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Jack Bog's Blog, by Jack Bogdanski of Portland, Oregon

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December 2005 Archives

Saturday, December 31, 2005

525,600 minutes

"Daddy, what is New Year's?"

I tried my best to give an answer. It's when the earth makes a full rotation around the sun -- people call that a year. And there are lots of things that happen only once a year -- Christmas, Easter, your birthday.

Tonight at midnight, the old year ends and a new one starts. People stay up late and party. The years get numbers -- the old one is 2005, and the new one is going to be 2006.

A good enough answer as a first approximation. Left out for now were the parts about taking stock, remembering the good and the bad, setting out hopes and plans and goals for the future. Besides, I'm not sure it's the best time of the year for any of that. You had better do those things more than once a year, anyway.

Whatever this time is for you, dear reader, I wish you a happy night and day, and lots of healthy, safe and prosperous times as we roll around the sun yet another time.

Friday, December 30, 2005


Gloria, a grey patched tabby cat who lived with us since she was a few months old, left this world today. She was almost 10 years old. She had been ill for about six months, but not in visible discomfort until just before Christmas.

We brought Gloria home from a farm down Estacada or Molalla way in the spring of 1996, when she was just a baby. We needed a couple of mousers for our house in the Buckman neighborhood, and we were especially looking for an orange boy kitty. Gloria was part of a litter of six or so, who were living in the woods and being fed by a small family in an old farmhouse. They had put up an ad in the window of the Cat's Meow store on Hawthorne Boulevard, and we responded. As we drove down the road toward the cutoff for the house, several kittens ran across the road, all part of the new family.

Gloria had a biological orange brother, whom a young member of the host farm family was calling "Awnjie," but he was so wild that he drew blood from the Mrs. when she got too close. Awnjie dashed away. But Gloria, then unnamed, was the most people-friendly member of the litter, and we boxed her up and took her home (stopping at Bower's Bakery for sandwiches on the way -- we were hungry).

When we opened the box in our kitchen, she ran straight for the back door, and finding it closed, she climbed up to the top of the screen, screaming her bloody head off and holding on for dear life. The only way I could get her off the screen was to get outside and whack it with a broom. That eventually got her down, but she quickly ran to the basement, where she hid herself so capably that we couldn't find her for the better part of a couple of days. Meanwhile, a neighbor came over to see whether animal torture was being practiced. I must admit, it certainly sounded like it.

When Gloria finally came up the stairs, it was only for the very shortest interludes -- long enough to look around, and maybe get some food and water, before heading back to wherever she was hiding (among the empty suitcases, we later learned). It took a couple of weeks of brief "kitty love sessions" up in the people quarters to get her to spend more than a few minutes with us. She was especially spooked by anything that was happening above her, such as on the stairs, and she didn't particularly like any movement of human legs. Not surprising -- she was borderline feral. But she soon proved to be quite the climber -- she could do a fine tightrope walk on top of banister leading to our second floor.

What really changed the dynamics was when her brother showed up -- Ralph, an orange boy from the Humane Society whom we adopted a few weeks after Gloria's arrival. Ralphie, apparently born indoors, was very much a people kitty, and he took to us right away, especially after we cleared up a couple of infections he had. Gloria sensed that she was missing out on lots of fun interaction, and her retreats to her basement hideaway pretty much ceased shortly after her brother's appearance. Ralph, a real handful but a wonderful character, is still with us.

Gloria hissed at Ralph for a couple of weeks. She was quite indignant that another feline had intruded on her good thing with the doting humans. But a truce gradually worked itself out, and in a month or two they had become brother and sister.

Gloria's name was the product of a pre-emptive strike. I loved that name, and had mentioned to the Mrs. that it would be a great one for a daughter, if ever we had one. She loathed that prospect, and it was her idea to give the name to the cat, thus ensuring that it would never be attached to a human child of ours.

Continue reading "Gwally" »

Score another big one for the altar boys

The judge in the Portland Catholic archdiocese bankruptcy ruled today that the victims of child sex abuse by priests can recover their damages from all of the assets in the archbishop's name, including those affiliated with area parishes.

The archdiocese's argument -- that church law trumps civil law in such matters, and therefore the assets all belong to the individual parishes -- has never impressed me at all. When I first heard it, I gave it about a 20 percent chance of prevailing, and it hasn't. The same outcome was recently reached in a similar case in Spokane.

It's gratifying to see that, eventually, the claimants in these cases are likely going to have their day in open court. And if they prove their claims, they'll likely be fully compensated; if they don't, they'll get nothing. It's called the rule of law -- a wonderful thing.

What now? The church can either drop its unorthodox legal theories and get the matter behind it relatively quickly, or it can drag the proceedings out through multiple layers of appeal. I think the smarter move would be to give it up, and face the music. We'll soon see if the archbishop agrees.

Keep your powder dry

The Willamette River through Portland has turned that wicked brown color again -- the one that signals flood season. We're smack dab in the middle of a series of deluges that have us living up to our soggy reputation. I hope Vera told somebody where she stashed the sandbags when the water went back down in '96.

My secret

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The best of Portland

Mainstream media outlets can't resist "best of" lists. These features sell magazines and newspapers galore. How they're compiled differs from outlet to outlet. Some take polls; others appoint panels of in-house staffers; and I suspect some ask their advertising departments what's best.

But the surest way to find out what's the finest of Portland is to live here for a while. Sometimes you encounter the city's best in the course of an ordinary day.

Today was such a day for me. I had a problem with a replacement quartz bulb in a fancy desk lamp, and so off I schlepped to Larry's Lighting Repair at 33rd and Division. You walk in, and there's Larry -- nobody else but, and surrounded by a forest of floor lamps entrusted to his care. He had the problem fixed in about three minutes, for 10 bucks cash. For free, Larry threw in some advice about where to procure hard-to-find replacement bulbs for a somewhat exotic outdoor fixture we installed on the side of our garage earlier this year.

Next on the errand list was to drop off a return of a Christmas present that didn't quite fit. It was all set to go via UPS; my beautiful bride had sweet-talked the vendor into free return shipping. There are a ton of nice, small mailing service offices around town, including the one on the north side of Division in the 4100 block. Friendly counter guy, free Christmas cookie. I missed the cutoff for today's outgoing, but the package will depart from there tomorrow. Fine with us.

Next up: coffee, for which this town has few rivals. The original Stumptown Coffee Grinders at 45th and Division is always a great stop. Picked up a pound of their house decaf -- as the knowledgable counter man explained, a water processed decaf, but not the Swiss water process, which robs the beans of flavor. We also chatted about our favorite coffee ever, the Panama Esmerelda we recently scored at Peet's. Turns out, Stumptown has it, too, along with the 411 that it's been the top coffee in Panama for two years running. Quite the distinction, apparently. For the road, we purchased a beautiful decaf latte, with an exotic pattern etched in the foam. I'm not a latte guy normally, but this was worth it.

Bread for the leftover (from Christmas dinner) turkey noodle soup? No place else to go but Grand Central Bakery on Hawthorne. Just another loaf of como from heaven, but with 15 percent off under a Chinook Book coupon that had only three days left on it. The tightwad inside me squealed with glee.

For an impulse buy, we scored a fine early-winter grapefruit and a lime from Uncle Paul's Produce Market, the year-'round outdoor fruit and veggie station under the tent, just east of Grand Central. Ideal conditions there today -- upper 40s, no wind.

From there (crossing Hawthorne extra carefully -- alas, someone else is going to get killed there one of these days), we headed home, with a rosy glow and a renewed faith in the Rose City. No matter how badly our city, county, state and federal governments screw things up, there are still some great days and nights to be had in the shadow of Mount Hood. Especially if you're not really looking for them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Give it up for the gubmint

A reminder of some unpleasant year-end business that could save you a few bucks -- payment of your 2005 state and local taxes. If you itemize your deductions on your 2005 federal income tax return, and you're not subject to the federal alternative minimum tax (AMT), you'll be eligible to deduct whatever you paid in 2005 in state and local taxes. That means that if you pay your state and local taxes by the end of 2005, they'll be available as deductions on your 2005 federal return. If you wait until April to pay, you won't be able to deduct them until your 2006 federal return, which is more than a year away at this point.

So if you expect to owe, say, Oregon income tax for the year, and you won't owe federal AMT, get your estimated tax return and check in the mail, postmarked no later than Saturday. The form is here. And of course, all of us who live in Multnomah County will be paying county income tax again. If you itemize deductions on your federal return and don't owe AMT, now's the time to pungle up to the county. Form MC ES (pictured above) is the form you use to pay now, and it's available on page 17 of this pdf file.

I suspect that's the last we'll see of that form, and that particular tax, for a good long while.

UPDATE, 11:28 p.m.: An alert reader correctly points out that the early-payment gambit won't make much sense if you're subject to the federal alternative minimum tax (AMT), which affects many upper-middle- and high-income taxpayers. If you know you're going to be subject to AMT, don't pay your state and local taxes any earlier than the state or locality requires. I've revised the orignal post above to make that distinction.

Because we're "at war"

Much of the debate currently raging about George Bush's wiretapping excesses comes quickly around to the point that our nation is "at war." During "wartime," it is argued, the President has powers that he doesn't have when there is no "war" going on.

In the mindset of the last two millennia, these arguments have strong logical appeal, and lots of precedent. But given that a whole new brand of "warfare" has now been invented and executed repeatedly against our country, I'm wondering if the old "war emergency" logic is worth relying on.

Specifically, if we are to sacrifice civil liberties now, because it's "wartime," we have a right to know when, if ever, the "war" will be considered over. The President's constant references to a "war on terror" (a word he can hardly pronounce), and lately, to "victory" in that "war," beg the question of when "victory" will be achieved.

Will it be when angry Muslims no longer desire and plan to attack American civilians with suicide bombs on U.S. soil? Is that going to be our final "victory"?

If so, then let's face it, folks, we will be "at war" forever.

A different approach to the same issue is to ask, "war" against whom? Iraq? We've already stopped fighting the government of Iraq. Indeed, now we're fully supportive of that government. Against the rebels in Iraq? Can we be "at war" with those rebelling against another country? I suppose so. But when will our "victory" against that group come? Two years after the recent Iraqi elections? Two years after the last car bombing in Iraq? Five? Ten? Will we be forever "at war" until Iraq is permanently "in peace"?

Or is our "war" being waged against terrorists generally -- unnamed individuals and groups scattered throughout the globe, including on our own soil? Can we be "at war" with people whom we cannot even name?

Only Congress has the power to declare "war." Perhaps it's time for Congress to think about rescinding whatever declaration of "war" currently exists, if only for the purpose of salvaging the last bits of our privacy from a national government run amok. At the very least, Congress ought to consider setting some criteria for determining when the "war" will eventually be declared over, and the violations of people's privacy rights will cease.

In the meantime, the rest of us had better educate ourselves on the scope of, and justification for, the warrantless eavesdropping. There are some truly frightening propositions being floated out there right now by supporters of the intrusions. For example, two major apologists for allowing the Bush folks to monitor your e-mail and phone calls without a warrant made these arguments in the Times yesterday:

In an effort to control counterintelligence activities in the United States during the cold war, the surveillance act established a special court, known as the FISA court, with authority to issue wiretapping warrants. Instead of having to show that it has "probable cause" to believe criminal activity is taking place (which is required to obtain a warrant in an ordinary investigation), the government can get a warrant from the FISA court when there is probable cause to believe the target of surveillance is a foreign power or its agent.

Although the administration could have sought such warrants, it chose not to for good reasons. The procedures under the surveillance act are streamlined, but nevertheless involve a number of bureaucratic steps. Furthermore, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp and may well decline to issue warrants even when wartime necessity compels surveillance. More to the point, the surveillance act was designed for the intricate "spy versus spy" world of the cold war, where move and countermove could be counted in days and hours, rather than minutes and seconds. It was not drafted to deal with the collection of intelligence involving the enemy's military operations in wartime, when information must be put to immediate use.

Indeed, it is highly doubtful whether individuals involved in a conflict have any "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their communications, which is the touchstone of protection under both the Fourth Amendment and the surveillance act itself - any more than a tank commander has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his communications with his commanders on the battlefield. The same goes for noncombatants swept up in the hostilities.

Amazing, and chilling. FISA court procedures can be disregarded whenever the administration decides they are inconvenient, or simply bad policy. And if you turn out to be guilty of treason, you don't have any privacy rights -- therefore, no one has those rights if what the government is looking for is their conducting treasonous activities.

Can we expect the Supreme Court to cut through this fog and protect us against the eternal "wartime"? I'm looking at the roster: Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito... Never mind.

In their attack on our freedoms, the terrorists appear to have won. Of course, in the administration's view, we're all potential terrorists. Maybe that makes us all winners.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On the Feast of Stephen

December 26 as a Monday was a fairly sleepy day all around. No posts on this blog during the 24-hour period proper, for example. And when I ventured out of the house a couple of times during the day, I found a downright profound quiet on Portland's streets. No mail carriers, no commuters, no delivery people. It felt a little like a Sunday, but in fact it was less than a Sunday, because the churchgoers could stay home, and it looked as though they did.

The south side of Lloyd Center was seeing some action -- the day-after mallgoers and the holiday movie crowd converging on the place. But cars were zipping right through.

An evening run down to the gym was interesting. Next week at this time, you won't be able to squeeze yourself in among the new year's resolution set and the lapsed fitness buffs reawakening from a long, late fall layoff. But on Monday the 26th the place was a ghost town. No waiting, no jockeying for position. Only a handful of folks working off the weekend.

Perhaps it was just as well that there was no one to look over my shoulder as I stepped onto the scale in the men's locker room. Egad. Well, at least I was there trying to do something about it. And when I came home to a 2,000-calorie plate of out-of-this-world Christmas dinner leftovers, I skipped the gravy.

By far the highlight of the day was a brilliant rainbow that appeared in the northeastern sky in late afternoon. The kids and I pulled aside the shade and drank it in for a good, long while. Nothing better.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Two of everything

My brother is 15 months younger than I. Like many siblings close in age and of the same gender, we bickered constantly about belongings. This went on for the better part of 20 years, as we shared a bedroom the whole time.

By the time we reached the ages of 4 and 5, my parents figured out that a good way to keep the peace was to have two of everything. Two cowboy holsters with matching cap pistols. Two sets of shoulder pads for football. Two baseball uniforms. Two cash register banks to save up for the annual trip down the shore.

It might have been the year we were 6 and 7. We had been physically duking it out a fair amount -- so much so that we each got two lumps of coal at the bottom of our Christmas stocking instead of the usual one each. Since the four-plex we lived in was heated by coal -- four separate coal furnaces, one for each apartment -- it was easy for Santa to find a few pieces to stick in the stockings, just under the tangerines.

Given our propensity for fisticuffs, our parents decided one year to buy us a punching bag and boxing gloves for Christmas. They figured we could take out our frustrations on the bag, instead of on each other. And to prevent squabbling over the gloves, of course, they bought two pairs.

The punching bag was fun. We each hit it a couple of times. We were taking turns.

Until one of us decided to take an extra turn without the other's permission.

Whereupon many blows were struck, but none of them on the punching bag. I will never forget that on the morning of December 26, the bag and the gloves were stored away deep in the cellar, next to the coal bins. We never saw them again.

Merry Christmas

43 Wall Street
Newark, New Jersey

Dec. 25, 1954

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Growing up Catholic, I rose through the ranks of the kids who got to go up by the altar -- boys only, in those days. I was an altar boy for many years, after which I served as a lector at Sunday Mass, and I even did a short stint one summer helping out the ladies of the Altar Society.

But before altar boy, there were two groups a lucky male youth could be part of, and I was in both of those, too. In third and fourth grade, there were the "red boys," a choir group that warmed up the crowd at Christmas midnight Mass. I did two hilarious tours of duty with that group -- even singing a solo one year.

But before the red boys, down in the ranks of the six- and seven-year-olds, there were the torchbearers. And that is where I made my debut on the holy side of the altar rail.

There were six torchbearers appointed for Christmas every year (who knows how they were selected), and the job was fairly simple. At midnight Mass, we bore lit candles on the ends of brass poles to lead the procession, right behind the older kid with the crucifix. We ended up in the sanctuary, where we stayed, candles lit, throughout most, if not all, of the service. It was what they called a "solemn high" Mass in those days -- all three of the parish priests celebrating, with just about all of it being sung, not spoken. We torchbearers got a close-up view of the placement of the statue of the infant Jesus in the manger, and of all the hocus pocus surrounding the sprinkling of the holy water and the burning of the incense. They were very big on the incense in those days.

Our garb that night was Pope-like: floor-length white robes, with a red sash around our waist and a red beanie on our head. There may have been a short cape around our shoulders, too, but it wasn't as fancy as what the red boys wore.

Although our routine was not complicated, it wasn't easy, either. The whole torch contraption we carried was maybe 40 inches long, and it wasn't made of today's light aluminum, by any means. When you got to your spot, you could rest the bottom of the pole on the floor, at which point the flame of the candle might have been at eye level or slightly higher. At one point -- I'm guessing the consecration -- we had to kneel on the edge of the large area rug in front of the altar, torches lit, and take off our cap with one hand while we held onto the torch with the other. You had to fold the little beanie in half with one hand, and tuck it into your sash.

Did I mention that we were six or seven years old, and dressed in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and highly flammable outfits that were just waiting to trip us up either on the way down to that kneel or on the way back up? (There were a couple or three steps we had to climb and descend on our way in and out of the sanctuary, too.) Did I mention that it was pushing 1:00 in the morning, about five hours past our normal bedtimes, by the time the service was over? Six little boys with six sets of parents in the congregation (or maybe just the moms, if the dads didn't show), and every parent among them thinking "Fire."

We all made it through all right -- maybe a drop or two of hot wax in somebody's hair, melding with the Brylcreem on a crewcut, was the worst that happened. I guess we added to the pageantry and beauty of the service. And it whetted our appetite for the more important positions occupied by the senior altar boys. But I'm sure our folks were relieved to get us home in one piece to try to knock us out so that Santa could do his work.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Real mistletoe

There's a nice young gal from Ashland selling it on the sidewalk at 37th and Hawthorne (northeast corner). Three bucks a sprig (with red ribbon); two for $5.

This may be it

The possibilities include: (1) You read this blog only at work. (2) You're leaving work early today, along with everyone else. If both of those are true, then it's time to wish you a merry Christmas (in an apolitical, non-Lars Larson sort of way)!

Wall of sound

It's Friday, so stay up tonight and see Darlene Love sing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on Letterman. The lady can still tear the house down with that one, as she has every Christmas for more than 40 years. By the time she hits "If there was a way / I'd hold back these tears," I've always got goosebumps.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


And here you thought this blog was bad.

We're rich

Soul power

It's been a season of discussion (mostly civil) and reflection (mostly serious) about the spiritual world, and how it should intersect with the secular world. I've tried to tune out most of the arguing. Taking a cue from one of my spiritual advisors, I've tried instead to watch for the divine in our midst.

I didn't have far to look. I met this person, and viewed some of her work. Glory be.

Not work safe, if you work for Scrooge

Here's a great singing Christmas card, passed on to me last night by none other than Fireman Randy.

(And God bless the Drifters.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ghost of Christmas Past

There's a hole in our Christmas shopping list where my dad used to be. I was feeling a little misty about that, but then I read this post on Cousin Jim's blog and realized that he's still with us, laughing it up and having a good time.

Don't forget

"Guitar Shop" -- today at 4 p.m.

Disability: Outspoken / Funny

I've been reading with bemused interest about the flap over former State Sen. Neil Bryant (R-Bend)'s wisecrack that cost him an appointment to the state medical school board. When filling out the application form for the position, in the space marked "Disability," Bryant entered "white/male." That blew his chances for the appointment, as Governor Ted refused to give him the directorship on account of that entry.

Today Bryant's in the paper apologizing to everyone -- he let them down, should have known better, was trying to be funny, didn't realize the hurt it would cause, sincerely, profoundly, mea maxima culpa, etc.

Then you've got the PC set jumping all over the guy. State Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem), fresh from getting her head handed to her in the congressional race, is quoted in the O as saying: "I'm really speechless because you don't expect that kind of response. Certainly, it's not appropriate. It's not humorous."

Really? Come on, now, Sen. Winters. We can argue about whether it was appropriate, but you've got to admit, it was funny. Outspoken and funny.

Let's dissect what Bryant was saying with his remark. As I read it, it was a complaint that as a white male (not to mention middle-aged), he feels that he is at a disadvantage when competing for public positions. American society is very conscious of race and gender, and sometimes perfectly qualified white males are passed over for posts in favor of minority or female applicants with otherwise equivalent (or even lesser) qualifications. When this happens, the affected white males are unhappy (although many are understanding and gracious about it).

Is that such an offensive message? Granted, Bryant might have conveyed it in some other way than the one he chose, but should he lose the job for making that statement?

Perhaps the real problem is that Governor Ted is already in hot water because, indeed, not enough of his appointees are women and people of color. In that climate, even someone far less politically savvy than Bryant would have been expected to be smart enough to resist making a joke about the subject.

Bottom line: I guess Bryant shouldn't get the job, but I'm having a hard time sharing the outrage and "speechlessness." And Sen. Bryant, don't feel too bad. You screwed up, but I'm sure you'll find other, worthier ways to volunteer your time.

These guys are getting some Z's

What better way to celebrate solstice than to hibernate through it? Our family of four just broke our record for longest combined uninterrupted sleep -- well over 40 hours, and counting!

Good thing, too. The wildest weekend of the year is just ahead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How to go to jail

Picture this: You're an executive in the accounting firm employed by shock jock Howard Stern. You hear through the office grapevine that Howard's negotiating a deal with Sirius satellite radio. At this point, it's not public knowledge. Hey, I've got an idea! Why not pick up some shares of Sirius stock? If Howard does the deal, they're bound to go up.

Bad idea.

No warrant required

No Christmas would be complete without checking in on Misterblue's Christmas tree. He's got a cam hooked up in the living room, and you can see what's happening in the kitchen, too. It's looking a lot like the holidays over there.

Call them irresponsible

The O crossed the line of poor journalistic judgment this morning with its prominent photo of the least secure link in Portland's water supply system. You almost expect them to make a three-part series out of it. Tomorrow, a map with driving directions; Thursday, "Making a truck bomb easier than you might think."

Now I'm all for covering the vulnerabilities of the system as a way of prompting reasoned debate about security measures. But hey, Sandy, did we really need the picture?

In a week in which the nation debates how many civil liberties we should surrender in the name of public safety and national security, you would think the mainstream media would be on its best behavior. You would expect it to refrain from worsening security problems. Not in this town, apparently.

Microwave heaven

We didn't make it to as many Christmas parties as we could have this year, but we were smart enough to hit a couple that featured some excellent home cooking. And we weren't too shy to ask for doggie bags on our way out at the end, which has made for some terrific leftovers. Last night we put them all together for a wonderful trip down memory lane. Heather's lamb stew, Arville's ribs, and that Irish oatmeal cake that Molly brought home from her neighborhood bakery -- you couldn't get better grub anywhere. Life is good.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Houston, we have no problem

Just a footnote to our Blazer outing of a week ago: The Houston Rockets went on to post an impressive 5-1 record during their long road trip, and they picked up a fine from the league for going to Las Vegas rather than enduring three boring nights in Portland when they played here.

The Rockets are a good team if they stay healthy, but now that superstar Tracy McGrady's able to play, everyone else's body has fallen apart. No news to Blazer fans, Derek Anderson's glass physique has cracked again. Yao Ming's got a toe problem that's caused him to miss a game -- a rare occurrence -- and backup Dikembe Mutombo both dislocated and badly gashed a finger filling in for him last night. As I say, they're a playoff team, but they'll have some challenges as they get back home.

Funny thing, I mentioned last week that every time he made a mistake on the floor in Portland, McGrady followed it up with a spectacular comeback. That's just what he did last night as his team beat the Lakers -- a driving T-Mac posterizing a defender with a layup with 0.3 seconds to go. That guy can play.

Must-hear radio

Last year, I raved on this blog about a certain rock radio show that I heard on the Wednesday before Christmas on KPSU (1450 AM). It was Christmas music with an electric guitar emphasis, and the selections were amazing.

It turns out, the show is called "Guitar Shop," and its official holiday broadcast will be this Wednesday, Dec. 21st, from 4-6 p.m. You can hear it live, I'm told, either at 1450 AM in Portland, or by going here. If you miss it, KPSU now keeps archives of its shows here.

I'm definitely planning to set my digital recorder to pick up DJ Victrola's work this year. Last year's show was that good. Rock on, Vicky!

Pretzel logic with W.

I still can't believe this line of "reasoning":

Bush spoke openly about about war doubts and the loss of American lives in Iraq. "This loss has caused sorrow for our whole nation and it has led some to ask if we are creating more problems than we are solving," the president said.

He answered the question by saying that if the United States were not fighting the terrorists in Iraq, "they would be on the offense and headed our way."

Oh, and they're not "on the offense and headed our way" already? I guess all the terrorists must be in Iraq. No angry Arab in any other country watches us on CNN and gets any ideas about attacking us. They only want to blow up Americans in uniform. They fight where we tell them to fight, and on our terms.

Give it a rest, man. You need a good, stiff pretzel or two.

Could have used an aerial tram

Portland's having its first winter storm adventure with Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams in charge of transportation. So far, I'm way underwhelmed.

We headed out tonight to get from the Irvington/Alameda border down to Sellwood. Took major streets. Encountered fairly lousy driving conditions all the way, even though the snow had stopped.

And nowhere to be found -- nowhere -- was so much as a single grain of sand from our city Transportation folks. None on Knott, or 15th, or 11th, or Milwaukie, or any of the dozen or so major east-west streets that we crossed. As in, nada.

Particularly ridiculous was the intersection of Burnside and Sandy, which was an auto sled park at 6:45 p.m., five hours after the frozen precipitation had started to fall. When our bow-tied congressman wants to spend tens of millions to turn Burnside into a one-way street and completely re-do Couch, he'll be quick to tell you that this is one of the worst intersections in the city. Too bad no one in city Transportation has gotten that message, because that corner could have benefitted from a sand truck. I guess they were both busy in front of Tom Imeson's house.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Winter wonderland

Nothing better than a Portland snow (which we've got at the moment).

Nothing worse than a Portland ice storm (which is likely coming tonight and tomorrow).

Better enjoy the white Christmas feeling while it's still enjoyable.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Mystery gift

Lots of unanswered questions here.

Dumb and mean

Awfully quiet 'round these parts about the President making his own laws and signing off 36 times on domestic spying against Americans. Not a peep...
So chided a reader here today, and of course, he or she is right. The Republic is at a major crossroads, and here I am sitting on my 10 typing fingers.

I've got some good excuses. I've been busy living, doing all kinds of things in the non-cyber-world that aren't bloggable -- or if they are, I've written about them before, and it's just the same old stuff another time around. More significantly, I'm so bone-weary of the whole problem of Bush America that I'm paralyzed. I did what I could, as so many of us did, in the '04 election, and we lost. After that, I'm just so beat up I want to turn out the lights and forget about it all.

Now, as the wheels come off the second term of George W. Bush -- a horrible phrase that will live in infamy -- let me draw myself up from my prolonged coma of disbelief and despair to offer just a thought or two.

Bush and Cheney are dumb and mean. And not just in that order, although that's the popular image. They're each dumb and mean to differing degrees.

And so are the majority of Americans -- dumb and mean. They voted for these guys, and now we all get to live with the consequences. To add to the drama, the red state voters will wake up now as they face their $300 heat bills and $100 gas card bills and see these clowns for what they are, but it's far too late. Dumb and mean now control the economy, the Supreme Court, and our profile around the planet, and they have our civil liberties on a waterboard.

The whole show in Congress about the Patriot Act is interesting, but do you think these guys care what the law says about what they can and can't do to the average person? Rich guy Ron Wyden can make all the speeches he wants, and John McCain can pursue his oddball little chapter in history, but they're meaningless gestures. No matter who you are, or where you are, dumb, mean America is in your face now, and if you're in the States, in your bedroom too. And it isn't leaving without violence.

The key, key event in all of this was America's gesture to the world in November of 2004. Dumb, mean, and irreversible.

It was just lunch

What a day yesterday was. We played both Santa (shopping for an adopted family) and Scrooge (inflicting a four-hour tax exam on students). Somewhere in there we met Amanda Fritz, who's running for Portland City Council, for lunch.

Fritz is obviously a bright person with sharp political skills who's been around the block a few times in volunteer positions related to city government. She's all about singing the praises of the city's new "voter-owned elections" system of public campaign finance (originally called "clean money" until some folks wanted to know who had already taken the "dirty money"). That's not surprising, since by raising $5,000 at the rate of $5 each from 1,000 different Portlanders, Fritz gets something like 50 times that much from the taxpayers to buy media ads, yard signs, direct mailings, high-priced campaign consultants, and whatever else she wants to try to unseat incumbent Dan Saltzman.

At least on the surface of the conversation, Fritz and I are in agreement on many things. As I told her, at the moment she's the only candidate for either City Council seat that I can envision myself eventually endorsing. But the jury's still out. Perhaps readers can enlighten me as the campaign starts in earnest -- which I assume will be just after the holidays.

Meanwhile, back to the shopping, and avoiding even thinking about the grading...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Odd Factoid of the Week

Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith were in the same elementary school (Radnor Elementary) class in Bethesda, Maryland. (Via Wikipedia.)

UPDATE, 10:48 p.m.: Never mind. This factoid was sufficiently bogus that the Wiki writer yanked it shortly after this was posted. The moral? In case you haven't figured it out yet, don't believe everything you read on the internet.

Have a heart

Here's your last chance to join us in this blog's holiday gift to the Oregon Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation. So far we have $250 from readers, to be matched by my family, but there's room for more. The donation button, on top of our main page sidebar, will be up until midnight tonight. Receipts will be available for your tax deduction pleasure. Thanks to everyone who's pitched in so far.

Eggnog fight!

Nothing like a little internecine warfare to liven up the office Christm -- er, holiday party. So it goes at Portland City Hall, where, according to today's O, the nasty issue of police and firefighter pension reform has taken a decidedly ugly turn.

On the one side we have Mayor Tom "Grampy" Potter (the ex-police chief who reportedly draws an annual police pension of around $91,000 over and above his $104,000 pay as mayor) and Commissioner "Fireman Randy" Leonard (ex-head of the firefighters' union, who reportedly takes down around $48,000 a year in city fire pension, over and above his $89,000 salary on the City Council). They're taking umbrage at the deal that has apparently been cut between Sam "the Tram" Adams and Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman. Big Pipe's up for re-election, and he wants to supplement his spotty list of accomplishments with reform of the expensive bluecoat retirement system, which is the city's biggest drain on its property taxpayers. And so he has apparently cut a deal with Adams that Saltzman will vote for Tram's lobbyist disclosure ordinance in exchange for Adams's favorable vote on changing the pension system.

With Commissioner Erik "Opie" Sten also up for re-election and probably needing to do something about the runaway pension problem, that looks like three votes for some serious change to police and fire disability and retirement. Potter and Leonard are crying foul. We need to have a debate before anyone makes up their mind, etc., etc.

Come on, gentlemen. Are we to believe you two large beneficiaries of the existing system haven't already formed at least a preliminary view on the subject?

Meanwhile, Potter's sending out signals that "there won't be enough time" to have a debate and get reform proposals in front of the voters in the May primary. That doesn't square with the story we were told back when the whole issue was postponed last summer.

Both Sten and Saltzman face serious challengers for their seats, and those Council wannabes are no doubt just waiting to lob some grenades into this one from the sidelines. All in all, it's got the makings of high drama and low comedy for the new year.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Crossed off

Lars Larson announced today that his plan to erect a crucifix in Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland next week has been scrapped. The stated reason is threats of vandalism against the display -- someone could get hurt, and KXL doesn't want to be liable.

I think the threats are despicable, but is that what scratched this project? Lars Larson, who carries a handgun on him after threats on his own life, is worried about threats of someone spray-painting graffiti on the cross? Since when does a guy like that back down due to threats? Didn't anybody foresee the possibility of threatened vandalism? Have the Portland police refused to provide adequate security? Surely Lars could have found lots of dedicated followers who would have stood guard over the display.

Lars's speech about "I didn't want to start a fight" was pretty funny.

I am sure the decision came from his radio station's management, but I really wonder if public safety was the main concern. I guess we'll never know. But it does sound like somebody's free speech has been chilled, which is a real tragedy.

I hope the churches who were aligned with the Larsmeister on this one find a nice Nativity scene and put it up instead. I'd even go down and help keep watch over that one. We can save the crucifixion imagery for Holy Week.

UPDATE, 12/16, 7:46 a.m.: Phil Stanford has some interesting input into this story here.

It's a beautiful morning

This blogging thing is all about my wonderful readers. Earlier today one of them noticed that we were still $103 short of our goal of a $250 readers' contribution to the Oregon Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation -- a donation that I'll match.

So what did he do? Clicked and gave $103.

Thank you, sir, and thanks to everyone who clicked on that button yesterday as well. I know the folks at the CHF will be thrilled to pick up our $500 here at year-end.

And the button's still there (upper left sidebar on the main page) if anyone else is interested.

The morning after

Thanks to everyone who made yesterday's Buck-a-Hit Day such a success. We reached our goal of 1,250 hits just before 4 p.m., and we metered more than 1,800 hits for the day. So now we'll give $1,250 to charities that feed and shelter needy people in Oregon.

We're particuarly grateful to the folks who put links on their blogs yesterday sending people here. They include:

Metroblogging Portland
The Daily E-Mail
Furious Nads
Illegal Screen

If we left someone off the list, please let us know and we'll get them mentioned here as well.

There's one piece of unfinished business. We offered to match donations to the Oregon Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation, up to $250. In fact, we collected $147. In hopes that there are still a few more generous souls out there who would be willing to make a contribution, I'm extending the deadline on that through tomorrow, Friday the 16th. We'll leave a donation button up on the main page sidebar, and here's another one just for good measure:

I know this organization and some of the kids it's trying to help. They're great people, and it's life and death, folks. Please think about chipping in. No amount over 99 cents is too small.

As for me, it's off to write the checks for the first $1,250. Thanks again, everyone.

On with the show

The Oregon Public Utility Commission has approved the plan whereby the creditors of Enron will become the new owners of the stock of Portland General Electric. The City of Portland had asked the state agency to block the move, part of the protracted Enron bankruptcy proceeding, but the PUC decided not to. Chalk up another loss for the city in the PGE-Enron wars.

For the moment, then, PGE will become a stand-alone company. But it won't stay that way for long. Soon there will be a suitor -- at least one -- and the utility will likely become a captive subsidiary of some much larger concern again.

That's where the problem lies. Once PGE winds up on a consolidated tax return with other corporate entities, the shenanigans will begin anew. PGE ratepayers will be billed for "taxes" that exist only on PUC documents and never get paid to any government. It's an outrage, it's counter to the principles by which utilities are regulated, and it's just plain greasy -- but the people who run the power companies, and the PUC, think it's perfectly legal. It very well may be.

The city will continue to rake PGE over the coals for its recent history in this regard, and at some point Portland might have the guts to set electrcity rates itself, as it apparently has the power to do under state law. Meanwhile, state and county lawmakers ought to revamp their tax laws to make sure that the "taxes" collected from customers through electricity rates actually get paid to the taxing authorities, and not lost in the black holes that conveniently open up on corporate tax returns.

And of course, the countdown is always on to the next people's utility district election. The power companies typically stomp on these proposals, but the city could make the next one a lot more realistic than the old ones ever were.

'Tis the season

Some beautiful images on this card. (Thanks, Annie.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We made it!

At 3:48 p.m. today, we had our 1,250th unique visit of the day, which means that we met our Buck-a-Hit Day goal. Thank you!

We're still short of our $250 goal on the donations by readers, however. At this point, we're at $147. Great, but there's a way to go. If you can spare a few bucks yourself for a good cause, please scroll down (on the main page) and click that button! I'm matching what goes in there, up to the $250.

It's Buck-a-Hit Day III

Welcome to the third annual Buck-a-Hit Day on this blog. By visiting this site today, you have caused me to give $1 to a charity that feeds or shelters needy people here in Oregon. The Mrs. and I will give another $1 for every additional unique visit to the site before midnight tonight (as determined by SiteMeter), up to a maximum of $1,250. Last year, we reached 1,250 hits by 3:07 p.m. Once again, our charities are the Oregon Food Bank; the food pantry of St. Philip Neri Parish; and Daybreak Shelter for homeless families.

This year, for the first time, we're inviting you to join us in the holiday spirit. Just click the box below to make a contribution to our new favorite charity, the Oregon Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation. We'll match every dollar donated today, up to $250:

If you'd like a receipt (contributions to the Children's Heart Foundation are tax-deductible for you deduction-itemizers out there), just leave a note with your donation, or email me here. Be sure to include in the note your name and address and the amount you've contributed.

Thanks for coming by today. If you are a newcomer, I hope that you will look around the site a bit (the archives are up on the main page sidebar, if you're interested), and come back again another day. And please don't hesitate to get out the word to others who may want to visit today. (One last thing: I'll be changing the time stamp on this post from time to time throughout the day to keep it up on top of the main page.)


Don't look now, but the Willamette Week website has a new look.

Last call for Santa's monorail

We missed my office Christmas party this year due to a scheduling conflict, and so yesterday we took the kids down to see Santa at the downtown Portland Meier & Frank store. We whizzed up to the 10th floor, where Santaland, a decades-old tradition, is in its final run. It will be ripped out after the first of the year as part of the makeover of the upper floors of the building into a new chi-chi hotel.

Santa himself will no doubt find a home on a lower floor once the store reopens (as a Macy's), but gone forever will be the monorail that takes the little ones on a free ride around the high ceiling. Nobody over 43 inches is allowed up there; it's all for the children only. Just a couple of loops around a small track and it's over, but to the passengers it's a very big deal indeed.

Believe it or not, I had never been to Portland's Santaland before, and I'm glad we got to share it together as a family before it's gone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Off the hook

It's been a while since I blogged about Catholic confession. This is an amazing process whereby you tell your sins to a priest, express true remorse for them, ask God's mercy, and then receive absolution. As in, clean slate.

I got mine tonight.

It's a sacrament at which cynics understandably roll their eyes, particularly in these trying times for the church. And most members of the faithful have for many years skipped the whole thing entirely. I think most Catholics loathe the thought of putting it all out there to the priest. But it's actually an uplifting experience, if you do it right. And most of the men who perform the service are very kind and gracious about it.

What it's mostly about for me is thinking about my conduct over the extended period since I last did it -- in this case, nearly two years ago. What have I done that I could have done better? What have I left out that should have been attended to?

And then there's the why. What's driving my frailties? How can I improve? Where can I go to get help in doing so?

I'm one of those who actually believe that something mystical happens at the end of the interview, when the priest says the magic words. But even if I'm wrong about that, it's a healthy moment from a spiritual standpoint, just for the reflection and resolution that come with the process.

I'm glad we got this one drilled into us in high school. For 28 years the habit lay dormant, but it's made a comeback for me over the last seven or so, and it paid another dividend tonight.

Sky high

I see that the "negotiations" about who's going to pay the latest (but surely not the last) cost overrun on the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot] are going hot and heavy. At last report, somebody needed to come up with $5 million quick. So far it looks like $3.5 mil more is going to come out of property taxes. Great.

Plus, we're still "negotiating" more goodies for fat cat docs and Cali transplants. You normal folks better go light on the stocking stuffers this year.

Buck-a-Hit Day tomorrow

Just a reminder: Buck-a-Hit Day will be here tomorrow. Just stop by this site tomorrow and I'll give $1 in your honor to feed and shelter people here in Oregon (up to $1,250). There will also be a button for you to click to make your own donation to a worthy cause, which I'll match (up to $250).

Monday, December 12, 2005

Live remote

Tri-Met now on Google

Those clever kids at Google are always coming up with new internet toys. The latest one's called Google Transit, and some day it will allow you to plan a trip on mass transit anywhere you might be.

What better place to start this new toy than our own Portlandia? Sure enough, the beta city for the new Google system is the Rose City. This is quite the feather in the cap of Tri-Met and the streetcar people. As usual, the Google toy is fairly easy to use and uncanny in the amount of information it provides.

Just for kicks, I thought I'd see about the mass transit route from City Hall to Commissioner Leonard's house. The verdict: "43 mins in transit -- 21 mins walking to/from your route." An hour each way? No wonder he drives it -- "about 21 minutes." My work commute draws a similar result on Tri-Met: "48 mins in transit -- 14 mins walking to/from your route." Compared to a drive of "about 15 minutes."

What's next for Portland? How about Google Condo, with data input from the Portland Development Commission? Put in an address in a nice old neighborhood and click to see how many tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies are available to build an inappropriate condo tower there.

Opie's in

Word is out that Portland city commissioner Erik Sten wants another four years in City Hall. And he'll be running for re-election on the taxpayers' dime -- he says he's taking the "clean money" route, under the controversial public campaign finance system he and his current colleagues (excepting Fireman Randy) put in place without a public vote. ("Clean money" will likely be on the same ballot as Sten's seat in May.)

Given all the grief I've given Sten on this blog over the years, readers might expect me to be ready to endorse his opponent. Unfortunately, his only credible challenger is Ginny Burdick, a state legislator who's gone over to the dark side at Gard and Gerber, the official p.r. firm of the West Hills Mafia. It's a classic showdown between incompetent socialism and highly effective corruption. I'd have a hard time voting either way.

One thing I am looking forward to are Burdick's campaign advertisements, which will be paid for by copious gobs of the traditional "dirty money." Given Sten's many, many missteps over the past four years, I've been saying that the attack ads will write themselves. If Burdick can't come up with several howlingly funny TV spots, she doesn't deserve anyone's vote.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Game report: Rockets 100, Blazers 86

As planned, we attended the Blazers-Rockets game this evening. But not as originally planned, through the kindness of a friend, we had the privilege of sitting in the second row behind the Houston bench. As the whole point of the outing was to get as good a look as possible at Rockets center Yao Ming, this was an incredible stroke of good fortune. You couldn't get a better view of the visiting team. In fact, you couldn't get a much better listen, either, as we could hear some of the Rockets' bench talk from our excellent vantage point.

I have watched a lot of professional basketball over the last 35 years, and sat in quite a few good seats in several arenas, but I had never experienced anything like this. Sitting almost on the bench itself, I got a firsthand look at what a game night is like for an NBA road warrior.

Like a clown, I brought my ancient digital camera with me and tried to capitalize on my location. Of course, the results were underwhelming, but just as the fans around me indulged me while I took the photos, so too I ask readers here to indulge me while I display them:

Coach Jeff Van Gundy.

Yao and assistant coach Patrick Ewing.

Ryan Bowen and Dikembe Mutombo.

We didn't manage to get a decent shot of Rockets star Tracy McGrady, who was far and away the best player on the floor. When time out is called, T-Mac heads straight for the bench and sits right down. Thus, when he wasn't moving, he had his back to us.

It was an enjoyable game to watch -- close throughout the first half, but with the Rockets gradually pulling away in the second. Yao was sporting a wicked-looking band-aid over his right eye, and a gash on his left nostril. "He looks like he was in car wreck," I observed, but apparently the main blow had been suffered on the court last week. Tonight, Yao had a bad night. He got himself into foul trouble in the second half and eventually fouled out, and at one point in the fourth quarter he blew a defensive assignment so badly that his coach called a time out just to let him think about how royally he had fouled up. But Dikembe Mutombo, one of the NBA's oldest players, picked up the slack admirably. The Rockets actually played better with Mutombo at center than they did with Yao.

McGrady was huge. He had a few lapses on defense, but each time, he went down to the other end of the court and made up for it. I think he wound up with 35 points, which for him is just a routine day at the office. If he and Yao stay healthy, the Rockets should make the playoffs.

The Blazers, on the other hand, clearly won't. They're basically a developmental league team, now with just one healthy, legitimate NBA starter in Zach Randolph (and even that's open to debate). But to me, the team's inexperience is more good news than bad. I love attending a game at which winning doesn't matter as much as heart, and given that these teams have two of the worst records in sports right now, the emphasis was on the process and the effort as much as on the result.

Continue reading "Game report: Rockets 100, Blazers 86" »

Tonight's the night

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Laughed 'til we cried

Correction: It was Jefferson

One of the great blessings in life is a knowledgable friend who will tell it to you straight when you've screwed up. And who hangs in there, politely, gently, even when you insist that you haven't. My friend Doug the Mountain Climber (right) played this role for me yesterday as he corrected my post about that second mountain silhouette I saw from the fifth floor of the airport parking garage Thursday morning.

The peak I saw was a rounded dome with a point in the center, which I concluded must have been Mount Washington, based on views like this one. Doug kindly assured me, in a comment on the blog and again in an e-mail, that it had to have been Mount Jefferson. Here's what he said in the e-mail:

Off blog, there is simply no way what you saw from PDX was Mt. Washington. I'll give you the tax schtuff (most of it, anyway), but dibs on the local mountain thang -- I've summited Washington four or five times. The photo you referenced is taken from due west, approximately due east from Harrisburg and just a little south of Brownsville and Sweet Home (nearly 2 hours south on I-5). Washington's north-facing profile is actually quite sharp and does not look like a pinnacle atop a larger mountain. One cannot see Washington from the Salem area; Jefferson is tough enough. Just for fun, try flying south over the Cascades on Google Earth and see what you think. Between the high points in between PDX and the mountain, its relatively modest elevation, and the curvature of the earth over 100+ miles, there is simply no way for it to be visible from PDX at ground level.

From PDX, Jefferson is the likely choice, largely because it actually is visible from Portland under the right circumstances and because its northern profile fits your description. Attached are a couple of shots of Jeff from the north. The first is from ~9,000 on Mt. Hood, the second from "Jeff Park," a gorgeous area of alpine lakes at 6,000' just north of the mountain.

Sure enough, if you look at Doug's second picture, there is that dome with the spike in the middle that I had seen:

It's funny, because at my angle of view that morning, I didn't see the larger part of the mountain (left rear) at all. Only that pointed dome stood out black against the brilliant dawn sky.

As I write this, Doug's probably up prowling around on Mount Hood. I wish him a wonderful climb and an uneventful return.

That smell in the Camry

How does someone dispose of 45 lukewarm chicken feet at 4 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon?
Read how here. Hysterical.

Hurts so good

The old posts are really coming back to haunt us this week. One of the most Googled pieces ever posted on this blog is the story relating to my visit to Michele, the gal who waxes my back. She told me an interesting tale that's become a bit of an internet hit. Now I'm being written up in something called waxwaxwax.com. Rip city, baby! Only a matter of time before they pick it up on beaverbarber.net.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Shut up

Teacherrefpoet has had to quit talking for a while to save his voice. His experiences in that regard are a fun read. Like: "If you write down the sandwich you want and hand it to the Subway guy, you will learn that he can barely read."

Born of the one light Eden saw play

Another cold, clear Portland sunrise is almost here. Yesterday I was out at the airport for rosy-fingered dawn, and from that angle the silhouette of Mount Hood is always spectacular. Plus, a nice bonus as I pulled out of the PDX garage: I looked down to the south, and there was the silhouette of another peak, which I've never seen from the city before: Mount Washington! Made me glad I live here.

UPDATE, 12/10, 8:53 a.m.: It was actually Mount Jefferson. See corrective post here.


Don't forget, next Wednesday the 14th will be the third annual Buck a Hit Day on this blog. All you have to do to make a difference is show up here. For every unique visit to this blog that day (PST), my family and I will donate a dollar (up to $1,250) to a charity: the Oregon Food Bank, the food pantry of St. Philip Neri Parish, or Daybreak Shelter for homeless families.

This year, for the first time, we're also going to put up a Pay Pal button that day, and visitors can click on it to make their own contribution to another worthy cause that we'll designate. We'll match readers' donations up to another $250. (I hope I can get the technical side of things to work, but preliminary tests looked good.)

Hope to see you back here on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

How to listen to the CCA

While I'm revisiting Posts of Christmas Past, let me add something to my dog-eared review of the classic album "A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records," the legendary Phil Spector production that around my childhood house was respectfully known as "the colored Christmas album."

Today while listening to it again, and having a great time, I realized that there's a secret connected to the album. Namely, there is only one way to play it. And that's to put it on at the beginning and play it straight through. No multi-album "shuffle" with anything else mixed in. No picking up a track on the radio between songs by other artists (or even worse, a bunch of commercials).

No, it's track 1 (side 1, cut 1, in the old parlance), then 2, then 3, and so on. Any other strategy will detract from the beauty and power of this recording. If you need a break, take it where the old side 1 ended, after Darlene Love's "Marshmallow World."

The one modern improvement I'll grant you for this one is the subwoofer. Spector, Sonny Bono, Leon Russell and the boys in the band were not afraid to get some great licks in along the bottom. And turn it up a little. Pay attention. By the time Love starts belting out "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home") (track 11) -- if not before -- you'll be where you need to get.

New look

Are my eyes deceiving me, or did OregonLive just change its template? And are those local news photos on the front page? Holy moly!

Clip 'n' save

The editorials in The Oregonian are often so odd as to be comical, but today's lead screamer is a real classic. It's a nasty, nasty, nasty one, wherein the local daily once again confirms its role as the Official Mouthpiece of the Portland Old Boy Network. The paper rips into the Portland City Council for having the nerve -- the nerve! -- to question the billing practices of Portland General Electric. Sure, they collected from customers hundreds of millions for taxes they never paid, but according to the O (which of course never noticed or said boo while they were doing it), no one at City Hall should dare be bothered with that.

No, no, the tenacious watchdogs down in Salem should be handling this. Governor Ted will protect the little people from getting ripped off by Big Money. You know, the way he and his predecessor have done so well for the last decade.

As if.

They must have been into some pretty strong eggnog at Broadway and Jefferson yesterday afternoon to knock out gems like this:

Commissioners Randy Leonard and Erik Sten seized on one line in the report suggesting that PGE itself retained more than $88 million in income taxes never paid to taxing authorities. Leonard and Sten claim that the report suggests for the first time that PGE improperly "kept" taxes for itself.

It's more likely that the commissioners don't know what they're talking about.

That's right. No story here, folks -- go back to your little Portland worlds. Hey! Meier & Frank Santa! Season of Giving! City Hall blog!

Trust the bright lights at the O, people. There's nothing to worry about. And they know an affair when they see one.

In the long history of the city's expensive, and so far fruitless, attempts to socialize electricity, the current proceedings about the PGE books are actually the first that make sense to me. Someone in the public sector should have been asking these questions long, long ago. And whether the O likes it or not, the city has the power under state law to set electricity rates if it wants to do so; therefore, it is well within its rights to call PGE to account for itself.

Electricity ratemaking is an ugly business, but it's not that hard to understand if you're willing to dig deep and pay attention for a long time. Rather than do that itself -- rather than spend the time and money it would take to educate us all, which I thought was its job -- our monopoly daily would just have us accept the assurances of the utility executives whose actions are being called into question.

Not only does the paper write its own little overheated editorial, but of course, in case you only read the odd-numbered pages, they've got a defensive op-ed piece from a PGE face card on the facing page in the same edition. See? Everything's fine. Really. Seriously.

When the Old Boys start screaming this loudly, you know you're on to something. I opposed the whole city takeover of PGE, but I'm loving what's happening now. May Sten and Leonard keep the spotlight and the pressure on for a good, long while. If there's really nothing to hide, then the Suits Who Brought You Trojan should have nothing to fear.

Oldie but goodie

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Boom chuck rocker ain't no flash in the pan

It's been three years since I wrote on this blog about Portland rock legend Billy Rancher, and still the e-mail responses keep a-comin' in. So many people were touched by the guy. Here's another one, which I got last night:

I do remember Billy Rancher -- in fact I have a bit of a sappy story. My wife and I knew each other several years dating off and on throughout that time, until she got engaged to someone else that is. Over the summer of 1982 I continually pestered her to "go on a date" (to win her back) of which she politely refused. One day in August she stopped by work and brought me cookies for my birthday, her fiancee was sick and acting quite standoffish. She loved to dance and I thought what better than to take her to see Billy Rancher and the Unreal Gods! We had an awesome time down at the Labamba club and the rest is history -- 4 kids and 22 years later.

We also saw Billy Rancher play with Marshall Crenshaw at the old warehouse on the SE side. I did a search because my 15 year old daughter is writing a creative story for her English class here in Colorado and needed an obscure but authentic musician from the early 80's for her story. What better than Boom Chuck Rock to fit the bill?

I do have the album and the CD, but better still I have a remix of a few songs that another fan did with his sound equipment. I'm sure it violates something (not a profit deal) so I won't elaborate. 16 years ago eh?...the saddest part is most will never know just how heart pumping and original they were.

Don't look now, buddy, but it's 19 years now.

Snow, Doogie?

When will this east wind let up? Will it snow? The weather prognosticators in these parts often get it wrong this time of year. But as they'll tell you, forecasting can be tricky.

Mark Nelsen, the resident climate guesser at channel 12, has started his own weather blog. I've always liked Nelsen, all the way back to his Doogie Howser days in the early '90s on channel 6. Seeing what's coming across his desk as he tries to say what tomorrow's skies will bring is actually more interesting than I thought it would be. And for some additional serious input for meteorology addicts, Nelsen's got this page, which should kill hours.

My sentiments exactly

One of my colleagues in legal academe hit the nail right on the head the other day in discussing the pending bankruptcy proceeding that pits the Archdiocese of Portland against victims of child sex abuse by priests. He was talking about the church's claim that its real property belongs to the individual parishes rather than the archdiocese as a whole:

David Skeel, a bankruptcy law expert at the University of Pennsylvania, says it is a case destined for the U.S. Supreme Court...

Skeel said the church has taken inconsistent positions on ownership in the past, noting the Archdiocese of Boston has acted like a property owner in deciding whether to close Catholic schools in the Boston area.

"It's a tricky issue," Skeel said. "But it just seems to me that when it's relatively easy to use the secular property system to make clear to everyone who the owner is, that you ought to be required to do that."

For this I missed "Charlie Brown Christmas"?

Songstress Madeleine Peyroux (pronounced "Peru") was in town for a show last night. The Mrs. and I went, not knowing in advance hardly anything about her music. What we experienced was more interesting than it was entertaining.

Peyroux's concert revealed her fine voice and great taste in music, but the two were encased in a crust of hipness that was so thick as to be impenetrable. Every number she performed -- from her own brooding compositions, to Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," to jazz standards -- was performed in an extreme Billie Holiday imitation. Every line was delivered off-tempo; every note was tortured, bending and swooping; and nearly every phrase ended with an intentionally discordant shading. After a while, I thought to myself, "You ain't Lady Day, honey. Why not cut the cr*p and just sing the songs?"

Peyroux was accompanied by a jazz quartet that was playing, but not necessarily with her and occasionally not with each other, either. Although we don't get around much any more, I suspect there's better work on display at Jimmy Mak's most nights of the week.

The chanteuse was not without a coterie of adoring fans, however, and her rapport with them is clearly in the manner of the detached, modern diva. Her stage banter was as scattered and ironic as her delivery of a melody. Peyroux marvelled at how many people had turned out for the show, when everyone in the room knew it had been moved from the Schnitzer, without official explanataion but most likely because not enough tickets had been sold. Speaking of which, as expected, there were quite a few unhappy custoners who had indeed gone to the Schnitz in error; by the time they unparked their cars downtown and got to the Aladdin, they had to sit by the men's room door. No mention of any of that from the stage. The obvious program is to accept Peyroux with all her quirks or leave.

Which we did, just as the band finished beating up Frank Loesser and Burton Lane's "I Hear Music." It was 10 after 10 at that point, two hours and 40 minutes after we had arrived at the Aladdin, but only 60 minutes into Peyroux's set. Before the headliner had hit the stage, the crowd got to spend 40 fairly empty minutes with Suzie Soo (my apologies, that's probably not how it's spelled), a solo singer-songwriter out of L.A. Soo is a capable guitarist, but the songs she has written all sound the same, and her better moments are covering Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell for You." When she speaks, Soo sounds like just a normal, bright young American woman, but her singing voice is a croak that conjures up Toni Childs with a Chinese accent. It was another acquired taste that we haven't acquired.

Do I wish we had our 80 bucks back? I guess not. It was a learning experience. But if I had known this was going to be someone straining half the night to channel Billie Holiday, I might have changed the channel. Peyroux is often said to be a big star in the making. If she somehow falls into the hands of capable, authoritarian handlers who kick her butt and get her to shape up what she's doing into something coherent and accessible, it's possible. But based on last night, I wouldn't bet on it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005


It was just a matter of time, I guess, but now there's a Republican blog to answer BlueOregon. It's called Oregon Catalyst, and it's here.

Steve Schopp, Larry Huss, Dennis Richardson, and a whole motley crew -- woo hoo! I'm especially looking forward to the readers' comments.

Mildly Nauseating Publication of the Year

While in the supermarket checkout line last night, I spied the latest issue of Portland Monthly. This publication has been with us for more than two years now, and it's made quite a little business out of surveys and lists that get people to buy it. Best 100 doctors in Portland, best 100 lawyers, best schools, best neighborhoods, etc. In some ways, it's a print comeback to blogging, I think. Rich people pick it up to see themselves in print without having to learn Blogger.

As you can tell, I've never been impressed. My name was in there once, but still I wouldn't pay for the thing. And although the Mrs. has brought home a few copies, the closest I get to buying one is leafing through it for free once in a while as I'm waiting to pay for groceries. (They sent a guy out to interview me a few months back, but nothing ever came of it. I might have bought a copy or two for the archives if something had. See? Their marketing plan works.)

Anyway, so there I am last night. I see from the cover that this month, they've got the 25 top movers and shakers of 2005, or some such title. O.k., I'll take the bait.

I don't have to turn many pages to see where this is going: Homer Williams. The head of nursing at OHSU. The Ripe people. Arlene Schnitzer...

Just then it's my turn to get my chicken strips up onto the belt, and it's just as well. I've seen enough. I'm sure Randy Gragg must be in there somewhere. How depressing. Next time I think I'll go back to just staring at the Tic Tacs.

Portland Monthly needs a subtitle. "Official Magazine of the Recent Cal Transplant Condo Dweller"? Nah, too long. How about "Chronicling the Downfall of a Nice Little City"? "An Alternative to Critical Thinking"? "Of the Pearl, by the Pearl, for the Pearl"? Come on, readers, help me out.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Right around the corner

It's almost time for our third annual Buck-a-Hit Day. This year it will be held on Wednesday, December 14.

The drill will be similar to the one we ran the last two years: For every visit to this site between midnight and 11:59 p.m. PST that day, my family and I will donate $1 to charity. As we did last year, we'll donate up to an aggregate total of $1,250. Of each dollar donated, we'll give 40 cents to the Oregon Food Bank, 40 cents to the St. Philip Neri Parish Food Pantry, and 20 cents to Daybreak Shelter, a shelter for homeless families. And so the first 1,250 visits that day will help feed hungry people and shelter kids 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.

This year, we're working on adding a new feature -- Buck-a-Hit Plus! -- whereby we'll donate an additional $250 as a match of readers' contributions to a good cause. More on that as we get closer to the date.

So be sure to come on by again on Wednesday the 14th. And tell your friends. Once again, egomania and charitable impulses will unite in a perfect synergy.

What to do now about PGE

The latest revelations in the Portland General Electric tax scam are certainly... well, revealing. Now it turns out that PGE collected from ratepayers millions of dollars of Multnomah County taxes that weren't paid to the county -- indeed, they apparently weren't even passed on to PGE's parent company, Enron. According to Willamette Week and City Commissioner Randy Leonard, PGE just kept that money, along with some other types of "taxes" that it charged customers for as well.

A few suggestions here. First, since the city is said to have the power to set electricity rates within its borders, Leonard ought to have someone prepare an ordinance whereby ratepayers in the city get credit for all state and local taxes that the state PUC allows to be billed but unpaid. Pass it now, and see what happens.

Another avenue of attack: The county ought to pass an ordinance that says that PGE's (or its corporate parent's) county taxes are what it normally would owe the county (apparently, nothing, under current rules), or the amount of county taxes that it collects from its customers, whichever is greater. If PGE collects, it has to pay. There's another one you could pass next week.

Finally, the city ought to be readying another PUD campaign, along the lines that I've suggested here previously. I've never been a fan of the many PUD measures put up by the usual hippie suspects, but if it were done right, I could vote for public power. On this one, unlike so many issues in Portland, I'll take socialism over corruption.

Of course, all these moves would also impact Pacific Power, which is about to be taken over by Warren Buffett. They haven't been such bad apples, but it appears they're in a barrel with a wormy one.

Be prepared, of course, to see PGE (and maybe even Pacific Power) move its headquarters out of downtown. PGE's probably already planning to do that. Perhaps they could locate out by the new Trib offices, or take up the space in Hillsboro that OHSU threatened to run to if we didn't build it an aerial tram [rim shot]. Heck, Dave Lister may even have a spot for PGE near his new place out by Mattress World.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

W imie Ojca i Syna i Ducha Swietego

Why do I so enjoy attending a church service in a language that I don't understand? Beats me, but it was an experience I totally relished today at this church. I made out about five words total, including "apostolski," "Benedictus," and "kielbasa" (that last one during the announcements at the end). "Santa Claus" was also mentioned in the announcements, and my mom, who accompanied me, swears she heard "bingo." ("I couldn't go to their bingo," she confided. "They'd call out the numbers in Polish and I wouldn't be able to understand them.")

I haven't sat through an entire Mass in another language since Portugal and Spain five years ago. I know how almost all of the service goes in English, and so it's easy to follow along in a general sort of way. I think the most fun is being in the middle of a community of worshippers who don't often have an outsider in their midst. You get to see them in a setting usually visited only by members of their own group.

Whatever the attraction is, it was inspiring. Not to mention the delicacies on sale in the church hall on the way out.

Gone to the dogs

Pete Schulberg, former TV news anchor and ex-media columnist for both the O and the Trib, has landed a new gig as the p.r. flak for the Portland parks bureau. His predecessor quit in a huff when her superiors didn't let her go to New Orleans to help Katrina victims. Meanwhile, the commissioner in charge of the bureau, Dan Saltzman, is running for re-election, while the issues with the city's parks continue to pile up.

I blogged about Schulberg a while back, after he opined in the Trib that blogs were overrated and mainstream media was king. Wonder what he's thinking now that he's come down several more rungs on the ladder of influence.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Rescuing Ted

Does former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber really think he might run for that office again? I strongly doubt it. His current suggestion that he might enter the race has all the earmarks of a fake confrontation with current Gov. Ted Kulongoski, with the apparent design of scaring off State Sen. Vicki Walker (D-Eugene), who is running against Ted and telling it like it is.

Kitzhaber says he won't decide about a comeback until after the first of the new year, which puts Walker one more month behind the eight-ball when it comes to serious fundraising for the May primary. As soon as she's gone, watch for the two old boys to kiss and make up.

Kitzhaber doesn't want to be governor again. The thought of bringing him back for a third term isn't going to appeal to enough Oregonians. And he's lived in Portland long enough to be sidled up to by a certain West Hills network that would like very much to have four more years of Kulongoski, or perhaps a term or two with their other lieutenant, Ron Saxton.

Tough call for Vicki. And if I'm right about what's really going on here, a slithery move by Dr. No.

Friday, December 2, 2005


After spending four years impressing on all the world how much damage someone can do with a small blade on a commercial jet aircraft, why would we suddenly go back to allowing people to bring them on board? Did they put Brownie in charge of that one, too?

Glad I'm not a flight attendant. To paraphrase Jake Gittes, "I enjoy my throat. I enjoy breathing through it."

Sounds good to me

The Portland Development Commission gets it right once in a while. Here's a recent project of theirs that I can get behind.

Oprah, Dave; Dave, Oprah

Just finished a Tivo viewing of Oprah on Letterman last night. A great night for both of them. Dave was as gracious as we knew he would be. I'd really never paid any attention to Oprah before, but now I'm a believer about her, too.

She's not there

Today's A&E Section of the O shows Madeleine Peyroux appearing Tuesday evening at the Aladdin. But according to her web site -- and the excellent tickets that I'm holding in my hot little hand -- the show's at the Schnitz.

UPDATE, 7:40 a.m.: A reader informs us that they've moved the show to the Aladdin. And my excellent tickets are not so excellent any more. According to the Aladdin's web site:

This show has been moved from the Arlene Schnitzer Hall to the Aladdin Theater. All Schnitzer tickets will be honored at the Aladdin, but there are no longer any assigned seats. All Seating is now General Admission. Refunds are available (if desired) at point of purchase. Please call 503-234-9694 with any questions.

Yucky. Oh, well. At least they didn't go to the Crystal Ballroom, in which case I'd stay home.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

An open letter to Bruce Warner

Dear Bruce Warner:

As the newly installed chief of the Portland Development Commission, you're faced with a nasty p.r. challenge. Those of us out here who have been following the PDC for a while have a host of complaints, particularly with the agency's gross lack of transparency under your predecessor.

Now that it's a brand new day and all that, I'm wondering if you could clear up a matter that one of my readers has brought to my attention. Namely, is the PDC complying with the state law that requires it to report to the public on the impact of its various programs on the property tax revenue that flows to the local taxing authorities?

Here's what state law says. It's ORS 457.460:

(1) An agency shall, by August 1 of each year, prepare a statement on the same basis on which its financial statements are prepared containing:
* * * * *

(e) An analysis of the impact, if any, of carrying out the urban renewal plan on the tax collections for the preceding year for all taxing districts included under ORS 457.430.

(2) The statement required by subsection (1) of this section shall be filed with the governing body of the municipality. Notice shall be published that the statement has been prepared and is on file with the municipality and the agency and the information contained in the statement is available to all interested persons. The notice shall be published once a week for not less than two successive weeks before September 1 of the year for which the statement is required in accordance with ORS 457.115. The notice shall summarize the information required under subsection (1)(a) to (d) of this section and shall set forth in full the information required under subsection (1)(e) of this section.

Looking through the reports that the PDC has filed in the recent past, the reader questions whether they comply with this legal requirement.

For example, here is the PDC report for the two fiscal years 2002-2004. When you get to the part where the PDC's supposed to show the impact of its urban renewal program on local tax collections, the PDC drops back 10 yards and punts. Look at the very last page, where the impact is supposed to be shown. It isn't. Instead, the PDC tries to get away with this:

[I]n FY 2000-01, local government levies were not affected by urban renewal, except as an increase in rates might contribute to Measure 5 compression. With the City of Portland, compression occurred on a "spot" basis because of the property-by-property computation of compression. It is not possible to determine the effect that urban renewal taxes had on each local jurisdiction with respect to spot compression.
That's it? No numbers, no facts and figures, just "it had some effect, but we can't tell you what it is"? Mr. Warner, I'm no municipal law expert, but that can't be what the Legislature intended when it passed that law.

Indeed, if you would like to see an agency that actually tries to comply with the law's mandate, take a look at the report that the City of Lake Oswego's redevelopment agency files. Here it is. Look at pages 8 through 13 (pages 10 through 15 of the pdf file), where you can see how they have done it.

If Lake Oswego can do it, Mr. Warner, why can't Portland?

Jack Bogdanski

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