Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Columbia Sportswear to PDX: Thanks, but no

Despite intense wooing from Portland officials to lure Columbia Sportswear back to the city, Columbia has informed the city that it will stay put and expand in its current Washington County location.

City officials were stung by Columbia's 2001 flee to the suburbs, doubly so by Columbia president Tim Boyle's critical comments two years ago aimed at the city and its attitude toward the business community. They had hoped to save face by luring the company back into the city, but Boyle's letter to Commissioner Sam Adams on Monday threw water on those embers.

The interesting thing about the story in this morning's Oregonian is that, in the second paragraph, the company said that "moving the company to Portland was too costly compared with expanding its current site."

After reading that, one might think the high costs relate to the moving process. It's not until paragraph 10 that you read "it was more expensive for Columbia to move to inner Portland, where it would pay more for land and build taller buildings with covered parking."

So despite a five-year property tax waiver and other incentives, the land and construction costs (and the interrelated lack of parking) were still prohibitive to bringing a significant -- and growing -- company back into the city (Columbia employs more than 1,000 people). And, the city's role in gaming the process at the east end of the Burnside Bridge means that the Burnside Bridgehead site continues to sit empty and undeveloped, despite the flowery predictions to the contrary by the Portland Development Commission.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Which one is "greener"?

Home #1
A 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bath mansion, also including a pool, pool house and separate guest house, all heated by natural gas. This residence consumes more than 12 times the typical household electrical usage of homes in the same area (191,000 kilowatt hours vs. 15,600 kwh). The average monthly bill for electricity and natural gas runs more than $2,400. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. Despite its energy use, this home is not situated in a Northern or Midwestern "snow belt" area. It's in the South.
Home #2
Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university, this home incorporates every "green" feature current home construction can provide. The home is 4,000 square feet with four bedrooms. A central closet in the home holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees) heats the home in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses NO fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter the electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the home. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape, nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest.
Now, which one sounds greener to you? And, who they they belong to?

Home No. 1 is outside of Nashville, Tennessee; it is the home of Al Gore.

Home No. 2 is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas; it is the residence of the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Our backpacking trip, by the numbers

My 9-year-old daughter and I joined some friends this weekend for a two-night backpacking trip to Pamelia Lake in the Mount Jefferson wilderness, a first-time experience for both of us. Here's a rundown of our trip, by the numbers:
  • Length of the drive from our house: 110 miles, one way
  • Time we arrived at the parking lot Friday: 6 p.m.
  • Length of the hike from the parking lot to the lake: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation increase from the parking lot to the lake: 800 feet
  • Elevation of the parking lot: 3,100 feet
  • Weight of my pack (borrowed from a friend): 46 pounds
  • Weight of my daughter's pack (rented from REI): 18 pounds
  • Number of times we stopped to rest: 9
  • Number of times the request came from the kid: 9
  • Number of times dad wished we could keep going: 0
  • Time we arrived at the lake: 7:45 p.m.
  • Additional hiking time spent (fruitlessly) looking for our friends: 45 minutes
  • Minutes after we set up camp that some of our friends found us and said we'd passed their site a quarter-mile back: 3
  • Time we got into our sleeping bags: 9:30 p.m.
  • Time we got to sleep: 11 p.m.
  • Time that a friend and his three kids arrived at the parking lot: 10 p.m.
  • Time they decided to hike in at night: 10:30 p.m.
  • Time they arrived at the lake: 1:15 a.m. (we know because we heard them stumble past our tent, though we didn't know it was them at the time)
  • Number of geese that woke us up at 5:30 a.m.: roughly 473 (OK, maybe 15)
  • Appreciation for the creativity of God as we watched the sunlight crawl down the south ridge above the lake: immeasurable (see the spliced panoramic photo above)
  • Distance from the lake to the summit of Mount Jefferson: about 2.5 miles as the goose flies
  • Time we saw our night-hiking friends the next morning: 11 a.m.
  • Minutes after we first saw them that our night-hiking friends told me we'd left the dome light on in my car: 4
  • Duration of the 4.6 mile hike to the parking lot and back: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Minutes after I returned that we decided we should move to our friend's site: 10
  • My mood on a scale of 1-10 after the hike and move: 1
  • Improvement on that same scale after I took a dive in the glacier-fed lake: +7
  • Number of people in our group: 9
  • Number who knew about that bees' nest under a root along the trail: 8
  • Seconds after I was warned that I was walking on top of that root that I got stung: 1
  • Length of hike we had just started when that happened: about 1.5 miles
  • Amount of time that the hike was in a creek instead of on a perfectly good trail: about 500 feet
  • Percentage of the time we were in the creek: 75 percent
  • Temperature of that water: about 40 degrees
  • Time it took for my toes to lose all feeling: about 3 minutes
  • How my bee sting felt after that: Bee sting? What bee sting?
  • Beauty of the waterfall they climbed, on a scale of 1-10: 9.5
  • Desire, on a 1-10 scale, to collapse upon return: 11
  • Number of visits during the weekend to a nearby stream to get drinking water: 3
  • Number of times during the hike to that stream that I wondered if there were bears in those woods: roughly 28
  • Number of bears seen: 0
  • Number of hunters seen carrying a bow and dressed like bigfoot: 1
  • Distance my heart jumped when I saw him the first time: 6 inches (the distance from my chest to my throat)
  • Number of s'mores eaten that night between the kid and me: 5
  • Number of times we told the two boys not to play in the fire: 42
  • Number of times they listened for more than 3 minutes: 2
  • Duration of the hike back to the car on Sunday: 70 minutes
  • Total rest stops taken on the way out: 4
  • Number of blisters on my feet: 2
  • Number of sore muscles: 640
  • Value of that time with a kid who's not getting any younger: priceless

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Soon, we'll blame global cooling on global warming

From LiveScience, written by Michael Schirber on June 29, 2005:
Since the late 1960s, much of the North Atlantic Ocean has become less salty, in part due to increases in fresh water runoff induced by global warming, scientists say.
From New Scientist, written by Catherine Brahic on August 23, 2007
The surface waters of the North Atlantic are getting saltier, suggests a new study of records spanning over 50 years. They found that during this time, the layer of water that makes up the top 400 meters has gradually become saltier. The seawater is probably becoming saltier due to global warming, Boyer says.
HT: Iain Murray at The Corner



Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Things you don't want to hear

From my 5-year-old, while holding a half-consumed cup of cranberry juice:
Uh oh, I forget. Does this stuff stain?

Brian Baird gets some attention from the WSJ

In this video interview with James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, Taranto notes the position taken by Washington Rep. Brian Baird (D) on Iraq:
[Baird] went to Iraq, he said we’re making progress there, he said we have a responsibility to the Iraqi people, and we can’t just pull out now, it doesn’t make sense. Now, what’s significant about this, I think, is that Baird avoids a fallacy that’s common to a lot of people who either opposed the war or supported it and then changed their minds, which is, you can think that it was a mistake to liberate Iraq. It does not necessarily follow from that that it is the right thing to do to pull out now. And a lot of people, I think, have confused the debate five years ago with the question of what to do now. They’re actually two completely separate questions.
If you think we were right to go in, I think it makes sense that you would think that we ought to stick it out and be successful. but if you think that it was a mistake to go in, it doesn’t necessarily follow from that that it would be the right thing to do to pull out. And part of this is sort of a binary simple-mindedness: in good, out bad. But that doesn’t necessarily follow: it could be a mistake to go in that is compounded by getting out prematurely, and I think that’s what Baird is arguing.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ideas on donations?

Two questions:

1) I have a computer monitor I'd like to donate to a worthy non-profit or school. Is there an easy way to do this?

2) Are there any groups that would come to my house and take my returnable bottles and cans? I'd gladly let them have the money if I knew I could call them when my garage is too full of returnables.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The Dems pursue the faith vote

If nothing tells you how much their party takes people of faith for granted, it should be the fact that the Democrat presidential candidates held a debate on Sunday morning. In Iowa.

Of course, this debate was part 13 in a series of roughly 381 debates between now and February, so I'm not sure how many voters -- with or without faith -- are paying attention anyway.

David Weigel, of Reason's Hit & Run blog, live-blogged the debate. Here are a few of my favorite lines:
10:18: My God, look at Hillary's face on the cutaways. If Obama actually took her up and became her VP I think he'd spend eight years locked in a haunted wine cellar.

10:44: What a human landfill John Edwards is. Joe Biden's son is heading to Iraq and he doesn't exploit it. Edwards gets an easy question about prayer and public decisions and dunks twice in the pity well: "Ah prayed when my 16-year old son died, ah prayed when Elizabeth got cancer."

11:03: Oh, John Edwards. In 25 or so seconds he manages to say he was wrong to vote for the Iraq War, he didn't trust George W. Bush, he ignored his gut and trusted George W. Bush, and he was wrong to vote for the Iraq War.

11:04: And Hillary shows Edwards how he should have answered that. Honestly, let's put his wife on the stage for a few debates so he can win one.

11:05: Richardson: "I make about one mistake a week." That would make him our best president since Jefferson.
Dang, it's gonna be a long time 'til November 2008.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The troops are baby killers and torturers

Oops, I guess it's harder to say that sort of generic slander with a straight face when you read this (emphasis mine) about Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of coalition forces in Iraq:
In the face of a gruesomely persistent Iraqi insurgency, Gen. Petraeus [who, by the way, has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton] was charged with revamping the outdated counterinsurgency doctrine. In an unprecedented collaboration, he reached out to Sarah Sewall, who directs the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, to help him organize a vetting session of the draft manual at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The conference brought together journalists, human-rights activists, academics and members of the armed forces to exchange ideas about how to make the doctrine more effective and more humane. Ms. Sewall, who since 2001 has been trying to get the military to bring the concerns of the human-rights community to the table, tells me that with Gen. Petraeus it is like pushing on an open door.
These cultural anthropologists truly believe that being allowed to help shape military policy will help our troops avoid offending Iraqis (inadvertently or otherwise), thereby improving both Iraqi and American lives. As chapter one of the new manual states, "cultural knowledge is essential to waging a successful counterinsurgency. American ideas of what is 'normal' or 'rational' are not universal."

As the story points out, the academic community is not exactly best friends with the military, and a few breakthroughs do not necessarily define a trend. Some argue that any collaboration between academe and military is selling out by the former.

Still, as Sewell said, a growing number of anthropologists are questioning the conventional wisdom and reconsidering whether the most effective way to influence the military is "by waving a big sign outside the Pentagon saying 'you suck.' "

Because, you know, the Pentagon is so easily swayed by what Code Pink is doing outside its doors.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The loss of a great

Max Roach will always be second to Buddy Rich in my book, but Max could do things with a set of brushes that the common man would never dream of. He died last night at the age of 83. Rest in peace, Max.



Speaking of media bias...

John Podhoretz, writing in NRO's The Corner, notes a silly bit of media obliviousness:

You may have heard about how the newsroom at the Seattle Times burst into applause when the news came that Karl Rove was resigning. You may also have heard that the paper's editor, David Boardman, came down harshly on his staffers, telling them to keep their politics to themselves especially with an election year coming up (because, you know, if you don't clap, then maybe readers won't be able to gather from the newspaper's own columns that it is wildly biased to the left).

Boardman has now expanded on his original memo in words likely to cause all of us who work at newspapers to burst into hysterical guffaws: "I ask you all to leave your personal politics at the front door for one simple reason: A good newsroom is a sacred and magical place in which we can and should test every assumption, challenge each other's thinking, ask the fundamental questions those in power hope we will overlook."

A sacred and magical place? This guy runs a newsroom. Has he ever even walked through his own newsroom? I've worked in them on and off for 25 years now, and let me tell you, the words "sacred and magical" are about as far from a plausible description of the condition, spirit or nature of a newsroom as the words "conservative and Christian" would be. Newsrooms are messy, sometimes a little smelly, crowded, gossipy, busy, bustle-y, with so many distractions at once that it actually helps if you have Attention Deficit Disorder because otherwise you go crazy from the five simultaneous conversations and phone interviews going on around your head.

These days, most newsrooms are only magical because of the way dozens of staffers mysteriously disappear right after the release of second-quarter advertising numbers and circulation scandals.

Oh, and that stuff about testing our own assumptions and challenging each other's thinking? Boardman was probably giggling while he typed those words.

I know I was giggling.



A serious flaw in a contemporary fiction book

I just finished reading The Last Days by Joel C. Rosenberg. It's a work of fiction, but has so many references to current-day politics that it feels like reality is intertwined in its pages.

Rosenberg has gained a following partially because he has written things that ended up coming true -- including terrorists hijacking a jet for a kamikaze attack against an American city, leading to war against Saddam Hussein over WMDs (The Last Jihad, written before 9/11), and an alliance between Russia and Iran to pursue nuclear weapons and annihilate Israel (The Ezekiel Option, written before the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad).

Though it's not for everyone, I very much enjoyed it -- it's an exciting page-turner, and it has a contemporary element that brings it to life, somewhat how I remember Tom Clancy's novels (though I haven't read his work in more than a decade). It also deals with issues of faith drawn from Rosenberg's journey from orthodox Jew to evangelical Christian, which was interesting to me, though I thought a little misplaced from the overall story.

But here's my gripe (spoiler ahead): the story includes a New York Times reporter named Marcus Jackson, who (in typical MSM fashion) writes a series of stories that reveal information which could jeopardize secret peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Stories that could lead to the death of the parties if their location is revealed.

But in one of the final chapters, Jackson is sitting in a Washington D.C. Starbucks when a man in a bulky green parka walks in, then walks out. Jackson doesn't think much of it until a few minutes later, when he sees a picture of a suspected Washington D.C. suicide bomber and recognizes it as the person he had just seen in the Starbucks.

So he does what any red-blooded American would do -- he notifies the authorities. And the authorities track down the would-be killer before he's able to take out the Washington Monument and any innocent civilians standing in the way.

So what's wrong with this picture? I seriously wonder whether a New York Times reporter would report such a situation. In a 1989 PBS series called Ethics in America, Mike Wallace and the late Peter Jennings were faced with a scenario in which they were embedded with enemy forces fighting US troops, and learned that the enemy forces were about to launch a surprise attack on the Americans. They both agreed that in that scenario, their duty as reporters outweighed their duty to warn American troops. Wallace said he -- and other journalists -- "would regard it simply as another story that they are there to cover."

When the discussion moderator asked if they had a higher duty as Americans to save the lives of American soldiers, he responded, "No, you don't have a higher duty...you're a reporter."

That's why, despite my enjoyment of Rosenberg's book, I find the ending a bit far-fetched.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Yahoo! I passed!

I got a C in science, according to this online science test. That's at least as good as the scores I received in high school science classes (and better than my chemistry grade).

Mingle2 Free Online Dating - Science Quiz

HT: Jessica at Random Thoughts...



Friday, August 03, 2007

I forget...

...how much work is involved in getting ready to take the family camping. Between gathering up camping supplies and doing my job so my customers can be without me for a few days (not to mention a few leisure pursuits), I've had zero time for any blogging endeavors.

Happy summer!