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

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December 2006 Archives

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The new kid

It's been a year since our beloved girl cat, Gloria, left us. We still miss her, occasionally to the point of a tear or two. But my 2006 Father's Day present, a kitten named Lily who was renamed Billy when his gender became more readily apparent, is keeping us hopping with kitty fun.

It didn't take long for the boy cat to make himself at home. Here he is presiding over a recent sleepover:

But don't let that mellow-guy look fool you. Billy is a feisty fellow. For example, he brought home a little Christmas present for us the other day:

He's not above prowling around on the kitchen counters looking for tasty snacks that the humans forgot to cover up or put away, either. I kiddingly state from time to time that "all cats are bad," but this one truly lives up to the naughty stereotype.

The other night, the Mrs. and I were up late, enjoying a rare adult conversation in the kitchen after the kids were out like lights for the night. We were comparing notes on the fine Christmas celebration that we were concluding, when from the front of the house came a loud CRASH!

Neither one of us knew what it was. I thought that maybe our older daughter had rolled out of her top-bunk bed. The Mrs. thought that maybe Billy had knocked over the Christmas tree. But it didn't really sound like either of those catastrophes would have. The crash noise sounded kind of wet!

We rushed into the living room, bathed in the lovely Christmas tree light, and took a quick look around. She spotted it first -- it was the fish bowl!

We have a Siamese fighting fish (a.k.a. a betta) in a nice bowl with a plant in it. The fish can eat the plant if we humans don't get around to sprinkling fish food into the bowl. It's not the greatest life a fish could have, but it beats being canned by Bumble Bee. Anyway, our betta, named Candlefish because of the proximity of the bowl to a decorative candle, had found himself flopping around on the hardwood floor after Billy had knocked over his bowl, which had been perched -- safely, we thought -- atop an antique bookcase around five feet off the floor.

Fortunately, the bowl stayed on the bookcase, and so there was no broken glass to deal with. But the bowl's contents were all over the place. We didn't see Candlefish right away. "Get the fish!" I hissed, scanning the floor in the dim red light. We turned on a nearby floor lamp and saw Candle's tail end flapping its way into a slot at the very bottom of the lamp base. I picked him up with my hand; we righted the bowl, which still had a few inches of water in it, and plopped him back in, shaken up but apparently not fatally wounded.

What followed was a very hasty mop-up operation, hustling to save the antique bookcase's finish as well as that of the floor. Billy, who had run when we arrived, wisely remained out of the room as we soaked up the puddles and cussed him out.

When we had restored water to the bowl and gotten just about all of the old water up, we tried to reconstruct the events leading up to the crash. The only theory that makes sense is that the boy kitty had been eyeing the fish from the back of a nearby cushy chair, and he decided to try to leap at it from the chair, a distance of about four and a half feet:

You've got to hand it to the guy -- he made contact, even if he didn't get to play with, or taste, his prey.

Fast forward to a couple of nights later, and Candlefish is still in the land of the living. We've got him on the kitchen counter near the sink now, where the surfaces are less fragile and he's a little less obvious. But it's just a matter of time before Billy notices him there. You wonder how early in the new year the next assassination attempt will come.

The countdown is on

Here's a site that promises to provide hours of amusement.

Not yuppie enough

Just another sign that an actual business that actually makes something is not welcome in Portland any more -- particularly if it's already been here for a while. Get out and make way for another Starbucks, dang it!

Pressing issue

My congressman, Earl the Pearl, sent me a newsletter this week. What with all the important business facing the nation and world, I was a little taken aback to see him advise us, "Buy fresh foods instead of frozen." What next, Earl -- earth-friendly crock pot recipes?

The sooner the better

I wish the mainstream media would get it right. As I've said here before, the first baby born in the new year isn't anywhere near as cool as the last baby born in the old year. So you assignment editors out there, when you send the reporters to the phones to check around the area hospitals, be sure they get the name of the kid who gave his or her parents the maximum tax deduction for the year with the minimum number of diaper changes. And give the kid equal billing with the first one out after midnight. Time is money!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Finally -- something Bush is good at

And only 650,000 civilians had to die to get us there. Mission accomplished! I'm so proud to be an American right now.

I'm trying not to laugh

But it's difficult.

(Via TRP, who finally got to cash in his World Cup pool win with me last week.)

I did not know that

Trumpet sensation Chris Botti was born in Portland, Oregon.

New look

The new edition of our excellent neighborhood newspaper, The Hollywood Star, has arrived, and it looks different. The word "Hollywood" is being played down, and the word "News" has cropped up, as big as "Star":

The old masthead logo looked like this:

So what does it mean? Too much confusion with the other Star, down in the more famous Hollywood? More emphasis on news? Ambitions to expand its coverage territory? (Already it covered a larger area than the Hollywood District.)

Inside, Star owner Mary DeHart assures us that it's a matter of design and format, rather than content. They've moved the heart of the paper -- the neighborhood news column written by Lee Perlman -- back to page 6 rather than page 2, and they've moved some features up front. I think there are more photos than before. All in all, the changes seem quite benign. It's still a great resource, and we're lucky to have it. (Alas, no serious web presence, but it seems to be thriving without it.)

Work to do

I'm stiff and sore today, but it's a good thing. This past week, I ran down to the gym and back a couple of times -- my first visits to that facility in quite a while.

I needed that. I woke up on the Feast of Stephen softer and weaker than in years. I had thought that the sabbatical trek I made to the Bay Area this fall would provide ample opportunity for exercise, but it turned out that the free moments were spent recovering from the rigors of constant jet travel. I took a few jogs around the neighborhood I was staying in down there, and there was a good deal of walking in my routine, but aerobic exercise was infrequent indeed. And for upper body strength, there was nothing.

It's been a lackluster year for me in the fitness department -- only 100 miles run, as opposed to 269 just three years ago. Not surprisingly, that packs an extra five to 10 pounds on a guy at my age. But at least it was something; I'd hate to see what the mirror revealed if I didn't get sweaty at all.

I'm determined that 2007 is going to be different. I've reacquainted myself with my favorite running route and weight circuit, and I'm hopeful that I'll soon get into a groove. I'm going to pick up a new pair of running shoes in the next few days. I won't be alone in my resolution, of course. While the gym was pretty empty the day after Christmas, the activity was definitely picking up yesterday afternoon. It will no doubt be a madhouse come Tuesday.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the aches and pains I've earned so far. Like they say: No pain, no gain.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Bassy's bombing out

Ex-Trail Blazer Sebastian Telfair's been proving with the Boston Celtics what we said the whole time he was here: He's just not that good. Now he's been taken out of the Celts' starting lineup, and he can't seem to shoot his way out of a paper bag. I hope he knows where his handgun is, at least. Meanwhile, Portland's got three solid point guards in Jarrett Jack, Brandon Roy, and Sergio Rodriguez -- quite the net improvement.

The Blazers have a problem in the middle, however. I hate to say it, but they played better when Joel Przybilla was out with an injury. Jamaal Magloire isn't anything to write home about, but between him and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers have sufficient talent in there that they can afford to experiment with not starting Przybilla every game. The chemistry among the big guys just doesn't seem right, at least not yet.

Big 'uns

Until an alert reader sent along this photo of the city truck that they had to pull out of the Buckman sinkhole, I had no idea how big that vehicle was. The darn thing was about 40 to 45 feet long! That's the rear end at the top, being extracted by a crane that you can barely make out, and the front of the truck is at pavement level, with a coil of hose on the very front of it.

That's one dang big truck, and as there was only around 10 feet of the truck sticking out of the crater, a dang big hole!

Beavers forever!

An incredible ending to a fantastic football season. Congratulations!

Real coffee

I am a decaf guy. Years ago, I learned that my blood sugar is prone to swings, and that caffeine (particularly first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach) makes it worse. And so I abandoned regular coffee in favor of decaf, and after cheating for years with Diet Coke, I finally bagged that one almost four years ago.

Losing the Diet Coke was one of the best dietary moves I ever made. Of course, there's still dark chocolate, but let's not dwell on petty details.

Anyway, this year, for the holidays, I made a consumer selection that worked well last year. I picked up a half pound of the fabulous (and muy caro) Panama Esmeralda coffee beans at Peet's, with the idea of allowing myself an evil treat now and then over Christmas. I just enjoyed my first cup of the stuff for the year, and all I can say is WOO HOO!!!

Man, this is some strong drug. If you down regular coffee routinely, take it from me: You're a druggie.

As for the Esmeralda, Stumptown also sells it, at a much lower price the last time I checked. Its version is also wonderful, but different, and to my taste not quite as good as the Peet's roast. But if you do try either one some afternoon, be sure to come back to this blog at 3 in the morning. I'm often blogging at that hour.

Take a cup of kindness yet

If this can be called a "work week" at all, it's ending. If that means that your blog reading is also ending for the weekend, have a great one. Party safely, and we hope to see you back here next year.

Turn on your funk motor

As the nation mourns James Brown and Gerald Ford, let us not forget James's immortal words about Ford. Well, they were sort of about Ford...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The smell of rat

You gotta love the City of Portland and the Port of Portland. They pick today -- December 28, late afternoon -- to announce that they're going to extend the north runway at the airport. The supposed reason is that they need to make repairs to the south runway, and they need to extend the north before they shut down the south to fix it. But one suspects that once the north runway is extended, aircraft takeoff and landing patterns may be permanently changed from what they are today.

Anyhow, the Port has spent big bucks on a flash animation presentation, and they say they want your input. But there's no information in the slick come-on about noise changes, and given the timing of today's announcement, one has to wonder how sincere they are about wanting our input.

Why do we never get an answer...

How much is it costing each day to run the OHSU Health Club aerial tram? And what was the final tab on the construction?

It makes perfect sense

As City of Portland officials try to figure out how to repair a giant sinkhole in the Buckman neighborhood, real estate developer Joe Weston has increased the size of his latest condo tower project to make up for the lost volume in the city's real estate stock.

Under city planning rules, Weston will be permitted to add two stories onto his 32-story condo tower proposed for 1405 SW Morrison Street if he can get a revised application filed before the Buckman sinkhole, at SE 16th and Oak, is fixed. "The sinkhole is about 20 feet deep," explained Josh Jostling, an assistant vice planner with the city design commission. "That means the additional two stories are permitted as of right under the rules."

City Commissioner Erik Sten praised the proposed revision to Weston's project, calling it "the kind of innovative thinking that we like to see." He added: "I think 34 stories isn't much different from 32. Also, the additional shade over the 405 freeway will definitely make a dent in global warming. In that sense, it's a very green building."

Sten's colleague, Sam Adams, agreed. "This plan is all about sustainability," Adams noted. "I would make a better mayor than Erik, and I think Joe knows that."

In a related development, officials in the planning bureau announced that their offices will be open until midnight Sunday night to accept Weston's amended documents. "We always have people who are about to retire, working overtime on New Year's Eve to jack up their PERS," explained Bill Kelly, bureau director, "and so the expanded hours are not an extra burden on the general fund."

Got a question for Zari?

Oh man, not since pro wrestling left town has there been an event that promises as much fun as this one:

Before we begin moving forward, PP&R Director Zari Santner would like to take the time to look back – and to answer any remaining questions about the overall maintenance facilities plan and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Warner Pacific College.
I hope they sell refreshments. Will the Scone be there making his little pained face? Will Big Pipe come by and explain it all from a Dunthorpe point of view? Will Santner's nose grow visibly as she answers questions? Will Robin Grimwade share his "champagne dreams" speech? Maybe the president of Warner Pacific will show up and personally threaten to move out of town.

January 16... PCC on 82nd... be there for PPR RAW!!!

(Warning: In order to participate fully in the public participation process for the sellout of Portland's Parks, you will have to attend 116 meetings and 10 "charrettes." Otherwise, you will be completely ignored. As soon as you get tired, the property will be handed over to the condo weasels. But thanks for showing up and making it look like we care about you.)

She's got it

It's great to see that Portland activist and former City Council candidate Amanda Fritz has started her own blog. Amanda is a critical thinker, and she really does her homework when it comes to issues that arise in city government. I think she's all wet about "voter-owed elections" and some other things, but she and I share a certain kind of skepticism about many others. If, like me, you try to keep up with the doings at City Hall, you'll need to bookmark her location.

Good luck with the technical side of blogging, Amanda. Don't let the trolls get you down. Learn the "IP Deny" function -- it's very therapeutic. On a happier note, I have no doubt that the content side of the postings on the site is going to be excellent.

There's a bit of mystery, too -- what the heck is that little "favicon"? "Equal water for all"? "Frowning under the mountain"? "My hat's too big"? "Hershey's Kisses and baseball"?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

This time, they really mean it

The latest Portland Development Commission appraisal of the Police Headquarters block is in:

Jerry and me

I moved out west from New Jersey in 1975 to attend law school at Stanford. It was a turning point in my life, and it was a fairly important time in history for the law school as well. The school's new buildings opened just as we arrived, and if I previously had any doubt that I had made it to the big time, well... the Leader of the Free World was flying in to dedicate the complex. As Stanford law students, we all were invited to attend and sit in the reserved section.

The President at the time was Gerald Ford, the former congressman from Michigan who became vice president and wound up in the White House after Nixon and Agnew were disgraced. He was a decent guy, but dull, and something of a klutz. Chevy Chase would later make a name for himself goofing on the guy. Rather than cut the ribbon on the law school, some suggested, Ford would probably cut his tie by mistake.

For a week or so leading up to the presidential visit, the school and the nearby dorms (of which I was a new resident) were crawling with Secret Service guys. The dark suits, the ear pieces, the funny-fitting jackets that concealed the guns -- there was no mistaking them. Of course, they had good reason to be concerned -- earlier that month one of the Manson harpies, Squeaky Fromme, had tried to take a shot at Ford in Sacramento; fortunately, she didn't know how to handle the handgun she was packing, and it didn't go off. Needless to say, everybody involved with the President's return to the Bay Area was more than a little uptight. The nation didn't need any more drama with White House vacancies.

Anyway, the big day arrived, and we all got there early. Ford showed, made a nice speech warning that government was encroaching on our privacy (if we had only known where that was heading), and managed to stay upright, with tie intact. Here are some of the official Stanford photos:

Now, some of my schoolmates were singled out for a private audience with the President. Here you can see my buddy Rob Biniaz, just behind Ford; Rob's the one with the glasses and the chin hair:

(Not a bad 'Fro on Keith Gorham, either. Lotta hair in '75.)

As for me, however, I was left in the cheap seats outside. Here's how it looked to my el cheapo camera. As you can see, although we students had reserved seats, we all had to squint against the late September sun, which can be pretty powerful in those parts:

It was a lovely day, and I'm sure we all adjourned to the Oasis Beer Garden for burgers and suds afterward. As for Ford, the next day, up at the St. Francis Hotel in San Fran, a gal named Sara Jane Moore tried to shoot him. Her shot was deflected, and a bystander was wounded.

After Jerry and I parted ways, I became a homesick, scared basket case in the Stanford counseling center for a while, but then I got good grades and I stabilized somewhat. Meanwhile, he struggled with runaway inflation and the bad rap he had earned by pardoning Nixon, and he lost his bid for re-election to a peanut farmer. But for 20 minutes or so on the Farm, there we were together.

The next month, I had a much better seat for a much better show.

CORRECTION, 1/3/07, 6:11 p.m.: That's not Keith Gorham in that photo -- he informs me that it's Gary Williams. To the right of Gary in the photo is Marsha Simms.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Two guys, four faces

Here's a laugher for a slow week in local politics. Fighting the pending move to have the City Council take control over the budget of the Portland Development Commission, Grampy and Big Pipe have started whining about how the matter should be put up for a public vote.

Gimme a break, boys. We don't get to vote on public campaign financing of municipal campaigns, or massive subsidies for greedy condo developers, or shutting down the police stations at night, or building the Floating Twinkies, or blowing neighborhood revitalization money on toney theaters for the rich, or the ongoing sellout of the city's parks, but suddenly the voters simply have to have a say in which set of face cards gets to dole out the PDC pork? Have you so soon forgotten the old "Let's try it for a while and see how the voters like it before they vote on it"?

Sure, let's have a vote on "urban renewal" in Portland. Let's vote on winding it down, since it's pretty much wrecking the place financially and aesthetically.

No action

Back in July, the City of Portland's transportation geniuses made a big deal about the fact that they were starting to re-do Hawthorne Boulevard to make it safer for everyone. Given the hoopla, I told readers to take one last look at Hawthorne as we knew it.

How foolish of me. Having spent a few hours on the main shopping section of that busy street over the last week or two, I can safely say that nothing -- nothing -- has been done on that portion of Hawthorne yet. Funny thing, when Homer Williams needs streets built for another condo ghetto, City Hall can get the job done in six weeks. They'll even throw in a $7 million poodle poop park for the Marin County blue hairs while they're at it. But it takes more than six months to get from announcement to action on Hawthorne. Too real over there, I guess.

I'm sure they'll be a lot quicker with the parking meters.

UPDATE, 3:55 p.m.: Speaking of inner southeast, here's what's happening while the city burns money on pretty junk like the aerial tram...

Downtown Portland, 1947

What with the crazy travel schedule and then the blur of Christmas, I just now caught the post on Cafe Unknown about the old Oregon Journal news helicopter era. As usual, fantastic photos (especially the last one) and a most interesting story.

Monday, December 25, 2006

We'll miss the Godfather

There really was nobody like him, before or since. God rest his soul.

Merry Christmas

34 Cortland Street
Newark, New Jersey

December 24, 1956

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A reading from the Book of Ken

The proprietor of the blog Upper Left Coast has translated the Christmas story from the Bible into plain modern English. It's beautiful:

That night outside the city, some shepherds were guarding their sheep. Suddenly, an angel appeared, blinding them with a bright light. The shepherds were scared, but the angel said, "Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. Just moments ago in Bethlehem, a Savior was born for you. He is God’s son. When you find a baby lying on a bed of hay, you will know you have found him."

Then, many other angels came down from heaven and joined together to praise God.

After the angels went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go into town and see if we can find this child." They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.

The shepherds told Mary and Joseph what the angel had said. Everyone listened and was surprised, but Mary kept wondering what it meant.

Read the whole thing here.

Red boy

Growing up Catholic in "Down Neck" Newark in the late '50s and early '60s, a lot of us boys were placed on the low rungs of the ladder to the Vatican. You started as a "torchbearer" in second or third grade, and by fifth grade, you made it to altar boy. Years later, they came up with "lectors," who read some of the scriptures, out loud, in English, facing the audience, from the inner sanctum beyond the altar rail -- you had to be at least in high school to draw that duty. But when I was a precocious seven-year old in fourth grade, there was no such thing. What you qualified for in fourth grade, if you were male, was to be one of the "red boys." That's me on the left as a red boy, and that's my brother, "a white boy," or torchbearer, beside me.

Now, to be a red boy, you had to be able to sing. Singing was what it was all about. And if I'm recalling this correctly, there was just one event that it was all about, and that was Christmas Eve midnight Mass. There was a lot of pageantry around Easter, but I don't remember the red boys having anything to do with that one. Red boys was Christmas.

The program was quite simple. As the crowd packed in for midnight Mass, along about 11:45 the red boys would come into the church in a nice procession. I'd say there were 15 or 20 of us, decked out in a full-length red gown, with a cape that sported a golden fringe. We also wore a large, stiff white collar, and a large white bow. We'd croon out a half dozen or so carols, and then take a seat up front for the rest of the show (led by the white boys). We'd be under the direction of the parish's trusty musical director, Jenny McLoughlin.

Jenny McLoughlin (it may have been spelled McLaughlin, but I know for sure we all pronounced it ma-GLOCK-lin) was a grand old gal -- a little like my dad's mom, nee Alice McCann. Strong Irish gals with New York backgrounds, they were. Jenny was older than Granny -- I want to say by 10 years or so. Gee, when you're seven, everything over 60 seems the same, but I think that when Jenny was directing us, she was north of 70. She certainly seemed so. Jenny was the parish's sole organist, director of the girls' choir, and high priestess of the red boys. They probably paid her 10 bucks a week. She was a spinster -- never married, as I recall. She'd come down to our church in the Ironbound section on the no. 1 or 34 bus, from some unknown place that we kids only knew was "uptown." When there was no one else around to sing the responses in the frequent high Masses in the church, Jenny would do it alone, from up in the choir loft. She sat facing the back of the church, pumping it all out on the organ and watching the proceedings below through a giant mirror that was set right above her keyboard. (Here, for example, is what she saw when she played a wedding.)

Now, Jenny McLoughlin may have had quite the operatic voice back in her prime, but by the time we arrived on the scene, God bless her, her voice wasn't what it once had been. She had a vibrato large enough to lose your keys in. Between that and the fact that a lot of what she was yelping out was in Latin, you didn't catch too much of what she was singing. But the giant pipes of the organ were loud as all get-out, and with the faint ring of the nearby Ballantine Beer cannery in the background, the Jenny sound was what we kids identified as holy music. It was certainly other-worldly enough.

For red boy tryouts, she'd have each of us fourth grade boys step up to a piano in the school and see if we could sing a scale halfway on key -- if so, we were in. From there it was a few weeks of rehearsal on the school auditorium stage with Jenny on piano. She'd hand out some lyric sheets, run off on one of those purple ditto machines, and off we'd go at 10 on a December morning (taking time off from the classroom, which was a total red boy perk).

One of the things that a young boy would notice right away about Jenny was her limp. One of her legs was shorter than the other, and she had one of those special boots on the shorter one, but it didn't fully compensate, and thus the limp. Both feet worked well on the piano pedals, though, as she took us through the numbers we'd be performing at the big show.

Jenny had also reached that age where her muscle tone was less than Greek. When she'd wave her arms or point at something, there were masses of flesh on the undersides of her arms that would jiggle around for a while after the arm stopped moving. And like my grandparents, she was full of metaphors that sometimes went over our little heads. "Where are you going?!" she'd croak as she interrupted one of our numbers. "You're all the way up to Broad and Market Streets already!" Apparently this meant that we were singing faster than she was playing.

In retrospect, our act must have been hilarious, if for no other reason than the way we picked up Jenny's heavy Brooklyn accent. Like my grandma, she'd call a toilet a "turlet" and oysters "ersters." And she had an almost Kennedy-esque way with word endings, which we kids picked up -- especially when singing in Latin, which we were learning for the first time. Learning it from Jenny, we'd finish up "Angels We Have Heard on High" with a rousing chorus of "Glo-o-o-o-o-o o-o-o-o-o o-o-o-o-o-ri-er."

After a bunch of practices in the auditorium, the big morning came when we'd head over to the church for a run-through. We'd walk down the aisle, two by two, then step up into the sanctuary, and stand on three or four rows on the altar steps, facing the congregation. Jenny had decided that I and a classmate named Tommy Crappse (I kid you not) would be the featured soloists, and we each got our own microphone, which would be waiting on the steps exactly where the two of us would be standing.

I don't know where Jenny found some of the songs that we sang. There were some time-worn classics like "Adeste Fideles" and "Silent Night," but there were some other numbers that I've never heard before or since. We did a version of "Glory to God in the Highest" that had kind of a tin-pan-alley character to it -- who knows its origin or current whereabouts? Tommy Crappse would get to belt out his solo during a number called "The Birthday of a King." Don't wait for that one to come around on Love Songs 103. In looking around recently, I managed to find the lyrics to the song here, but my recollection of the melody is vague at best.

My own solo was on a number called "O Jesu Mi." The rest of the kids would sing a line, and then I'd sing "O Jesu Mi." Other than the first line -- "A child to us is born this day" -- and my "O Jesu mi" in response, I can't remember a thing about that song. And if you try to find it on the web nowadays, you come up with a lot of other, more serious stuff about "Jesu" that wasn't in, or near, our repertoire with Jenny. I've given that one up for lost.

As best I recall, our midnight Christmas Eve on the altar steps went off without a hitch. I remember that it was lot different doing the show to a packed, brightly lit church than it was rehearsing it to an empty, dark one. In the rehearsals, it felt as if Jenny McLoughlin was close enough to breathe on us; on Christmas Eve, she was miles away, and we were clearly on our own. But I got through my solo, Tommy got through his, and our parents got us all home at the nice, convenient hour of 1:15 a.m., when they could start doing the Santa stuff. Lucky them.

When the hippest nun arrived at the school shortly thereafter, the school glee club -- a co-ed affair -- became the center of our musical worlds. There were countless mock Beatles shows in the schoolyard, even a talent show or two. And our religious fervor was soon taken up with the big-boy world of the altar boys. But in fourth grade, we were the red boys. O Jesu mi.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia

I'm not exactly sure what that means, but in honor of my father's father's father, here's the Polish choir from Portland doing a few rousing Yuletide numbers:

The sine qua non

It takes me forever to read a book. I get through about three or four a year. Holy moly, I just finished one. And it was worth lingering over. It was by the British religious writer Karen Armstrong, and it was entitled The Spiral Staircase. It tells of her time as a nun, her painful departure from that life and entry into the real world, and then her evolution as a theological thinker and historian. She keeps her current beliefs in the background, but after the book takes a turn to the present day, she provokes a lot of thought about religion and its role in our lives. No a bad theme for this season, actually:

But did that mean that we could think what we liked about God? No. Here again, the religious traditions were in unanimous agreement. The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead direcrly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, for the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul, and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao-tzu, the Buddha, or the sages of the Upanishads. In killing Muslims and Jews in the name of God, the Crusaders had simply projected their own fear and loathing onto a deity which they had created in their own image and likeness, thereby giving this hatred a seal of absolute approval. A personalized God can easily lead to this type of idolatry, which is why the more thoughtful Jews, Christians, and Muslims insisted that while you could begin by thinking of God as a person, God transcended personality as "he" went beyond all other human categories.
She's written quite a bit more, and I plan to find some of it. But at the rate I'm going, I'll have another Armstrong book report around Fourth of July.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A real reality show

Christmastime is always a great time to look in (literally) on Misterblue. Head on over and join the celebration; if they're all asleep, you can always turn on a few of the lights...

Gus blows a .19

We're working on the joke here, people. Help us out:

Better hair than Nick Nolte.

Better behaved than Mel Gibson.

Like Zach Randolph, but without the gun.

He took the Palme d'Ui.

"I was jusht lookin' for da couplet. Izh dish da couplet?"

Yule log on, so you'll log off

As a half-baked workweek slides into the weekend of Christmas, many of our workday readers are drifting away from their computer screens, and thus from this site. We're not done blogging for the weekend -- not by a long shot. But for those of you leaving our company, here are our best wishes for the merriest of Christmases -- or however you celebrate the fact that the sun is on its way back to us for the next six months.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Urgent message

Here's a disarming e-mail message that I received this evening:

Mr. Bogdansky,

I have followed your blog for some time, especially posts re: "Dr." Golovan and Ms. Boyles, both of whom are known to me. I have a request to make of you:

A member of the Slavic Community, Yevgeniya Vakarchuk, was being transported in her wheelchair by a local cab company this afternoon when she was involved in an accident. She is in Intensive Care at OHSU with a serious head injury, and she may or may not recover.

We are raising money to cover her substantial medical and legal costs. She is the mother of eight and the wife of a strong, hard working, and very compassionate man. She was in the process of gaining citizenship to the USA. They need help.

I would not be asking you personally if this was not important. Please help us get the word out, and give if you can. And five bucks here would mean a LOT more than five bucks to Golovan...

You can go to www.syaoregon.us and use the Paypal button.

Thank you again, and Merry Christmas -

Eric Kaganov
Executive Director
Slavic Youth of America

I make no warranties about this, but if it's legit, the message speaks to me.

A semester on the road, Part 1

For four months that ended last week, I traveled back and forth between Portland and the Bay Area on nearly a weekly basis to serve as a visiting professor at a law school down there. The visit was part of a sabbatical leave, one of the true joys of academic life. Every seventh year, we get time away from our already fairly cushy routine to write, think, work at something at least slightly different, and recharge. We can take either a half-year or a full-year leave. I always choose the full-year option, even though as a practical matter it requires that I come up with some income from outside sources. I believe that when given the chance at new experiences, one should take all that's placed before you.

When I first committed to head down to California, there was a pretty good chance that my family was coming with me. But personal circumstances eventually led us to the decision that I would travel south on my own, returning to Portland as often as I could for "conjugal visits." The crew came down to see me for a week at the outset in August, but that was the last they made it to the Golden State.

The term away constituted a great learning experience, on several levels. I got to see another academic institution from the inside. I met a new group of students, and a few faculty colleagues. I got to work for a Catholic school after attending them for 17 years. I got to return to northern California for some spectacular weather, and a chance to revisit my old haunts of 30 years ago. I spent a fair amount of time with an old buddy of mine from my law school days.

But perhaps most interestingly, I got to experience regular travel to and fro, which involved a lot of taxi rides, security checkpoints, airport waits, plane rides, and dark nights spent away from the family. I'm still feeling the effects of that aspect of the trip at the moment, a week after my return, and so it's worth a bit of reflection.

Flying from PDX to San Francisco and San Jose is pretty easy. There are lots of departure times to choose from. To San Fran, United has the best schedule; to San Jose, Southwest or Alaska seem like the ways to go.

The flight's typically an hour and a half in the air. You're hardly up at cruising altitude when it's time to start descending. But when you add ground transportation on both ends, the security theater, and the baggage carousel, it works out to a half-day. A round trip, therefore, is the equivalent of a full day. You do that every week, and we're talking one seventh of your life.

I got good at it after a while. Before boarding the aircraft, I always had the laptop out, interacting with the world on the web. At Portland Airport, the wi-fi was free -- a nice touch. In San Francisco, T-Mobile hit me up for six bucks a pop. My flights were always in the morning, and I worked it so that my shoes were off and I was asleep the minute my butt hit the seat, always on the window. The hour-plus naps were nice, but there were days when I had shorted myself on sleep by about four times that.

I drove down in August and back up last week, and so I had my car with me in the Bay Area. In addition to my air travel, I had some freeway driving to do when I got down there. Given my somewhat crazed schedule, it simply would not have been possible on the southern end to rely on mass transit.

Running a Portland-centric blog while being out of town three days a week wasn't hard at all. All the city's media outlets have web sites that kept me up to speed while I watched from a distance. Indeed, so well did these sites serve my need for Rose City news that I wound up cancelling my print subscription to the O entirely, and I never pick up a Willamette Week or Portland Tribune out of the box any more. The trip definitely moved me into the ranks of those for whom news on paper is a thing of the past.

One tough thing about being on the road was not blogging about it. For security reasons, I don't like to talk about being out of town until I'm already back home, or at least on my way back. As a consequence, a lot of obvious blog topics about my situation weren't available. Early on in the trip, the catastrophic crashing of the blog took place, and although I wrote extensively about the horror of it all, I couldn't add an important detail -- that I was trying to patch everything up on an unfamiliar laptop and a "borrowed" wi-fi connection from a neighboring town house.

I had a great time teaching down there, and the travel was fun for longer than I expected. But the last few weeks, it got tough. The wear and tear was gradual, but quite real. I understand that there are many techies who commute between Silicon Valley and Portland on a long-term basis. I had a colleague here in Portland who for several years schlepped between her job in Portland and her husband in San Francisco. But having seen their world, I can't imagine signing up for it indefinitely. Four months was plenty.

There was much more to think and write about in that trip, and I hope to get to it in some future posts. But a fair amount of it was viewed through a haze of travel fatigue. It's nice to get that element out of the way, both in the living and in the telling.

How to say "Merry Christmas" in Goldschmidt

The rich of Portland are not like you and I, and they have their own funny way of communicating. From today's O, we see that Mark Dodson, the gas company honcho and a member of the inner, inner, and we do mean inner Goldschmidt circle, sent a festive holiday greeting to Commissioner Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman, the West Hills hit man on the City Council:

Inside, he scribbled these words: "You know, as we get ready to open the tram, I know many of us will remember a real profile in courage. There is a hall of heroes, but it's real short these days, and you are certainly in it."

Under the card's stock message, Dodson added this closing thought: "Still want to explore the franchise clauses adopted in Arizona that I mentioned in your office."

Now there's what passes for the spirit of Christmas in some quarters. Thanks for all the scams of the past, and of course we still want more.

Trouble in the sandbox

I see that the battle for governance over the gigantic unsupervised pork pot of property tax dollars known as the Portland Development Commission (PDC) is still raging. In yesterday's Wily Week, we read that Commissioners Opie, Sam the Tram, and Fireman Randy are determined to seize ultimate control over the PDC's budget -- and rather than try to get that through Mayor Grampy's study group pals, they're taking their case directly to Salem. If our legislators will take some time off from their free Maui and Israel junkets, they apparently can give the City Council the budget authority by state statute.

Grampy ain't happy with all this, of course, but he's outvoted. And the defense of the current system offered by his appointee as chair of the PDC isn't too convincing:

Rosenbaum says PDC was established specifically to be independent of City Council. The agency's job, he says, is to implement policy that the council sets, but it needs to be able to allocate its budget accordingly rather than serve as a tool of individual commissioners' pet projects.
Got it? The PDC is no one's tool!

I'm glad we've cleared that up.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The winnah

After much deliberation, we have decided that the winner of the Comment Contest is Swankette, with her comment about her brother and social service in Portland generally.

It was an impossible choice. Rickyragg's "Oy vay Maria" cracked us up, and Ron Ledbury's "Stray Man" tale gave us much to think about -- questioning whether charities can stand up to the power and responsibilities of individuals. In the end, Swankette best lived up to the spirit of Buck-a-Hit Day.

Since her comment itself revealed her choice of a charitable donee, we'll send $250 to the Sisters of the Road Cafe. And with that, another year's charity drive comes to a close. Thanks to everyone who visited, contributed, and commented here this time around.

A problem that starts at the top

A nasty brawl between two pro basketball teams, the Knicks and the Nuggets, got our attention the other night -- so much so that it led to the hijacking of a touchy-feely, we-are-the-world thread that we had tried to start on a completely different subject.

The players who duked it out, dangerously close to the audience, deserve the suspensions they've been given. The union will protest, and some mealy-mouthed arbitrator will likely reduce some of them, but the fisticuffs will cost the sluggers big bucks. Carmelo Anthony, an All-Star Nuggets player with some pretty bad judgment, threw a premeditated punch that drew the biggest suspension of them all -- 15 games. All as it should be.

But what's even more disturbing than the brawl itself is the story that emerged about the conduct of Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas just seconds before the fight erupted. Incensed that the Nuggets, who had the game well in hand, were still playing their starters, Thomas walked up to Anthony and issued a thinly veiled threat of physical violence if he dared play the rest of the game in earnest. Thomas's comment to Anthony was something like: "Hey, don't go to the basket right now. It wouldn't be a good idea. I'm just letting you know." Those who have lip-read the video that captured the statement quote Thomas as saying something like: "Don’t go in the paint again. It wouldn’t be nice."

Moments later, the Nuggets' J.R. Smith dared to disobey the mighty Isiah, actually pursuing a fast break, and Knicks thug Mardy Collins committed a dirty foul that started the whole ugly scene. And Anthony, who had just been threatened, retaliated in a manner that will cost him around a month's salary and greatly damage his short-term prospects as a commercial attraction.

Nothing excuses the conduct of the players who brawled. But when the leader of one of the teams involved is issuing threats of physical violence -- vengeance for playing the game hard and honestly -- he fosters the atmosphere in which these kinds of incidents occur. It's really inexcusable.

Isiah Thomas has had several years to show his character as a manager, and in that time he's proven himself to be quite a jerk. He made a real hash of the Knicks' roster as their general manager, and he continues to underachieve as their bench coach. A while back some sexual harassment charges surfaced -- the EEOC reported that a Thomas subordinate, who's suing him, was subjected to "a hostile work environment including, but not limited to, severe and pervasive verbal sexual harassment" -- and now this. It's obvious that this is Thomas's last year with the Knicks. He could do himself, the team, and its once-proud fans a big favor by resigning now.

W's comfort zone

Bill McDonald has some interesting thoughts about the former frat president, now our President, today:

Apparently, nothing focuses this man like failure. He seemed energized by the gigantic mess he's made, and eager to make the mess worse.

There's clearly something psychological at work here. He's spent his life trying to talk himself out of bad situations of his own making, so maybe this has put him in a comfort zone. He finally has the conflict in Iraq on his own terms, which means it is all screwed up. He seemed defiant and almost happy as he sparred with the reporters about this fiasco. The war isn't wearing him down -- he seemed invigorated and joyfully alive.

There's more. The whole thing is here.

I've looked at clouds that way

The launching of the City of Portland's "free" municipal wi-fi cloud -- over some portions of the city, working some of the time -- has gotten me more closely attuned to the various internet signals that are floating around my neighborhood, and around town. In checking to see whether I could pick up the official MetroFi beam at the house (I can't; we're too far north), I discovered that I am getting a decent signal from something called "personaltelco.net." As a reader here pointed out to me, these are the folks who have been working for quite some time -- long before anyone around here ever heard of MetroFi -- to establish a free cloud over the city.

In my case, they've set up a node on the side of a neighbor's house about two blocks away, and my laptop is picking up the signal. Works great, at least up in the attic where I like to work, and the service sports no banner ads at all. Apparently the neighbor's a volunteer who has agreed to host a hot spot for all the nearby world to use. Thanks, neighbor!

I found out more about this outfit here. As their map shows, they've got quite a few locations up and running. It's a nonprofit organization that from all appearances is doing this just for the principle of the thing -- and with grassroots support from people like my neighbor. Way cool, I thought.

Then yesterday I was on a blog-related mission down at Esparza's, at SE 28th and Ankeny. (Tough duty, eh?) I thought that I was in MetroFi territory, and especially since I was keeping a close eye on Buck-a-Hit Day, I thought I'd bring the laptop along and finally get a look at how the MetroFi setup runs. Alas, the MetroFi signal was nowhere to be found. But doggone it, there was Personal Telco again, loud and clear! Connected easily, surfed breezily.

Then it dawned on me: Once again, Portland City Hall has doubtlessly put all our eggs in the wrong basket. If we're really so "progressive," why aren't we empowering truly free, ad-free, nonprofit, homegrown, grassroots wi-fi through Personal Telco, instead of getting in bed with MetroFi and its heavy-breathing business partner, Microsoft?

Yule rock out

If I am not mistaken, DJ Victrola will be spinning some excellent Christmas guitar tracks again this afternoon on KPSU radio, from 4 to 6 p.m. Pacific. The show streams live here, or you can catch it on an AM radio in the Portland area at 1450 on your dial. She's always got tasty audio treats from the virtuosi of the six- and 12-strings.

CORRECTION, 4:03 p.m.: It sounds as though KPSU doesn't take over 1450 AM until at least 5 p.m. But DJV is already rockin' at kpsu.org right now.

UPDATE, 5:10 p.m.: She's on at 1450 AM now.

You said it

I've been combing through yesterday's many excellent submissions to our Comment Contest, and it's hard to pick one as winner-take-all. There were many great reads in there.

For example, Aaron B. Hockley had a great haiku for the day:

Six days left to go.
My shopping is still not done.
I'll cheat with gift cards.
In the limerick category, we had several good ones, but this verse from rr stood out:
The earth has turned on its axis
To a time when giving's a practice
Oh, the feeling that comes
When donating large sums
Is better than paying our taxes
Superinkygirl spoke for all of us when she observed:
Here's wishing you all a season filled with cheer and peace. We'll all start our fitness regimes on January 2nd, right?
Rickyragg got off a good one, with an assist from Betsy. Betsy bemoaned the fact that her household juggles all of the elements of the Judeo-Christian traditions:
We're in the 'if it's Tuesday, it must be Hanukkah' mode here today at the nominally-Christian mother's house. But later this week? My Jewish children will head to their Jewish father's house for Christmas.

Anyone have a recommendation for a good therapist? My kids are sure to need one someday...

To which Ricky responded:

May I suggest a rousing chorus of Oy Vay, Maria.

Speaking of which, Bill McDonald had a suggestion for a charitable beneficiary of our efforts:

[U]nless there's a foundation that can help Ricky Ragg, I'd pick the Salvation Army.
Christy wrote about her most valuable piece of luggage:
I, for one, will be having a very modern holiday. From Portland to Chicago to see dad for 4 days, then to SF to see mom for 4 days. I am 28 and still splitting holidays. One thing remains the same, though: the spirit of giving to those in need and those I love will travel from Oregon to the Midwest to California, undaunted by the airports and the airplanes.
Kevin Allman wrote in from Louisiana, where he sent along some excerpts from a post-Katrina N'Awlins poem about the night before Christmas:
"To all those who took in our downtrodden folks,
Or ferried them out in their flat-bottom boats!
To Tennessee… Texas… Jackson… Atlanta…
Our Baton Rouge brothers … and Lou-i-si-ana!"
I notice no Rudy steps up as their leader,
Yet something unseen guides this flock of believers,
A force that transcends rich or poor, black or white,
A light that can steer this brigade through the night.
In a twinkle they've finished the last of the ale
And they hoist their equipment, their masks and their pails:
"On, Comet! On, Borax! On, on Spic 'n Span!
"Come (Yule) Tide and Cheer! Come, All, let us plan!
Up, Mildew! Off, Mold! Out, out, Toxic Waste!
Come, Shout! Away, Wisk! Come, let us make haste!
To the top of the water mark! Up, past the stair!
Let the City that Care Forgot know that we care!"
Then to Lakeview, Gentilly, Chalmette and the East,
Away they all marched to a Zydeco beat.
Ere they rose past the tarps, I heard a voice say
"Merry Christmas-and Laissez les bon temps rouler!"
Brandon sent in an update from the famous Peacock Lane display in Southeast Portland:
[M]ost interesting and curious of all is a "naughty" display featuring characters from the 60s-era Rudolph stop-motion specials. I don't know if it's intentional or not, but the house's Abominable Snowman has two bright pink lights for nipples and two others for his, er, "boy parts." I guess it was cold out there last night but maybe they should give him a scarf or something to cover those up.
Orbb Taranis posted the lyrics of a song about Christians and pagans coming together to celebrate their respective holidays. Included were these lines:
The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian"
"But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere"...

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother"
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here"
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve
Saying, "Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave"

Dan Petegorsky dusted off a forgotten verse from "America the Beautiful":

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
Swankette stopped me in my tracks with this story:
My holiday memory is also a shameless plug for my charity-of-choice.

My older brother is mentally ill and has been, at times past, homeless on the streets of Portland. As such he has taken advantage of many of the social services available in Portland.

One year, when he wasn't homeless but nearly so, I had picked him up for the trek to our parents' house for holiday cheer. He had already made the rounds at a couple of places to fill his belly and get some gifts from the generous people of Portland. He implored me to stop at Pioneer Courthouse Square on the way to Sherwood in order to partake of the Christmas Feast provided by the Girl Scouts. Given that we were on a way to a Christmas feast of our own, I didn't allow it, but that memory stuck with me.

I was both very thankful that there were such services out there for him, and very aware of the fact that come holiday time the services were much more available than at other times of the year. And so as much as I love charity at the holidays, I work hard to make sure it lasts throughout the year.

The one organization that did the most for my brother during those lean times was Sisters of the Road, which is one of the most fabulous grass-roots organizations I know of. So that is where I would ask for the last bit of funds to be directed.

Rosanna Galluccio, who runs a newsletter dedicated to "Holiday Love and Madness," forwarded something that had been submitted to her:

Most of us, when we reflect upon Holiday memories we look in the deep recesses of our mind, and begin to hear the joyous sounds of our childhood, the smells of the Yuletide kitchen, and the sights of family members past. This holiday I am looking forward to Holiday memories yet to be.

This year I am not only spending it with my two children, who have been my "raison d'etre," but with my fiancé and her two children, both infants. This year will be a blended holiday. This will be a Christmas to gap years and generations. You see, twenty years ago I dated the girl who would, decades later, become my fiancé. And now we can share this day of rejoicing with a teenager longing to be an adult, a "tween" caught in between the childhood dreams of Christmas and the commercialism of Xmas, and two infants yet to see the pageantry, majesty and wonder of Christmas.

So my Holiday memory this year is not a longing of Christmases past, but a longing for Christmas yet to be.

The last word came from Ron Ledbury, who wrote of the two "stray men" in his neighborhood, and a person who has given shelter to one of them:

I was wrestling today with the notion that giving was for the benefit of the giver, for their own reasons. I just could not put it into words...

I would of course like to mock non-profits for their claim of offering tax breaks to donors and instead direct any extra to the little lady that has given refuge to Stray Man 1, without the offer of any tax deductibility on donations. Indeed, without donations other than her own. There are some things that the tax man need not know about. Be a rebel; with a cause.

So as you can see, I've narrowed the contest down to "just" 14 entries. Which of these authors should be the winner, and get to designate where $250 of our contributions go? Maybe you can help me decide...

You read it here first

The Trib's reporting (second story down) that the Oregon State Bar is looking into allegations against a lawyer involved with the company whose name is on the title of a jet that apparently is involved in torture rendition by the CIA. This fulfills speculation in comments on this blog nearly two years ago, when the story was hot.

I can see why

Our six-year-old, on the way out the door to a play date at her schoolmate's house: "I'm pretty sure he loves me."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

We did it!

Ask and ye shall receive. That's pretty much the story of our fourth annual Buck-a-Hit Day. We've met all our goals -- 1,000 hits by noon, more than $1,000 in the e-Hat, and some excellent comments in the Comment Contest. And so local charities will receive more than $3,500 as a result of our efforts; what's more, a reader will get to name a charity to receive part of that amount when the winner of the Comment Contest is announced tomorrow.

It's above and beyond what I was hoping for. Thanks to everyone who made a contribution, large or small, monetarily or in commentary. There is still a half hour or so left in the day, and so we'll leave comments open and keep the e-Hat around. Feel free to help us increase the e-Hat haul. Half of what you give will go to the Oregon Food Bank, and the other half to the Oregon Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation. Click on the hat to make a donation:

We'll recap this all early tomorrow. Until then, Merry Christmas / happy holidays to all, and to all a good night!

Comments, please

As Buck-a-Hit Day progresses, and we get closer to our dream goal of $3,500 of total donations to charity, don't forget that you have a chance to say where some of that money goes. Just write a comment about the winter holidays -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, whatever -- and if it's the best comment submitted on that topic today, you'll get to designate where $250 of our donations go. Any charity recognized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code is eligible -- but first, you need to wow our panel of judges with a boffo comment.

The thread's been started here, but you can also leave yours in the comments space for this post. Inspire us, people! Enter as often as you wish.

If you'd prefer to lurk, that's fine, too, but how about a contribution to the e-Hat?

Welcome to Buck-a-Hit Day, e-Hat, and Comment Contest

Welcome to the fourth annual Buck-a-Hit Day on this blog.

First things first. By visiting this site today, you have caused me to give $1 to a charity that feeds or shelters needy people here in Oregon. The Mrs. and I will give another $1 for every additional unique visit to the site before midnight tonight (as determined by SiteMeter, or if SiteMeter goes down, our server's stats), up to a maximum of $1,000. Once again, our charities are the food pantry of St. Philip Neri Parish; and Daybreak Shelter for homeless families. But this year, we're splitting the donation with a charity to be selected by one of you, our readers. (Read on.)

While you're here, we're passing the e-Hat, asking you to join us in giving. Beyond the thousand bucks for a thousand hits, we'll match up to $500 donated by readers, with the proceeds being divided equally between the Oregon Food Bank and the Oregon Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation. Just click on the hat below to make a contribution -- no amount is the wrong size:

Not only will we match your contributions up to $500, but if reader donations make it to the $500 level, a reader known to the internet as Mr. Fearless will kick in another $500 to the Oregon Food Bank. And so each dollar you give today is worth at least 2 dollars, and possibly 3 dollars if donations run high enough.

That brings us to the next point: If reader donations to the e-Hat today should make it past the $500 level, another reader, Greg M., will match the additional contributions, up to another $500, with his dollars going to the Oregon Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation. And so if enough readers contribute enough dollars, we could wind up donating $3,500 to charity.

Together, we gave just half that amount last year, and so our goal this year is ambitious. But hey, why not shoot for the stars?

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

The last (but not least) item of business is the Comment Contest, a new feature. Readers are asked to submit a comment relating to the winter holidays -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, whatever. The author of the best comment (as chosen by our top secret selection committee) will get to designate which section 501(c)(3) charitable organization gets $250 of our donation. So be witty, be pithy, be smart, be deep, be moving, or just be good, and if you're the best, you'll get to steer $250 of ours to your favorite charity.

A tech note here: Our web host informs us that the comments feature of our blogging software, Movable Type, can hog memory on the server. If that becomes too much of an issue today, we'll shut down the comments feature and ask readers to submit their comments by e-mail. Unless and until we are informed of a problem, however, you're invited to click on the link to "Comments" on this post below. Please leave a legit e-mail address (it won't be published or publicized) so that we can be in touch if your comment is the winner.

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

UPDATE, 9:45 a.m.: We have reached 736 hits, and there's $315 in the e-Hat already, for donations of $1,366 so far. Thanks, readers! Just $61 more of reader contributions and we will pass what we gave last year. Plus, we are just $185 away from our first big match. Your $1 gift is worth $3 if we can reach that level. Please give. No amount is too small.

UPDATE, 10:29 a.m.: WOO HOO! We have made our first match goal of $500, and so Mr. Fearless will give an additional $500 to the Oregon Food Bank. There's $520 in the e-Hat, people -- very impressive. Thank you! Now Greg M. is matching every additional dollar contributed, up to another $500. Let's make sure we take him to the limit! Meanwhile, the hit counter for the day stands at 852, for total donations of $2,372 so far. Let's go for the $3,500!

UPDATE, 11:25 a.m.: We received our 1,000th hit of the day at 11:15 a.m. -- record time. Thank you for coming! And the e-Hat now stands at $579.90, for total donations so far of $2,659.80. Let's keep going with the Greg M. match, toward our overall dream goal of $3,500. Just $420.10 more of reader contributions to go.

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: The e-Hat donations are up to $694.90, and so our total donations for the day are up to $2,889.80. We're working our way toward that $3,500 goal, and it's looking good. If you haven't already done so, please chip in and keep the ball rolling.

UPDATE, 5:12 p.m.: The e-Hat total is up to $754.90 now -- better than three-quarters of the way to our goal of $1,000 worth of donations from readers. Our total donations for the day so far, including Buck-a-Hit and matches, is $3,009.80. Can we make it to $3,500 by midnight?

UPDATE, 9:15 p.m.: The money in the e-Hat total is now at $824.90, and that means our total donations for the day so far, including Buck-a-Hit and matches, is $3,149.80. We've got a couple more hours to go, but to reach our dream goals of $1,000 in the e-Hat and $3,500 total contributed to charity, we still need another $175.10. Can you help? It's all for good causes.

UPDATE, 11:48 p.m.: We made it!

Monday, December 18, 2006

This modern world

Just as I was steeling myself for the annual run to the post office -- I was planning a midnight run to the airport branch, hoping that it's still open all night -- the doorbell rang. It was our Christmas parcel from Mom. "You want to take mine?" I asked the mail carrier, wistfully, pointing to the carton I had just finished packing and addressing. It was a seasonal guy, whom I had never seen around before. "Does it have the postage on it?" he replied. "If you used Click-N-Ship, I can take it."

Alas, I hadn't. But that didn't mean I couldn't. I have a little postage scale that weighs up to five pounds. Sure enough, my one and only package to be mailed this year weighed only 4.75 pounds. And so onward onto the Postal Service website I went, clicking and typing away until my printer spit out a label that I taped onto the box. Postage paid, delivery confirmation, $12.80. Cool.

But now what? There was a button you could click to have your regular mail carrier pick the package up when he or she delivers your mail, but we had already received our mail for today, and given that the shipping days 'til Christmas are running out, I resigned myself to having to drive down to the P.O. to drop the thing off. So I threw on some clothes and hopped in the car, bound for the local branch.

Just as I stopped at the stop sign on our corner, our regular mail carrier pulled up on the next block. I pulled over, rolled down the window, and asked him if he could "take a Click-N-Ship." Sure, he said with a smile. This guy is a great one for customer service. Last week he walked a full city block to the bus stop where he noticed that I was standing, to get my signature on a receipt, so that he could leave us a package on the first try.

"You don't want to get anywhere near a post office this time of year," he observed today as he ran a scanner over one of the bar codes on my newly printed label. "Heck, I wouldn't go there myself if I didn't have to." The scanner reported that the box was officially being accepted "in the system," and so I bid it, and my helpful carrier, goodbye.

Now that the box is gone, I'm not completely angst-free about the whole experience. I've never tried this process before, and the week before Christmas is no time for an experiment with this sort of thing. But hey, it got me out of that post office line, and that's worth the risk.

It freed up time for another trip I needed to take -- back to the mall.

It's not all tinsel and candy canes, people

Everybody sends you pictures of their kids with Santa. But how many send you a shot of them waiting to see Santa?

The other side of the coin

A reader writes:

There is an item on KGW, way down the page with just a link, about a police officer injured by a suspect. This officer, Scott Westerman, used to be one of the neighborhood liaison officers in SW. He is an outstanding example of everything that is good in the Portland Police bureau. He's honest, open, hardworking, and caring. He's worked with the neighborhoods on issues outside of direct crime prevention and control, such as helping us in our efforts to curb loud jake braking by trucks on I-5. He was recently honored at a reception by SW Neighborhoods, Inc., as he moved to his new assignment.

We hear so much about problems with police handling of suspects. Please consider posting about this tragedy, to honor Scott and hopefully increase the numbers of people hoping and praying for his recovery, as well as to help people recognize our good officers are at risk in their daily jobs.
You know, reader, I had lost sight of that. Thanks for the tip, and thanks and best wishes to Officer Westerman.

UPDATE, 12:38 p.m.: KGW has now moved the story way up on its web page.

Monday morning, special edition

Oh man, are we ever down to crunch time here at the North Pole. But what you do is, get yourself a nice pot of Peet's coffee going, put on the John Fahey Christmas album, and get to writin' cards, wrappin' presents, and boxin' it all up for the relatives out of town. Maybe plug in the tree for an hour or so, even though it's daytime. And of course, stay in pajamas for as long as possible.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On beyond Vladimir

So they finally indicted Vladimir Golovan for fraud in connection with the Emilie Boyles campaign's "voter-owed elections" signature scam from last spring's Portland City Council race. I must admit, I never thought it would happen. Now all the Stennies can strut and cluck around about how "the system is working, there are rules and if you break them you have to face the consequences," yada yada yada.

Certainly having this guy indicted is better than having everybody walk away scot-free. I hope they can get a plea out of him, although some of the charges look a little, shall we say, offbeat. Identity theft? For forging another person's signature, once, on an election petition? "Unsworn falsification"? Heck, I do that every time I play poker.

Anyway, there remain some deeper questions that need to be answered. Here's my list:

1. Why no charges against Boyles and Tate? Golovan wasn't the main intended beneficiary of his alleged misdeeds. He picked up 15 grand or so from each of Boyles and Lucinda Tate, for whom he also worked, but Boyles and Tate each stood to receive around 10 times that amount, to spend as they pleased on their campaigns. Once she got her dole, Boyles immediately put her daughter on the payroll and paid off some serious bills that had the strong odor of personal living expenses about them. Who knows what Tate would have done with the money?

So why was neither of them charged? Most likely because they said they didn't know that the signatures they were turning in were fake, and the state prosecutors couldn't come up with any evidence to contradict their word on the matter.

But given the transparency of the fraud -- it was facially obvious that at least several of the signatures Golovan submitted were not genuine -- if Boyles and Tate didn't know of the fraud, they should have known. Which brings me to the next question:

2. What level of due diligence should be required on the part of the candidates seeking taxpayer campaign financing? This case proves that under the "system," a candidate can turn in phony signatures and not be culpable, so long as he or she adopts a "don't ask don't tell" policy with his or her signature gatherers. Even a quick look at some of the Golovan signature pages would have revealed problems -- should the candidates not be required to do at least that much? Shouldn't they be required to certify under oath that they have examined the sheets, and to the best of their observation and knowledge, all the signatures are genuine?

3. Should paid signature- and contribution-gathering be allowed at all?
Why not outlaw paid solicitation of signatures and contributions outright? The idea of the required 1,000 $5 contributions from residents is to insure that the candidates have grassroots support. In that spirit, shouldn't they have to talk people out of their $5 themselves, or with volunteer help, rather than hiring hucksters to accost strangers at supermarkets and church halls? Given the cesspool that signature-gathering has generally become in connection with initiative petitions in Oregon, wouldn't it make sense to preclude the same problems in the city "system"?

4. Is anybody at City Hall going to check signatures and addresses in the future before forking over the tax dollars? It's a major embarrassment that the only people who looked at the signatures with a critical eye toward their genuineness were newspaper reporters. Shouldn't the city be doing the same? Obviously, false signatures should be flagged before public money goes out, not after.

Of course, given the wide-open criteria for the qualifying $5 contributions, it would be impossible for the city to check every one of the signatures and addresses. Under the current "rules," all that's required is that the contributor be a resident of the city -- not a registered voter, not a citizen, just a resident. Even if the city elections officer had access to county voter registration records -- and my understanding is that he or she doesn't have even that -- that wouldn't be enough to check mere residency. What could you use? Property tax records? Wouldn't include renters. The phone book? Wouldn't include people without listed land lines.

5. How will the contributions be verified?
Another huge hole in the "system" is allowing qualifying contributions to be made in cash, with no paper trail required. Obviously, someone like Golovan could front $5,000 in cash himself, without any of the signatories pungling up their $5. When the candidate gets his or her $145,000 in "clean money" from the city, it would be easy enough to reimburse the financing source for his or her trouble. If the signature-gatherer puts up 5 grand and gets paid a fee of 15 grand, it all comes out in the wash, and then some.

6. If signatures, addresses, and contributions can't be verified, isn't the system just an open invitation to fraud? If the "system" can't be tightened up so that signatures, addresses, and contributions can be, and are in fact, checked, then the stealing will just get worse. The "progressive" elements behind "clean money" clearly want to maintain the appearance of ultimate openness, but it's at the cost of major security vulnerability. It's a jungle out there, kids -- you have to have a firewall.

7. Should the city pay or reimburse for expenses only after the fact, rather than paying the candidates a lump sum and hoping for the best? The only thing that Boyles herself has been busted for is misspending the "clean money" she received. She was given an immediately negotiable check for $145,000, and allowed to spend it without any monitoring by the city other than a post-expenditure report that was filed long after half the money was gone. Perhaps the city should dribble the money out more slowly, requiring proof that the funds are being spent legitimately before paying funds out of the municipal treasury.

8. When (if ever) are the taxpayers of the city, who are paying for this program, ever going to get a chance to vote on it?
"Voter-owed elections" are a waste of money at best, and an incumbent protection racket at worst. Even if the "rules" worked well (which they obviously haven't), the voters should have been consulted before this radical change in the dynamics of city elections was implemented. They weren't consulted, and they won't be, unless someone forces the issue by an initiative petition. The boys at City Hall are doubtlessly hoping to keep tweaking the system until it finally rises above its current status as a fiasco, and then put it up for a vote. But if you're waiting for this clunker to run smoothly, and then have a referendum, don't count on it for decades.

Sure, I'd like to see big money be taken out of city politics, and I'd like to see grassroots candidates thrive. But this contraption has done little to advance either cause. The condo scams continue unabated, and the two incumbents in the last election got by without so much as a runoff. Between those truths and the fact that it's a license to steal, "voter-owed elections" is just another goofball feature of what has become a truly odd little city government.

Tools of the trade

Kyrie eleison

The third Sunday of Advent is supposed to be a joyful day, but that's questionable. If you don't think we all need to get down on our knees and pray hard for mercy, just take a look at Time's top photos of 2006. Scene after scene of killing, of division, of hatred, and of the monkey who is running the United States and thinks he's orchestrating most of it.

God help us and forgive us.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Why I love America

How did I, a white boy from New Jersey, get to appreciate the deep soul sounds of people like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin? Via a Turkish guy named Ahmed Ertegun.

And when it was time to create a soundscape for Clint Eastwood in his classic Western flicks, who was the go-to guy? Some dude named Ennio Morricone.

Life is much better with arms open wide.

Christmas music with a brain

The "Guitar Shop" show on KPSU radio always has some interesting stuff around the holidays, particularly for us rock guitar enthusiasts. Here's this week's show, mp3 files for Parts 1 and 2. (The show doesn't actually get rolling until around 13 minutes into Part 1, so you may just want to FF to there.) DJ Victrola will be back on the air live this Wednesday at 4 p.m. with more holiday guitar as well. Boogie on, Santa.

Gotta run

Only nine shopping days 'til Christmas? Yikes. I'll see you later.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Black ice

One of the things you learn about during your first winter in Oregon is black ice. This is a thin layer of ice on the pavement. The surface just looks wet, but it's frozen. Slicker than all get-out.

Tonight looks like a black ice night in the making. We had hail this afternoon, and a cold front passed through today. It's fairly calm out there now, and there's ice on our front and back porch steps already. (Those back steps iced up and took me down a couple of years ago -- since then, I check them carefully if there's any question about frost.) The official airport thermometer says 35, but in sheltered places, it's already freezing.

Black ice is seriously dangerous. I remember when it took the career, quality of life, and almost the entire life, of Ramon Ramos, a young Trail Blazer, years ago. Ramos was flying down I-5 on a night like tonight. Very bad move.

Black ice isn't that big a concern to me at the moment. Once you find your life partner and bring little kids into the world, you can hunker down. You're not out there at 2:30 Saturday morning, looking through whatever haze you're working on, at that wet road, and wondering if it's frozen. But those of you who are going to be out there, take good care.

Buck-a-Hit Day is Tuesday

While Mother Nature has been dropping ice pellets on us today, there's also been a flurry of activity surrounding Buck-a-Hit Day, the day when we give $1 to charity for every unique visit to this blog (up to a set goal). This year, the day of the event is Tuesday, December 19, and we're expanding the program to get readers even more involved than they were last year, when they chipped in to add to our contribution. We're adding an E-Hat and a Comment Contest.

Here's how it's going to work this time around:

1. For every unique visit to this blog on Tuesday, we'll give a buck -- 50 cents to the Food Pantry at St. Philip Neri Parish; 25 cents to Daybreak Shelter for homeless families; and 25 cents to a charity to be selected by the reader who wins our comment contest (see item 5 below). Our goal on this item is 1,000 unique visits, or $1,000.

2. We're passing the E-Hat to our readers, asking them to contribute to charity electronically via a PayPal button that will be posted here. We'll match every dollar given by readers, up to an additional $500. Reader contributions in the E-Hat will go one half to the Oregon Food Bank, and one half to the Children's Heart Foundation, Oregon Chapter.

3. If readers donate $500 or more in the E-Hat, a reader known as Mr. Fearless will donate another $500 to the Oregon Food Bank.

4. If readers donate more than $500 in the E-Hat, another reader, Greg M., will match each dollar over that limit, up to another $500, with the proceeds going to the Children's Heart Foundation, Oregon Chapter.

5. The Comment Contest is simple. Readers are asked to submit, on Tuesday, a comment relating to the winter holidays -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, whatever. The author of the best comment will get to designate which section 501(c)(3) charitable organization gets $250 of our donation (see item 1 above).

It's a little complicated, but it boils down to Buck-a-Hit Day, the E-Hat, and the Comment Contest. And if readers show up and give $1,000, the charities will get a total of $3,500, which would be quite a good day. Hope to see you then.

Making headway, but they still don't get it

The Portland Police Headquarters condo scam appears to be morphing into a rental apartment tower project. Trammell Crow, still the developer, says it may be able to make "market rate" rental units a profitable proposition for them, according to this story in this morning's O. And the Portland Development Commission is still hot to get a tower on that block, and so they're quite interested in making that happen.

Given what I've heard about Trammell's reputation as a landlord, I'm not sure the world needs another building of theirs, but that's a blog post for another day.

On the more interesting, political side, the PDC now says that Trammell will "probably" have to pay "prevailing wages" on the construction. If that's true, watch the muckraking by city Commissioners Randy Leonard and Erik Sten come to a screeching halt. Those guys blew the whistle on the fake-y appraisal that was behind giving the developer the property for a dollar, but mostly I think they just wanted to make trouble with the PDC because of its hard-core stance against forced unionization of construction projects that it sponsors. As I've counseled the PDC on this blog previously, placate the unions and the City Hall dogs will stop snapping at you.

But wait; there's more in today's story to marvel at. It turns out that the original appraisal of the property apparently never even considered a comparable sales approach to valuing the land for purposes of pricing the transaction between the PDC and Trammell. "Barclay said a negative value using comparable land sales was 'beyond comprehension' -- unless the site was environmentally contaminated." Come on, people! It's Appraisal 101 that that's the method of choice when you're valuing real estate. That it wasn't part of the appraisal equation at all shows what a cooked report that was.

Second, even though it's snapped out of its coma and now admits that the property has a positive value, the PDC is still talking about giving the property away to Trammell for nothing! Buried way down in the story (where the O usually breaks the news) is this:

The PDC will have to decide how much it is willing to contribute to make the tower work. Taxes from a tall building could repay the land costs in a few years if the commission donates the land.
We're doing a charity drive here next Tuesday. I think we may want to expand it to see if we can buy five hearing aids for the PDC commissioners. Hello! Stop giving away land to Trammell Crow!

Prepare to laugh

I've been getting some Google hits lately from people searching for "Lou Rawls colonoscopy." I took the bait and looked around, and it didn't take me long to find out what they were looking for.

"What's yr problem, moron."

David Pogue of the Times wonders whatever happened to internet etiquette.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Home sweet home

13 hours, 15 minutes
681 miles
Good night, and God bless Honda Motor Co.!

Final pit stop

We are almost home, having made it as far as Springfield. I think there's a Springfield in every state in the Lower 48. Here in Oregon's, I'm in the midst of a rush hour strip mall scene, cadging wi-fi from the Super 8 Motel.

From Grants Pass to here has been an uneventful leg. You got your Indian casino in Canyonville (a hoot of a place, excellent restaurant the last time we visited, but no time to stop today); then lots of Roseburg (I think I've pulled in there once in my 28 years in Oregon); then the clean-cut little town of Cottage Grove; then Bluegene. "Elvis's 30 No. 1 Hits" kept the foot on the gas, and now we're in the middle of Otis Clay's brilliant gospel album, "On My Way Home" -- appropriately titled, but he's talking about the Big Home that I hope I'm not going to arrive at for a long while. Somewhere in the car there's a homemade mix tape of the original versions of some obscure soul classics that were later successfully covered by Caucasians; that should wrap it up before we punch up Portland radio.

There's some wind here, but so far it's not living up to the hype. I think this storm may be overblown, if you'll pardon the expression.

The long journey that began before dawn now ends after sunset. Time for a pear, a hunk of dark chocolate, a brief roadside stretch, and ignition.

It's the climate

We have traversed the great State of Jefferson and are taking a coffee break in downtown Grants Pass, wireless courtesy of the Ethereal Cafe. After a rainy departure out of Redding, we enjoyed some fine in-car dining at the Dunsmuir Subway, and cruised on. Just as we passed Mount Shasta, the skies cleared for a spectacular view of that snowy peak, and things just kept getting greener and greener as the border of Oregon approached. We held out on the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (100 calories per) until we saw the "Welcome to Oregon" sign.

Passage over the Siskiyou Summit, which we had been dreading, was painless. The road was bone dry and the weather relatively warm. Global warming? El Niño? Take your pick. It's supposed to cool off up there tonight, but no snow at road level (4300 feet).

Portland, here we come -- four hours away. It's a little windy down here, but nothing compared to what I see you've already got cranking up in the Willamette Valley. Oh well, at least for me, it's a tailwind.

P.S., 2:35 p.m.: I'm now on another hot spot, this time in the car parked outside the Grants Pass Post Office. Gee, I don't know what the big deal is about free wi-fi in Portland; they seem to have it in every Hooterville I'm passing through.

Anyway, the soundtrack: After Delbert, we went with mid-career Tony Bennett (a proven performer), and then we tried Poco's "Legacy," an album that we remembered more fondly than it deserved. You want your generic late-'80s rock? That was it. Even the hit single, "Call It Love," was pretty hackneyed. Next up: Elvis!

Shasta County, baby!

More freebie wi-fi here at curbside in beautiful Redding. Playing tag with the Sacramento River. Some interesting signs along the way -- Sequoia High School; Cut Your Own Tree, Any Size, $10; and a huge one, "Glassblowers - Next Exit," except that someone has obliterated the first two letters.

The Everlys were as sweet and wonderful as ever. I used to be able to sing the high part, but at least I can still hold my own with the low one. Then Delbert McClinton's "Room to Breathe" -- always positively inspirational.

It's dark and drizzly here, with a bit of a south wind. The terrain starts to change now, and that storm's still brewing. Time to move on. See you on the Oregon side.

Greetings from Williams, California

Who needs MetroFi in Portland? I'm sitting in a gas station off I-5 in Williams, California, and somebody's got a nice little open wireless pod going. A bloggable moment, and no banner ads.

Two hours down the road from the Bay Area peninsula, smack in the heart of Cal ag country. We've had some fog here and there -- with misty rain to go with it in San Francisco proper as we left before dawn -- but as in most of the Golden State, once you're out of the rush hour mess, you put cruise control on 75 and go.

Our soundtrack so far has been KFOG radio, a little Bay Area jazz station, and once the signal from the city gave out, Beck's "Odelay" in its glorious entirety. Next up: the Everly Brothers, if the ancient cassette deck in the car will play it. That ought to get us at least halfway to Redding. ("Halfway to Redding" -- wasn't that a Grateful Dead song?) More from there, we hope.

Pedal to the metal

Today promises to be a most interesting day. I have been blogging by remote control from the Bay Area (a story worth telling at length later), and today it's time to head back to Portland -- solo, by car. What with the monster windstorm that's supposedly coming in to the coast and the Willamette Valley, and a cold front that's supposed to drop the snow levels in the Siskiyous, it could be an interesting journey. I'll post some notes from the road if there's a chance, but today's primary agenda is to get while the getting's good.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Golovan arrested; 12 counts

KGW's reporting that Vladimir Golovan has been arrested in connection with the Emilie Boyles "voter-owed elections" scam.

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.: LocalNewsDaily.com has more here.

A little nutty

Peter Boyle died last night. He made several great films, and of course he'll be remembered for his days as the dad on "Raymond," but I'll always think of him most fondly for this role.

Boom chuck rock then!

The little essay I wrote four years ago about Portland rock legend Billy Rancher has put me in touch with all sorts of nice people over the years. Billy's buddy Houston even sent me some stunning Rancher recordings that I never knew existed. I have listened to them with great pleasure many times.

The other day, a reader came across that post and felt such a surge of nostalgia that she sent me the following e-mail message:

Well, I have never even been on a blog before, but I had to comment on the Billy Rancher page... I have a friend who knows Galen T (the author of your second comment on the page). She told me I should see it.

I grew up in Salem, and graduated from high school in 1980. When the weekend came, I couldn't wait to zip up I-5 in my little Honda Civic (crammed full of friends) to see and hear LIVE MUSIC in Portland!

One of the best memories of BR and the UR Gods is from a fun night of rockin' at The Last Hurrah.... I was under age, but had GREAT FAKE ID, from my sister. (Back in those days, all it took was a birth certificate to get a valid ODL...)

Anyway, I was slack jawed over Billy and his group. The energy was so high, and the room was hopping. They were so incredibly novel for the day. They had their own look, and sound, and the Goddess A Go Go (the dancers) were not only talented... they were a riot to watch!

You may recall his lyrics from "I Need Some Symmetry In my Play": "I want the two notes that I play on my guitar to be so perfect now, perfect now, watch me now!!" Well, when Billy played that song, he took a little break to ask the audience "does anyone in here know how to play the guitar??" I raised my hand up high along with everyone else in the crowd, and crazy enough, Billy grabbed my hand and pulled me up on stage! Now honestly, I didn't know much more than the C G and F chords, so he put the guitar strap on me, and reached around from behind, (my back) and played those two notes. Perfectly. He was so sweet, and ahhh. Sigh. This is a gal's perspective, now!

I'll never forget that night, and all of the other nights, at Lung Fung and Louie's (La Bambas). It was an amazing time... And to maybe help answer the question, it was a little bit of everything. Our age, our place, but also you know Billy was special. I can't help but think he is in a great place, rockin' out with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn, and having as much fun as ever.

I have a cassette of Boom Chuck Rock SOMEWHERE, but with a full house of kids, etc. I have no idea where it has ended up. Where can I get a copy? I live in Eastern WA now...

Thanks so much for bringing back that memory for me.

The joy was all mine.

Buck-a-Hit Day (and comment contest) is Tuesday

Please be sure to be here on Tuesday for Buck-a-Hit Day, a holiday tradition in which we give $1 to charity for every unique visit to this blog (up to a certain amount). I have thought a fair amount about this year's format, and here it is:

For each of the first 1,000 hits that day, we'll give 50 cents to the Food Pantry at St. Philip Neri Church in southeast Portland, 25 cents to the Children's Heart Foundation, Oregon Chapter, and 25 cents to a charity to be named by one of our readers (see details below), for a total of $1,000.

In addition, we'll match up to another $500 total donated by our readers to the Oregon Food Bank and the Daybreak Shelter for homeless families.

To get readers involved, we're going to let one of you steer $250 of our Buck-a-Hit donations. The reader who submits the best comment that day on the topic of the winter holidays -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or whatever -- will get to name where the first $250 goes. The only restriction is that the recipient be a charity that qualifies for tax-deductible contributions under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code.

Details on how to submit your entry to the comment contest, and how to chip in on the match, will be forthcoming shortly. But all you have to do is show up here Tuesday to get me to give it up for the less fortunate. It should be a fun day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Harshing our holiday buzz

This... this is just sick. (Via Bob Miller.)

They often call him Speedo

Earl the Pearl has been named to the House Ways and Means Committee. With both Gatsby Wyden and Born-Again Smith on the Senate Finance Committee, Oregon's got more clout on federal tax policy at the moment than it has since Bob Packwood tongued his way to a lobbyist job. Too bad the White House won't be going along with Earl and Ron's ideas, but maybe in a couple of years, the Beaver State will lead the nation out of the insanity of its current tax system. As someone who's made a career off the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code, I can honestly say that it's a national disgrace. If they simplify it to the point that tax profs are no longer needed, I'll applaud. Maybe I can teach contracts and property law.

We are not alone

Here's a local story from The New York Times -- repeat, The New York Times, not The Oregonian.

What it takes

Don't think you're dealing with the best and the brightest. You're dealing with the available and the willing. One of the basic criteria is warm and vertical. That's optional in some instances.

-- Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Cal.), the "meanest man in Congress," about his colleagues, as he winds up his 28-year House career.

Getting up early

Guess who was visiting here before dawn this morning, viewing the post about Vladimir Golovan:

Nice to see you, visitor, for the good of America...

"Dear Mrs. Claus"

A letter from Jalpuna.

"If anyone can find these guys, it’s them"

Whenever I have questions about climbing mountains, I ask my friend Doug for the true skinny. The three guys currently stuck on the north side of Mount Hood have raised some questions in my mind, and yesterday I asked Doug for his thoughts. Here is what he wrote back:

I don’t know much more about the actual facts and circumstances than has already been reported and continually updated in the various news media. Early December is not typically a good time to climb Hood, in part because what new snow there is has not had an opportunity to consolidate and in part because the weather is so unpredictable. As we know only so well from the OES student disaster ~15 years ago, even a group led by nominally experienced people on the “easy” side of the mountain during the “normal” Spring climbing season can get disoriented in a blizzard whiteout with tragic results. This group is on the more difficult and more isolated side of Hood and, apparently, none of them had ever climbed Hood before (though 14 Rainier ascents, plus European and South American ascents indicates a serious level of climbing experience). Although the reports indicate that they were traveling “light,” because they expected at least a couple nights out on the mountain (I understand that they left Wednesday (?) intending to carry over and be picked up on the other side on Friday) they would likely have had some gear including sleeping bags, bivy sacks or a tent, a stove and fuel, food, etc. Building a snow cave is smart because it is relatively warm and cuts the wind. Climbers have survived weeks in small snow caves near the summit of Denali where it is much, much colder. Unfortunately, the weather does not look particularly good for the foreseeable future, so the rescue efforts (mostly volunteers from groups like Portland Mountain Rescue where one of my checks goes every year) will have a tough time getting up to where the one injured climber is said to be (or seeing anything if and when they get there). As for the other two, if they are still mobile it is somewhat puzzling that they have not made it out (though any mountain in a whiteout is hard to navigate, let alone an unfamiliar one). Even a descent of the North side via Cooper Spur (one reported route option) is not a picnic, especially in these conditions. In good, clear conditions, descent from the summit on the south side can take 2 hours or less for climbers with strong legs (it now takes a gimp like me 3+ hours), more for Cooper Spur, but not 3 days. All in all, I’ve got my fingers crossed that they are all hunkered down and will be found alive. PMR count some of the best Oregon climbers among their ranks, so if anyone can find these guys, it’s them.

Here’s a shot of the north side taken during the Santiam Alpine Club ice climbing seminar last year. One news outlet reported that these guys were attempting to climb the rock gullies in the center of the photo. This time of year, they are full of ice from water melt and, under optimal conditions, can make for a really exhilarating and relatively quick ice climb. As might be obvious, because the gullies go to 60-70 degrees or better in places, under less optimal conditions such as weak snow cover or poor visibility the route can become quite desperate with few options for escape. Cooper Spur is to the left, Elliot Glacier below.

My fingers are crossed and my prayers are with them.

Mine, too. Thanks, Doug.

Monday, December 11, 2006

This could never happen in Salem

Could it?

Boyles campaign investigation: Day 252

Another month has gone by, and a state criminal investigation into possible fraud by Vladimir Golovan (left) in the campaign finance swindle by Portland city commission candidate Emilie Boyles is supposedly continuing. As you may recall, to get Boyles her "clean money," Golovan turned in signatures that by all accounts were fakes, and he claimed to have collected $5 campaign contributions for Boyles from people who later told reporters they made no such donations. Nobody checked the signatures or the stories before forking over $150,000 of tax money to Boyles.

She then took the money and spent a good portion of it on stuff that wasn't allowed under the rules, and when called out on it, she paid back only about half and then skipped town. She's making just a breath over minimum wage in a forlorn portion of eastern Montana now. Who knows what Golovan's doing?

But it's reassuring to know that the rough, tough investigation is continuing. There was supposed to be a grand jury convened last month -- wonder what came of that. Anyway, the important thing is that the "voter-owed elections" system "continues to work."

Tick tock -- or is it tick tick tick?

Where, oh where, are the City of Portland's audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2006? Why is it taking so long for them to be released? Last year, the city's money gurus (one of whom has since abruptly retired) submitted them on December 2; the year before that, on November 3; the year before that, on November 3.

Is there something in there this year that our elected officials and their pricey accountants can't agree on? Is there bad news in there that they don't want us to see right now? They wouldn't purposely delay releasing this document in hopes that it would get lost in Christmas -- would they? (Hey, it works when you're sneaking a methadone clinic into a neighborhood -- thanks, Lolenzo.)

Anyway, the longer we wait, the closer we'll have to pick that one over when it finally sees the light of day. I'm sure lots of drafts have been circulated around City Hall -- any chance that we can see those, fellas?

Buck-a-Hit Day Dec. 19

Next Tuesday (a week from tomorrow) will be the fourth annual Buck-a-Hit Day on this blog. For every unique visit to this blog that day, we'll give $1 to a local charity (up to a pre-set maximum). We're also working on making the process more participatory -- getting readers involved in directing part of the donations, and chipping in themselves. More details will be posted here over the next few days. For now, mark the date and be sure to come by to make us pony up!

I don't think so

would portland be the same city if it were only 7 percent white?

The question is asked today (amidst some smart observations, as usual) by that black girl.

Good, evil, and law school

Here's a most interesting post about academic leadership.

Who reads this blog?

These guys act as if they know, but they don't seem credible to me. (Via TaxProf Blog, where there are no new bowel photos today, thank goodness.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

He who smelt it...

...dealt it. But if it's on a plane, whisper words of wisdom, and let it be. (Via UtterlyBoring.com.)

In the blink of an eye

Yesterday our six-year-old casually mentioned to me, with a grin, that "Mom's hiding stuff in the basement."

God bless us, every one

Here's what the season should be about.

Uh oh

Mom's mad.

Testing, 1-2-3

A reader writes:

What have you been hearing about the free MetroFi wireless cloud? I had a guy tell me he got better-than-promised speeds the other day, but I tried it an hour ago and couldn't get connected at all.

I was down at Roadside Attraction, which is a pretty cool new place in town (SE 12th & Yamhill). Clearly in the heart of the first WiFi area. I click on the little network icon, click on "View Wireless Connections" and click on the free MetroFi. Nothing. Doesn't connect. My wireless card sees the wifi source, but doesn't complete the connection. There was, however, another wireless source in the area, probably a nearby house, and I was able to connect to that and get on the Internet. So I go to the MetroFi page and their help and support section. The instructions they gave for "Windows XP laptop" bore no resemblance to what I had on my Windows XP laptop.

Anyway, I surmise the guys from the Water Bureau are now running the WiFi service.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Campaign of the Year

Cousin Jim over at Parkway Rest Stop has made it to the level of finalist in the prestigious 2006 Weblog Awards. You should vote for him -- he's a helluva writer, and some "farookin'" excellent stuff emerges from his "cruller" from time to time. It's easy to cast your vote -- just click on this:

And come back every day for the next week or so. You can vote once every 24 hours until the election is over. While you're at it, the rest of the award categories can be found here.

Food for thought

Jerry over at the manly knitting blog has a story worth thinking about.

Fun times with Mr. Eng

When I was a kid, my mom worked weekends as a banquet waitress at some of the big hotels in our city, Newark, N.J. It was back-breaking work, but mom and her sister-in-law, Lena (official name: Martha), would do it on many a Friday and Saturday night. Those gals would do anything for their kids.

Portland's own Bill McDonald, of Portland Freelancer fame, has had a side gig as a banquet waiter (and captain) in downtown Portland for years, but the physical rigors of the gig have gotten to him and he's now officially given it up. Which is good news for the blogosphere, because he can now tell some of the inside stories he's got from the many swanky hotel gigs that he's worked. The first installment -- his brush with President Carter -- is here. It's good, but I've got a hunch Bill's just getting warmed up.

Bad night in Hoosierville

Not only did the Blazers lose in Indiana, but self-proclaimed gangsta Zach Randolph responded to a heckler with an obscene gesture and a swear word. Now he's in trouble, again, right when his all-star play on the court could be gaining him new respect. Ah, the Blazers. First they beat the Pistons in Detroit -- a pretty good feat -- then they play the Bucks quite close, only to fall back two steps with this. They've still got some growing up to do.

In other Blazer news, rumor has it that Jamaal Magloire may get shipped to New Jersey (where the Nets are at a crossroads) in exchange for Jason Collins, one of the big man twins out of Stanford.

Time to pay up?

It looks as though something is about to happen in the Oregon Catholic priest child sex abuse cases. The judges who have been beating the parties on their heads to get them to settle the pending cases are planning to attend a press conference on Monday at which a momentous announcement is expected.

We've been following this case closely, finding the church's deadbeat tactics uniformly despicable. To hide behind bankruptcy was a waste of more than 10 million dollars that should have been spent on healing. The last three years have been all about avoiding responsibility and concealing the truth -- which is what most of the plaintiffs were complaining about in the first place. To make all the parishioners in the archdiocese "class action defendants" was a particularly sleazy bit of farce.

It would be great if the victims could be satisfied, and the latest chapter in this very sordid tale closed. The church will have to borrow a bunch of money against its ample real estate assets, and it will take years to pay it all off. That's as it should be. Let us pray that it's so.

UPDATE, 12/11, 11:32 a.m.: It is official.

We all got misty

A trip to the neighborhood library branch with the kids typically yields some music for dad to listen to, and a handful of children's books for us all to share at bedtime. From time to time, the girls' selections, made pretty much at random, turn out awesome.

And so it was with "Desser the Best Ever Cat" by Maggie Smith. Mom and the girls read it one night when I was away. When I got back, they told me that it was great, but they asked me to read it to them because it made them cry. I did as they asked, steeling myself so that I didn't show any emotion. But it was no use. Desser's story is so beautiful, I cried, too. Big, warm tears.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Bright lights, big city

I spent a long weekend, last weekend, in the Big Apple. Having grown up in the shadow of the Manhattan skyscrapers, I always experience a rich spectrum of sensations when I'm back there for a visit. This one was no exception.

Time was short, and so was the agenda. I had a tax conference to attend up around Columbus Circle, and I wanted to squeeze in a visit with some of my Jersey family members if possible. This combination of goals resulted in my taking several rides across the Hudson River on the New York Waterway ferry out of Weehawken -- a spectacular amenity that post-dates my Jersey years by a couple of decades. It's an excellent way to get in and out of the city, and given the clear, calm weather and full moon that marked my stay, it was truly magical. The view of Manhattan that people come from all around the world to get was there for me to enjoy during each short ferry ride, all of which were taken at night.

When you get to the New York side, big, free shuttle buses take you along several of the main midtown streets. I boarded the 42nd Street bus, and it fought through some serious crosstown traffic to take me right to the intersection of 42nd with Seventh Avenue. Times Square, baby, just like you pictured it. I had decided to take a room in the mammoth Marriott right on the square, and wheeling a suitcase and lugging a laptop three blocks through throngs of tourists on a Sunday night was... er, invigorating. It's definitely a place where one wants to keep one's wits about him (or her), but it seemed a whole lot friendlier and safer than it was before Giuliani cleaned it up. Unlike a walk through downtown Portland, I wasn't panhandled once in my day and a half, and thanks to the splendid weather, I did a lot of walking in Hell's Kitchen.

The morning of my conference, I sashayed up the Great White Way to Columbus Circle. This took me past the Ed Sullivan Theater, which brought back memories of my encounters with Dave. The Late Show was in reruns this week, and it was early morning by New York standards, and so the place was deserted. The Hello Deli, where I had shaken hands with Rupert many years ago, looked healthy, but Rock America, the kitsch palace that Mujibur and Sirajul used to haunt, is long gone. It looks as though there may have been a bar in that space recently, but the whole storefront is now soaped up and boarded up. Dave's good influence on his neighborhood goes only so far, it appears.

Curiously, I spent that part of my walk thinking about Bob Borden, the funny ex-blogger who's now got a gig as an in-house comedy writer for Letterman. I also thought about Bob when my sister and I were cruising through Nutley, N.J. on our way elsewhere over the weekend -- Bob and she use the same laundromat, but there's been no rendezvous yet. I'd like to meet Dave in person some day, but I'd take meeting Bob as a close second; am I right, people? It's the little things. I also passed Hurley's Bar a few times -- I think Paul Shaffer, the Late Show orchestra leader, hangs there, but of course, the show being dark for the week, there was no sense looking for him in there.

My other walks in the vicinity of Times Square took me past a number of other great theaters. Nathan Lane and Martin Short are right next to each other. There's a "Tarzan" with music written by Phil Collins (gack), a "Beauty and the Beast," a "Mary Poppins" -- and "The Producers" is still running. To me the vestibule of a Broadway theater is one of the most exciting places on earth.

Upon my arrival at the hotel, I proceeded down to the lobby bar -- lobby, as in on the eighth floor. There I ordered a bourbon Manhattan, and it was so good that I indulged in a second as I shot the breeze about sports with a tech guy from Michigan. The tab for my two cocktails, with tip? Thirty-five bucks. Yikes. And in good conscience, that one couldn't go on the expense account. It was all me.

The emotional highlight of the trip came at my mom's house, where she broke out the old photos. It's really something to be looking at a 75-year-old photograph with somebody who's in the photo. The fading images confirmed for me my perception that I look a lot like my mother's father, and that one of her brothers looked in his younger days like a Bruce Springsteen type. I still hear his central Jersey twang in recordings of some of Springsteen's concert speeches. There were my godparents. There was JFK in that Lincoln, cruising up Fifth Avenue. First Communions. Confirmations. Graduations. The whole works.

Speaking of the heart strings, one thing that really bothered me in the big city was looking at the downtown skyline. It's been five years since the World Trade Center was destroyed, and of course I've seen the cityscape without those buildings many times since (including a few in person). But I saw the financial district from a couple of new angles on this occasion, and what I saw (and didn't see) hit me right in the gut. It's still a spectacular crowd of buildings, but I think the kids who never saw it the old way will find it a more glorious sight than I ever will. I feel the devil's hand on my shoulder when I take it in now. The ultimate in obscenity.

In the end, the trip showed me, probably for the first time, that New York City is just a place -- unique, special, but just space that so many people, even lifelong New Yorkers, pass through. Most of the souls who showed me around the city in the '50s and '60s are gone now, and many aspects of the metropolis that once seemed eternal are nowhere to be found. The Horn & Hardart Automat and Nathan's Coney Island have been replaced by the Virgin Megastore and a McDonald's. Ethel Merman's dead, but Nathan Lane's still going strong. Where have you gone, Mickey Mantle?

And if that impermanence is evident to me in New York City, then it's surely true everywhere on the planet. We're all renters.

On the way out to La Guardia (a grim little airport in a grim little neighborhood), I tipped my hat to the people who dwell in New York now -- all sorts of newcomers since my time, along with those few who remember the same things I do. It's a wonderful locale in a lot of ways. But I stand by my choice of 35 years ago -- the West is the best. The Christmas trees lining the road out of the San Francisco Airport many hours later never looked so good.

The fix is still in

Well, it didn't take long to smoke out who's behind the latest push for the West Burnside "couplet" and all the rest of the shiny mass transit trinkets that go with it. Along with bookstore owner Mike "Small Fry" Powell, who stands to make multi-millions on the deal, we now have none other than Don "The Don" Mazziotti, ousted CEO of the Portland Development Commission, who these days is pulling down a paycheck over at the Schnitzer real estate shop.

Oh, and adding to the hilarity, the Catholic Archdiocese is against the idea, because it would turn the street in front of its cathedral (and attached school) into a major thoroughfare. From yesterday's Catholic Sentinel:

“It’s very concerning to put a major thoroughfare there,” says Delia Wilson, property manager for the archdiocese....

But a powerful pod of business owners and developers supports Adams’ vision. They say the couplet will help commerce, and spawn development between Northwest 15th and 19th.

“We’re going to mend the north-south divide,” says Michael Powell, owner of Powell’s, a large bookstore on West Burnside. “It’s way past time we dealt with it.”

Harsch Investment Properties, which holds 17 million square feet of office and commercial space in the western U.S., is the chief landowner on West Burnside. The firm stands to benefit if the couplet gets built, especially if the project pushes all the way to Northwest 19th.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to make improvements,” says Don Mazziotti, Harsch’s vice president for urban redevelopment and former chief of the Portland Development Commission.

It's nice to see that Sam the Tram still answers to the same people who owned his ex-boss Vera Katz. With the Goldschmidt gang now recruiting the coterie of streetcar freaks, they'll have this nine-figure boondoggle under way faster than Mazziotti can down a steak at Bluehour.

Bully for Boeing

Interesting piece in yesterday's New York Times business section about the Boeing 747. It's making a big comeback -- including as a cargo plane -- while Airbus stumbles badly with its mega-jet, the A380. How quickly times change.

Oregon: Things used to look different here

Here's a revolutionary idea: Tolls on the "freeway" bridges over the Columbia. And it looks like everybody's favorite, the Portland Business Alliance, is pushing for them.

Hey, while we're at it, why not over the Willamette? That was one of Vera's bright ideas. If it were up to her, there would have been a pay turnstile on your garage door. Right along with the parking meters on streets like Hawthorne. You see, we have no money for transportation infrastructure unless it's right next to a condo bunker.

The best part will be when they tell us that the bridge tolls will be "cheap, and temporary." Sure.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Google Search of the Week

I wonder whether the person searching for this found a suitable venue. I nominate the apartments up at the top of Mountain Park. When I lived there, we called it "Divorce Detention Camp."

Where's my can of Raid?

Apparently there's some new comment spam attack under way, screwing things up in the blogosphere, especially for those of us who use Movable Type as our software. Please be patient while we tweak the system yet again to deal with these creeps. Comment capability may be interrupted while we waste more time on this.

If Ron Wyden really wants to save the internet, he needs to criminalize spam, and get serious about enforcement. Otherwise, only big money will be able to have a site where folks can express themselves.

Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if big money were somehow behind the current attacks on the blogosphere. We're terribly inconvenient for them.

From the Dept. of *Way* Too Much Information

People ragged on me last year when I blogged ever-so-tastefully about my then-just-concluded colonoscopy. Well, they sure don't want to head over to TaxProf Blog today, where blogmeister Paul Caron not only shares his scope story but includes with his post a color photo of the inside of his intestine. (NOT LUNCH SAFE!)

In a way, though, it's an appropriate post for a tax lawyer. Paul's piece examining his bowels is right in keeping with his in-depth profiles of the tax-writing committees in Congress.

Dime-dropping dad

What a sad story -- what an awful thing for a father to have to do.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

I'm sure glad...

...that Superinky is blogging again.

Now hear the Word

Here's an interesting one that's circulating around the internet:

Dear child,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking my name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate my birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered any time.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate my birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Now, having said that, let me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting my birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all my followers did that, there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a "holiday tree" instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can and may remember me any time you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish. I actually spoke of that one in a teaching explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks was. If you have forgotten it, look up John 15: 1-8.

If you want to give me a present in remembrance of my birth, here is my wish list. Choose something from it.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way my birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know. They tell me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up... it will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of my birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that's hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile. It could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local hotline. They talk with people like that every day.

7. Instead of nitpicking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day, they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary, especially one who takes my love and good news to those who have never heard my name. You may already know someone like that.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Marines, the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in me. They will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in my presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of myself. Just love me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work. Time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love. And remember,

I love you,

Another cooked report

And you thought the fake-y appraisal of the Portland Police Headquarters block was bad. There's an amazing story by Nigel Jaquiss in today's Willy about some highly irregular goings-on at Portland General Electric. Apparently Standard & Poor's let PGE "redline" a few drafts of what was supposedly an independent S&P report on the company's financial condition. The report was then submitted to the Oregon utility commissioners in a bid to let PGE jack up its electricity rates.

It's a pretty explosive revelation, and a story that should be picked up by the national media. S&P looks as bad as PGE on this one. As one reader here put it this morning, articles like this are "why we keep Nigel around."

No Corinthian leather, either

Willy Week reports today that the cars on the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] have no heat or air conditioning!

Of course not. They cost only $30 million apiece -- what were you expecting?

Yes, we (still) have no bananas

The group that was trying to put together a community-based company to run a market in the empty retail space in the condo bunker at NE 16th and Broadway in Portland has failed to raise the capital it needed to activate a lease on the space. They're refunding the money they've raised so far, according to this story in today's O.

They say they'll be back, and I hope they are. I also hope they come up with a slightly more sophisticated capital campaign than going door to door in the neighborhood, seeking $1,000 investments based on a porch flyer.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

"Yakitori"? Ewwww

I knew there was something up with that...

Gig generator

Here's an ad for another job connected with the OHSU Health Club aerial tram [rim shot]. Another step toward full employment for the "creative class."

Format C:

Here at Blog Central we've been working on our annual charity day, which will be coming up between now and Christmas. For the past three years, we've combined narcissism with philanthropy via Buck-a-Hit Day, in which we gave $1 for every unique visit to this blog in a single day, up to a pre-set maximum.

Last year we hit the max ($1,250) by 3:00 in the afternoon, and this year we won't be able to raise the dollar ceiling much, if at all. So there's no longer much suspense in that format.

I'm thinking about asking a little more of my readers this year. My current idea is to make it Buck-a-Comment Day -- to get me to give a buck to charity, readers will not only have to show up but also be required to leave a comment appropriate to the holiday season.

As with last year, I'm also currently inclined to make the last $250 a match -- we'll match what readers give, up to that amount. To reach the max, therefore, it would take 1,000 comments and $250 in cash from you folks.

Anyway, I have found that readers have a better sense of these things than I do. Short of giving readers the money and having them give it away, Oprah-style, how can I best get my blogging audience involved in my year-end charity donations? Rather than rewarding good comments, should I ask the readers to somehow help me allocate the overall donations among charities?

Call your legislator (the Maui area code is 808)

Sean Cruz suggests that the State of Oregon outlaw predatory patrol towing by those weaselly tow truck operators. I'm down with that. And I urge the Portland City Council, which is no doubt busy at the moment drafting an ordinance condemning evil generally, to get on the ball and write up some "safety-related" ordinances (wink, wink) to the same effect. Or at least pass a resolution urging the Salem crew to do the same right after they pile out of that funny car.

Aw rooty

Happy birthday to Reverend Penniman.

One way to burn money

The dopey Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet" idea is back, and Sam the Tram will be out there shilling for it tomorrow, according to the Trib. The current liars' budget puts the cost at $80 million -- up from the $40 million to $50 million they were crossing their fingers and winking about four years ago.

Who really wants this? Mike Powell and the condo tower boys. They'd like to build a wall of them along the south side of West Burnside, I suspect. There's also a streetcar in the picture now, which will get those L.A. blue hairs up here writing earnest money checks lickety-split.

I don't know what's new about all this that Trammy has to get his mug on TV again about it. It's been approved by the City Council since way back when he was working on Vera Katz's "economic development" projects (and what a fine job he and she did).

This is just another waste of scarce public money for the benefit of very few. God forbid we use that kind of dough to keep poor guys like Jim Jim Chasse on their meds and off the mall.

Monday, December 4, 2006

PDC art is to art...

...as PDC finance is to finance.

Down to earth

Now that the OHSU Health Club aerial tram [rim shot] has been unwrapped and the keys turned over to the hospital bigwigs, attention is turning to the backup transit system that will shuttle passengers between Pill Hill and the SoWhat district when the tram is unable to run (which I suspect will be often). Although it's far less glamorous than the clips of the Floating Twinkies, they have been shooting video of some of the test runs of the backup system, and they can be found here. (It's a pretty noisy video, though, and so you may want to turn the sound down a little.)

They've got good taste

The Kennedy Center Award winners honored last night included this guy and this gal. Two of the true greats.

Don't hit the snooze button too many times

In the middle of some regular music on the radio this morning, on popped that infernal Paul McCartney Christmas song, and it reminded me, hey, it's that time. Or it's supposed to be. My holiday thing is definitely not in gear yet, and I had better give it a kick start soon.

Then I'm at a tax conference and some guy's up there talking about a 2007 effective date for a new rule. It takes a minute for it to dawn on me that that's less than a month away. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, kids. Time's flying by this geezer-boomer.

Linchpin to buffness

When Portland taxpayers were signed up by Commissioners Sten, Saltzman and the rest to spend hundreds of millions to develop the SoWhat district, we were promised high-tech jobs and a mixed neighborhood to go with the aerial tram [rim shot]. Plus, it would keep OHSU from packing up and moving to Hillsboro.

Instead of what was promised, we got toney condos, a $7 million patch of grass for poodle poop, and one "medical" building. Ah, but what a building it is, including a "wellness center" that's as cushy as a health club, only more so. Here's a piece of an e-mail that went around to some OHSU folks last week:

This weekend, one of the major program areas opens on the south waterfront in Portland. It is the Center for Health and Healing. The first two plus floors of this building is m a r c h wellness. It is managed by the School of Nursing. I feel proud that I have had a great part in this: the literature review, the brand and brand frame, the program assessments, the meeting with the public and clinicians to see what they want and what they think their clients can use for support, choosing equipment, hiring the program leaders. It is a state of the art medical wellness center. It is not your typical health club, although it has all of the nice features of very good health clubs. There is a lane pool, large jacuzzi and medical soaking pool. There are large locker rooms, four large and medium size fitness rooms, state of the art Life Fitness equipment and a wonderful SPA. I found one of the best aestheticians in our community as part of the core team. We will have nurse coaches and specifically skilled and credentialed trainers. We will have core memberships and a medical membership.We will have programming to include yoga, tai chi, dance, lectures on cardiac health, preventive risks, heartiness, and a teaching kitchen. One of the public open houses is this Sunday from 1 PM to 3 PM. Tell all of your friends and bring your families.
You wonder how many of those "core memberships" will come from the ranks of the condo dwellers. In any event, it's a good thing we spent the billion down there. The city would have fallen apart if the bikini waxes, tai chi lessons, and cooking classes had been held in Hillsboro.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Sounds about right

I am nerdier than 58% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Proof of the existence of God

I was always able to reason my way to it, but even the skeptics have to believe after this.

Can't find a citation for this one

Conversation with Mom tends to have a few Bible references thrown in here and there. For years she would be the one interjecting them, but as time has gone in, we kids have been known to break the ice.

Tonight, though, Mom let loose with one of her better quotations from the good book: "Faith without good works is sh*t."

Why? Because they're better than you

Interesting tidibit at the end of this story on LocalNewsDaily:

OHSU staff will begin riding the tram in mid-December.

It will open to the public in late January.

Six weeks to have it all to themselves. And promptly thereafter, the whining by OHSU will begin. "There are too many tourists... We have to restrict the public to our off-hours... We need to give rush-rush priority seating to OHSU personnel and patients... Especially the ones using the three new surface lots down in SoWhat as a park-and-ride..."

You paid for much of it, Portlanders, and technically you own it. But. There's always a but.


A couple of summers back, I wondered whatever had happened to 7-Up, a favorite soda pop of my childhood. At the time, it appeared that nothing had happened to it, other than a falling market share.

But this week, I pushed past the Sprite at the grocery store and actually got my hand on a can of 7-Up, and now something has happened. It tastes different. According to the can, it's now "100% natural." Of course, coming from a big corporation, the word "natural" can't be trusted, but there's no question that the flavor has morphed. Now 7-Up tastes more like Hansen's, or even Limonata, than like Sprite.

Friday, December 1, 2006

A hideous stench

The dirt in that Portland Development Commission "linchpin" scam involving the Police Headquarters block is getting more interesting. Now it turns out that the PDC let the developer who wanted to acquire the property dictate how the appraiser hired by the PDC was going to appraise it -- all the way down to telling him which appraisal methodology to use. Here's how the O plays it today:

The documents released Wednesday show that Trammell Crow's Tom DiChiara drafted "appraisal instructions" for the public-private deal in May 2005. Those instructions included taking a project-specific "land residual" approach that resulted in the negative appraisal. Development commission officials edited the instructions and sent them to appraiser John Ingle, then of PGP Valuation.
The PDC might as well have forgone the appraisal altogether, and just let Trammell Crow name its price. To let the buyer determine the appraisal technique is preposterous -- if it isn't criminal, it ought to be.
But development commission officials said that working with the developer to reach agreement on the appraisal instructions is routine in public-private deals.
Wow. There's an interesting ethical system. "We do it all the time, so there can't be anything wrong with it."

And any appraiser who would let the client or the client's buyer tell him which appraisal method should be used is a... well, let's put it this way: That appraiser should go stand under a red light.

Just more evidence that the PDC should be converted into a regular city agency, where we can all keep a closer eye on it. Even if they make nicey-nicey for a while as a result of this scandal, it's just a matter of time before they revert to their old ways. It's called human nature. And Portland "urban renewal" is a huge but dangerously obscure pot of public money waiting to be stolen.

Wave bye-bye

Sad news from the entertainment world: Greg, the lead singer of the Wiggles, the favorite singing group of countless toddlers, is quitting the band, for health reasons. Nothing too serious, but he can't perform without feeling sick. Too bad -- his smile beaming out over that bright yellow shirt makes hot numbers like "Fruit Salad" and "Wake Up Jeff" really take off. We love the "Wiggies," as our oldest used to call them. It won't be the same without Greg (although the Mrs. has always thought Anthony, right, in the blue shirt, is more of a hottie).

Apparently the band is auditioning possible replacements for Greg. Among those who have already been rejected:

And hey -- shouldn't there be a female Wiggle?

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