," said Mr. Palahniuk, now aboveground at a Chinatown bar.
"It depresses me a little bit, because it seems it will be so structured and regulated that what we love about Portland won't really be there," he said.
As for the Pearl District, "It is a neighborhood Mr. Palahniuk barely mentions in his book, as if to rob it of legitimacy."
There go your Times mentions for this month, Erik, Vera, and Earl. Can't we do better?
Before I started this weblog, I had other ways to kill time on the internet. First I was a regular poster to a Portland Trail Blazer fan bulletin board run by ESPN. I met a few interesting folks there (in person, even), and it was there that I first learned what a harsh world the internet can be. No matter what your viewpoint, some reader somewhere is going to disagree vehemently, and when you're writing to sports fans, the responses can be, shall we say, colorful.
After my antipathy toward the Blazers reduced me a troll, I dropped off that board and began following a David Letterman fan newsgroup, alt.fan.letterman. Here are some highly enjoyable characters to read -- funny, bright, engaged, opinionated, but mostly warm and friendly underneath. For a while I even ran a "post peak" service, in which I read everything posted to the group and selected a few gems daily for a "best of" compilation. That got exhausting after a while, especially when I decided to run my own blog. Too much internet, too little time.
This year, I've got a fantasy pro basketball team going in each of two Yahoo fantasy leagues. It's an interesting way to keep track of what's going on in a sport, but the format gets you more fixated on individual players' statistics than on team results. I couldn't tell you which teams are actually in first place in the real NBA, but I know exactly where my teams -- the Ballers and the Shootists -- show up in their respective fantasy standings. And I know which of my players have surprised me, both for better (Mehmet Okur) and worse (Bonzi Wells). Mehmet, Bonzi. Bonzi, Mehmet.
Many (if not most) of my readers have blogs of their own. Tell me, what else do you do for fun on the internet besides write and read blogs?
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2012
Decoy, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Marqués de Murrieta, Reserva Rioja 2010
Kendall-Jackson, Grand Reserve Cabernet 2009
Seven Hills, Merlot 2013
Los Vascos, Grande Reserve Cabernet 2011
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Forlorn Hope, St. Laurent, Ost-Intrigen 2013
Upper Five, Tempranillo 2010 and 2012
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Topsail, Syrah 2013
Jim Barry, The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013
Robert Mondavi, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2012
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2014
Boomtown, Cabernet 2013
Boulay, Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Domaine de Durban Muscat 2011
Patricia Green, Estate Pinot Noir 2012
Crios, Cabernet, Mendoza 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Dehesa la Granja, Tempranillo 2008
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #15
Selvapiana, Chianti Ruffina 2012
Joseph Carr, Cabernet 2012
Prendo, Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti 2014
Joel Gott, Oregon Pinot Gris 2014
Otazu, Red 2010
Chehalem, Pinot Gris, Three Vineyards 2013
Wente, Merlot, Sandstone 2011
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2012
Monmousseau, Vouvray 2014
Duriguttti, Malbec 2013
Ruby, Pinot Noir 2012
Castellare, Chianti 2013
Lugana, San Benedetto 2013
Canoe Ridge, Cabernet, Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Arcangelo, Negroamaro Rosato
Vale do Bomfim, Douro 2012
Portuga, Branco 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2009
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Kristina's Reserve 2010
Rodney Strong, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Bookwalter, Subplot No. 28, 2012
Coppola, Sofia, Rose 2014
Kirkland, Napa Cabernet 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Napa Meritage 2011
Kramer, Chardonnay Estate 2012
Forlorn Hope, Que Saudade 2013
Ramos, Premium Tinto, Alentejano 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Rutherford Cabernet 2012
Bottego Vinaia, Pinot Grigio Trentino 2013
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2011
Pete's Mountain, Elijah's Reserve Cabernet, 2007
Beaulieu, George Latour Cabernet 1998
Januik, Merlot 2011
Torricino, Campania Falanghina 2013
Edmunds St. John, Heart of Gold 2012
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
Locations, F Red Blend
El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2010
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
The Occasional Book
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt
Miles run year to date: 130
At this date last year: 181
Total run in 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269