Thursday, March 31, 2005

News of the weird

Better keep a tight hold on that poop bag you're trying to carry home from the dog walk. It seems that San Diego muggers have taken to snatching them.

Next they'll tell us it's an ingredient in meth.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A look at national dialects

This map shows generic names for carbonated drinks. Besides being a lovely mosaic of the USA, it tells a story of migration and influence, as well as pockets of disconformity. Why is St. Louis "soda" country at the juncture of "coke" and "pop"? How did Detroit stake out "soda" in the midst of "pop"? What is the "other" used by 50% or more in central New Mexico and in one little district in upstate Michigan?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter

Western Easter, 2005

I stopped at the Starbucks in Lake Oswego after church today. It's the second Sunday in Lent for us Orthodox (Pascha is May 1), because of a glitch in the calendar and Orthodox recalcitrance. Papacino's, our neighborhood coffee shop, was closed, and its empty parking lot was my reminder that this was not an ordinary Sunday. Nevertheless, Seattle-based Starbucks was open -- appropriately enough, because the only state with a lower church-going percentage than Oregon is Washington.

So I stopped at the Starbucks in Lake Oswego, an affluent suburb of Portland, a small city with a lively downtown and beautiful tree-lined streets. I assumed that its customer, being affluent Lake Oswegans, would be uninterested or unaware of the holiday.

I was surprised to find that even in Starbucks, even in Lake Oswego, Oregon, Easter and resurrection are not far from people's minds. People came in dressed in uncharacteristic finery, exchanging greetings of "Happy Easter." And against a backdrop of Miles Davis playing "It Ain't Necessarily So" from Porgie and Bess, another man, sitting behind me, railed against the preaching of the resurrection and the Catholic Church.

If I were trying to get away from Easter, I wouldn't succeed.

Instead I'm waiting.

To my Western Christian readers, "Happy Easter."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

'Transnational pabulum'

Talking about the Bolton nomination as U.N. ambassador, the ever-quotable Mark Steyn says, "For much of the civilised world the transnational pabulum has become an end in itself, and one largely unmoored from anything so tiresome as reality."

I recommend the whole article, but in that sentence he has captured a nauseating tendency in discourse at large: in ecumenical-speak in religious circles, in politically correct speech in political circles.

Here's an example from very recently: Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard after a 200-pound accused rapist overpowered and murdered a lone female deputy assigned to bring him into the courthouse: "I think that women are capable of doing anything that men are capable of doing. And I don’t think it’s the weight, I think it’s the heart, the training, and the ability. I don’t think the weight has a whole lot to do with it." (I wonder if he's going to get up at her funeral and tell the assembly that she just didn't have the heart, the training or the ability to do her job.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Open season on cats?

Jonah Goldberg raises the question of whether to permit hunting of feral cats.

His point is that cats kill more birds than pesticides, without doing as much good, and I wished I had access to an article by Chuck Bolsinger, who writers for the East County Gazette out of Boring, Oregon (that's a place, not an adjective).

Anyway, Chuck made a case that cats kill rodents and -- because they're a larger proportion of the bird population -- "weed" birds such as starlings and English sparrows more than native songbirds.

It was done with humor, level-headedness, sharp observation and informative detail, as all of Chuck's nature pieces are.

Let Wisconsin legalize the hunting of feral cats and tell us what the outcome is. In the meantime, Chuck's columns are available on-line, and as much as I like Jonah Goldberg's humorous political commentary, Chuck is a better nature writer.

Monday, March 14, 2005

What I'm reading

I would have thought from the title of Alain de Botton's Status Anxiety that it's just another self-help book and have passed on it.

In fact, it is another self-help book, in a way, but this author of The Art of Travel makes the genre something beautiful, and the "self" he aims to help is not just the pocketbook or the sense of emotional well-being, but something deeper -- maybe even the soul.

De Botton allows that status is actually important, since it can affect how a person functions in a community, but he observes that many people spend their lives in useless worry about who is coming up behind them or whether they're catching up with the person in front of them.

When I look at status as a motivation, it clarifies a lot of otherwise unexplainable behavior -- from the next-door neighbor getting angry out of proportion to the incident to Jimmie Carter's wandering around the world looking for audiences to admire him ( I won't pick on Clinton while he's in the hospital).

In the second half of the book, the self-help part, De Botton offers ways to overcome some of the frustrations of status -- at least to realize that a person's true value is not measured by his standing in the community. I'm not finished reading the book, so I can't

It's worth reading, and even when I find myself arguing with the author, the argument takes me into new areas of thought where I hadn't traveled before.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Bush supporters not welcome

An open e-mail to Ocean Haven, "Nature Friendly Lodging on the Oregon Coast," where "Nature Friendly" is defined as "No Hummers, No RVs, No Bush Voters (due to his environmental destructive policies)."
Congratulations on getting noticed by Best of the Web Today.

I'm curious, though. How do you know if the person trying to rent a room is a Bush voter? Can you tell by looking? Do you inspect bumpers for tell-tale stickers, have connection in County Clerks' offices? If they e-mail you, do you count spelling errors and malapropisms?

Or is it just an instinct thing?

Thanks for the chuckle.

Jan Bear
West Linn, Oregon

No answer so far.

I think on further reflection that it might be the honor system, which would necessarily include a presumption that Bush voters have honor -- a big step forward across the Red State-Blue State divide.

UPDATE: I did hear back from her. She said she doesn't have time to read the Internet, being too busy saving whales and tide pools and what have you, so she didn't know what Best of the Web is.

She said she didn't need to check up on Bush voters, because she doesn't think they'd lie about they voted for. So she does think we're honorable. But, of course, if she didn't know, she wouldn't know.

She said she had turned away only one Bush voter, and she didn't have any vacancies anyway.

Since amusement is as great -- maybe greater -- a reason to like someone as rationality, I could enjoy having her for an acquaintance. But I couldn't stay in her facilities. I wouldn't lie about my political stance, and besides, I can't afford it.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Cognitive dissonance

I can agree with the animal rights activists that this is pretty sick.

So why can't they agree with me on partial-birth (or the less exotic varieties of) human abortion.

Lamb -- valuable.
Human person -- valuable.
Sense of proportion -- priceless.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Left Hand, meet Right Hand


FROM: Left Hand
TO: Right Hand
DATE: March 2, 2005
RE: What's up?

A press release from the Oregon Department of Human Services announces: "2 problem-gambling programs, state manager to be recognized."

The Oregon Lottery -- with billboards round the state promising $MILLION$ to some lucky player -- meets gambling addiction:
Problem-gambling programs in Lincoln and Linn counties and the state's problem gambling services manager will be recognized Thursday in Newport for exemplary efforts in preventing, treating and promoting public understanding of gambling addiction.

The Oregon Gambling Addiction Treatment Foundation, an advocate for increased public awareness of problem gambling and ensuring access to treatment, will present awards Thursday during a statewide problem-gambling training conference at the Embarcadero Hotel.
Receiving the awards will be:
  • Treatment award: Lincoln County Health and Human Services' problem-gambling program.

  • Prevention award: Linn County Department of Health Services' problem-gambling prevention program.

  • Michael H. McCracken Memorial Award: Jeffrey J. Marotta, Ph.D., problem gambling services manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). The award is named for the foundation's founder and former director, who was an effective advocate for problem-gambling treatment and other health-care services.
"Both the Lincoln and Linn county programs accomplished remarkable gains in increasing awareness of problem gambling services," said Thomas L. Moore, the foundation's executive director.

"The Linn County prevention program was able to reach 552 middle-school students in five schools, a great partnering effort with the schools, the county, the commission on children and families, and the state.

"Lincoln County was a phoenix example of resurrecting a program that had essentially closed. The number of problem-gambling enrollments greatly exceeded the previous years' performance." Moore said Lincoln County's sole staffer, Marilyn Heins, conducted numerous community presentations to re-establish the program in the public's mind.

Moore said Marotta, who manages DHS' Lottery-financed treatment program, will be recognized for improving quality and introducing greater accountability into Oregon's research-based treatment while also bringing national attention to Oregon's innovative problem gambling services. Innovations include a home-based treatment program for seniors and people in rural areas and problem-gambling respite programs in Columbia and Josephine counties. Marotta, a clinical psychologist and recognized authority on treating problem gamblers, joined DHS in 2000.

Keynote speaker at the conference will be David Hodgins, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Calgary who is recognized as a leading expert on problem-gambling recovery. He will speak Thursday at 9 a.m. about effective treatments for problem gamblers and their families.
For DHS, the good news, as far as I can tell, is that more lottery funds are going to more problem gamblers. By that reasoning, a new lottery game can get more problem gamblers to help pay for more problem gambling services.

Oregon bureaucrats are a perfect illustration of the old line describing the lottery as a tax on people who are bad at math, except in this case the tax spenders are bad at math also.