Saturday, December 16, 2006

Media-saturated Americans are world's fattest people

The average American spends about 8 1/2 hours each day consuming media. That includes watching television, using a computer, listening to the radio, going to the movies and reading.

On average, Americans spend more than 64 days each year watching television. That's more than two months solid...with no sleep.

The next time you claim you don't have time, consider taking back some from your TV.

The media-consumption figures come from the Census Bureau's 2007 Statistical Abstract.

The figures show that we also remain the fattest people on the planet and have more than doubled our consumption of high-fructose corn syrup per person in the past 25 years.

Connecting the dots: Highly sugared foods are intensively advertised in the media. And sedentary media consumption burns few calories.

Broadcast television viewing and print reading dropped between 2000 and 2005, according to the census statistics. Internet use jumped in the last five years from 104 hours to 183 hours and is projected to continue to rise as more people get their information from the Web and make purchases on-line.

Last year 13 million Americans created blogs.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Friends don't let friends mix cognac with Coke

This just in from the Hillsdale Liquor store, where proprietor Greta Karimi shared the following story after I asked if that $308 tequila on yonder bottom shelf was the most expensive bottle in the shop.

Yup, now that the store is out of the $380 Scotch.

But the really expensive stuff is $1600 cognac that sells in her husband's Lake Oswego store. That would be Remy Martin Louis XIII.

The story goes that former Trailblazer Damon Stoudamire, famed Wilson High School alumnus, once came in to buy a new bottle of the brandy after a friend had finished off his old one.

Seems his buddy used the cognac to lace his Coke (apparently the kind you drink).

Fortunately, Damon could afford to be amused.

How sex, water and baseball could fund Portland's schools

I have finally finished reading nearly 800 pages of visionPDX questionnaire responses on the topic of Portland's beleaguered schools and how they should be adequately and reliably funded.

You recall that last summer Mayor Tom Potter asked the citizenry to share its visions of Portland's future and to suggest ways to get realize them.

The invitation was noble, and the responses on the part of 13,000 Portlanders were commendable. Reading what folk wrote, I was frequently moved by their passion for this city.

Back to the comments about the schools. As it turns out, the schools are an area that city government has little influence over, but should. As noted in an earlier post, very view visionaries seemed aware of the disconnect between the school administration and city government. Potter got a lot of misdirected advice about how he should be running the schools.

It shouldn't be misdirected. The city and the schools are joined at the hip. The City of Portland should govern the schools. That would mean good-bye to the volunteer, elected school board.

A lot of visionPDX respondents were vague about how the schools should be funded, but confessed that they were weary of stop-gap measures and year-to-year uncertainty. That said, a surprising number seemed willing to impose a schools-dedicated sales tax on themselves...and on us.

Then there were the jaw-droppers. Try these on for size:

• Legalize and tax prostitution; use the resulting "sin tax" revenues for the schools.
• Sell Oregon's abundant water it to parched Nevada, Arizona and Southern California. Let's face it, said one writer, water is to Oregon what oil is to Alaska. Make the most of it.
• Bring big league baseball to Portland and tax the hell out of the players' stratospheric salaries—all to adequately fund the schools. Another curve to the baseball dream was to jack up the price of "vanity" tickets and corporate sky boxes, then use the money to help pay for Portland's schools.

Stay tuned for other nuggets from the visionPDX responses....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Visionaries don't "see" needed City/Schools consolidation

For the past few days I have been sifting through hundreds of visionPDX comments on school funding. You may recall that I am one of 30 or so volunteers reviewing written responses to 13,000 questionnaires completed in the summer.

My assigned areas are higher education, educational opportunity and school funding.

Virtually all of the respondents want stable, reliable, adequate funding for Portland's schools. They are weary of putting Band-aids on the problem. A few call for a more accountable school board.

Well and good.

But virtually none of the comments call for consolidating city and school governance. Without such consolidation, comments about the schools that are addressed to the city fall on deaf ears. The City is quite separate from, and often at odds with, the Portland school district.

The same disconnect is true of comments about social services and the library. Those are responsibilities of Multnomah County, yet another autonomous government. More consolidation is needed for "county issues" to be brought into the City's purview.

And yet all these issues should be of huge concern to the city as a whole, as many respondents point out. Many note that the very future of the city is dependent on an educated citizenry. Without first-rate schools, families will flee to the suburbs. Many already are.

In effect, Portland must get its governments under one roof, one large enough to combine the City, the schools, the County, and, yes TriMet and, to some extent, Metro.

Logically consolidation of governments should be a recommendation of the Mayor's charter review commission. Unfortunately the commission is blindly proceeding with its work without paying attention to the needs, stated or implied, by visionPDX respondents.

Clearly, the mayor, who inspired these laudable initiatives, desperately needs to get everyone on the same page.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Umpqua Bank eyes Hillsdale for "store"

Portland-based Umpqua Bank is said to be giving serious consideration to opening a branch in Hillsdale.

Well, not exactly a branch, because Umpqua prefers to call its branches "stores."

Hillsdale's Umpqua "store" could end up where the abandoned Estby gas station is according to my source. The gas station is slated for demolition in the new year.

If Umpqua does open a branch in Hillsdale, it would join Key Bank and The Bank of America in the town center.

Umpqua's "store" concept is meant to differentiate its branches and give them a more "community feel."

An Umpqua outlet in Hillsdale would be the bank's fifth in Portland.

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What is more obscene, Randolph's gesture or his pay?

More on money and values. The Oregonian reports today that when Blazer star Zach Randolph was suspended for one game because he made an obscene gesture to the crowd, it cost him his one-game salary.

And what would that be? $1,000? $2,000 $10,000?

Not even close.

Randolph is so "valuable" that he "earns" $133,333 a game.

"Valuable" to whom? For what? And why?

And Randolph is complaining. He says the penalty "isn't fair."

The penalty may not be "fair," but only if his salary is. Anyone care to argue that it is? Fair to whom?

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Monday, December 11, 2006

PCC undefeated in (and by) football

I teach at Portland Community College part-time and take pride, and joy, in the association.

PCC is a great community asset. For many it provides what I call an educational opportunity of "first resort" and, in some cases, "last resort." I have taught on several campuses, but I have never taught classes with a greater diversity of students—in every way.

So it is that I wear a blue-and-gray t-shirt that trumpet's a proud PCC tradition. It reads, "Portland Community College Football—undefeated since 1964."

No football campus can match that record, unless it alters its culture and compiles the record the way PCC has: By wisely not having a football team.

More than being undefeated in football, PCC has not been defeated by it. (Like Portland's Reed College, known nationally for its academic excellence) PCC suffers from no distorted football booster values, no recruiting scandals, no dependence on sneaker (read "Nike" and others) endorsements, no hypocrisy about athletic "scholarships" and no grotesquely over-paid coaches or athletic directors. (See my recent posts on the latter subject)

The resources and energy of PCC's alumni, students and administrators are focused on education, learning and discovery.

That's the way it should be.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

WE told them so!

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday recounted an "honor roll" of celebrity politicians who opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start. The title of the column was "They told you so."

Frankly, they didn't tell a lot of us anything we didn't already fervently believe.

We were doing our own "telling."

So let's praise our own honor roll, which is too long to recite here. Thousands marched and chanted peacefully through the streets of downtown Portland to protest the invasion, both before and after the tragedy.

Here in Hillsdale, as early as the fall of 2002, a group of us marched every Sunday from Hillsdale and back. Our most senior walker was in her 80s. Several children joined our walks.

The "Peace Walkers," as we called ourselves, were heartened by dozens of motorists who honked encouragement. The children took particular pleasure in counting the honkers. "That's 76!" "We're up to 93!"

Of course we endured a handful of pro-war drivers, some of whom actually stopped in the middle of Capitol Highway to rant at us. I sometimes wonder what they are thinking now.

After the invasion, we laid plans for the 2004 elections and started "Hillsdale Votes!" to register and turn out voters here. We did so regardless of political affiliation, although the large majority were Democrats.

The surge in registrations from 2004 carried over into 2006. Obviously many who registered to vote for Bush in 2004 used their power this year to vote against the war and for a new Congress controlled by the Democrats.

The photo shows some of the placards we carried on those walks. They are a reminder of just how much work needs to be done.

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