Friday, November 13, 2009


I've always been fascinated by the internet, particularly things like google. It's difficult to wrap my brain around the concept of millions of people doing millions of searches all the time. I've read about some of the large server facilities - huge warehouse buildings filled with computers and HVAC systems, humming away 24/7, using massive amounts of electricity. The Cloud.

So it was with awe and wonder that I made a discovery today that set my imagination whirling. I checked the traffic on my blog using StatCounter; I do this once in awhile just to see where the hits (the few I get) are from. StatCounter has a google maps link that displays a symbol on a world map for the location of every server from which my blog has been visited during the past few weeks. (I use the free version of StatCounter, so I have a limited amount of data storage.) There are a lot of symbols from all over the world displayed today for my blog - cool.

Then I looked at the statistics display that lists the city and country for each hit, and for most hits the post that was viewed. And there it was, a wondrous mystery of the internet unfolding before my eyes. Of the 48 hits listed for October and November (I told you, it's not a popular blog...), 16 - that's one third - were on a post I'd made on February 28, 2009, over 8 months ago! And what was this suddenly popular (relatively) post? It was The Importance of being Phlegmish, of course!

These hits on my phlegm post were from:
Albuquerque, New Mexico USA
Bronx, New York USA
Portland, Oregon USA
San Antonio, Texas USA
Vienna, Austria
Winnipeg Canada
Lawrence, Massachusetts USA
Littleton, Colorado USA
Artarmon, New South Wales Australia
Middleton, Ohio USA
Boulder, Colorado USA
Fort Wayne, Indiana USA
Kenya (no city listed)
Chatham, New Jersey USA
Killingworth, Connecticutt USA
Louisville, Kentucky USA

Once my laughter subsided, I began to investigate further. For many of these hits, StatCounter shows a link for the source, and these in turn show what search terms led the searcher to my post. I looked at a number of these links. One search was for "coughing up clear sticky fluid in the morning." Seems obvious enough. But the majority were for: "old man lucas had a lot of mucus." Yes, the title of a song by Kinky Friedman, often performed by Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jew Boys. (By the way, looks like Kinky is running for Governor of Texas in 2010.) I mentioned Kinky and his song in the Phlegmish post.

So I know what people were searching for, but why? Why are so many (again, this is relative) people looking on the internet for a song by Kinky Friedman about an old man with a lot of mucus? It remains a mystery, but here's my guess: some world radio program or internet site did a story about Kinky Friedman, and played or mentioned his famous song (you've heard it many times, right?). And this prompted folks to search for it on the internet. And their search led some of them to my humble blog.

I only hope that these people I don't know from far corners of the Earth read the post, instead of clicking away from it without stopping to read it, to learn a little bit about me, to marvel themselves about the wonders of the internet, a place where weirdos can post strange scribblings that are forever out there, in the Cloud, 24/7 - until the world goes dark.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Folks - we need to chill out, and we need to heat it up. I, like many of you, am a news junkie. I read the newspaper every day (well, almost every day), and I usually end up being upset, pissed off, and gloomy about the state of the world around me. (In fairness, I sometimes find articles about good things happening, and this lifts my spirits.)

But I have to tell you, the incessant chatter about "Obama is not doing such and such," and "Obama isn't keeping his campaign promise about so and so," is starting to get on my nerves. Yeah, I have some questions about what the guy is doing and why, but then - hang on a second - look at what he inherited from the Cheney-Bush Cabal. I'm serious about this; Cheney and little Bush wreaked incredible havoc on this country and this world, and these things don't just go away on the day a new administration is sworn in. If we stop for a minute and consider the state of affairs Obama inherited, it's a wonder the man isn't just wandering around in circles babbling incoherently to himself!!

The Obama administration has been in office for 10 months, that's 10.4% (one tenth) the time Cheney-Bush was in office. Look carefully at the Obama administration record to date; they have accomplished a lot, considering the mess they walked into. We elected Obama; now we need to give him our continuing support. Will he always do everything each of us wants? No. Will he be as progressive, liberal, radical or whatever each of us wants him to be? Never. Will he represent the values and goals of the people who elected him better than Cheney-Bush did? Every time!!

So people, let's chill out in the ranting and raving and bloviating department, and let's heat up in the activism department. The Republican Party, and especially the right wing of the Party, have truly lost their way - or maybe they've found their way - when it comes to the good of the people. But if we sit back and let them grab the headlines, let them sow the seeds of doubt, let them control the conversation, well....then they'll win the game. If we let down our guard, they win. And we know the kind of world they want - we lived in it for eight long, brutal years.

Yes we can. Yes we will. Keep saying it - keep doing it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Do Frogs get Lonely?

One day last summer, Sherry came back from the Fred Meyer garden store with a tray of small bedding plants. When we removed the small plastic pots from the cardboard tray, there was a small green frog huddling in the corner. It was a chorus frog (formerly known as a tree frog). The plants were from a nursery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and this is a native species. Well, we don't keep pets anymore, and we live in a very urban area, so what to do with the little guy/girl? I carried her/him to the backyard, our Garden of Tranquility, and released him/her on a flat rock in our water feature. She/he crawled under a rock and hasn't been seen since.

However, over the past few weeks, there is a frog calling from the corner of the Garden of Tranquility where the water feature is. It's a very plaintive call, almost haunting in it's loneliness. Is our frog lonely? Is it trying to find a companion, a mate? What should we do to help? Is it legal for me to capture another wild chorus frog for our garden, and if so, how do I know if we need a male or female - how do we even tell the difference?? Life has knotty problems.

Eats Shoots and Leaves

A panda walks into a bar...... Well, no, actually that's just a joke. But I think about pandas every time I have to thin our bamboo landscape screen next to the house. Bamboo is an amazing grass. Ours, the black bamboo, sends new shoots out of the ground every May (we call them "the Aliens"), and these things grow about 10 feet in 3 weeks. Amazing! Every year I spend a day or more thinning - which is the easy part. Then I have to cut the bamboo thinnings into pieces small enough to fit in the green yard debris recycling can. This takes hours of tedious work.

Our sister-in-law Jill volunteers at the zoo. I asked her once to ask the zoo folks if they want my bamboo cuttings for the pandas, or the giraffes, or anyone. I knew they wouldn't - and they didn't - because, well, how do they know I haven't sprayed the heck out of the bamboo with poison?

I need a panda. Not as a pet - remember, we don't do pets anymore - but maybe once or twice a year. A panda yardwork helper, with an appetite. Anybosy know one I can call?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


OK, this is a confession - I think I've committed a crime against the environment, but I'm not sure.

I was puttering around the house the other day, and looked under a bathroom sink for something. For some reason, I decided to take everything out from under the sink - you know - cleaning mode set in. And there they were, several almost-empty plastic bottles of shampoo, liquid soap, hair conditioner. I hesitated. The correct thing to do is rinse them thoroughly and recycle them. But it takes a lot of time, and water, to get all that sudsy stuff out of each bottle. "Which is worse" I pondered, "throwing the bottles in the trash (egads), or using so much water?"

I threw them in the trash, thus saving water and time.

But now I feel guilty. Every time I hear a car door close outside our house I get nervous - is it the Portland Eco Cops? Will they just give me a warning, or will I do hard time? What should I plead: temporary insanity? Conflict of eco-logic? Not guilty? Or should I confess my crimes and take whatever punishment I deserve?

Oops....gotta go hide, I just heard a car door slam.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


The power went out for about 30 seconds this morning. Now I'm sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, reading the NY Times, and trying to ignore all the damn blinking digital clocks!! From where I'm sitting I can see 4 appliances blinking at me, begging - no, nagging me to reset them. Luckily we have one battery powered clock on the kitchen wall, so I know what time it is. Now, the age-old question, can I get all the digital readouts to display the exact same time?

I'll then need to go through the house and reset the DVD player, the clock radio in each bedroom, and other gadgets I can't remember we have. (Actually, I have a confession - I have never set the clock display on the DVD player, so it always just displays "12:00....12:00....12:00....12:00.....")

If I ever go shopping again for an appliance with a digital read out, I'm going to look for one that has a setting for "Turn Off the Damn Digital Clock." I don't need these. I don't want these. I'm tired of paying for the electricity they use.

Oh well, it's a beautiful cold, crisp, grey Portland autumn morning. I'll just relax with my second cuppa, and.....blink.....blink.....blink.....blink.....blink.....blink.....blink.....blink.............

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


David Byrne is speaking right now at the Bagdad Theater near our house. I like David Byrne, although I'm not that familiar with his work after Talking Heads. He's speaking about bicycling tonight - it figures - right here in "The Amsterdamn of America."

But here's my beef: David is one of many film personalities who signed an open letter protesting the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for highlighting the city of Tel Aviv, Israel. Some filmmakers withdrew their films in protest. It's complex, of course, but to me the underlying issue is censorship with a political motive. The signers of the open letter, a lot of familiar film personalities, take issue with TIFF spotlighting Tel Aviv because they felt this plays into Israeli propaganda, Israel is an apartheid nation, Israel mistreats Palestinians, etc. No matter that some of the Israeli films are critical of Israel.

I have not understood the movement by some to protest and censor academic and artistic work by Israelis. Some academics have protested the inclusion of Israeli colleagues at professional meetings, as if Israeli scholars are the same as the Israeli government or policies. I think this kind of "political action" is narrow-minded and misplaced. The greater danger is that it fans the flames of anti-Semitism, which has been surging world-wide recently - and yes, even here in the U.S. (just ask any Jewish student at Portland State University, Lewis and Clark College, etc.).

As I've said before on this blog, the Israel-Palestinian situation is very complex, and it's easy to pick out the bad guy and side with the underdog. But guess what folks - reality isn't that simple. The good are bad and the bad are good, there's ample blame to go around, and a solution is, in my mind, not going to happen in our lifetimes.

So let's get back to David Byrne. By his own reasoning (and that of the other signers of the letter), we should boycott his works because he is from a country that tortures prisoners, illegally invades and occupies sovereign nations based on lies, is guilty of numerous human rights abuses, refuses to sign important international treaties, is the largest supplier of weapons to the world....shall I continue?

Let's support free expression, and let's not drag art into the mud of global politics.

Friday, September 04, 2009


I didn't know Alexander Hernandez-Apale, I only saw his name and photo in the newspaper one morning. He was a young man with a pleasant smile in the photo accompanying the article about his death. Alexander was almost 19 years old. He was attacked by two teen gangsters who probably thought he was in another gang, and they stabbed him to death on the street. Alexander was not in a gang - he was a victim of random violence on the streets of Beaverton, Oregon.

We read about and see death every day in the media, so much so that I think we - I - become habituated to the point of either ignoring or accepting it as "normal." I can't explain why this particular death grabbed me the way it did. Maybe it's because I have a teenage grandson; maybe it's because I took the time to read the entire article and in a small way got to know this young man, and could feel the pain and heartbreak in his parents' words.

In addition to the sadness I feel for Alexander, his family and friends, I am profoundly
perplexed by the capacity of humans to enact this kind of senseless brutality. What part of the human mind allows people to kill?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I'm a Senior Citizen, 65 years old, and I'm concerned about the state of health care in this country. In order to make wise decisions, I found on the internet H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.

H.R. 3200 is a very long and comprehensive piece of legislation, but it contains important rules. I looked at it from my perspective as a senior citizen, and what I found is disturbing.

Some examples:

Section 102 - Protecting the Choice to keep Current Coverage - Persons with existing health insurance shall have the right to keep said insurance, except in the case of Senior Citizens, who will, upon application to keep current coverage, be taken out back and shot.

Section 111 - Prohibiting Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions - No person shall be excluded from coverage becaue of pre-existing conditions, with the exception of Senior Citizens, who upon application will be taken out back and stabbed repeatedly until dead.

Section 123 - Health Benefits Advisory Committee - applicants for health insurance shall have the opportunity to consult with a Health Benefits Advisory Committee, with the exception of Senior Citizens, who will be immediately referred to the Old Persons Death Panel for interview, after which they shall be taken out back and hanged from the ankles until dead.

Section 137 - Application of Administrative Simplification - for purposes of Administrative Simplification, all persons age 65 or older will be taken out back and hit over the head with a brick until dead.

Section 144 - Health Insurance Ombudsman - the Health Insurance Ombudsman shall resolve all conflicts between insurers and insured, except in the case where the insured is a Senior Citizen, in which case the Health Insurance Ombudsman shall immediately take such Senior Citizen out back and run them over with a bus until dead.

Section 152 - Prohibition of Discrimination in Health Care - there shall be no discrimination in health care, except in the case of Senior Citizens who shall be discriminated against, and then taken out back and buried alive until dead.

Section 155 - Severability - there shall be no severability, except in the case of Senior Citizens, who shall be taken out back and have their heads severed from their bodies.

Section 226 - Application of Fraud and Abuse Provisions - there shall be no fraud and abuse in health care, except in the case of Senior Citizens, who shall be fraudulently taken out back and abused until dead.

These provisions, and many others, of the AAHCA of 2009 are disturbing, but we need drastic reform of our health care system, and some of us will need to make sacrifices. I'm putting my papers in order......

Saturday, August 08, 2009


A bunch of media articles have been published about the scant environmental benefits of the Cash for Clunkers program, not to mention that it kind of flies in the face of "reduce, reuse, recycle" if the "clunkers" in question are 1990's models that run perfectly well. The whole thing kinda smells boondoggle to me.

I think this is really another stimulus program for the auto industry, which isn't totally a bad idea, I suppose. And heck, the scrap yards have to be loving it, too.

As of Wednesday, according to an article in The Oregonian, the top clunker trade-ins are:
1. Ford Explorer 4WD,
2. Ford F150 pickup 2WD,
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD,
4. Jeep Cherokee 4WD,
5. Dodge Caraven/Grand Caravan 2WD,
6. Ford Explorer 2WD,
7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD,
8. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD,
9. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD,
10. Ford Windstar FWD Van.

Earth to Detroit. Earth to Detroit. Do you copy????

And what are clunker-trader-iners buying? Here's the list:
1. Toyota Corolla
2. Ford Focus
3. Honda Civic
4. Toyota Prius
5. Toyota Camry
6. Hyundai Elantra
7. Ford Escape 4WD
8. Dodge Caliber
9. Honda Fit
10. Chevrolet Cobalt

So folks are trading in SUVs, trucks and vans for smaller vehicles. Good trend. There are certainly people who need a larger or 4WD vehicle, but not for running to the store, going to work, etc.

I've always wondered how Detroit convinced consumers to buy these gas guzzlers in the first place. Let's dial back some years and take a peek into one of the Detroit Board Rooms, where a group of execs, almost all older men, are trying to figure out how to make money from a big vehicle.

Gentlemen, we've gotten all tooled up to manufacture these monster HumVees for the Pentagon, and there has to be a way to sell more of them.

Hmmmm, well Jim, maybe there's a way we can get consumers to buy them for a
whole lot of money.

Wow, great idea John, maybe we could re-tool a bit and make them a bit more stylish, you know, leather seats, bright paint, lots of chrome - or better yet - black metal bars all over it.

Yeah, yeah...but it has to appeal to people with big money and, you know, it's gotta be sexy somehow.

Hey guys, what if we gave a couple of them to a prominent person, someone with popular appeal as a real man, like maybe a weight lifter-actor kind of guy.



Arnold, you know, Conan the Terminator.

Oh yeah, great idea.

But how do we broaden the appeal? Maybe even get women to buy in?

Easy. Look, guys will buy them because they exhibit power and domination, you know, the penis thing. "Hey, look at me, I'm drivin' a huge monster military machine; I'm powerful; I got a big dick!"

Yeah. And women will buy in out of penis envy - "Hey! Look at me, I'm just like a man, don't fuck with me or I'll fuck you up; brother!"

OK folks, I think we're on to something here. Now we just need to come up with a name, something that relates to the HumVee, that exhibits power, that invokes penis power and penis envy.....

What about.....the Hummer?


Friday, July 17, 2009


To the Ninja Biker
who ran the red light after dark
speeding across SE Grand
coming off the Hawthorne Bridge.

To the Ninja Biker
wearing all black
on a black bike
with no lights

Where does your
death wish
come from?

Where does your
disdain for the
rules of
the road
come from?

I know you
Ninja Biker.

You're the one
who almost runs me
off the road
with no warning
as you pass me.

You're the one
who responds to
this biker's
gentle suggestion
"please make some
noise before
you pass"
with a raised
middle finger
a "fuck you,
you're too slow
get out of the way -
old man!"

I don't hate you
Ninja Biker.

I might even
mourn you
if you get


Monday, July 13, 2009


General Motors has emerged from bankruptcy as a new company with 60 percent ownership by you and me, the taxpayers of the USA. And the new GM has a big hit in its showrooms, a car that in June sold more than either the Buick or Cadillac divisions sold. Is it an electric car? Is it a hybrid sedan that gets 50+ mpg? Nope. It's the Camaro - a retro muscle car that gets 22 mpg city/highway combined. So what's new?

In my opinion it's very telling about Americans when the largest auto maker comes out of bankruptcy as a new and improved company, and what consumers want is a gas-guzzler muscle car made in Canada. The Camaro "is winning over consumers looking for a little excitement in a bland landscape of look-alike sedans and watered-down sport utilities" ((NYT News Service). And so the beat goes on - we'll continue to drive ourselves off an environmental cliff as long as it's an exciting ride.

Someone please tell me how to explain this one to my grandkids.

Friday, July 10, 2009


An article inside the newspaper today reminded me that the people of Iran are still struggling for democracy, even in the face of brutal repression by their government. While western governments ponder the political implications of what they say and do, we the people can lend our support to the brave men, women and children who once again have taken to the streets to protest the recent election - and their incresingly dictatorial government.

What can we do as individuals? We can use the internet as a tool. We can also participate in public demonstrations of support.

Google around on the internet and you'll find many blogs by Iranians (inside and outside Iran).

Here are a couple of links:

United 4 Iran is planning an international day of support on July 25. Look on their website to see if something is planned in your city.

Here's a link to a directory of Iranian's blogs.

One of the new realities of the 21st century is that globalization makes it very difficult for brutal regimes to hide their violations of human rights - bloggers, texting, FaceBook, YouTube and other products of technology allow anyone to be a reporter of current events.

Support the people of Iran.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


This just looks like a lot of fun! These folks launch from and return to the beach in their dories. The fishing that day was mostly for silver salmon, with a few rockfish and lingcod also being caught. A perfect day to be on the Pacific Ocean. And a fun ride to get back home.



The columnist Gail Collins wondered about this recently, and she got me thinking. Is there some strange new disease that only affects governors that is spreading thoughout the United States? Recent events suggest this might be the case: Elliot Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich, Mark Sanford, and now the darling of the GOP, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

The symptoms of this illness appear to include either sexual infidelity, manic weirdness, or both. With Spitzer it was sex. With Blago it was total weirdness. Sanford's symptoms appear to be a combination of these - lots of extra-marital sex, and non-stop public blathering about intimate details better left unspoken in public.

And now comes Governor Palin. Seriously, if you haven't seen it, google "palin resignation" and watch the video of her speech. It is stream-of-consciousness babbling taken to the n-th degree. I watched and listened to it, but I had no idea what the hell she was talking about! It's almost as if she is actually a programmed android whose operating system is fried.

Oh-oh...maybe I'm on to something here. Maybe these governors are androids that have been substituted for the real people. By Martians? By terrorists? Have the FBI, NSA, CIA, HSA investigated this? Or are they all in on it? Now I'm scared.


I haven't posted here since mid-April of this year, almost three months. I think about it all the time; I even outline posts in my mind, sometimes writing notes on a scrap of paper. But here I am, on July 4, finally opening the blogger site and writing. What's with this?

I have somehow lost my blogarhythm.

Perhaps I'm suffering from input overload, at least that's one theory. I don't read the NY Times as much as I used to; I don't get to every issue of the Progressive that arrives in the mail; I don't jump around the web looking for the latest happenings. I want to, but I'm tired. Maybe Lily Tomlin had it right: "no matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up!"

So I'm going to try to get my blogarhythm back - maybe I just need a jump start. And I'm going to try to mix it up a bit: politics, philosophizing, art, interesting tidbits. Let's see if I can get this going again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Bloggers note: I previously transcribed a post from Sammy C. Lyon in January, 2008 in which he talked about the federal government issuing a death warrant for Sammy and his kind. I saw Sammy the other day while kayaking the Columbia River near Portland, and I could tell right away that he was very upset. Following is the post he dictated to me.

This is Sammy C. Lyon, resident of the Pacific Ocean. My family and friends are grieving over the death of my Uncle, Jack. C. Lyon. Uncle Jack was my favorite uncle, ever since I was a pup. He always told the best stories of his exploits along the eastern coast of the Pacific Ocean, his visits to California, his occasional trips to Canada and Alaska, and his discovery of the great salmon feed up the Columbia River at the Bonneville Dam. It was Uncle Jack who first told us the oral histories of our clan, going back in time to the days when the coasts were dark with huge trees, when food was plentiful, including millions of salmon, and the Machines had not yet been seen. Our ancestors, Uncle Jack told us, lived up and down the coast in great numbers, living off the bounty of nature. He told us about how our ancestors swam up the mighty river, now known as the Columbia, to follow the salmon, and gathered at the base of the Great Waterfalls to feed on the fat fish. The First People were also there, sharing the fat salmon with us. But the Great Waterfalls disappeared one day, so the story is told, and our ancestors could no longer feed there.

It was Uncle Jack who helped re-discover the salmon feast up the Great River. He and some friends decided to go up the river about 10 years ago, following some salmon. They made a great discovery, what they at first thought was the Great Waterfalls, where many, many fat salmon were gathered, trying to go further upstream. We now know that this place they discovered is called Bonneville Dam, something built by the Machine Builders; but as far as we're concerned, it is like the Great Waterfalls, a place for the annual salmon feed.

Uncle Jack was captured by the Machine Builders a few years ago, and was branded on his back with the symbols C265. This was very embarrassing for Uncle Jack, and he was never quite the same afterwards, tending to keep to himself as much as possible. I went up to the Bonneville Dam with Uncle Jack a few times. The salmon were fat and plentiful, and we ate our fill. But it wasn't as fun as I thought it would be. The Machine Builders kept throwing things at us that made loud noises, and they shot things at us that hurt if we got hit. It's almost as if the Machine Builders don't want to share the salmon with us like the First People did.

The last time I saw Uncle Jack, he was caught in some kind of trap and couldn't get out. We all tried to get it open, but it was no use. Then the Machine Builders came and took Uncle Jack away - we haven't seen him since, and we think he's dead.

I don't understand why the Machine Builders are so selfish; after all, they catch and eat thousands more salmon than we do every year. Some of my other friends and relatives have disappeared after being caught in those traps, and it scares me. We're just doing what we've done for millennia - it's the Machine Builders who have changed so many things in our world.

I only wish the Machine Builders understood us better, and I wish they had taken time to get to know Uncle Jack - but the truth is, I don't think they really know Jack.

[bloggers note: Jack C. Lyon was killed by federal officials in March after being trapped below the Bonneville Dam. His skeleton was saved for research; the rest of him was shipped to a rendering plant in Tacoma, Washington.]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Ah, good old Bank of America, one of the largest financial institutions on the world. They're also a bunch of crooks!

It took me quite a long time to find a number for the amount of taxpayer money has been handed to Bank of America. I finally found a January, 2009 article on that listed the amount of bailout money given to Bank of America as $45,000,000,000 (45 billion).

In the mail today, we received a notice from Bank of America that they are raising the fees for a number of credit card transactions: ATM cash advances, balance transfers, bank cash advances, cash equivalents, check cash advances, direct deposit cash advances, wire transfer purchases.

The new transaction fee for the above will be 4% of each transaction, with a minimum of $10. So if you go to the ATM machine or walk into a BofA bank to get $100 cash with your BofA credit card, they will charge you 4% (4 dollars) - but wait, it will actually be 10% because the minimum fee is $10.

They are also expanding the definition of "foreign transactions" to include transactions in U.S. dollars made outside of the United States (this includes online purchases from foreign merchants). Bank of America will now get 3% on any of these transactions.

Doesn't it make you proud that $45 billion of our tax dollars went to Bank of America, and they thank us by raising the fees on our credit card transactions?

These folks are slime - sorry, but it's true. I recently caught them red-handed trying to cheat us out of $40. A $40 "late payment" fee showed up on a recent credit card statement from BofA. I called them to ask about this. We pay bills electronically, and the electronic payment was made about 3 days prior to the payment due date. But what I was told was that the payment wasn't posted by BofA until several days after the payment due date, therefore it was a late payment. It is up to me, I was told, to get the payment to Bank of America early enough to be posted. I didn't agree - if the payment was made electronically (i.e. instantaneously) then the day it was paid is the day it was paid. They did me a favor and credited the amount of the late fee!

I'd like to know why the government is giving these folks billions of dollars, and they turn around and raise their fees, and try to cheat people a few dollars at a time. Let's have some real regulation here.

(A day later: oh yes, I forgot. Another full-page add today in the NY Times by Bank of America telling us all how wonderful they are. My sources say that an ad like this is easily $100,000. No wonder they want more from me in the way of fees.)

Friday, April 03, 2009


The just released report, State of the Birds is a beautiful report that catalogues the alarming decline of bird species in the United States. There are a few exceptions, on a habitat basis, such as waterfowl and other species associated with wetlands, for which conservation efforts seem to be helping.

Here at our very urban home we put out a seed mix and suet cake for our fine feathered friends, and a few furry ones as well. If you know me at all, you have guessed that I keep a list, and here it is:

Oregon junco*
Scrub jay*
Black-capped chickadee*
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Western tanager
Pine siskin
Audubons warbler
House finch
House sparrow*
American goldfinch
Anna's hummingbird
American robin
American crow
Northern flicker
Downy woodpecker
European starling*
Sharp-shinned hawk
(overhead: Red-tailed hawk, Great blue heron)

* these are the most frequently seen, and are here throughout the year. Some are occasional seasonal visitors. The Sharp-shinned hawk was heard before it was seen - a bone-crunching sound - it was sitting on the back fence eating a small bird (a starling, we hope).

This isn't a huge list of species by any means, but it's many more than we thought we'd see here after moving from a more forested neighborhood a few years ago.

And oh yes, the furry visitors: some big red squirrels eat a major share of the seed. There was also a young opossum walking along the top of the back fence one evening. And our neighbors fought a battle with raccoons who came into their yard at night and rolled up the newly placed grass sod to get at the worms and bugs underneath.

I've sometimes wondered if feeding the birds is a good thing or not; maybe we shouldn't make the birds dependent on us for their food, you now, let nature be nature. But, on the other hand, this neighborhood used to be forest, and humans are part of nature, so feeding them is a good thing. It's hard to imagine a world without birds.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I miss old Lord Darth Cheney - the guy I loved to hate while he was Veep. But wait, there's more: Darth is still at it, dissing Obama on T.V., issuing dire warnings - in that deep, scary, gravelly Darth voice - that the bad guys are going to get us because Obama ad the Dems are soft on terrorism; defending his OK of torture because of all the terrible attacks that were averted (we're all waiting for some proof of that).

And now, according to journalist Seymore Hersh in the NY Times, Lord Darth Cheney has a network of spies and informants in the Obama administration feeding him inside information about the workings of the new Administration.

If President Obama can force the CEO of GM to step down, can't he declare Lord Darth Cheney a threat to national security or something, and send him out to pasture for good?

At least Dubya has the decency not to bad-mouth the current President.


I learned from a recent interview of actor John Cusack, in The Progressive magazine, that he had made a movie about the outsourcing of war by the USA to private firms. The film, War, Inc., was out in the middle of last year, but I never heard or saw anything about it at the time. It's a good story, very political, with a great cast (including his sister, Joan Cusack - a personal favorite - and Marisa Tomei -another favorite since My Cousin Vinnie days). We just got it this week from Netflix, and I highly recommend it for those of you who like John and Joan, who like action thrillers, who like political films, and who like to rant about the relationship between government and corporations. And, if you substitute in your head Lord Darth Cheney for the actor Ben Kingsley, it's an even better rant.


Saturday, March 21, 2009


The sixth anniversary of the USA invasion of Iraq was a couple of days ago, and if you blinked you missed any mention of it in the popular media. I guess the AIG bonuses are much more important news than a six year war that is, we hope, winding down now that we've "won."

I've written before about what "victory" in Iraq means, and the major disconnect between why Cheney-Bush told us we were there and the real reasons. I'm also on record as one who thinks that the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States was illegal and an act of naked aggression against a sovereign country for no plausible reasons.

But the sixth anniversary of this war really should be about the victims:

- the tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who are injured or died;
- the millions of Iraqi refugees who have been uprooted from their homes and lives;
- the 4,300+ American military men and women who died;
- the thousands of injured American military men and women;
- the families of American service men and women who continue to suffer in a variety of ways as a result of multiple deployments, disrupted lives, inadequate services and benefits for veterans and their families.

And let's not forget the rest of us. In the midst of the most extensive economic crisis in over 50 years, we forget - and are not reminded - that the Iraq war contributed to this economic disaster. The true cost of the Cheney-Bush war is estimated to be three trillion dollars ($3,000,000,000,000). Where does this money come from? Duh.

The big winners of the Iraq war - the real "victory" - are the companies contracted by the US government to provide the materials and services of war and reconstruction - the military-industrial complex. And let's not forget the oil companies.

Below is a list of the top ten money makers in the Iraq war (source)

10 companies making the most in Iraq* (millions of dollars)
Rank CompanyAmount







KBR Inc. (KBR, news, msgs) and Halliburton (HAL, news, msgs)







Veritas Capital Fund







Washington Group International (WNG, news, msgs)







Environmental Chemical







International American Products







Fluor (FLR, news, msgs)







Perini (PCR, news, msgs)














First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting







L-3 Communications (LLL, news, msgs)






*Goods and services contracted specifically for Iraq. Source: Eagle Eye

I haven't taken the time to look them up, but I'm guessing that the stock prices of these firms are doing very well. (Hmmm, I wonder if there is a defense industry index fund.....) This is war profiteering at it's best. And let's not overlook the fact that a number of high-ranking and lower level Cheney-Bush administration officials are connected to these firms.

The war in Iraq has been a big factor in the shock and awe to our economy. The folks responsible for this historic debacle have made out like bandits, with big profits in their pockets, and no accountability for the damage they've done. I'd like to see the Iraqi and American families most injured by this war get compensated for the damage done to their lives, and I'd like to see it paid out of the pockets of those who profited from this misadventure.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


The title of this post is the headline of an article in the SustainableLife section of the Portland Tribune this week. The author suggests that we return to a "daylight society" by not using light bulbs, except for essential things like hospitals. The resulting society would be more environmentally sensible, and our lives would be less hectic and more meaningful.

There was another article in the paper recently about a couple who decided that refrigerators are bad environmentally, and they unplugged theirs. They shop every day and keep perishables in a cooler chest - using ice brought home from the office ice machine.

This is great stuff. We need to do even more. Why, just this morning, as I sat in the "library" reading this article, I had what I'll call a "plumbing epiphany" - the common toilet is an environmental disaster! How many millions of gallons of pure, clean, treated , drinkable water are used annually to transport my bodily wastes through pipes to the sewage treatment plant and then out to the river? And we can't leave out the dire impacts of the manufacture and disposal of toilet paper.

But wait - I've got the oven on right now baking some chicken - what a colossal waste of natural gas and electricity just to cook food (and what about the impact of raising and transporting the chicken?). You know, we're down to only one automobile in this family, but I feel guilty every time I drive it - the petroleum, the exhaust, the pollution. I ask myself, what's the environmental cost of the asphalt I'm driving on? This has to stop!!!

So we're ditching our light bulbs, and we have a year's supply of soy-based candles (we'll rub sticks together to light them so we don't emit chemicals to the atmosphere by lighting matches). The refrigerator, stove, furnace, water heater? Gone - to the recycling center. We're gathering firewood throughout the neighborhood (will the Park Bureau miss a few trees from the park?). We've planted as many vegetables as we can fit into our small yard, and the new chicks will be here tomorrow. I sure hope the pigs don't bother the neighbors with all their grunting. I've almost got the pit dug in the yard for the outhouse, and we hope the leaves will be out soon on all the trees and shrubs so we can use them to....uh, well, you know.

Sustainable Life - that's us!

OK, OK....a bit too much tongue in cheek? In fact, human societies do need to become more sustainable, and there are a lot of great things going on now that will result in big changes in the future. But seriously, return to the Dark Ages by getting rid of light bulbs? Maybe the Tribune included the light bulb article for comic relief - I laughed heartily while reading it. And you know, a good laugh helps sustain us all.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Last month I applied for and received my Medicare card;
what's that all about?

My knee hurts;
right now, yesterday, tomorrow, all the time.

In the past few years, I've had:
two surgeries, a tooth pulled, root canals, a bunch of minor injuries.

I got new glasses last June and as of about three months ago I can't see worth sh*t; the eye doc says I need cataract surgery.

I feel young when I get up in the morning;
until I look in the mirror, or at my 40-something "kids."

I bike all over town;
but everyone else passes me on the hills, which aren't very steep.

I guess I'm aging. Oh well. It happens.
What's comforting is the knowledge
that all of you are going there with me!

Sunday, March 01, 2009


I really don't get all the bloviating about the substance abuse by Alex Rodriguez and other professional sports figures. After all, these folks are paid for performing, and they are expected to perform at a level commensurate with their pay. In the world of sports-as-entertainment-industry, it should not surprise us that those paid to perform do whatever they can to please us.

At the same time, I think we need to shine the spotlight of substance abuse inquiry more directly on people like John Thain, the recently departed CEO of the Merrill Lynch unit of Bank of America. Thain, like so many of his colleagues in Wall Street Big Houses, also has a problem with substance abuse, only the substance in question is money. We all have read the stories about how J-Thain remodeled his office bathroom for about $1.2 million dollars, how he handed out a couple of billion dollars worth of bonuses to Merrill Lynch execs just prior to the acquisition by BofA, without BofA being in the loop, and how he reportedly didn't clue BofA to the fact that Merrill had $15 billion of losses in the last quarter of 2008 (doesn't say much about the due diligence processes at BofA).

A very large factor in the current global economic crisis is the creation, sales and holdings of what are now called "toxic assets" by financial institutions. This is substance abuse, pure and simple. The people in these businesses who created, bought and sold these assets knew that they were serious flim-flam, but the lure of profits and bonuses made them do it.

The analogy here breaks down in at least one major way: guys like A-Rod used substances that actually enhanced their performance - they work in an industry that is based on reward for performance. On the other hand, guys like J-Thain fell into substance abuse and got away with it because they work in an industry that ignores performance - they get big bucks and big percs regardless of how their firms perform.

Even though I'm not a huge sports fan, I do remember the exciting baseball season when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were slugging them out of the park chasing the record. In the back of my mind I recognized that these guys couldn't be real - they had to be using some kind of special juice. But all the steroids in the world wouldn't turn me into a home run hitter; these guys were skilled professional ball players who enhanced their skills and power with something special. Would we be complaining if that something special was a couple of cans of spinach every day? And, after all, who got hurt by it?

The J-Thain crowd, on the other hand, were using special juice that wasn't theirs - it was money that belonged to you and me. And a lot of people got hurt as a result of these guys swinging for the fences.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


[Bloggers warning: read on ONLY if you enjoy biology and medicine, and are not one of those who recoils at the discussion of bodily fluids.]

Last night was the first in a week during which I did not wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning gasping for breath. Each time, I had to go through what seemed like an entire box of tissue to clear all the sticky fluid out of my nose and throat. Finally, I was able to breathe again, and while trying to get back to sleep, had ample time to contemplate the origin of these copious fluids. How is it possible that for the past week, 24 hours per day, my cranium could manufacture so much disgusting fluid?

It's a good thing we have the internet, and I have some time on my hands because I'm sick.

Let's start at the very beginning, the Science of Phlegm, shall we?

Phlegm is sticky fluid secreted by the mucous membranes of humans and other animals. Its definition is limited to the mucus produced by the respiratory system, excluding that from the nasal passages, and particularly that which is expelled by coughing (sputum). Its composition varies, depending on climate, genetics, and state of the immune system, but basically is a water-based gel consisting of glycoproteins, immunoglobulins, lipids, etc. Phlegm may be of several different colors. (Wikipedia)

In vertebrates, mucus is a slippery secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes. It is a viscous colloid containing antiseptic enzymes (such as lysozyme) and immunoglobulins that serves to protect epithelial cells in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital, visual, and auditory systems in mammals; the epidermis in amphibians; and the gills in fish. Snails, slugs, hagfish, and certain invertebrates also produce external mucus, which in addition to serving a protective function, can facilitate movement and play a role in communication. Mucus also contains mucins, produced by goblet cells in the mucous membranes and submucosal glands, and inorganic salts suspended in water. The average human body produces about a litre of mucus per day. (Wikipedia)

I also found a great article on phlegm by Flash Gordon, M.D. (really). The good DocFlash cautions us not to use to many drugs that are intended to "dry us up" because the result is that phlegm in the small airways of the lung dries up and creates blockages - which our body then involuntarily tries to cough open. This promotes more coughing, and can also result in bronchitis.

But that's not all there is to know about phlegm. It turns out that phlegm has a rich and varied history, including many important cultural values. Think, for example, what the world would be like without the works of Ian Phlegming, author of James Bond. There were many important Dutch and Phlegmish paintings in the 16th and 17th centuries. Why, there is even an association of breeders of phlegmish giant rabbits. And who would know that phlegm can support vast resources of fish, which must be more easily caught due to the viscosity of their habitat, resulting in overfishing in the Nose (and the Tail) of the Grand Banks, and the Phlegmish Cap, another fish-rich region east of the Nose.

Where would Europe be without Phlanders? Would it be the same without a Phlegmish community? (The sound of all that hacking and coughing must be maddening!) There is even a society to study the genealogy of phlegmish people.

At this point, I need to pay homage to a man who has helped put sticky nasal fluids on the map and into the common lexicon of America, Kinky Friedman the Jewish cowboy. With one song he wrote and has sung everywhere, he has elevated the runny nose to a high stature:

"Old man Lucas
had a lot of mucus,
hangin' right out of his nose...."

And finally, because I am who I am, I need to point you to the lowly hagfish - not really a true fish, not really a vertebrate, but a fascinating animal that lives in the deep oceans of the world. The hagfish is a champion of mucus, and you have to watch this science video to see it.

I hope you learned something today.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


It never ceases to amaze me that Americans are, at least according to the news media, so afraid of "socialism" that our elected officials are afraid to use the word "nationalize." News flash - the system of free market capitalism has gone bust and the entire world is crashing and burning! But we're so afraid of being socialists -even though I doubt that 1 out of any 10 people really know what that means - that we continue to pump public money down various capitalist rat holes. I've written it before on this blog, and I'll say it again - if private companies make very bad business decisions and can't survive - let them die. This is, after all, the free market way. (btw - even Thomas Friedman now agrees with me - see his column today in the NY Times).

Example - why are we bailing out General Motors? This is a company that has made bad decisions for decades, and has spent big bucks fighting every attempt to regulate them (for consumer and environmental safety), and they are now faced with bankruptcy. The best thing we can do is let them fail, clean out the management, and see if they can recreate an automobile business that is in tune with the 21st century.

And what about the big banks, like Bank of America and Citigroup? The management at these companies has violated every bit of the public trust, all in the name of unbridled greed. And yet, we, the taxpayers, are pumping billions of dollars into these firms, with no guarantee that anything will change. It's past time to nationalize these institutions. Critics of nationalization are saying that the government doesn't have the experience or skill to run these failed banks - um, can it get any worse than it did under the capable and skilled leadership of the present management?

But there is a larger underlying agenda here - the future of capitalism itself. Now don't go bolting the doors and getting out the shotguns - I'm not talking about commies taking over. I am talking about instituting some very basic and drastic changes in our economic system, a rationalization of the economy that takes the personal and institutional greed factor out of the equation. What will this new system look like? I don't know, but there are a lot of smart people out there who certainly have viable ideas.

Our economy is based on all of us consumers continually buying as much useless junk as we can get our hands on to prop up the factories in China and the big box stores scattered around our landscape - and to which we have to drive in out gas-guzzling and polluting automobiles. It's not a rational or a sustainable system, as we now see very plainly.

I'm open to some new and radical ideas - how about you? (assignment: google "alternative economic systems" and browse round for a bit....)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Yesterday was the end of week 3 of the Obama presidency. Why does it seem like he's been there so much longer? Why do I have trouble remembering the previous White House occupant?

I've been patiently watching and waiting before commenting on the job performance of our new President. I've thought it unfair and disingenuous to criticize Obama during his first few weeks of service; after all, it's a huge job and he's the new-hire, and I doubt that he got that much help from Baby Bush.

But to tell the truth, I've had some trepidations. I knew going in that Obama isn't my ideal, a flaming progressive lefty, but a more middle road moderate Democrat. I do like his style, his coolness under pressure, his ability to talk to the public and make sense, his world views, and I certainly appreciate his willingness to say "I made a mistake." Very refreshing.

Early on, however, some of his appointments raised some little red flags for me. "Hey, wait a minute, these are insiders, Clintonites, old boys...what the...what happened to "change"?" An example is his financial team, with guys like Geithner, Rubin, and Summers; these are people who were involved in, and at least partially responsible for the economic meltdown we are now experiencing. The party line is that Obama is in charge, and these appointees will do what their boss wants, even if it means that they will need to "change." OK, we'll see.

A great disappointment to me was on Monday when Justice Department lawyers perpetuated the Bush tactic of claiming state secrets in an effort to get a case dismissed in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where a three judge panel is considering a case brought by five victims of Bush Administration "extraordinary rendition" - kidnapping and torture. This is seen by many, including me, as a betrayal of trust - an Obama campaign issue was criticism of this very tactic by the Bush Justice Department.

I'm still in a wait and see mode. I'm still very hopeful. I truly celebrated the actions taken by Obama on his first few days in office by which he reversed a number of Bush decisions, set the departure from Iraq in motion, announced the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo, etc. Hooray! But I'm getting more doubtful by the day regarding the economic recovery strategy. Sec. Geithner's bailout announcement yesterday was a resounding "thud." And don't get me started about the Democrats wienieism on pushing through a stimulus package against a pack of cowardly, mean and bitter old-fart Republicans. Shameful.

So I'll hold my tongue some more - after all, this is only the beginning of week 4 (can you believe it?). In the meantime, I'm thinking more and more that the "change" we all seem to want will only happen if we push for it. So I'm going to make more phone calls, and maybe carve out more time to get more involved in making change a reality.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Making dinner for myself tonight (Sherry is at a meeting) was more time consuming than it should have been. I spent time on the internet searching several sites, including the FDA web site and the Trader Joe's site, trying to decide whether or not to open the recently purchased jar of Trader Joe's Organic Crunch Peanut Butter. (I'm a pretty good cook, but when alone, I have a few tried and true meals - tonight was tomato soup, and peanut butter and strawberry preserves on rice cakes.)

Why do I have to think twice about eating peanut butter? I've been eating this stuff for most of my life. I have a very special relationship with peanut butter: in grade school I researched and wrote a major paper on the life of George Washington Carver, who invented over 300 uses for peanuts! I always think about Mr. Carver when I eat peanut butter. He was an African-American born near the end of the Civil War who become a well known agricultural chemist and educator, and who had to break down a number of racial barriers to get there. In some way, I think Mr. Carver was one of the inspirations that led me to become a naturalist and scientist.

But now my dear jar of peanut butter is suspect; I have to approach it with trepidation and, to be honest, a certain degree of daredevilism. We tsk-tsk the Chinese for putting melamine in milk, resulting in the deaths of many children. And yet here we are, in America, amazed that a big corporate entity appears to have purposefully put tainted peanut products on the market out of sheer greed. Is nothing sacred? Not even peanuts?

Note: if you read my next blog post, you will know that I survived my dinner tonight!

Monday, February 02, 2009


Attention cell phone device manufacturers, you are ignoring a large and growing demographic of users - retiring baby boomers. What is needed is a smart phone that does not have every imaginable application, bell and whistle known to geekdom. What is needed is a device that is: a phone, a camera, a qwerty keyboard text messaging device (with a very accessible keyboard for aging eyes), an internet browser, and a simple calendar and address book. I can't find such a device - all I find is phones on steroids (I actually have one of the latter, but I know people who want a much simpler device in their purse or pocket).

And, by the way, you mobile phone service providers, how about a simplified plan to go with the simplified device?

There's money to be made if you look beyond the kid generation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I'm very sensitive to the issue of separation of church and state. I know that the United States is, for all practical purposes, a Christian country; however, the founders purposefully established a line between church and state. I react negatively when I see religion mixed into government; the inauguration ceremony of President Obama activated my church-and-state alarm.

The primary assault was the invocation by Rick Warren. An invocation, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is: "1 a: the act or process of petitioning for help or support ; specifically often capitalized : a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of a service of worship) b: a calling upon for authority or justification." When I see the word "invocation" on a program, I know that I'm going to hear someone ask something of some god (usually, of course, God). This always bothers me at an event that is not a religious service, and particularly at a government-sponsored event. Any petitioning of any god at a government event should not be allowed - period. Separation of church and state.

The invocation by the Rev. Rick Warren was a very Christian message, quoting the Lord's Prayer and invoking the name of Jesus Christ. I guarantee that every U.S. citizen watching or listening to this speech was not Christian. (As an aside, let's not overlook the hypocrisy of Warren's words in the context of his very public campaign to deny basic rights to gay people: "Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.)

Not withstanding the blatant violation of church-state separation, the choice of the Rev. Warren in itself was controversial. Warren's anti-gay marriage (California Proposition 8) stand and campaigning was the primary reason many people, especially gays, questioned the choice. But a quick googling of the man reveals other items that make me wonder. Here's a video with out takes from a Rick Warren talk at a stadium rally in California.

I find this very chilling. If I were using the Sarah Palin Playbook, I would ask if Barak Obama is "palling around" with known domestic religious extremists whose goal is world domination.

Barak Obama asked for the words "so help me God" to be added to the end of the oath of office - it isn't there in the Constitution, Article II Section I. If an elected official wants to add the god phrase to his or her oath, that's OK with me because it is an expression of that person's faith; however, I'm guessing that most people think that the oath comes with that phrase built-in.

Separation of church and state is one of the basic building blocks of our country. We need to be certain that this separation remains.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I thought the other day about a post I made here in the early days of readmyopionion about the need for a revolution. So I went back and read it, then I went forward from that point through the years and picked out a few other posts that follow a similar thread about the need for new thinking, new leadership, and a new way of being America.

And so dear readers (all 2 or 3 of you), for your reading enjoyment, I present a retrospective. Enjoy.

November 6, 2004. How about some introspection from US?

June 12, 2005. Now is it time for Revolution?

October 2, 2006. This is not my America.

February 25, 2007. Wanted/Needed: a leader for a new world.

May 4, 2008. Why I'm voting for Barak Obama.


What is it about politicians and sex? It seems that every year there are a few more politicians who, um, get caught with their pants down - so to speak. And yes, it's all men (maybe there are exceptions, but none spring to mind).

And so here we are in Portland, Oregon where our newly sworn-in Mayor, Sam Adams, finds himself in the middle of a sex scandal. Sam, who the press loves to point out is the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, had a sexual relationship with an 18 year old man in 2005 (Sam was in his early 40's at the time) and, while running for mayor, vigorously denied it when an accusation was made by another potential candidate. A few days ago, just before a local newspaper broke the story, Sam held a press conference and admitted that he had lied about the sexual liaison, and convinced his young lover to also lie, in order not to jeopardize his mayoral run. And so the scandal swirls and swirls.

The issue here, in my opinion, has nothing to do with Sam having sex - everyone does, I hope. There are a few issues that bother me:

1. Sam lied. He lied to the press and to the public. He now admits to the lie, and asks for the public to forgive this "one mistake" in a long political career. The issue: can Sam be trusted not to lie about other things? How will we know if he is telling the truth?
2. Sam had sex with a teenager. Yes, in Oregon, an 18 year old is considered a consenting adult, but there is something , well, creepy about a 40-something powerful politician having sex with an admittedly confused teenager. Gayness has nothing to do with it, it's just plain out of line.
3. And what does this episode have to say about Sam's judgment? I'd say it shows very poor judgment, particularly for a politician with ambitions of higher elected office. Can we trust Sam's judgment regarding the business of the City of Portland?

The battles are raging in the various media. Some people are defending Sam, others, including our newspapers, are calling for his resignation. Some folks are talking about a recall campaign. Can tar and feathers be far behind?

I don't have a position, yet, on whether Sam should step down or not. But I think the decision has to be Sam's - he needs to look at his role and responsibility as Mayor and decide what is best for the citizens of Portland and the workings of city government. I heard an interview today of the President of the Portland Police Union, who thinks Sam should resign. His issue: as Mayor, Sam is the final word on employee discipline, so what does he do if a policeman admits that he lied about something, but claims it was his only mistake in 20 years of service, and he's sorry?

And so Sam Adams joins the long list of distinguished (and not so distinguished) American politicians who have been caught up in sex scandals, including those of recent memory like Bill Clinton, Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards, David Vitter, Mark Foley and Larry Craig (here's a list of the top 53). Truth be told, I like Sam, and he'll probably be an OK mayor if he hangs on and gets past this - there are other things about his political style and focus that are more bothersome to me. But this situation certainly raises some doubts.

Monday, January 19, 2009


...without the sound of music.

My automatic audio brain alarm was trained when we owned a 1965 V-Dub Transporter (nickname "Truckin'"). That VW engine had a bad habit of bending and breaking push rods, and the driver's ear had to be attuned to very subtle changes in driving sounds.

Something that wasn't right, some subtle sound, woke me at 4AM on the morning of Christmas eve. I wandered around, searching for, and dreading to find, the source of the rapid drip-drip-drip sound. We were in the middle of a Portland, Oregon record snow storm, with lots of snow and ice on the roof. After stumbling around in the dark for awhile, I found the source - inside the closet wall at the back of the house. I didn't see any water, but my bare feet found some oozing up between the hardwood floor boards. Oh crap!

I called the insurance company (Amica - we highly recommend them) on Christmas eve day, and they had a mitigator (not like a Terminator) out on Christmas day. They opened some holes in the closet wall, found water, but also found, on the inner wall (there are four layers of drywall in the common firewall between the two townhouses), what looked like black mold. They sealed up the hole with plastic sheeting, set up an industrial dehumidifier to dry everything out, and left.

We bought this townhouse, one of a duplex, new in 2002. We had looked at older houses, but decided that we didn't want all the issues that came with older homes, including mold - Sherry has asthma and is very allergic to mold. In the days since Christmas, we've had all kinds of inspectors, mold guys, contractors, roofers, etc. out here. The mold remediation company was here yesterday and removed our closet wall and the inner layer of our neighbor's wall (i.e. 3 of the 4 sheet rock layers, plus insulation and studs) - all covered with Stachybotrys chartarum, a toxic mold.

Here's a short video of the moldy 2nd layer of our closet wall.

I guess the message here is: buyer beware. We think the problem is that the roof wasn't done properly, and there has been a chronic leak into the common wall between the duplexes. The damage is on each side of the common wall, so both owners had damage and have repair work to do. We're lucky, I guess, that we had a dripping leak during a record snowstorm that led us to discover the bigger problem. We're also lucky that Amica Insurance covers mold remediation on our homeowners insurance. We're also lucky that the damage wasn't more extensive because the mold insurance has a maximum it will pay (our project will fall below the maximum). But we need to have the roof partially redone, and insurance doesn't cover that. We've talked to the builder, and so far he's claiming that he has no liability.

We'll get through the reconstruction. In fact, the contractors will have to work around us tomorrow because, by golly, we'll be in the next room watching the inauguration of President Barak Obama.

Life goes on - but not for those particular colonies of black mold - they're history!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I have a dream...
yes we can

I have a dream...
yes we did

I have a dream...
yes we will

Were he alive today,
the eighty year old Dr King
would look down from the mountain top
to see how far we've come

Were he alive today,
Dr King would look up
from the mountain top
and see higher peaks
to climb

The old man and
the young man
The preacher and
the president
climb together in
ideals and spirit

Dr King took on the burdens
of a people
President Obama takes on the burdens
of a world

I have a dream...
yes we can

I have a dream...
yes we did

I have a dream...
yes we must


Understanding the financial system of the U.S. and the world is a daunting task that leads me to a painful form of brain freeze. But every once in awhile I find an article in the popular press that helps, like this recent piece in the New York Times. Yes, I know, I'm assigning you yet another somewhat lengthy piece of reading; but really, is reading and using your brain really too much to ask?

The article gives us a peek inside the tents at the big financial institutions and the government agencies that are supposed to be regulating them. What is revealed makes an ordinary consumer cringe: unbridled and unregulated greed is the credo of our financial system. The goal is short-term huge profit; the reward is even hugher bonuses and other forms of compensation. "Our financial catastrophe, like Bernard Madoff's pyramid scheme, required all sorts of important, plugged-in people to sacrifice our collective long-term interests for short-term gain. The pressure to do this in today's financial markets is immense." The system of financial institutions, rating agencies (like Moody's, and Standard and Poor's), and regulatory bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) each have their hands in the others' pockets, and operate as a very large career revolving door.

The bailout orchestrated by Treasury Secretary Paulson rewarded big firms for making very bad business decisions. And the bailout, dubbed Troubled Assets Relief Program - TARP - has been just that, a tarp thrown over the dirty business in a way that prevents anyone from knowing what's really going on underneath. We don't need a TARP for this mess, we need a piece of clear plastic sheeting through which we can all watch for continuing shenanigans.

My wife and I are among the fortunate investors who only lost about 20% of the value of our investment portfolio (i.e. retirement savings) over the past year (only!). Our financial advisor had the smarts to see this coming and moved a lot of our money into safer investments that aren't making money, but also aren't losing a lot - an "asset protection strategy." Will we get bailed out by TARP? Duh. Once again the ordinary citizen, the consumer, ends up getting screwed by big business and their government partners - under the watchful neglect of an administration hell-bent on awarding it's "base" to the detriment of everyone else.

We live under an economic system that is not sustainable. The system is based on borrowing and spending as if there is no tomorrow - except that tomorrow showed up this past year demanding to be paid. As long as we, the consumers, continue to spend our money on "things," most of which we really don't need, the economic engine keeps running. But the value of these "things," whether they be HD television, SUV gas guzzlers, or houses, has to continue to increase, and we have to continue to buy them, or the house of cards starts to shake. We, the consumers, are merely the drones in this vast hive - as long as we do what we're told - buy, buy, buy - and don't hold onto our money too long (saving? what a stupid concept when you can buy anything you want on credit), everything chugs along. And, oh yeah, the folks at the top keep rolling in cash and laughing at us poor slobs whose pockets they took it from.

So what's the answer? Well, for one thing, I think that free-market capitalism is a sham and a bad paradigm. Is there something better? I don't know, but I think smart people with open minds can answer that question. In my opinion it all comes back to concepts of sustainability, an over used term these days, but one that has deep meanings. Certainly there is enough wealth in this world, created by the labor of human minds and hands, to provide a good quality of life for all of us. The change has to begin somewhere, and maybe it's us, the little people, who can force that change by the way we live our lives.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I've been smiling more and more each day over the past few weeks. And now it is three days until the Cheney-Bush Cabal exits the stage and a new American Administration takes over. The sense of relief in this country and the world is palpable.

I've spent many blogger words on Dubya and Lord Darth Cheney over the past few years. In a way I'll miss them - hell, I'm going to need some new topics! But good riddance to bad garbage! The Lovable George and Kind Uncle Richard dog-and-pony show that has been spun out in the national media the last few weeks is a sickening reminder of how these bad characters operate. Their attempts to create a fantasy legacy for themselves is, and will prove to be, nothing more than the usual lies and fairy tales. On more misinformation campaign perpetrated on the public. Sorry fellas - were not in a buying mood today. Go peddle your flawed merchandise somewhere else. We've got important work to do cleaning up the mess you left behind.

I've realized something about President Obama (I know, he's not President yet - but in my view he has been more presidential since the day he won the election than Bush ever was in eight years). Obama is a different kind of politician, a different kind of leader. He has a calmness about him, and an apparent lack of vindictiveness and partisanship. It bothers me that Bush and Cheney are just going to walk away. I think they are guilty of a multitude of transgressions - even crimes - for which I want to see them pay, and pay dearly. But our new President thinks we have better things to do than go after them, and maybe he's right. Maybe I need to be a better person in that regard and look more to the future than the recent past.

History will tell the story of the Bush-Cheney years, and I firmly believe history will not be kind to them. This will be especially true if the Obama years turn out to be what the majority of Americans hope and want them to be: not just a "return" to greatness for America, but a moving forward to become an even greater America. Not greater in the sense of military might, economic superiority, and world dominance, but greater in the sense of leading the world on a different journey, one that focuses on peace, prosperity for everyone, growth and development that are realistic for every Earthling, not based on profit for the few. The journey that I think - and hope - President Obama can start us on is more than getting us out of the hole we're in and back to some status quo. And this journey can't be realized unless the majority of us understand where we have to go, what we need to do to get there, and why it is so urgent for us to start.

I'll leave it for others to recount the misery of the Bush-Cheney years, to make the long lists of the wreckage they are leaving behind. My pledge to you, the few and loyal readers of this blog, is to focus on the positive and the future - not an easy thing to do for this old cynic, but hey, anything is possible.

Sherry and I will be hanging our American flag from the front porch on Inauguration Day, and we'll have a big sign next to it: YES WE CAN!