Monday, July 07, 2008

Front page dots ripe for connecting

Before they disappear into the fog of old news, here are three front-page headlines from the Wednesday, July 2nd issue of The New York Times.

Taken separately, they inform in a sporadic way. Taken together, they cast a laser-bright light on these times.

On the top right of the page:



Directly beneath it:

Stock Exchange’s Former Chief
Wins Court Battle to Keep Pay.

(The “pay” in question was $187.5 million paid to Richard A. Grasso.)

And then over to the left on the bottom of the page, this:

Helmsley, Dogs’ Best Friend,
Left Them Up to $8 Billion

(The Helmsley in question is the late hotelier, real estate magnate and convicted tax-evader Leona Helmsley. Helmsley left her own dog, "Trouble" by name, $12 million. It was Helmsley who famously said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.")

There you have it. A journalistic snapshot of our American society on one summer’s day in 2008, the eighth year of the reign of George W. Bush.

I suppose I could throw into the mix one other story from the front page, but it is a dot harder to connect. Upper left on the page:



Military Used ’57 Study
of Steps That Led to
False Confessions

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Silver Falls Spangled, Part II

This continues yesteday's post of photos from Silver Falls State Park, which we visited on the Fourth of July.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Falls-Spangled Hike

Silver Falls State Park offers an alluring seven-mile canyon walk that takes hikers past 10 waterfalls. The crashing (or in some cases dribbling) falls, verdant moistness, rapids and mists appeal to eye, nose, ear and even skin.

In addition to the more formidable aquatic attractions, the hiking paths take you by miniature vignettes of nature.

Wildflowers, fern, rock formations, shamrocks.

On a Fourth of July walk, I lingered as long staring into the little world as I did gawking at the larger one.

Here’s Part I of what I saw.

Tomorrow I’ll post Part II

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What every kitchen appliance needs — a garage door opener

For some reason I’m seeing quite a few stories about “Dream Kitchens.”

This month’s Consumer Reports, for example, is devoted to the subject. The cover reads “Your dream kitchen for less.” It has articles on floors, cabinets and counters. On dishwashers, refrigerators and even appliance stores.

I have no idea who dreams about kitchens? Sleepwalkers who end up in their kitchens perhaps. Or people who have given up on dreams of peace, harmony and $3-a-gallon gas.

And why kitchens, of all rooms? Why don’t they have fantasies about “dream closets” or “dream toilets” or “dream bedrooms”?

Sometimes after large parties, I am left with a “nightmare kitchen,” which I wish were a dream. But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, a significant segment of society seems to have this thing about kitchens.

I got my first inkling of weird kitchen fantasies a few years ago when I heard reference made to “appliance garages.” Apparently dream kitchens have so many appliances that they must be stored in mini, countertop garages.

It’s a fascinating concept and tonight for some reason (no, drugs weren’t involved) it occurred to me that a small fortune might be made creating appliance-garage door openers.

Sitting on the patio while we ate enchiladas, my wife indulged my appliance-garage door opener concept. Of course, I offered, the door opener would have to have a remote, like a real garage. Like our own two-car garage, in fact.

Some kitchen dreamers might even want an appliance garage door opener built into their REAL garage door opener. As they drive up at the end of a day’s labors, they could open BOTH garages simultaneously. Entering the dream kitchen, the would-be cook would find the appliances at the ready to slice, dice, whip, blend and puree.

But why stop there? As nice as it would be to have a remote appliance garage door opener, the real hassle with appliances is getting them out and then back in to the garage.

How about automated sliding palettes for each appliance? On the remote you could push a “blender” button, a “Cuisinart” button, or a “toaster” button. There’d be buttons for the coffee maker, the mixer and the can opener. Inside the garage, a carousel would spin around and then push the required appliance out the door.

As useful as the garage and its opener would be to dream-kitchen appliance management, they fail to address the greatest appliance nuisance of all: grunge. Or, to be precise: GLOBS.

So the garage should come with some kind of internal appliance-cleaning mechanism. Sonic, perhaps, like they have for dentures. A more direct approach might be a high-pressure spray. The Kaddy Car Wash people right here in Portland might be called in as consultants on this one. The whole garage would be built over some kind of drain board and sump, and inside would be sprayers. spinning appliance brushes and nozzles blasting jets of hot air.

My appliance garage/washer would be a dream come true for all those kitchen dreamers.

Come to think of it, how have we managed all these years without appliance garages and washers equipped with remote controls? I mean really!

No self-respecting dream kitchen or kitchen dreamer should be without one.

Consumer Reports, here I come!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Warning: Dangerous Camels

Walking around Hillsdale I’ve discovered evidence of camels.

No, not those camels.

These are the ones people smoke. The evidence is discarded cigarette packets.

I’m struck by how neatly designed they are. Almost artifacts. Precisely bordered, often understated and self-important in a tongue-in-cheek way.

One for “Kamels” (the spelling itself looks like an insider joke) prominently says the brand was established in 1913 and “re-established in 1996,” as if this is somehow significant. The plug line is “Back After 80 years For No Good Reason Except They Taste Good.”

There’s straight talk for you. It neglects to mention your lungs, cancer and corporate irresponsibility.

Putting aside the gimmickry and clever package design, I’m struck by how half-hearted and understated the Surgeon General’s warning label is on these packs. Clearly the tobacco lobbyists have had a hand in muting the warning in its phrasing, placement and size. And the Bush administration has been right there to help.

On both of the packets in front of me the “warning” is printed in a bland font with illogical line breaks:

WARNING: Cigarette
Smoke Contains
Carbon Monoxide”

Any of the 10th graders I’ve seen sucking these things would likely respond, “So?”

“Hey, man, isn’t that carbon monoxide the same stuff that comes out of cars? If all these people are driving, why should I stop smoking?”

No, we need (paging Rep. David Wu) cigarette package warning labels like those mandated in Canada. They are big, bad, bold and even scary.

And they work.

Below are a couple. You can see others from Canada here and you can go here to see others from other countries:

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Turkish Hack

As many of you know, I put out an on-line neighborhood newsletter, The Hillsdale News. A couple of weeks ago, a hacker (from Turkey of all places) managed to wipe out the newsletter.

Restoring it was a fairly simple matter, and Todd Coward, who manages the server for the site (and those of several other Portland neighborhoods) thought he had blocked the hacker’s entry.

He was wrong.

A week later, The Hillsdale News site, as well as, was once again inaccessible, although Todd had it up and running in a couple of days.

The hacker’s point of entry seems to have been a calendar program used by some other neighborhoods, also Todd’s clients.

In addition to being troubling, hacking is perplexing. Who would get his jollies by obliterating Portland neighborhood news? And from Turkey no less?

I never thought that anyone would want to destroy news of Food Front, the Multnomah Farmers Market and a solar Panel at Rieke Elementary School. What's the point?

Those knowledgeable about such matters no doubt will tell me that the hackers don’t care about content. The challenge is cracking the system. The destruction is evidence of their success.

From time to time I’ve written here about the end of newsprint and the rise of the internet, but the “Turkish Hack” has altered my outlook.

Do we suddenly have to live with information impermanence and vulnerability? Must we commit to print everything worth saving that is now stored in our computers?

And what about the biggest hackers of all? Nuclear war? Asteroids?

How do you back up for those?

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