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

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January 2006 Archives

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Phrase of the Day

A wonderful wisecrack from Robert Ted Hinds, one of several folks challenging for one of the Portland City Council seats in the May primary:

"Sten-cell research"

Is Vicki out?

An ominous e-mail message has arrived from State Sen. Vicki Walker of Eugene, who's been pretty-much-running against Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Goldschmidt Old Boy Network in the upcoming gubernatorial primary. She writes:

After five months of exploring a candidacy for governor, I will make an announcement at noon tomorrow, Wednesday, February 1st, at the State Capitol in Hearing Room 50.

As of today, I still have a speech with three different endings. The first says I will run for Governor and challenge Gov. Ted Kulongoski in the May primary because I believe Oregon needs strong leadership. The second is that I will run for reelection to the State Senate to help my colleagues build on a better future for Oregon. And the third option is that I will not run for either office, that I will instead return to spending more time with my family and my small business.

I have a few more phone appointments today in order to make my final decision. Whatever the outcome, I appreciate the continued support Iíve received from all of you. You have been there from the beginning, and I will not forget that. We will send a newsletter out tomorrow letting you know of the outcome before you read it in the newspaper on Thursday morning.

It sure looks like we'll be getting option no. 2. It wouldn't be like Walker to be so downbeat if she were still leaning toward staying in the race. And she's too much of a tell-it-like-it-is person to be pulling the old "time with the family" line.

As mentioned here before, she was royally shafted by John Kitzhaber, who pulled a phony diva act and stalled her fundraising at least a bit. I'm sure he'll be rewarded if Ted gets re-elected -- probably with the OHSU president's job.

If I'm right and Vicki's out of the governor's race, it's really too bad. Without her, the three front runners are Ted and the Usual Crooks, Ron Saxton-Goldschmidt, and Grouchy Old Mannix. Heaven help us. Ted Sorenson and Jason Atkinson show some faint signs of life, but I doubt either one can make it to the general election.

Without Vicki, it will be hard to muster much enthusiasm for the race, or much hope for our dysfunctional state government. Anybody care to join me in a "Draft Potter" movement?

Feed your head

Where does it say that the City of Portland has to build OHSU an aerial tram [rim shot] or else pay huge bucks in damages? Does the rise and fall of the Swiss franc really have anything to do with the huge cost overruns on the project? Why will pay to operate the thing? Is the City Council out of its mind?

In seeking to answer these and other fascinating questions about the Gonzo Gondola, inquiring minds have been asking Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams to see the original documents by which this boondoggle became law. To his credit, Adams posted some of them on the web, but he complained that the complete set was so thick that he couldn't do them all.

Now a wonderfully pesky local tax gadfly, Jim Karlock, has borrowed the whole stack from Adams and posted the incriminating papers himself. If you're ready to step through the looking glass, here's where to start. Please report back on what you find digging around in there.

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: So far, based on a half-day's reading, no one has found the place where the city commits to deliver the tram by a set date. And readers have complained that a key document -- the Construction Fuinding Agreement -- has not been produced.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Amy to blogosphere: Get a life

Advice columnist Amy Dickinson of "Ask Amy" fame had these words of wisdom to impart today to a reader whose boyfriend had developed an unhealthy addiction to his Myspace account:

Your story is yet another reason why life online has become not only messy but also so boring. People who live a virtual life don't have actual experiences. Their blogs tend to reflect that.

I can't understand why people are so hungry to share their every waking thought with the rest of the world -- and I certainly don't understand why people are interested in reading these musings, personal details and lies.

Indeed, especially when there are high-quality newspaper advice columns to read instead.

Yes on the Portland income tax

I support the proposed new Portland schools tax -- a 0.95 income tax to be imposed on residents of the city, with all the funds dedicated to the public schools. I'm not looking forward to writing that check, but on the whole, I think it's the right thing to do.

Education is crucial to the success of our city and metropolitan area, and without these tax funds, the school districts would take a major budget cut, leading the public schools further down the slippery slope to which they have been clinging for a decade or more. I'm happy that Mayor Potter has taken the initiative on this -- he's a much more palatable champion of the schools than his predecessor, or the strange folks who are running the county these days.

I have already heard many negatives being circulated about the tax plan, which was unveiled on Thursday. Some of the criticisms are valid, at least up to a point. But political pragmatist that I am, I think we need to take the lesser of two evils when it's available.

Is there too much administrative overhead in the public school budgets? Sure. Are there some lackluster teachers whose hides are being covered by an aggressive union? Probably. Is government wasting money on other, less important priorities? Definitely. Might there be inequities between the Portland district and the outlying school districts under the plan? I really can't tell from what I've read so far, but let's assume for the sake of argument that it's possible. Is all the talk about dedicating the tax to classroom-related expenses a bunch of budgetary smoke and mirrors? Yep.

So what? Without this money, regardless of whether it's theoretically possible to run an adequate education system, it's a 100 percent certainty that there won't be one. Starving the beast for money isn't going to turn it into a beauty.

Some of the other objections that have emerged sound like baloney. Larsie keeps harping on the fact that the tax wil be imposed only on city residents, and not on commuters (like him) who work in town but live elsewhere. Yes, and...? I assume that's because those who live elsewhere send their kids to school elsewhere.

Then there's the fact that state government pensioners won't pay the tax. I assume that's because state law forbids it. Not Mayor Potter's doing.

And the geniuses at The O keep nattering on about how we should vote on a property tax levy instead. Excuse me, people, but there's this thing called the double majority law, and the risk of not getting a 50 percent turnout for a May primary is too high to chance it. For now, the city income tax is the best we can do. (Heck, four years from now, when the new city tax would expire, there might be a double majority requirement in place for renewing it. I have no doubt some of our fervent anti-tax brethren have drafted up a petition on the subject, or they will soon.)

With this tax, others complain, Portland is seceding from the rest of Oregon financially. It's about darn time, if you ask me.

We'll be hearing a lot that the county income tax that just expired was supposed to be temporary. It was -- just a stopgap measure until the Legislature gets its act together. The schedule on that has been pushed back to shortly after the Winter Olympics in Hell in the year 2525.

We just got a fairly good-sized property tax reduction, in part because an older school levy ran out, and we ought to funnel those dollars back where they can do the most good. The city income tax won't be perfect. Far from it. But I'll be voting for it.

Cake and candles

Special greetings to my wonderful sister, who turns 29 today.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What's the deal with Mount Laurel, N.J.?

Over at Le Petite Morte, they're wondering who that visitor is who keeps showing up looking at their blog from a perch in Mount Laurel, N.J. I get visitor data showing the same thing all the time, but I thought it was one of my old Jersey contacts checking out the blog. I've got lots of family and friends in the Garden State.

You other bloggers out there -- are you getting this visitor, too? Perhaps it's a Google-bot or something. Does anyone know?

The long and winding road

It's been another, shall we say, interesting week on the technology front. As reported here last week, I'm trying to move this blog to a new web host. And I've decided to upgrade my blogging software from Movable Type 2 to Movable Type 3 in the process. Although I'm making good headway on both fronts, it's taking much longer than I anticipated. Instead of being a painful but relatively quick process, it looks more like one of those challenges that one progresses through only a little at a time, with a dull ache the whole way.

On the host switch front, I'm off and running with a new provider and a much improved customer service situation. But it turned out that the server that the new outfit had put me on didn't have the most recent version of MySQL, the database program that makes Movable Type tick for most of us. When MT3 tried to talk to the server they gave me, the hideous "connection errors" appeared. After figuring out the problem by consulting the voluminous web literature on Movable Type installation problems, I was able to tell the folks at the new host the help I needed, and they provided it quickly and smoothly. A refreshing change for me.

Installing Movable Type is no picnic. One of the things you need to do is to have MySQL create a database on your new server. I figured that one out o.k., but then there is the process of configuring MT. There's a key little configuration file that you have to rewrite yourself, and get everything just right. If you don't, you get more error messages. After a handful of tries, I was able to break through and do my first work under the new version of MT. The results are here -- not much so far, but an accomplishment of some sort nonetheless.

One of these days, when the blog on the new site is running like a champ, it will be time to have my domain name, bojack.org, changed so that it points you all automatically to the new web host rather than the old. Since I've got a dot-org domain, I have to show a long number called a registry key to make that move. It took about a week for me to wrestle that password out of my old host, but now I have it, and I should be able to make that move when the time comes.

Web domain lore is kind of interesting. There are a number of commercial outfits out there that serve as the registrars of domains. Mine is a joint called eNom, up in the Seattle area. (I didn't pick it -- my old host did.) My new web host uses a registrar in Melbourne. G'dye, mite! These are the ones you need to tell the world that, say, "bojack.org" means one IP address rather than another. The folks at eNom have been quite helpful in explaining to me what I have to do to start up their part of the deal. Don't hold your breath, though -- it can't happen until the new blog site looks just like the old, and that's still a ways off. A long ways.

So now it's back to the divine comedy of getting a mature MT2 blog moved to another server, and upgraded to an MT3 operation either before the move or afterward. What I've read about this so far is that the migration is "fraught with peril," as one site put it. One of the key steps is performing something called a "dump" of your data at the old server. Man, to tell a computer to "dump" something after three and a half years of building it sends a chill through my spine. My old web host has become an intolerable problem, but I'd rather have a blog that goes up and down like a yo-yo all week (as this one has) than a blog with nothing left on it.

And so I proceed with caution, one step at a time. Perhaps a prayer to Saint Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, is in order. I hope you'll keep rooting for me.

"Ask your doctor or pharmacist about Tequila"

Mellow's running pharmaceutical ads on her blog now.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


We just felt something a few minutes ago here in Northeast Portland. I think it was a quake. Sure felt like it -- and it seems to have been one from the looks of this.

UPDATE, 6:17 p.m.: The USGS has it as a 2.9, at coordinates that would put it right under the east ramps to the Morrison Bridge!

UPDATE, 6:23 p.m.: Now it's listed as a 2.8, and the epicenter is given as 31st and East Burnside!

UPDATE, 11:50 p.m.: Several TV stations and the O are reporting that it was alternatively under the Morrison Bridge (the first location given by the USGS, later revised), or a mile southwest of downtown (quoting some fellow from the University of Washington). But the USGS and the UW seismic folks are both still showing 31st and Burnside on the web, and so I'm sticking with that. You read it here first and most accurately, folks.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday night at a bar (review)

Hard to believe, but it's time for this again. In the winter, at least, there's only one show -- in Portland.


The New Jersey Nets are in Portland to play the Blazers tonight, and that means that Fred Kerber, ace sports writer for The New York Post, is here with them. Fred and I were buddies in high school and college back in Jersey City, where we worked on the school newspapers together. I hadn't seen him in more than 30 years, but I tracked him down and we had dinner together downtown last night.

Kerber's special. Through all our youthful craziness fueled by beer, testosterone, and the wild attitudes of the late '60s, he was always the sweetest guy in the school.

And he still is. But he's even better as a grownup.

My wavelength

In the great corporate merry-go-round that FM radio has become, I have found a new location for geezer music. It's at 106.7 here in Portland -- stuff from the '60s and '70s. Nice to hear this material in stereo in the car again, at least for a while.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Smoke on the water

What do you think of the guys who want to dismantle ships in the Portland area? Now that they've been chased out of Newport, they're talking about coming up here. Obviously, there are some environmental concerns with an operation of this nature. But if Portland turns its nose up at it, it might wind up in Vancouver, Wash., anyway -- or elsewhere on the sales tax side of the Columbia. Astoria's also being mentioned.

I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more about this in the weeks ahead, and so if you haven't, start reading here. Meanwhile, those in the know, please fill us in on the pro's and con's.

Special appearance

Interesting piece in The O Wednesday morning on the fact that the City of Portland brought in a paid expert to testify in the grand jury proceeding following the fatal police shooting of James Jahar Perez in the spring of 2004. It was William Lewinski, the very same expert whom the city anticipated hiring to help defend itself in the civil lawsuit brought by Perez's family.

Our eternal county d.a., Mike Schrunk (worth some blog posts of his own), agreed to put Lewinski on the stand, even though it was known he was being paid by the city to show up and testify. In Schrunk's view, the expert was an objective provider of important information to the grand jurors.

It's hard to see it that way. Everybody in the legal racket knows that a "neutral" expert witness never really loses sight of who's paying his or her bill to be there. I'd be shocked if this particular expert regularly, if ever, gets employed by police shooting victims -- just the shooters. And Schrunk admits that he didn't give the Perez family a chance to have their own "neutral" expert testify before the grand jury.

However you come out on the propriety of the city's move in the Perez case (and there's room for legitimate disagreement about it), the front-page banner headline in The O was a bit misleading. The fact that Lewinski had testified before the grand jury is not news -- it was in the Willamette Week on May 5, 2004. The only new wrinkle, if that, was the fact that the city paid him to be there.

But notice reporter Maxine Bernstein's excellent question, which didn't really get answered, at the end of the O story: whether any similar expert testified in the much more recent grand jury proceeding into the police shooting of Dennis "Squeaky" Young. That grand jury also cleared the officer of any criminal wrongdoing. Schrunk says Lewinski didn't testify in that one. But did the city have someone else of the same stripe do the same thing?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

All through the town

The jalopy's in the shop today, and so I've been getting around on Tri-Met. It's a great system. It had better be, for what we all pay for it.

This morning on the MAX east side line, inbound at Hollywood, we had a fare inspection. I've ridden thousands of Tri-Met vehicles in my day, and this is only the second or third time I've ever experienced it. About six or eight uniformed guys got on board the train and asked everybody to show their tickets. I almost hadn't validated mine because one of the validator machines at the station I boarded at was out of service. Glad I had found another validator that worked. A couple of dudes without proof of payment were asked to step outside. Given their looks, I think a call to the parole department might have been fruitful.

The fellow next to me had a ticket that had literally been through a washing machine. It still worked, though.

Later in the day, riding the bus down on the soon-to-be-ripped-up-for-no-good-reason transit mall, I heard this exchange between the middle-aged male driver and a young woman standing outside the bus door in the rain:

Woman: Are you the 12?

Driver: No, this is the no. 9.

Woman: It says "12" on the back.

Driver: Well, don't look at the back!

Makes sense. Of course, nothing beat the sign I saw on the sidewalk outside a downtown storefront: "Improve your state of mind."

It was a state liquor store.

Good for a laugh

If you haven't seen Jack Ohman's cartoon in The O this morning, find a copy somewhere and check it out. It's perfect. (I'd link to it if I could find it on OregonLive, but of course, I can't. Maybe Mr. Velveeta will come on the comments here and point us to it.)

Guess whose fault it is today

"And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities
unto a Land not inhabited." (Leviticus XVI, 22)

First the hideous OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] was Matt Brown's fault. Then it was Vic Rhodes and John Mangan who were to blame. Throw in Dike Dame, too, he's got an interesting "track" record. Yesterday it was the Swiss franc.

It was just a matter of time before the finger of blame turned again. You knew it was coming. Yep, according to Renee Mitchell today, at long last, the truth can now be told. The real villain? Of course. It's this guy.

Quotation of the Month

"Nobody ever saw what was going on. Nobody's been minding the store."

-- Erik Sten, who's been a Portland city commissioner for nearly 10 years.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

That ain't Ovaltine

The latest writeup of the aerial tram fiasco [rim shot] points to currency fluctuations as one of the causes of the massive cost overruns on the project. From today's Trib:

Since then, unforeseen difficulties, such as the dollar's collapse versus the Swiss franc -- the main contractor is Swiss -- as well as a skyrocketing steel market and post-Hurricane Katrina inflation in the construction industry have helped add another $15 million or so, bringing the total to $45 million.
Wait -- are we saying now that the city and OHSU signed an eight-figure construction contract, denominated in Swiss francs, and they didn't buy a hedge against the currency risk?

Folks, that would be beyond ordinary negligence.

Perhaps the worm has turned

Encouraging signs in today's Trib story on the aerial tram [rim shot]:

A well-connected land-use consultant, who would speak only off the record for fear of retribution, said political posturing over the tram is contributing to "growing concern" among developers "about doing business with the city."

Adams says he's not worried: "Reputable developers have nothing to fear from partnering with the city if they make a good-faith effort to be accountable and honest."

That may be a bigger "if" than some of the current players on the Portland scene can handle. I hope Adams means it. The fact that he even said it indicates to me that the Vera Katz era at City Hall may be over.

Now if we could just leave Saturday Market alone...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why plumbers don't blog much

Isaac has remarked about it before: Sometimes you get more blog traffic when you haven't posted new material than when you have. So it's been for us today -- go figure.

What little blog time we've managed to eke out from a busy schedule has been spent contemplating, and testing, our upcoming move to a new server. As part of that transition -- which will doubtlessly have its bumpy moments, technically speaking -- we are going to have to switch our blog composition software from Movable Type 2 to Movable Type 3. Can you say, "Internal server error"?

Between that and having 2699 blog posts to move (and counting), which is more than can be handled using standard FTP tools, it's enough to, as Cousin Jim would say, make my hair hurt. I'm not complaining, but it sure is distracting me from the deep thoughts that my muse typically provides.

Hey, when in doubt, go with the weather. That was one heck of a nice day we just had here in Oregon, wasn't it? And we've got a cold, clear night under way. No nasty east wind yet, either. Long overdue.

"And my heart will go on and on"

Well, some heads finally rolled on the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot]. There's a new manager, and a couple of people have quit the board of directors of the private company that calls all the shots. Among the resignees are developer Dike Dame (now there's a name), who's one of those on the fat end of the cash cow in the SoWhat district.

The personnel changes are a nice gesture, but in a way they just further cement the city's commitment to the tram. "It's a bright, shining new day, with new managers, so let's move forward." I hope Fireman Randy digs in on his vow that there will be no new city money committed to that thing -- and that he can come up with two other votes on the City Council to back him up on that.

It doesn't matter who's managing the tram, it's a boondoggle of the highest order.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fixing the plumbing

It's been a weekend of infrastructure projects. Yesterday with the help of the friendly folks at Hankins Hardware, I successfully replaced a faucet washer. Go ahead -- laugh. You don't know how satisfying that is to a Catholic boys' school graduate. Shop? Hah! We were lucky we had gym! And you could even buy your way out of that, to gain time to cram for English Lit quizzes -- if you gave money to the Catholic missions through our gym teacher, Milton Berkowitz, who obviously wasn't among the baptized.

Emboldened by my success with the crescent wrench, I am now in the process of moving this blog to a new server. Having endured all I can with my current web host, I am switching to another.

In theory, readers will not notice a thing.

In theory.

As ever, major computer-related activities strike fear into one's heart. If anything goes awry on this site over the next week or so, don't assume that I've been hacked by angry municipal planners. It's just me, in over my head with technology.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Book of the Week

I am Sam.
Sam I am.

That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
We do not like
that Sam-I-am!

Would you like
an aerial tram?

We do not want one,
We do not want
an aerial tram.

Would you like one
here or there?

We do not want one here or there.
We do not want one anywhere.
We do not want an aerial tram.
We do not want one, Sam-I-am.

Would you like one
on a hill?
Would you like one
with a pill?

We do not want one on a hill.
We do not want one with a pill.
We do not want one here or there.
We do not want one anywhere.
We do not want an aerial tram.
We do not want one, Sam-I-am.

Would you ride one
down the trail?
Would you ride one
with light rail?

Not down the trail.
Not with light rail.
Not on a hill.
Not with a pill.
We would not ride one here or there.
We would not ride one anywhere.
We would not ride an aerial tram.
We do not want one, Sam-I-am.

Would you? Could you?
To downtown?
Ride it! Ride it!
With Matt Brown.

We would not, could not,
To downtown.
We would not, could not,
With Matt Brown.

We do not want one on a hill.
We do not want one with a pill.
We do not want one here or there.
We do not want one anywhere.
We do not want an aerial tram.
We do not want one, Sam-I-am.

[with apologies to Dr. Seuss]


The South Waterfront district development continues to gobble up local tax dollars like a Pac Man on steroids. The fine folks at the Portland Development Commission are meeting on Wednesday, when they'll officially amend their budget to throw another $2.58 million in this fiscal year for the aerial tram (apparently, rather than waiting 'til next year as originally planned to spend that much). They're also apparently adding $2.54 million for that $7 million contaminated Public Storage property that's been purchased for the yuppie park.

Read it and weep on page 10 of this pdf document.

The special today is pork

Lunch at the Benson yesterday: Homer Williams, Dike Dame, Mayor Tom Potter, Nancy Hamilton. The topic? How to pay for the aerial tram [rim shot].

They might have needed some Rolaids after that one.

Paper or plastic?

Here's a vicious rumor that you should not spread.

Dim the lights on funky Broadway

A mover, a groover, a teaser, a pleaser, hugger, lover, walker, talker... they called him the Midnight Mover.

Pickett lived in North Jersey, where the cops will tell you, he had his problems later in life. But those dozen or more hit singles never stopped glowing, and they will live forever.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Kendra and Squeaky

The Portland police officer who fatally shot Kendra James has won his aribtration against the city. The arbitrator has ruled that he should not have been suspended for five and a half months without pay. Police Chief Derrick Foxworth, who at the time recommended to his predecessor that the officer be fired for the shooting, says he'll live with the ruling, which requires the city to pay the officer his back pay, plus benefits.

Meanwhile, there's been a deafening silence in the local media about the fatal shooting of another Portland resident, Dennis "Squeaky" Young, a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure the official investigative wheels are turning, but there's been surprisingly little coverage of the case in the O or on TV since the tragedy occurred in the wee hours on Jan. 4. Without a race angle, I guess, a fatal shooting by police doesn't sell much soap.

What makes the more recent case interesting to me is the fact that, partly in response to cases like James's, and that of James Jahar Perez, the police bureau had issued regulations last summer which essentially told officers not to shoot at a vehicle coming at them if there was any chance of getting out of its way. Based on the limited facts that the police have released in the Young case, it is not clear that the officer who fired the fatal shot complied with that directive. Who knows whether he did or didn't? At this stage, I sure don't. But I do hope that the local press will pursue the truth as vigorously in Young's case as it did in the case of James.

UPDATE, 1/20, 7:28 a.m.: Ask and ye shall receive. This morning's Oregonian reports that the grand jury has cleared the officer in the Young shooting of criminal wrongdoing. Maxine Bernstein's story has a new detail -- the officer didn't know the car was stolen until after Young was dead. And it refers to the new bureau policy adopted last summer. The departmental investigation continues.

Tram meltdown!

Call the Tony Awards people. The OHSU Medical Group aerial tram tragicomedy gets better every day. Today's scapegoat is Vic Rhodes, head of PATI, the goofball nonprofit corporation that gets to spend all the tram money while taxpayers get to pay it. Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams, who was the economic development brains behind then-Mayor Vera Katz when the city committed to build the tram (not knowing a thing about what it would cost), told a bunch of people yesterday that Rhodes has resigned. But Rhodes, a former city transportation director much heralded for his involvement with the Portland streetcar system, told The O last night that he hadn't quit -- and then he appears to have hung up the phone rather abruptly.

Adams also reportedly said that p.r. flack John Mangan had left the tram dole, but Mangan says that's not true, either.

Speaking of phone rage, developer Homer Williams, Terminator of Portland's livability and main beneficiary of the SoWhat district, was reported to be cursing and swearing about Adams within earshot of a reporter. "This whole thing disgusts me," he declared.

Me, too, Homer.

And Homer, in case you haven't noticed: Neil doesn't live here any more. Vera's out. Kohler's bags are packed. You're a major liability to Sten and Saltzman. I think it may be over, buddy.

Meanwhile, the O now characterizes the tram project as "foundering," and "the butt of City Hall jokes." All together now, readers: RIM SHOT!

There's more talk in this morning's article about how the City Council may have been misled in 2003, when a ludicrous $15.5 million budget was still being touted:

Before the council vote, tram architect Sarah Graham traded e-mails with Rhodes.

"I would interpret that you will have to get the players to come up with more funding for the tram BEFORE the agreement is signed or we are collectively out of luck. Yes?"

Rhodes: "I think we go with $15.5 and fix it later," once the design is fleshed out to give cost estimators something real to work from.

Months later, Matt Brown, yesterday's scapegoat, was still calling it a "$15.5 million tram" before the council.

But don't forget, folks, the commissioners all voted for it again in 2004, when the cat was out of the bag and the budget was looking more like $30 million. The council can fire and badmouth all the bureaucrats it wants, but in the end, it is the commissioners who will be held accountable. Two of them will be explaining this all to you very soon, since their jobs are on the line come May 16.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bring March Madness to Portland

To host a round of the NCAA basketball tournament in the spring of 2009 or 2010 would be very cool.

Is the aerial tram all about OHSU parking?

With all the hubbub about the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] this month, a new angle surfaced today that I hadn't heard about before. A reader writes in to suggest that OHSU is going to have employees park in the SoWhat district (also known as North Macadam, or "NM") and ride the tram up to their jobs on Marquam Hill:

Like my Starbuck's jockey said yesterday: "My intern wife will love the tram because she'll be able to park in NM along the river and ride the tram to work."

Isn't it strange that the second "OHSU" building to be built is a 3000-car parking garage right in our Greenway zone (plans underway)? And better yet, OHSU has asked for a variance to place something like 2500 surface parking spaces on its Schnitzer property. My, all this is great use of riverfront property. NM will become pill-hills parking lot which is contrary to the NM Agreement plans, and the subsequent planning we all worked on.

Another reader responds:
The way it has been pitched on the Hill is that it is an opportunity to grow without adding to the already existing parking problem. One of my intial criticisms is that while not addressing the parking problem on the Hill, the tram [rimshot] creates a new traffic problem down next to the river. OHSU seems to have always looked at this project as MORE PARKING.

"Clean money" goes on the ballot

Despite the best efforts of the Portland City Council, the city's voters are going to have their say on whether their tax dollars should go to pay for local politicians' political campaigns. The local business interests who are opposed to the city's new public campaign finance system have turned in way more than enough signatures to put it on the May ballot.

This is how it should be. The council should have known this was going to happen, and it should have referred "voter-owned elections" (formerly known as "clean money" before someone asked who had taken the "dirty money") to the voters originally. But it didn't, and now the opponents have forced it onto the ballot, with one strike against it already.

I predict (as I have here from the outset) that "clean money" is going to go down to defeat, and pretty hard. Even if it were the only thing on the ballot, it would have an awfully tough time passing, but as it turns out, it will be voted on at the same time as (a) a desperate pitch by the city for more money for the public school system, and (b) the contested re-election bid of Commissioner Erik Sten, godfather of "clean money," who will likely have cashed in on the new system himself. All that, plus the fact that the council pushed it through without offering the voters their say, adds up to a witch's brew of negatives that will likely doom this program, at least in its current form. Not to mention the continuing controversy over the aerial tram [rim shot], the police and fire retirement and disability fiasco, another run at a tax abatement for the Alexan tower in the SoWhat district, and probably other questionable expenditures of public money that will be in the headlines throughout the campaign.

Whatever the merits of "clean money" may be, this may very well boil down to a referendum on the City Council's priorities. Mayor Potter wants to channel all the discontent in that area into his friendly little study groups, but unfortunately, he and his colleagues are about to get an earful of "vision" at the ballot box on May 16.

In light of who's leading the opposition to "clean money," I'm not as down on it as I used to be. I might even vote for it. But especially given the way it was handled, I suspect it's going to be a short-lived experiment indeed.

When you don't care enough to send the very best

In my e-mail inbox this morning was one of those spread-like-wildfire-over-the-internet-messages-that-you-may-have-already-seen:


My tire was thumping.
I thought it was flat
When I looked at the tire...
I noticed your cat.

Heard your wife left you,
How upset you must be.
But don't fret about it...
She moved in with me.

Looking back over the years
that we've been together,
I can't help but wonder...
"What the hell was I thinking?"

Congratulations on your wedding day!
Too bad no one likes your husband.

How could two people as beautiful as you
Have such an ugly baby?

I've always wanted to have
someone to hold,
someone to love.
After having met you...
I've changed my mind.

I must admit, you brought Religion into my life.
I never believed in Hell until I met you.

As the days go by, I think of how lucky I am...
That you're not here to ruin it for me.

Congratulations on your promotion.
Before you go...
Would you like to take this knife out of my back?
You'll probably need it again.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Dad!
(Available only in Kentucky & West Virginia)

Happy birthday! You look great for your age.
Almost lifelike!

When we were together,
you always said you'd die for me.
Now that we've broken up,
I think it's time you kept your promise.

We have been friends for a very long time ..
let's say we stop?

I'm so miserable without you
it's almost like you're here.

Congratulations on your new bundle of joy.
Did you ever find out who the father was?

Your friends and I wanted to do
something special for your birthday.
So we're having you put to sleep.

So your daughter's a hooker,
and it spoiled your day.
Look at the bright side,
it's really good pay.

Knowing the wicked wit possessed by many readers of this blog, I'm sure we can add to the mirth here. Have at it, kids.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Get yer aerial tram quotes here

Quotable quotes about the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot]:

"[T]he designer somehow seems to think that $15.5 million was a political number. I don't believe it was. I sat here and asked the chairman of PATI several times whether $15.5 million was the real number and was assured that. So I do resent the characterization by the designer and the media that somehow that was a political number and there's no way a tram can be built for $15.5 million. Second to that is my resentment that I seem to be sensing that the movement afoot now by the PATI board members and others is to somehow say, well, if we come in at $19 million we're still doing a tremendous job. Because now it's moved from $15 to $19, and if we come in at $19 we should pat ourselves on the shoulders. I'm still holding out for $15.5 million. That's the cost that was presented to us, the City Council, to PDC, to OHSU, to North Macadam Developers. We should be able to deliver a first class tram at that cost. I can't believe with all the talent involved on PATI and others that somehow they could blow it and not think of $4-5 million in 'soft costs' left out. The people involved in PATI are way way too experienced for that to happen." -- Commissioner Dan Saltzman, January 2004.

"However disagreeable its price tag, the tram remains a vital linchpin in the future growth of OHSU and, indeed, of Oregon's economy." -- Steve Stadum, OHSU chief administrative officer, yesterday.

That's not a trout, son

There's a little something extra in the water down Oswego way these days.

City Club on bluecoat pension system: Blow it up and start over

The City Club of Portland has published its latest report on the Portland police and fire retirement and disability system. Lots of dire warnings in there about the current system running the city into the ground financially. The report's bottom line: Get rid of the current system gradually over the next 30 years; and don't let any new hires into it, starting now.

The whole thing is here.

Victory over Ashcroft

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act has been upheld over the objections of the Bush administration -- at least for now. The vote was 6-3, with Roberts, Scalia and Thomas dissenting (what a surprise -- and Alito will make four).

On first reading, Justice Kennedy's majority opinion appears to rely heavily on the language and meaning of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which the Court held does not give the U.S. attorney general powers to make rules on this subject. Of course, that federal law could be changed at any time by Congress, and a new version could very well give the AG the authority he seeks. For now, however, the Oregon regime remains in effect.

That which we call cheese food

Ace blogger Chris Snethen is looking for a new name for his blog. He's decided that "Undecided Resident" has got to go, and let me give an amen to that, my brutha. He's solicited suggestions for a new blog title.

Now, if his hosts at OregonLive(ForTwoWeeksThenDead) insist that the name make reference to the blogger's location, I'd go with something like "Couv Operator," since Chris is, you know, living up there and all. But why not go for domination of the entire OregonLive realm -- something like "Velveetaland" or "The Big Cheese"? Perhaps "No Comment" would be descriptive of that whole group.

Anyway, if you've got an idea for the guy, please, as the kids say, give it up here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

You talk about your conflicts of interest

An alert reader writes:

seems rather interesting that the editor of the editorial page at the oregonian, bob caldwell, is married to the flack, lora cuykendall, who is making up all that crap for OHSU now.
It would certainly seem so. It might explain lines like these: "But the city must go forward. The city has promised to do so."

Guess who's to blame for the tram

What a place Portland is. Among the scapegoats that they've found for the ludicrous OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot] are -- get ready, hold onto your seat, I am not making this up -- the people who opposed it!

The finger has been pointed at the opponents from two different directions. The first source was Commissioner Randy Leonard, who was among those who voted to require the city to build the tram, even though nobody on the City Council had bothered to check out how much it would really cost. In comments on this blog, he said:

It sure would have been helpful to me if a member of the planning commission would have talked with me, either in private or during testimony in front of the council, about specific objections they may have had with the project. I would have listened and, if they were legitimate issues, most probably would have voted against the project.

But no one from the planning commission, including Amanda Fritz, has raised those concerns with me privately or publicly...ever....

Again, if Amana was in fact leading the opposition to the Tram as a member of the Planning Commission, a better question from you would be to ask her why she did not make sure I knew she was opposing the Tram and why.

Meanwhile, The Oregonian had this to say in a Sunday editorial:

All who suspected the number was faulty should have spoken up, repeatedly if necessary, and ensured that a more accurate number was put before the public. The problem, unfortunately, is that people wanted to believe this estimate.
So there, you see, Lair Hill neighbors and others who fought this monstrosity? It's really your fault. You didn't speak up loudly and repeatedly enough.

Portland is truly living up to its name as The City That Works You Over. You bitterly oppose a project -- spend weeks of your life fighting it. Then after you're overruled by the West Hills moneybags, and you turn out to have been right that it's a horrible mistake, it's your fault.

Mayor Potter wants hundreds of thousands of us to kill some substantial time over the next year on his city "visioning" process. Given the way the tram opponents have been treated, I doubt any of them would give it 30 seconds. They'll be damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

How about it?

Cousin Jim asks an obvious question.

Happy birthday

Photo courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

-- April 4, 1967

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Once removed

Hey, Twisty's been blogging again the last couple of days. Cool!

I hope she'll pace herself so that she stays on the scene. We missed her.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Portland: "The city that is king of beers"

So proclaims this morning's New York Times. Prost!

So much for that

O.k., so now that he's got your attention, Kitzhaber's not running for governor. No surprise there.

I'm assuming this means that Walker and Sorenson will resume whacking on Kulongoski. Can't say he hasn't given them a lot to talk about. And they've still got four months to have at him.

Amanda and the tram

Amanda Fritz, candidate for the Portland City Council seat currently occupied by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, is a psychiatric nurse up at OHSU. As such, I assume, she deals all day long with people with psychological problems. Some of those problems no doubt entail extreme egomania and delusions of grandeur.

This should make her an excellent politician, in whose hands journalists and bloggers will be like putty. We've all got buttons, and she should know how to push them.

For example, about a month ago I mentioned in a comment on this blog that Fritz's stint on the Portland Planning Commission raised my suspicions that she was in on the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram scam [rim shot] that has evoked such criticism. The key moments in the city's ludicrous decision to commit to build the tram -- come hell, high water, or a 200% (and counting) budget overrun -- were in 2002 and 2003, under the reign of Vera Katz. Fritz was on the commission back around that time.

Candidate Fritz not only responded to my comment promptly and off-blog, but in writing, with copies of several documents attached to illustrate her points. Now that made me feel mighty important, people.

That having been said, let's go through what she sent me. The gist of it is, whatever the Planning Commission said generally about the South Waterfront project (then also known as North Macadam), it never endorsed and in fact questioned the inclusion of the aerial tram.

Here is document no. 1, a May 22, 2002 letter from Rick Michaelson, president of the Planning Commision, to the City Council. At the time, the commission was working on something called the Marquam Hill Plan (the tram would run up that hill), or "MHP." Among the things Michaelson said in there was this:

Based on public testimony and discussions at our work sessions, Commission members concluded it is premature to include policy support and Zoning Code amendments related to a suspended cable transportation system as part of the MHP. Commission members felt that a comprehensive analysis of existing policies and regulations relating to these systems was necessary and that a work program to develop new policies and regulations that would apply citywide should be implemented. The Planning Commission also believes that PDOT should proceed with a project assessment phase for the proposed suspended cable transportation system linking Marquam Hill and North Macadam which will be in the form of policy and regulation development work. As part of this analysis the Planning Commission believes strongly that alternative alignment and technology decisions need to be studied as well as a "no-build" alternative. The "no-build" alternative might study a non-suspended cable system alternative, such as increased use of shuttle buses, to move traffic.
Document No. 2 is draft City Council resolution that would have directed the City Engineer to consider, among other things, "a shuttle bus alternative" for the connection between OHSU and SoWhat. I don't know if the language as proposed was passed by the Council or not -- I assume that it was not, but the draft resolution shows that the Planning Commission wanted a no-tram option studied. The third document is an attachment to the second, again recommending that the city study a no-tram scenario.

The fourth and final document is a list of all the changes the City Council made to the Marquam Hill Plan that the Planning Commission produced. As this nine-pager appears to show, many of the amendments that were made to the plan at the behest of the PDC and other SoWhat project proponents were not passed on by the commission. The little asterisks attached to all the items in the transportation section (Topic C) show, according to Fritz, that the Planning Commission either disagreed with, or didn't get a chance to look at, the changes that were made to its plan. She writes: "Many of the requests made by OHSU/North Macadam interests were adopted by the Council, contrary to the Planning Commission recommendation."

The boys in City Hall are all running away from their obvious involvement with the aerial tram [rim shot] (except for Mayor Potter, who can legitimately say he wasn't around). Today in the paper it's all Matt Brown's fault -- I guess neither the city commissioners nor the then-mayor's economic development chief could be expected to question independently the laughable $15.5 million price tag on which the project was sold. Whether their scapegoating will succeed is anyone's guess, but don't expect Fritz to take a fall on the issue. She's saying quite clearly that she wasn't in on it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ten I don't

Here now are my Top 10 Disappointing Public Figures of 2005.

"Tram bad" -- The O

The Oregonian has figured it out: The OHSU Medical Group aerial tram [rim shot] is bad. Mayor Tom Potter's got it, too. All together everybody: Bad, bad, bad. Long story in InPortland today, and a Steve Duin column to boot. How the $15.5 million tram became the $45 million tram, and how Fireman Randy thinks it's going to top out at $60 million. And Randy says no more city money.

This is the same Randy who when running for office said something like "I don't think an aerial tram is the solution to OHSU's transportation problems." But then he voted for it anyway.

Leonard sounds embarrassed. He should be. As should his colleagues from those days, Sten and Saltzman, who are both up for re-election. The docs on Pill Hill took them to the cleaners, just as they take Medicare and Medicaid to the cleaners on a regular basis.

Another interesting aspect of today's coverage: It finally spotlights the revolving door at City Hall, where staffers leave public office and go right to work as employees, partners, or debtors of the very developers they're supposed to be regulating. No rules broken there, apparently.

We need some rules.

Matt Brown, the latest bureaucrat on the career merry-go-round, is still being quoted as a voice of the city government. He's in there saying that the "5,000 good new jobs" justify the financial hole we're digging with the Stairway to Heaven. Even if you believe that coming from the newly designated developer flak, don't I remember the original job figure being 10,000? I guess that was just another estimate, eh?

And weren't they supposed to be biotech jobs? I think that was just an estimate, too.

Overall, it was some decent tram [rim shot] coverage by the O -- albeit three years late. You can be sure it never would have happened if old Randy Gragg were around these days to whisper sweet, sexy planner nonsense into Sandy Rowe's ear. I hope when Gragg's done at Harvard, Homer Williams has a gig for him, too.

Pretty funny that Neil Goldschmidt's name has disappeared from the story. He was the fixer for the whole thing. Guess we can forget about him now -- at least, that's what the governor's office is suggesting.

And still no mention of who's going to pay to operate the tram, which will no doubt be a nightmare to run. I'm sure that's already decided -- my guess is two-thirds Tri-Met and one-third the city, like the streetcar -- but the O can't look that far ahead, I guess. I've been asking the question here for years, but no one's offered an answer, straight or otherwise. And there's no budget I've ever seen.

Speaking of the Ski Lift That Bankrupted the City, I had some correspondence with Amanda Fritz, who's challenging Saltzman for his seat, just before the new year. It clarifies her involvement with the tram from her Planning Commission days. She says she has an alibi. It's interesting stuff, and it merits a post of its own.

The Bad News Room

Linda doesn't post much on her blog, but when she does, you'd better read it. This post's been lying around for a few weeks, and here I just got to it. Whoa.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

21st Century schizoid man

Remember King Crimson, the late '60s band that bent our minds with "In the Court of the Crimson King" and other Procol Harum-esque ditties? I'll bet you thought you'd never hear their music again.

But you're probably wrong. An alert reader has tipped us off that King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp has been recording sounds that Microsoft is considering using as the cues for its new version of Windows. Egads. So if you hit the wrong key while Windows Vista is taking its sweet time doing something mysterious, you're going to get a clip of "Cat Food -- Again"?

Rip City

Congratulations to the Portland Trail Blazers on a nice win over Kobe Bryant, Colonel Sanders, and the L.A. Lakers. To Steve Blake especially.

He couldn't stay away

Reports of Bob Borden's hiatus from blogging were greatly exaggerated. Neighbors in Hoboken report hearing him sobbing to his computer monitor: "I wish I knew how to quit you."

Film at 11 -- not

Some breaking news in my e-mail inbox:

It's official -- we'll vote on a Portland city income tax in May. The City Council will refer a measure to voters. So says Super Vicki in a press release this afternoon.

Surprise -- Jack Roberts is apparently going to run for Oregon Supreme Court against Virginia Linder. Even though he said he wouldn't might not run against a woman.*

It's over -- the recall campaign against Judge Mary Mertens James, who invalidated Measure 37, has petered out.

We return you now to your regularly scheduled surfing...

* UPDATE, 1/12, 1:00 a.m.: As the exchange in the comments below reveals, Jack Roberts never said that he would not run against a woman. In fact, he said something vaguer than that on the subject. The details are in the comments. Apologies for the confusion.

Happy Birthday

Clarence Clemons is 64 today.

So go the days of our lives

Just when we were really starting to get a kick out of reading Portland city commissioner Sam Adams's appointments calendar, he's stopped posted it. Or at least, I can't find it any more.

Is this the end of the noble experiment? What about the "open government" spiel? Will we no longer get to speculate and chuckle about Adams's regular confabs with the likes of Tom Imeson, Sandra McDonough, Steve Janik, Gianna Lupo, and Peter Kohler? It's almost like a game of Clue -- Tom Imeson in the dining room with the veal chop, Mark Edlen in the ballroom with the punch ladle...

Play it again, Sam! Just seeing what you have to sit through every week is enough to scare away anyone who'd ever think of running against you.

UPDATE, 3:47 p.m.: The commish's web site has been updated today, and now his calendar can once again be beheld. Bob Gerding for breakfast in the Pearl on Friday the 13th -- consider the possibilities there...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Grampy to baseball: Wonderful, thank you, now get lost

Yesterday's visit to Portland by the top brass of the Florida Marlins baseball team rekindled hopes among the city's baseball fanatics that some day a major league team will find its home in the Rose City. Team officials met with the governor and the mayor, and drove around looking at potential sites for a stadium. It's clear that Portland is on a short list of some sort with the team.

But although there were a lot of feel-good sentiments expressed, at the end of the day (literally) the mayor didn't just throw cold water on baseball's prospects here -- it was more like dropping an iceberg onto them. Here's what transpired, according to the O:

[D]uring a meeting with Mayor Tom Potter, the subject of public financing for a baseball stadium -- something Potter strongly opposes -- never came up. Potter reiterated after the meeting that "publicly financed baseball would not be coming to Portland on my watch."
* * * * *

Asked whether most Portlanders couldn't care less about a baseball team, Potter said: "That's my very strong sense."

Potter did not dismiss the idea of economic development that a stadium project might bring, although he said he had no specifics to go by in this case.

Today some of baseball's local backers responded. And although they're smiling through clenched teeth, they're obviously pretty steamed. In a press release (which I am reading second-hand from a trusted source), Drew Mihalic of the Oregon Sports Authority offered these thoughts:

I want to thank Mayor Potter for taking the time to meet, and I want to make clear that I have a great deal of personal and professional respect for him. In fact, as someone with children in Portland Public Schools, and as the leader of an organization that has twice saved PIL spring sports seasons, I share his position that education is an absolute priority for the City of Portland.

Yesterday served as a culmination of many years of hard work and dedication for a countless number of Oregonians who have spent considerable time, passion and energy on the quest to position Portland as a home for Major League Baseball. We were disappointed not to have the opportunity, prior to the Marlins visit, to present to the Mayor the reasons behind our passion for this quest. Hence, we were unable to provide him with a full explanation of how baseball in Portland can happen in a way that makes sense for our City.

While yesterday's visit was a total success in almost all aspects, the one unfortunate result is a headline distributed across the country that reads: "Mayor: Most Portlanders don't care about getting a team." While the Mayor spoke positively in general about the visit, when a reporter asked if he felt Portlanders couldn't care less about baseball, he stated that it is his "very strong sense." Again, we are disappointed not to have had the opportunity to present him with substantial evidence that convincingly demonstrates Portland's profound interest in Major League Baseball....

While the evidence clearly points to a significant level of support for baseball in Portland, we recognize that the Mayor is fully entitled to his opinion. However, if the people of Portland do not share that opinion, we hope they will communicate to the Mayor that they do in fact care about this remarkable opportunity -- in a polite and positive manner. We encourage people to do so at oregonstadiumcampaign.com.

We know that we must do a better job of communicating to the Mayor that the City can play an appropriate, yet critical role in the financing of a ballpark -- one that meets his stated concerns regarding the protection of Portland taxpayers. I truly, and strongly believe that if the Marlins situation develops as we envision, and the Mayor provides us with the opportunity to sit down and work through these issues in earnest, the end result can be an incredible accomplishment for him, for the City of Portland and for the entire state of Oregon. We sincerely hope that we are afforded that chance.

It doesn't take too much translation to grasp that there's a rift here that's going to be hard to heal. Not encouraging for baseball fans. Not at all.

Ten I admire

Here now are my Top 10 Favorite Public Figures of 2005.

The news as parable

There's a lesson to be learned somewhere in this story. (Via Jim Maule.)

UPDATE, 4:55 p.m.: The story wasn't true.

UPDATE, 1/11, 6:28 a.m.: But not that far-fetched, apparently.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Missing Portland

Raging Red reminisces about something she can't find in West Virginia.


There's been lots of talk over the weekend about ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber. He's rolling out his plan to Change the Face of Medical Care in the United States, which he's talking about possibly trying to get onto the November ballot here in his home state. And he's still talking about running for a third term as governor, but only if he decides that a ballot measure isn't the way to go on health care. He says he couldn't imagine running for office and spearheading a voter initiative at the same time.

The cynic in me isn't buying a lot of this. I have no doubt about the good doctor's sincerity in wanting to lead radical health care reform. But from a coldblooded political perspective, as I've discussed here before, his supposed candidacy for elective office looks like a ploy to get rid of State Sen. Vicki Walker so that Governor Ted can sew up the Democratic nomination. And in return, Dr. No would get to run OHSU for well north of a half million a year plus free use of the Playboy mansion.

If that's the strategy, it appears to be working. When last I heard, Walker was still telling folks that her still-"exploratory" run for governor depends on what Kitzhaber does -- and precious time keeps slipping away. She's got to decide whether to give up her senate seat, and if her fundraising is really on hold, she'll be way behind the eight ball for the primary, which is just a little more than four months away.

I haven't seen anything about this angle in the local press. In The O interview with Kitzhaber published over the weekend -- which they assure us, golly, was an hour long -- nobody said a peep about Walker and OHSU. Which is why this town needs bloggers, I guess.

Cover and simmer

Election year politics are fun to watch and guess about. Now it looks as though Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman has given up trying to get police and fire pension reform on the May primary ballot. Reports have it that he'll settle for a charter amendment measure in the November general election. As noted here last week, he pretty much had to, since three of his colleagues were stacked up against him.

In May, of course, Saltzman himself will be on the ballot, running for re-election against formidable challenger Amanda Fritz and some lesser-knowns. Depending on the outcome of that election, Saltzman may or may not also be up for a vote again in a November runoff against Fritz.

It's entirely possible, though, that by May 17, Saltzman will be either conclusively in for another four years, or out entirely. Any candidate who gets a majority vote in the primary is the winner -- there will be no runoff if either he or Fritz draws more than 50 percent of votes cast.

And if Saltzman's a lame duck come May 17, well, he won't be ramming too many reforms through thereafter. Meanwhile, Fritz, even if she wins hands down in the primary, wouldn't be sworn in (or paid as a commissioner) until January, by which time the shouting could all be over. At best, those with vested interests in the current system would be playing the "You're the new kid, let us show you what you have to do" card on her as forcefully as possible.

In any event, it's clear that the bluecoat retirement gumbo will get to stew in the City Hall crockpot for at least another 10 months before the voters get to do anything about it. Given that the most serious questions about the system made a big splash in the media way back last summer, that's an awfully long time to talk and study.

And didn't I read somewhere that the entire police union contract is back on the table this month? Is it realistic to expect that any sort of "consensus" among "stakeholders" on pension and disability is going to emerge while those negotiations are ongoing (no doubt mostly in secret)? And won't the union be pushing to head off serious reforms by insisting on a renewal of the existing system as part of the contract?

To me, it looks like a major confrontation is in the offing, and it's just a question of when. Our city fathers have decided that the answer to the question is, not any time soon.

There may be some big changes in November, and there may not. Meanwhile, the financial bomb keeps a-ticking. Nearly 24 cents of every dollar the city collects in property taxes continues to go to pay for safety officer pension and disability benefits.

Swan song

-- Steve Earle

Sunday, January 8, 2006


My dad showed up in a dream tonight. We were standing on Rome Street in Down Neck Newark, across the street from a warehouse where all sorts of goods were stacked. He was there to make a pickup, and of course, he had gotten there early. It was him in his late 40s, smiling away, happy as a clam, explaining to me what he was there for. So vivid it woke me up.

Goin' back

Remember Dion? How could we forget? This guy had a remarkable career in the pop-rock spotlight, with hits like "The Wanderer," "Runaround Sue," and "Ruby Baby." When doo-wop faded, he gave us all an outlet for our grief in "Abraham, Martin and John." Great music, straight out of the Bronx.

No, this isn't another music legend obituary. Dion's alive and well and still going with Florida as his base. On Tuesday he'll be in New York releasing an unplugged album of pure country and blues -- stuff like Hank Williams and Robert Johnson, artists that Dion listened to as a kid, from wayback. This time around, we're told, it's just Dion, playing a couple of guitars, and a low-key drummer.

Good for him. I can't wait to hear it.

If you didn't catch it, there was an eye-opening interview with Dion (whose last name is DiMucci) in the Times last week. Here's a snippet:

While his 1963 recordings of blues songs like "Spoonful" and "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" made him one of the first white rockers to tackle the music, Columbia pushed him to develop a nightclub act -- with a result that the same albums also featured Bobby Darin-type arrangements of standards. "They used to say, 'You've got to do some legitimate music,' which implied that what I liked was illegitimate," Dion said. "That was when I really started freaking out. Aretha Franklin was there at the same time, and they had her doing Al Jolson songs. They didn't know what to do with us."
(There's another nice story from the Newark paper here, but like all Velveeta in the Advance web sphere, it will soon disappear from the planet.)

Yo, Dion -- rock on.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Not in your Funk and Wagnall's

The planning bureaucrats of Portland -- who mostly plan cushy retirements for California developers -- have a new buzzword. It's "charrette." This is what used to be called a workshop or meeting. But as they have been taught in Urban Planning 101, the planning jokesters want to make sure to keep opponents of their projects offguard. Using unfamiliar terms is just part of their strategy. "Oh, didn't you get the memo? That's already been decided. You must have missed the meeting. I know, you have a job and a life."

As with any new word, this one becomes clearer if you use it in a sentence. Here you go: "Honey, it's a week into the New Year and we haven't been lied to by a city official yet; we'd better go down to the PDC charrette on moving Saturday Market for the condo tower."

I can't find the etymology of this word anywhere on the internet. It must have something to do with the verb "to char," because heaven knows, Portland's planning weasels sure will burn your posterior if you believe them.

Natural man

Lou Rawls has died. He was 72. One night, after attending a sparsely attended show of his in Vegas in the late '90s, my wife and I were in the casino restaurant, finishing up a nice dinner, and Rawls came in for an after-show meal. As we got up to leave, we stopped by his booth for just a half-minute to shake his hand and tell him what I'm telling you now: That man's voice was a national treasure.

The smells of North Jersey

Funny story in the Times yesterday about a sickly sweet, maple syrup-like smell that's been wafting into Manhattan, apparently from nearby New Jersey. The working theory is that it's from a factory that's extracting flavors from foodstuffs, but diligent detective work has been unable to pinpoint the location.

Over the first 21 years of my life, I experienced all the odors that North Jersey had to offer -- some foul, but many surprisingly pleasant. Our grammar school in the Down Neck section of Newark was surrounded on three sides by the Ballantine brewery, which regularly emitted wonderful aromas of hops and grain and yeast. The high school I attended in Jersey City was just around the corner from the Colgate factory, where they made toothpaste, soap, and who knows what all else. There were a couple of wicked-looking smokestacks that sent all sorts of stuff up into the air. If it rained hard on a Tuesday, the puddles had soap bubbles in them and the neighbors' cars got washed for free. Sometimes Colgate's smelled like fish, and I don't mean that in a good way.

The field where we used to play organized Little League ball in Newark was over near Ruppert Stadium, and to get there we walked quite a ways through some serious factory territory over by the railroad yards. The odors there were generally unpleasant, but some of our dads and uncles worked in those places all day long. They were noble guys, the greatest generation, and they were putting clothes on our backs and food in our stomachs.

The neighborhood also generated some beautiful smells, from street trees and the landscaping that our grandparents scratched out in the postage-stamp yards that adjoined the multiplex houses. There was a species of small tree, which we used to call a monkey tree, that was particularly resilient. It was so tough that it would grow right up out of the wreckage of a ruined chemical plant, and it could penetrate blacktop if you weren't careful about fully removing it before attempting to pave over it.

When the monkey trees and bigger street trees and little lawns and flowers were all in bloom, their fragrances would mix in with the Ballantine hops and the toxic stuff from the factories and whatever was coming out of the car and truck tailpipes in those days. Together they made quite a bouquet.

They say that many writers have tried and failed to write the definitive book about Down Neck. One of these years, I'd love to get the chance to try. The first factor that I would consult to gauge how I was doing would be to see if I could get the olfactory essences down into words -- what it smelled like when we walked over to the ballfield by the stadium with Petey and Louie and Oswald for a game against kids from another neighborhood.

Perhaps the funniest part of the most recent story was a complaint from a commuter who noticed the maple syrup odor as he emerged from the Hoboken PATH station. As a former denizen of Hoboken PATH, I can tell you that maple syrup was the least of our problems. That place smelled like rotten eggs, 24/7. We would have taken maple syrup any day.

Say it again

Here's a headline I'd like to see more of.

The dead guy

An update on the latest Portland police shooting: The dead man has been identified as Dennis Lamar Young, 28. Police have a mug shot of him, and as is customary are pointing out that they had had "numerous contacts" with him previously. The car he was driving when he was killed was reportedly stolen. I'm sure we'll be hearing any time now what drugs (if any) he had in him or on him when he died.

In case you were wondering (as I was), from this report here is the recently revised Portland police policy on the use of deadly force, effective this past August 1:

Deadly Physical Force (1010.10)

The Portland Police Bureau recognizes that members may be required to use deadly force when their lives or the life of another is jeopardized by the actions of others. Therefore, state statute and Bureau policy provide for the use of deadly force under the following circumstances:

a. Members may use deadly force to protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believe to be an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.

b. A member may use deadly force to effect the capture or prevent the escape of a suspect where the member has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant and immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to the member or others.

c. If feasible, some warning has been given.

The use of statutorily defined deadly weapons, barricades and vehicle ramming, constitutes deadly physical force. Also, depending upon bow they are used, flashlights, batons, body parts, and other statutorily defined dangerous weapons may constitute deadly physical force.

Members must be mindful of the risks inherent in employing deadly force, which may endanger the lives of innocent persons. A member's reckless or negligent use of deadly force is not justified in this policy or state statute. Members are to be aware that this directive is more restrictive than state statutes. Members of the Portland Police Bureau should ensure their actions do not precipitate the use of deadly force by placing themselves or others in jeopardy by engaging in actions that are inconsistent with training the member has received with regard to acceptable training principles and tactics.

Threat indicators, Levels of Control, and Post Use of Force Medical Attention are outlined in detail in DIR 1010.20 Use of Physical Force.

Shooting At a Moving Vehicle (1010.10)

For the purposes of this policy, a moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies the member's use of deadly physical force. The member using deadly physical force must be able to clearly articulate the reason for the use of deadly physical force. Members shall not discharge a firearm at a person(s) in a moving vehicle unless one or both of the following criteria are met:

a. To counter an active threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person, by a person in the vehicle using means other than the vehicle.

b. There are no other means available at the time to avert or eliminate the threat.

Members threatened by an oncoming vehicle should attempt to move out of its path instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants.

In those cases where the criteria are met, Bureau members shall take into account the location, vehicular and pedestrian traffic and any hazard to innocent persons before discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle.

Additional Considerations (1010.10)

A moving vehicle may become an uncontrolled deadly weapon that could seriously injure or kill the occupants of the vehicle and/or subjects in its path if the driver becomes incapacitated before the vehicle comes to a stop.

Members must be mindful of the following when considering the use of deadly physical force involving a vehicle:

a. Bullets fired at occupants of moving vehicles are extremely unlikely to stop or disable the moving vehicle.

b. Bullets fired may miss the intended target or ricochet and cause injury to officers or other innocent persons.

c. The vehicle may crash and cause injury to officers or other innocent persons if the bullets disable the operator.

d. Moving to cover, repositioning, and/or waiting for additional responding units to gain and maintain a superior tactical advantage maximizes officer and public safety and minimizes the necessity for use of deadly physical force.

e. Shooting accurately from a moving vehicle is extremely difficult and, therefore, unlikely to successfully stop or prevent a threat to the member or other innocent person.

These criteria do not allow members to use poor tactics or positioning as justification for discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle. An example of poor tactics would be a situation in which a member places him/herself into the path of a moving vehicle, and uses the danger he/she finds him/herseIf in as the sole justification for shooting at the vehicle. Tactics of this nature are prohibited.

America: Dumb and mean, cont'd

There ought to be a special prison camp for this fellow.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Question for history buffs

I'm still having fun perusing that church bulletin from 1947 at my parish in southeast Portland. Here's an item that caught my eye:

What's most interesting to me is in that second paragraph -- the part about "seventy-five cents with tax included." Tax? On tickets to a show in a church hall? What kind of tax was that? Maybe one of the old-timers (Isaac?) can fill us in on what that might have been.

The rest of the story

"Read the whole thing." How many times has a blogger suggested that to you as he or she linked to a story that his or her blog had just excerpted or paraphrased? Ironically, even mainstream media types are uttering those words nowadays, as they post in full on the internet what their official broadcasts or dead-tree publications gave readers only parts of.

At least, so it went with The Oregonian's year-end interview with Portland Mayor Tom Potter. The print version was as bland as yesterday's boxed mac and cheese, but the full version, posted by the O's City Hall duo and linked to their blog, makes for a much more interesting read. For example, did you know that:

-- When Potter visited the national drug czar last year and warned about the meth epidemic, he was told that marijuana is actually a bigger problem?

-- Potter thinks that the OHSU Medical Group aerial tram project [rimshot] was a series of "mistakes"?

-- The mayor believes that the Portland Development Commission's job should be to "implement" a "vision" that is created at City Hall, rather than the PDC's developing its own "vision"?

If you haven't read the full version of the interview on line, then you probably didn't know these things, because the O's editors left all the good stuff on the cutting room floor. What can I say? Except, of course, Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

One who keeps tearing around, one who can't move

One of the saddest times in the history of The Oregonian was when they switched to the fast-drying ink. Some marketing expert had told them that their circulation was declining because people didn't like getting ink on their hands reading the paper. And so they changed it. I believe it was the same time they made the pages smaller; the ink "improvement" was a tradeoff for less news to look at.

I call this sad because the new ink just doesn't work that well with Silly Putty. One of the traditional joys of Silly Putty was using it to lift an image off a newspaper and twisting and pulling the photo until it was funny. As kids, we used to spend hours goofing on Pope John XXIII and LBJ this way. Nowadays it's hard to do with the new, fast-drying ink.

We still get our laughs wherever we can, though, as we did today reading the O's story on the Portland City Council and its lack of consensus about the city's hideous police and fire retirement and disability system. The battle lines over the prospect of reforming that budget-buster are being drawn, and it looks like the status quo is coming out ahead.

The latest installment in the comedy was yesterday's council "work session," where Grampy Potter and Fireman Randy told Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman in no uncertain terms that they weren't going to let reform of the pension system go on the citywide ballot as a proposed charter amendment in May. Randy won't even let disability reform on the ballot, if it's up to him.

Big Pipe, who's looking for something to put on his resume besides skulking around trying to screw the Mount Tabor neighborhood, thinks the city has spent enough time "studying" and huffing and puffing about the bluecoat pension system. He wants a reform vote in the May primary.

Piping up with Potter and Leonard is Li'l Erik Sten, who has suddenly opined that he doesn't want the city to do anything rash. This is where the chuckles start, because it was Sten himself who, fresh from being laughed out of Enron's offices last summer when he tried to buy PGE, slapped together a truly hasty set of quick fixes that landed with a loud thud. Now he's all for caution.

Siding with Saltzman is Sam the Tram, who owes Big Pipe his vote on the pension and disability issue as a horse trade for Big Pipe's vote on the city's lobbyist registration system. But with Sten on the go-slow tip, it's 3 to 2 against a May vote on reform.

These guys crack me up. Grampy and the Fireman, of course, are two huge beneficiaries of the overpriced police and fire pension system -- hizzoner the mayor, being a former chief with lots of years on the force, has got to be in the top five of all ex-cops at the trough. Let's face it, these guys know on which side their bread is buttered, and they won't agree to allow any changes to go forward unless the unions are more or less on board. Which they certainly aren't with what Saltzman has in mind.

Danny Boy, meanwhile, probably doesn't care how the public referendum comes out, so long as it's on the same ballot as his hotly contested re-election bid. As long as he looks like the crusader on this one, the final outcome may not be all that important to him. But he's taking on some experienced hardball players in the police and fire labor organizations, and that's going to cost him some serious votes. It all makes for a sunny morning for Saltzman's main opponent, Amanda Fritz, who should try to stay out of the fray as long as she can.

The Stenmeister is also up for re-election -- 12 years of the guy isn't enough, we need 16 -- and it looks like he's, shall we say, cozying up to the unions on this one. You don't suppose, do you, that this has anything to do with the fact that he's currently trying to raise his 1,000 $5 contributions so that he can get "clean money" taxpayer financing for his campaign, which is also going to be a bear? One wonders how many men and women in blue are more inclined to flow a fivespot to Sten now that he's protecting their pork pot (at least for the moment).

As I say, if you follow these matters, it's all fairly amusing. But the funniest part of the whole thing is the file photo of Sten that the O used among the council head shots illustrating its article today. It's none other than the infamous "Opie shot the squirrel" pic from the day Sten got home from New York and his big PGE play with a shoeprint on his derriere:

Man, I thought I was rough on the guy. If the city's best daily newspaper is going to make that their stock shot of Sten, then this could be its funniest year ever, even without the Silly Putty.

Too late for today's paper

There was a fatal shooting by Portland police in the wee hours this morning near NE 64th and Alameda. This one had an odd twist -- it reportedly occurred near the home of the firing officer's sister, who phoned him to report a suspicious car outside her house.

Columbia goes platinum

Congratulations to Columbia Sportswear, which joins Nike and Precision Castparts as one of Forbes's "Platinum 400" companies.

I sure do wish they were celebrating at a corporate headquarters down by OMSI instead of out in Washington County somewhere. The usual raspberries to all the planning and transportation geniuses at Portland City Hall.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Great moment in sports

If you haven't seen New England Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie's stunning drop kick of an extra point from over the weekend, check it out by going here. He's been waiting a long time to try that, and, as they say, it's up, it's good!

If the significance of this maneuver escapes you, there's an explanation here.

Reverend Tony explains it all for you

Tony Pierce is back in L.A. after his road trip to Oregon and points north, and one of his first posts of the New Year is one of the best I've read in a long time. In particular, he boiled the state of our troubled nation down to a single paragraph that sums matters up beautifully. You can turn off your PBS, your NPR, your CNN, and your MSNBC for a while, because this is all you need to know:

it's always been my belief that most of these Christian Conservatives are just as much Christian as the President is a Constitutionalist. they say they are but when the rubber hits the road they just want to tell everyone else what to do while they disobey every rule in the book.
Amen, Tony. Happy New Year, bro.

What next, exact change only?

Typical bureaucracy: The Oregon DMV will take your personal check, but it won't take your debit card.

Lateral move

A fond farewell to Matt Brown, the City of Portland transportation bureaucrat who's been spearheading the dopey OHSU Medical Group Aerial Tram project [rimshot]. He's leaving the city for a new job as a project manager for Homer Williams's development company down in California.

Brown's new job description consists of making Williams richer by roping in unsuspecting taxpayer "partners" for his hideous condo tower jungles --

No, wait, that was Brown's old job description in Portland.

For a city that's so hot for "clean money" and lobbyist registration, this is a mildly embarrassing little story, isn't it? When Brown shows back up in the Rose City after a suitable cooling off period, touting the latest boondoggle from the Smoothie on the Segway, I hope Tom Potter and Bruce Warner have the good sense to smile and show him the door.

Tell your friends

The blogosphere is a poorer place this week with the news that Bob Borden's decided to hang up his hysterical blog for an extended period. He'll be missed. Never before has a guy's weekly trip to the laundromat made for such interesting reading. It's the little things, am I right, people?

We'll watch for Bob's occasional appearance on the Letterman show (where he works), but it won't be the same as checking in on his blog five days a week. Damn New Year's resolutions!

Monday, January 2, 2006

Your 2 cents' worth

The cost of mailing a domestic letter goes up from 37 cents to 39 cents this Sunday. If, like me, you've got a bunch of 37's around, you'll need some 2's. Here's what they gave me at the Post Office a couple of weeks ago to do the job:

Auld acquaintance

The events of the last few days had gotten me decidedly out of the warm, fuzzy, nostalgic mood that usually accompanies my New Year's Day. But then two of my best sources of inspiration came through and got me back in the holiday frame of mind.

First it was the office manager at my church, who decided in a whimsical moment to issue a special edition of this week's parish bulletin -- a reprint of a recently uncovered bulletin from 1947. Every item in there was worth relishing, but I thought readers of this blog might especially enjoy the back page, where local businesses took out small ads. I'm sure these merchants are all gone now, but I wonder if any readers remember any of them when they were still functioning -- or can tell us what's in their locations today. Anyway, with apologies for the size of the file (I wanted to keep the resolution as best I know how), here it is:

But the nostalgic motherlode was struck later in the day, when my beautiful bride uncovered a document that I had been tearing the house apart looking for for months -- my grammar school diploma, which included a sheet of photos of the members of the graduating class. For you Googlers out there, this is the Class of 1966 at St. Aloysius School in Newark, N.J. -- in the Ironbound, or "Down Neck," section of town.

I'll post the identifications of the class members shortly (I remember all of the names except a very few), but for now I'll ask readers if they can spot me:

A cup o' kindness yet, to all of them.

UPDATE, 1/3, 12:30 p.m.: Here's my best shot at identifying everybody.

Left to right. Top row: John O'Regan, James Katsempris, Christine Byrne, Anthony Sharon, Judith Baylock, John de Grazia, Gloria Klosowski, Joseph Becker, John Jakimas.

Second row: Angel Perez, Patty Sikora, Walter Ramsey, Patty McNally, Deborah Walsh, Dennis Pinto, Cynthia White, Thomas Gilk.

Third row: Edward Dombrowski, Patricia Armstead, Antonio Silva, Gerald Curren, Dorothy "Dolly" Nieratko, John Bujalski.

Fourth row: Christine Coppola, James Dula, Deborah Owens, Thomas Murphy, Mary Gomes, Robert Bedford, Kathleen Bitz, Thomas Crappse, Sheila Farley.

Bottom row: Joseph Smanski, Michael Conklin, Mary Bedford, Hugh Byrnes, Robert Mazur, Joseph "Spike" Browarski, Linda Lee, Rodolfo Gonzales, Jack Bogdanski.

Thanks to former school chums Matt Jusinski, Harry McAleavy and Patty White-Bittner (St. Al's alums all, but in different classes) for their help with the ID's.

Missing from the photo for some reason or other (which I can't recall) were classmates Carol Ann Klotz and Mary Lou Kowalski. Among those who left St. Al's but were in our class in the early years were Barbara Horan, Laura Stapleton and Marilyn Kielkowski.

For more old Newark stuff, go here.

UPDATE, 1/16, 1:53 p.m.: The identifications are now complete, thanks to a note from Kathy Bitz (now Wesolowski). Great to hear from her -- thanks, internet!

UPDATE, 9/9/08, 1:25 p.m.: Barbara Horan (now Vitale) notes that we had a classmate named Cathy O'Connell, who for some reason is also missing from the photo.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Ring in the new

Here's a fun new year's card that the kids may enjoy. Any hung-over grownups out there had better turn down the sound, though. (Hat tip to Fireman Randy.)


Well, the witch hunt is on for whoever told the Times about W's excessive spying on Americans. Supposedly they've just launched a Justice Department investigation into the matter. Forgive me if I find that a little hard to believe, since Bush and Cheney have known about the leak for more than a year. I'm sure they have been sniffing around for the newspaper's source for many, many months.

And if the culprit is ever found, would you expect these guys to indict the person and try them under law? Given their track record, it's more likely that they'd have him or her flown to Egypt for torture, and then thrown in a pit in Guantanamo, Cuba for the rest of his or her life, without benefit of counsel. You know, the tactics of the free America that people are dying for.

Well, lookee there

Traffic on this blog doubled over the course of 2005. Very cool. We're glad to have so many readers, whether it be for a daily dose or on a one-shot Google quest. Onward and upward in '06!

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