Monday, November 30, 2009

Wood Pile

I recently thought back to my first ten years here. During this time I heated my home exclusively with wood. It was a smaller home back then and it is now probably 50% larger.

The house would hold heat pretty well. Just with passive solar I was able to hold off on lighting the first fire of the season until mid November and I was usually able to stop burning by Tax Day, April 15.

The wood stove was getting old, and I got tired of all the chimney fires. I eventually ended up adding a heat pump and I've never looked back. I don't miss all the time I used to spend cutting, hauling, splitting, stacking,curing and bringing in firewood. I had it easy because I got all my wood from my property. I never had to scavenge roadsides or get forestry permits.

When I see folks drive by with overloaded pick-up trucks, I wonder if they realize how much time they spend heating their homes. I wonder if they realize how much more it costs them in time and material than if they just paid a utility bill.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Town Drunk

I grew up in a small town. There is a certain dynamic to small town life where it’s hard to be anonymous or to reinvent oneself. You are who you are and the only way to get away from that is to move to a city.

The sad thing about small town life that sometimes all it takes is one pissed off person to start a rumor and ruin someone’s reputation. Most times it’s obvious, like in the case of the town drunk. When you see a guy walking around drunk all the time or sleeping it off on his lawn and they do this often enough you have an established reliable town drunk. In my town he was known as Gary the Drunk. There were other drunks in town, but none quite as reliable as Gary.

Who was your town drunk?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Name Games

I have written before about how parents are naming their children using the last names of other people. Everywhere you look you will find Parkers and McKenzies. Some of us old timers still think this naming trend is a bit silly, but I wonder if there was someone like me writing a hundred or so years ago about people started naming their children after plants and flowers. In that realm we have names today such as Rose, Rosemary, Ivy, Camellia, Heather, Dalia, Daisy, Fern, Willow. These names are almost always given to female children. I do know one male child named Cedar. I once knew a Sweet Pea and I once misspelled her name as Sweet Pee. Boy was I embarrassed.

There are other strange direction that names go, like for the months of the year. There is always April, May and June. I’ve heard of someone named September. The month of August was actually named after Augustus; not the other way around.
Days of the week were not immune either. I’ve heard of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I wonder why no one ever called their kids Thursday or Saturday.

Then there are the animal names, Fawn, Buck, Drake, Bunny, Colt, but no one is naming their kids Cow, Skunk, Weasel or Fish.

Think of all those that share names with Geography. Phoenix, Paris, Dakota, Chelsea, Georgia, and Florida. Fortunately no one is being named Bayone, Mississippi or Walla Walla.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bigger Boxes

I went to the new Costco on Tuesday evening. There seemed to be hundreds if not thousands of people there. The store wasn’t open for business. Instead it was a community celebration where Costco was feeding the masses plates of food rather than the usual something or other skewered on a tooth pick. Of course I did not partake.

My first impression was of the lights on the ceiling. The photo above is of a found photo, not the Costco in Warrenton, but it left me with the same impression. It reminded me of the lights inside the foundry of my home town. I got somewhat a maudlin feeling when I realized that the fathers of my generation worked in foundries under lights like that where they produced steel and machinery that was not only used for the US infrastructure but for export. However, now the fathers of the new generation work under these lights in a big box store selling stuff that was made in Korea.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a member of Costco, and I realize what this store has done for the local economy, be it all the temporary construction jobs, or the permanent positions with fair wages and benefits. I know of their philanthropy with local charities. Costco is a vital part of our present economy here on the coast. They are now probably well within the top ten employers in the county. They pay employees that probably spend money in a business that supports your family.

I used to rant on this blog about my anti development sentiments. I even did so recently deeming Warrenton as Whorenton for encouraging these sorts of big businesses to come to town, but as Bill Clinton learned early in his presidential tenure, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Costco is making a difference in the local economy and if our economy doesn’t grow it probably we probably won’t thrive as a population.

I’ve seen this in nature as well. Take a bee colony for instance. If there aren’t enough bees in the hive the colony will die. If there isn’t enough nectar the bees will starve. If things are good where there are a lot of bees and a lot of nectar the colony will divide, grow and become productive in other ways.

Ideally I’d love to live somewhere where there are no buildings other than barns that have a foot print of no more than 3000 square feet. I’d love to live where people turn their lights off when they go to sleep at night. Sadly a place with those desirable things probably couldn’t support me economically. Those are places where you are born into an industry. You don’t just go there and start working.

I suppose that I benefit by living here and I’ll have to accept the grotesque consumerism and all the future landfill I see occupying the shelves of the new Costco. People want what they want regardless of my opinion of what is ideal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I’ve been bitten again. I thought I was totally over it, but it looks like I’m not. It’s not like I ever had a real bad addiction to it, but it was something which could have detrimental to my health if I lost touch with reality.

It all started again last night. I was looking for a fog lamp fog my truck. The lens on one of my present fog lights must have been hit by a stone and there is a crack in the plastic. Once it gets some condensation in it all it takes is one drop of water to destroy the hot bulb within. Fog lamp sells at retail for around $75 dollars. I figured I check ebay, or as I call it oboy…or it could be obey…

I put in a bid on the part and went on to check out some other things I could probably use if I can get it really cheap. I bid on a USB remote handheld mouse with a laser pointer. I also bid on a PDA/GPS device. The bid was $9, though shipping was going to be around $25 it was still a good deal. I made the final bid before I went to bed and the auction was going to close just after 6 this morning. I was there waiting. Two minutes before the close someone bumped up the bid; I sat quietly. Thirty seconds to go someone bumped it up to $17. I entered $18.01 and held my finger over the submit button and with two seconds on the clock I hit send. My bid flashed for a nano-second and then was over-run by someone who submitted a $27 bid.

Needless to say, I lost the bid, but I had the excitement of the chase. I felt primitive. The other eagle got the fish. The other sperm hit the egg. I tumbled back into cyber space licking my wound, but I went back and started looking for another conquest.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winds of Winter

If there is one thing here that totally drives me crazy it is the winds we get between November and January. Years ago they bothered me because at that time my home was surrounded by trees. The winds were less fierce because of all the forest, but I always worried a tree would come crashing on the house.

Later the forest across the street was clear cut opening a wind channel that took out all my trees. Now my house is totally in the open with no wind protection. I joke and say that we are so open that if a duck farts on the Lewis and Clark River, we can feel the breeze.

One good thing about all the trees being gone is that we used to have day long power outages a couple times every year during every storm. Our power is more reliable now, though we were without power for about an hour on Sunday morning at around 5:30am.

Learning from the December 2007 storm I have done my best to wind proof everything, yet in the last week I lost a section of roofing above the tack room and oddly even though I used Simpson hurricane ties on the roof joists of the manure shed, two panels and the joists they were attached to were ripped clean from the shed. The Simpson ties snapped off.

So again, I'm back to repairing storm damage.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

People With Secrets

I just finished reading “In the President’s Secret Service” by Ronald Kessler. I almost feel like a Royal Watcher when I read a book like this, but I have always been fascinated by the people behind the politics.

I once dated a woman whose brother was a Secret Service agent. We drove to New York one morning to pick him up from the Waldorf where he was guarding some dignitaries. On the drive back to New Jersey I got to ask him all sorts of questions about his job. He had been on all sorts of details all around the world. He worked with just about every famous political person you’d ever heard of in places like the White House and palaces everywhere. All in all I came away with the impression that to him it was just a job. He had a very rank and file attitude about his work.

Back to the book, this book exposes impressions that agents have had regarding those who they were willing to take a bullet for. There are some surprises.
The agents seemed to love Reagan, George HW Bush, Barbara Bush, George W and Laura Bush, Tipper Gore, Bill Clinton and the Obamas. These people were always respectful to agents.

On the other hand Gerald Ford, Hillary Clinton, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Nancy Reagan, Jimmy Carter, the twins Jenna and Barbara Bush, Amy Carter and Al Gore were total douche bags. They weren’t douchie once in a while; they were full-time 24/7/365 douche bags.

It’s an easy read, but I’d suggest waiting for the paperback, though I did get it really cheap used on Amazon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Ears Have It

Oddly with having blown out my hearing on several occasions and with the constant ringing in my ears, I still have really good hearing. I can hear things long before others, be it rain in the distance, movement in the forest or birds on the wing. People are often amazed by advanced warnings I issue of things that I hear in the distance.

Far better than my hearing is the hearing of one of out cats. Cats are known for selective hearing. They just don’t hear things that are not important to them. They know there are no repercussions to not listening for what we want them to hear. They are after all, cats.

We have one of those on-demand cat food containers where the cats can eat any time they like. It holds about a weeks worth of food. I go into the laundry room every morning because that is where I keep my work shirts. When I see their food reservoir getting low I grab the bag of cat food on the shelf and pout some in. As soon as I do our Tuxedo cat comes running. Lately I’ve noticed he is right there as soon as I grab the bag from the shelf. Now, I go in there every morning to get a shirt to wear, and he doesn’t come running, but if I touch the bag he comes from where ever he is in the house to check it out.

I tried another experiment where I see him outdoors somewhere and if I grab the bag and look out he is suddenly right there at the door waiting to be let in. I took the experiment up a notch. This cat loves to spend time at the edge of one of the pastures looking into the weeds on the other side of the fence. He is approximately 150 feet away. He sits there for hours waiting for mice. I saw him there, and two seconds later I went to the laundry room, grabbed the bag and within five seconds he was at the door. That is amazing to me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Fundamentally Wrong By Design

It’s funny how the media will fixate on one word and eventually it takes on a limited or a whole new meaning. Think of the word “Fundamentalist.” If you are of a progressive background this word will bring to mind the religious right wing conservatives. If you are a right wing conservative the word will conjure up Muslim radical factions and terrorists. However if you are of an objective mind you will see that this word defines just about any ideology be it unwavering passion or expertise on just about any subject.

If you think about it any lobby group, philosophical group, antique collectors or club just among a few are fundamentalists. Any group that has tunnel vision and can’t think objectively of things outside their doctrine is a fundamentalist group. And do we ever have them in this County.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sucking It Up

I’ve noticed that every since the time change everyone seems to be depressed and nearly suicidal. Take the change with all the rainy windy weather we’ve been having. Now that I think of it we’ve had more thunder storms this year than ever before. Usually we can count on one thunder storm a year, but I think we’ve had at least six so far this November.

Back to my thought; everyone just seems pissy. Happy pills don’t seem to be working. Light boxes don’t seem to be working. This is going to be one long winter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Old Men and Old Trucks

There is a certain look and feeling that I’m enamored with. It’s the vision of an older man and his pickup truck. I’m not talking about the retiree that goes out and buys a new three-quarter-ton with all the crazy crap that pick-up trucks have these days. I’m talking about the guy in his late 60’s or early 70’s who wears a short tan ball cap and drives his old 1960s-1970s; garage kept pickup truck. These trucks are clean with no rust or bumper stickers. There is no tinted glass and no power breaks, windows or power anything. These trucks only seem to have only been used for trips to the hard ware store on sunny days.

I picture these old guys changing the oil every month regardless of miles driven. These were the trucks that only had to have points, plugs, rotor button, distributor cap and plug wires replaced and that was a tune-up. There were no sneaky little regulators buried under other components that one can’t find without a diagnostic computer. There were simple trucks that were made to last.

One could buy one of these trucks new from the show room floor for a price that is less than most John Deere riding mowers today. I wonder how one can justify buying a $35,000 truck in this economy. I wish GM and Ford could go back and build an inexpensive truck again. A truck that an every-day person could work on and drive. I don’t mind not having air conditioning. The compressor is shot in my present truck and I’m not going to fork out a thousand dollars to get it fixed. I want hand crank windows. I just spent close to $400 replacing my power window switches and one window motor.

As I get older I can see myself with an old truck. I’ve had a couple of them in the past, and though my present truck is more comfortable, it just doesn’t have that pick-up truck spirit. I have my tan baseball cap. Now I just need an old truck.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Putting On a Happy Face

I guess I’d say that I am set in my ways. I used to be real spontaneous and I’d thrive on things and events that just popped up, but no longer. I’ve come to a point where I dread looking at my calendar because I have things scheduled that are out of the ordinary; stuff that will derail my regular days. It is stuff that may add future derailments to my life. I know that one appointment will lead to another and then to another and so on.

I have to attend a conference soon where I’ll be teaching a class. I used to look forward to this event every year, but I no longer do. I’d really rather stay home and read. I am filled with dread every time I see the date approaching.

Many of you who have been reading this blog over the years know I’m not a big fan of the holiday season. I don’t get the warm fuzzies from seeing people. My wife is the opposite. She loves a full house of family. She loves hearing the same stories over and over. I was hoping she would get her fill of this in Seattle this year, but it appears that Seattle is coming down here this year. Our house can accommodate ten people easily, but I selfishly like my alone time. The saving grace is that I do wake up three hours before everyone, I can sneak off for an hour nap and I spend six hours sleeping every night. So I do get 10 hours to myself every day, but that does leave 14 hours a day of being with people. I long ago established a three hour limit on how much time I can spend with any one person.

Yes, I am counter-social. I’m OK with that, but I will have to put on a happy face for several days. I hope my face doesn’t break.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


As I write this it is Sunday morning, and I’m having an email conversation with one of the regular readers. It’s raining outdoors, so I’m just sitting here with the TV on while I’m writing. I turned the channel to something mindless, a VH1 countdown show. You see, MTV no longer plays music, how is that for irony? VH1 still plays music sometimes, and I can really see why the two premier music stations are getting away from music. It’s because the music really sucks.

If you haven’t listened to anything new lately you will be surprised to see that most of the music out there is an amalgamation of pussy rock and pussy country and pussy rap. The vocal tracks are digitally altered and sound like what we thought robot voices would sound like. Out of the twenty or so videos I say only one was visually stunning, but it made no sense in relationship to the song or to anything based in reality.

I was at my dentist office last week and I found myself getting aggravated by the mindless radio station that played extremely compresses pop crap. I’m becoming less tolerant of things that get poured into my head.

Pop music is a total wasteland. I hope something new comes along soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I’ve visited a few dreary barns in my day, where horses are kept in a very dark environment. One can walk by their stalls and if the horse is of a dark color you can’t even see them in there. I really like working areas to be well lit. If I have a medical problem with one of my horses and the vet has to come out at night I don’t want to have to Jimmy-rig some lighting. When I built my stalls I put lights in there. I’m not talking just a bulb or two; I’m talking baseball stadium night game kind of lighting.

Though my chicken coop has a window I somehow had a hard time seeing things in there as well; even in the day light hours. I like to see things like if they are wasting food, if there are rodent droppings, if there is anything weird, if any eggs are hidden and so on, so I finally got around to electrifying the chicken coop.

I buried a line from the greenhouse and I put in one receptacle and two ceramic bulb fixtures. When I was finished it was nearly dark. I put my tools away and I went to flip the breaker. I went back out to the coop where the hens were already returning due to the oncoming dark. I screwed in two bulbs and flipped the switch…Daylight. It made such a difference that I now may want to electrify my manure shed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the Wing

I was out working in the yard the other day. The chickens were out free-ranging. Chickens may not always behave in a rational way; however they do have an innate instinct about some things. I say irrational because I have never chased them or harmed them. Sometimes when they see me they run to me yet other times they run from me.

As I work outside I often see the chickens all run from one area where they were scratching to another area to scratch or take a dirt bath. One of them may walk away, but then the others see the walker striking out in a new direction the others have to run to catch up. Some run and some even fly.

While I was out working the other day all the chickens were out in one of the pastures. They were pretty much all together, and suddenly they exploded into a running flying mass. They weren’t following a leader; they were all leaders. They didn’t fly to another scratching area; they all hauled ass into the coop. In a moment I realized why when I heard the trickling cooing sounds that raptors make. A moment later two bald eagles flew high over head.

The chickens seemed to instinctively know when the eagles were gone. They came out of the coop nearly as vigorously as they entered and they went about their day as though nothing ever happened.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I went shopping for new eye glasses earlier this week. I did check out the selection at my Ophthalmologists office but somehow I don’t see how rimless frames which consist of the piece that goes over the nose and the right and left side that goes over the ear can cost more than a new 3000 watt generator. Over $350, this is just the price of the frames without the lenses. I mean WTF? There are three pieces of metal with a couple of screws. I could understand the price if it were pure gold.

From there I went to my former optometrist office with my prescription and I found similar frames for less than one third the price. This was much more reasonable, however that still a lot of money for three pieces of thick wire. I could have gotten a big plastic pair of Betsy Johnson glasses for about $50, but Yee-Gads, that would be like walking around with a wind shield on my face and I’m sure I’d have to coat the lenses with Rain-X and walk around with a squeegee in my back pocket during rainy days.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My New Jones

You know how when you sometimes mix two things together you often get a concoction that is totally disgusting like bourbon and root beer, but then there are pleasant surprises like peanut butter and chocolate, honey and mustard and so on. I have discovered the new perfect combination and I can't get enough of it. I was recently having a quesadilla and on the side of the plate I put down a dollop of sour cream next to a splash of raspberry chipolte sauce. The more I dipped between them the more mixed they became. The sweet and tangy chipolte was mellowed by the creaminess of the sour cream.

I know it has been said with sour cream people will eat their own fingers, but with this combination I'd be tempted to eat just about anything.

Friday, November 13, 2009


OK, I’m sure I’m going to upset you gun nuts out there, but I think it is really time to outlaw guns. They need to be rounded up and melted down. Yep even that family gun that has been around for generations has to go.

Tonight as I watched the news there is a memorial service for the 13 that were killed in Fort Hood. John Muhammad is going to be executed for being the DC sniper and there was an invasion shooting in a laboratory in Tualitin and there was a standoff with a guy holding hostages with a gun in upper New York State. Every day there is more of the same.

I don’t care if you think the Constitution says it’s OK. It isn’t OK. I don’t care if you are no longer afforded the luxury of “gittin yer elk” from a half mile away. If you want to kill be a hunter be brave and go after one with a hatchet.

I’ve stated it before and I’ll state it again. I have never been anywhere or in a situation where a gun would have come in handy and I bet you haven’t either unless you are in a dangerous business. If fewer guns are out there people will feel like there is a lesser need for them. It will probably take decades to ferret out all of them, but if we don’t start somewhere it’s only going to get worse. Kevlar is not fashionable.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Public Safety Question

I have a question for you safety geeks out there. Why is it when an ambulance is called to assist and or transport someone they also sent out a fire truck? Is spontaneous human combustion a bigger problem than has been previously reported?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Burning Season

Heather wrote last week about a leaf burning incident that went very badly, which reminded me of a fire I started last year.

I was always curious how loggers could start a slash fire that could burn so hot even when all the debris was wet and green. The secret is to use an old tire at the base and pour on a mixture of gasoline and used motor oil.

I’m not big on burning tires so last year I poured a one gallon mixture on a wet brush pile and I ignited it with a propane flame thrower. The pile burned until the fuel ran out, so I waited a couple of weeks until the pile dried a little more.

The next time I poured two gallons of the gas oil mixture all around the pile and when I ignited it there was a big WOOOOOSH sound that nearly knocked me off my feet. Neighbors came out to see if I was OK. They said their windows rattled and they were a little frightened when they looked out and saw the mushroom cloud rising in the atmosphere.

I think if I ever use two gallons again I’ll ignite it with a road flair from a further distance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


While driving for several hours on I-5 yesterday I did my usual road survey of what sort of junk was sitting on the side of the road. There was a mattress and box spring set. There were a couple of coolers and some tarps and sheet plastic. In the road kill department there were two raccoons and a deer. Not bad. I’ve seen worse debris before.

One thing I was shocked by was the amount of tire retreads. I don’t think a mile passed without seeing a big chunk if not entire bands of tire tread. It made me wonder why any trucker would want to use a re-treaded tire. It seems like a major safety issue, though with all the highway driving I’ve done over the last 37 years I’ve never seen a retread or a cap come off a truck. However the highway is littered with them.

I figured I’d visit a web site about retreads, also known as recaps and I found some interesting stats about this product and process. A new truck tire sells for around $275 and a recap costs $90. The per-mile cost $0.00076 for a new tire and $0.00042 for the recap. Making retreads saves over 400 million gallons of oil in North America as opposed to if they were producing full tires.

The site made the recap sound like a good deal, but I still wouldn’t use them on my vehicles. Maybe I would use them on my lawn mower. With all the rubber I saw on the side of the road I can’t imagine that it could be cost effective in comparison with the inconvenience and the down time created when one loses a tread. Had I collected all the recaps along the highway I could have easily filled the bed of my truck within 30 miles.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Fortunately I spend a lot of time alone. This way when I find something really amusing and I start laughing to myself or at myself, no one is there to view me as a lunatic. It happens pretty often. Sometimes if I am driving I have to pull over until I can get a grip.

Unfortunately, when I am with people I have to stifle my laughter because most times the things I laugh at are so bizarre that I wouldn’t want to explain to people exactly what was amusing me. If I did explain my laughter and thoughts I’d find myself alone more often, which could be a good thing I suppose.

This morning I was fortunately alone when I got to laughing about the phrase, “pain in the ass.” How often have you heard this phrase? Probably several times a day, but if you think about it, it is a pretty funny thing to say. Though I’m sure that having a pain in ones’ ass must be a miserable thing, it perfectly describes people and external situations quite well. It isn’t terminal, just inconvenient. It’s a pain in the ass and that says it all, even the comedy of it says it all in a funny way.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


If you think about it, over our lifetimes we have all met more than out share of people that are absolutely bat shit crazy. We’ve probably even considered ourselves bat shit crazy from time to time. It is usually obsessive behavior that is the key indicator in this determination.

Though obsession is the basis for a lot of comedy, sometimes obsession is more frightening than comedy will allow.

I’m sure this has happened to us all at one time as well; where we were stuck somewhere with a crazy person. We are their captive audience. They could be in the seat next to you on a flight, or next to you in a waiting room for a medical appointment. Maybe it’s the captivation which leads to Stockholm syndrome, but somehow these people start making sense. Sometimes you can see a beam of genius shining out from their torment. Sometimes you can walk away with a new perspective on life.

Then again, sometimes you still want to gnaw off your leg and change seats.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Follow Through

There is one thing you can count on with some people and that is that you can never count on them. Why do we even have that glimmer of faith that they will actually come through someday when we know they never will? Never, never, never … ever.

I’m sure I’m not the only person they let down. It’s in their genetic makeup to never follow through on commitments. Their promises seem so promising. You’d figure that by now they would have been totally banished from society, yet we stand hopeful that one day they will surprise us by following through on something.

Friday, November 06, 2009

While the Sun Shines

I’ve written here before about the old adage of making hay while the sun shines. We have now entered the time of year where sunshine is a rare commodity in Oregon. We have moved from a situation where it was sunny every day into a situation where it is sunny a couple days a week and will soon plunge into sunny only when there is a full moon or the first crescent phase of moon. Keep track; no matter how dismal the weather can become here it usually clears up for the full moon and for the first crescent moon phase.

Weather predictions here aren’t bad at a two day glance. More than two days is always a crap shoot, but I faithfully check out the weather so I can plan when to do certain activities. For instance I love line drying my laundry. Sometimes I will get dangerously close to the edge of wearing those tie dye underwear in hopes of finding the perfect laundry day.

Maybe I should give up since the sun is at such a low angle in the sky. I often have to finish the clothing in the drier, but nature is still doing most of the work.

I have a little digging to do this weekend and I’m hoping that I’ll be able get it done between the showers. I don’t dig digging in the rain, but I really don’t dig having to take a flash light out to feed the chickens and gather the eggs in the morning and in the evening. I need to run an electric cable underground from the greenhouse to the coop.

The shorter rainy days are great for catching up on rest and to prevent me from over-doing it as I do all summer, but I will pack on ten pounds over the winter. I always do. Though naps are planned I still want to spend the winter pulling scotch broom and building some new equipment in the shop. Wish me luck between the drops.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Old Fashioned is Often Better

I remember growing up thinking that the phrase “Old Fashioned” sounded so bad. When I heard the phrase the first thing that came to mind was the Winter Sisters. They were two old spinsters that my father bought who our house from. They dressed in Victorian garb, long black dresses, laced boots and black head bonnets. To me that was old fashioned.

Somehow the term, “Old Fashioned” has gone from a term to describe that which is archaic to that which is quality or retro. I’m sure the redefinition came about because of the nostalgic Baby Boomers that have seemed to redefine so much to accommodate their fond memories or to remake not so fond memories into to something better.

Some products have become “New and Improved” over the years, however most of them never needed to be. I’ve been doing a little research on an old thing I grew up with and found myself shocked at the revised image. This would be the image of Bazooka Joe.

If you grew up when I did you could expect a “swell” prize in your Cracker Jacks and you could expect a Bazooka Joe Comic when you opened your Bazooka Bubblegum. The photos above are of Bazooka Joe and his turtle-necked friend Mort from 1954 until 1981.

Look what they did to Joe and poor Mort in 1983. Mort looks like a character in Pogo

They didn't have any new comics from 1986 - 1988, but when they returned in 1989 they had this for the next ten years.

Finally this is the way they look in the present and have looked this way since 2000. With Mort they are obviously going for an amalgamation of R. Crumb, Bill Griffith, Grim Natwick and Dr. Seuss. Were these changes really necessary?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Are We Happy?

With all the Walmart* stuff going on around here I cringed recently when I saw their little smiley face logo. Not because Walmart is evil, which it is and I feel they do have every right to build here, but I will still shop with local family run businesses and plan to never set foot in one of their stores. I cringed because it brought back a very strange memory.

Back when I lived on the East Coast I hung out with a lot of professional musicians. I got to do some recording and production, which was fun, but the world of music can be really strange. My friend Mark, a studio musician and I were hired by a guy to come to his house and record him singing some standard tunes. This guy lived in a very affluent town and from the looks of things this guy never worked a day in his life, but rather relied on his parents for his extravagant behaviors.

We knew he was extravagant when we walked into his kitchen. He told us he’d be ready in a minute as he pulled cookie sheets out of the oven. On the cookie sheets were rows of these little wax or plastic yellow circles with happy faces on them. Each was about the size of a silver dollar. “I’m going to be selling these for a buck a piece.” I have thousands made already… OK, we thought…

The guy is finally ready for us and leads us down into his basement where he has a mock stage set up. There was an elevated wooden floor, curtains made of sparkly material, a microphone on a stand, two stools (for sitting, not shit) and stage lights with colored filters. This guy was starting to frighten me.

I dragged a table over for my equipment, and ran some wires to the amp and the PA to have a hot feed on my board. I also set up microphones for the other two tracks. I always liked ambient sound tracks as an underlay. Over the next hour I listened to him singing standards like, Fly Me To the Moon and Satin Doll with the accompaniment of Mark’s guitar.

All and all it was a pretty clean session. It was easy to mix and make a demo cassette for him. His check cleared and no one got hurt. However every time I see one of those freaky smiley faces a chill runs up my spine. This guy was inventing himself trying several things to make himself useful. I wonder what ever happened to him. I wonder if he ever sold any of those happy faces.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Everyone has something they excel in. I’m good with a lot of stuff, but there are only a few things I excel in. One of them would be Scrabble. Though I haven’t played anyone in years, I still have the game entwined in my total being.

My wife has a scrabble application on her cell phone and while we were out for a long drive she opened up the game. As I drove she played and she would occasionally ask what can I do with these letters…? My mind is able to retain and rearrange the letters. I can form them into words in my head and then I can decide which words would collect the highest score. I asked her if there were certain lead in letters on the board that I can connect to. I asked her what open letters could lead to double word or triple word scores. It wasn’t just about using up letters. It was about strategy and higher scores.

She was amazed that I was able to do this while driving without looking at the letters or the board. She wanted to know how I developed this skill. I told her it was all due to time spent. While my friends were spending all their time getting their graduate degrees I was playing scrabble. Now few of them are working in their fields of study and I rarely ever play the game. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sick Day XXX

Who got hurt?

With two thirds of local recall campaigns finished it is time to access the winners and the losers and who was injured. First, there were no winners.

The minor injuries go to the River Keepers who exposed their ugly underbelly for all to see. This group went beyond singing to the choir; they went on a venomous assault. It is one thing to want to protect our water ways, but another thing to try upset politics of a county where generations of people have made their living on the river. Theirs was a campaign of vengeance because they know perfectly well that it is far too late to stop LNG development on the Columbia River. The River Keepers will probably now swim back up stream because of the futility, financial drain and relative ineffectiveness of their efforts here.

One with a major injury is the Daily Astorian. It is one thing print an editorial opposing something, but this news paper went far beyond editorial opposition. It constantly hammered away at issues making news were there wasn’t a story. The paper was accused of not printing letters from proponents of recall candidates or other related issues. The paper stated that they print 99.9% of all letters received, however many have come forward stating they don’t. Doing the math from the five people that told me their letters were never published, this would mean that the Daily Astorian had to have published nearly 500 letters in the last two months in order for them to exclude .01%. This paper has lost most if not all the credibility that it once had under the previous management of the publisher’s parents.

The next with major injuries is Ann Samuelson. I will agree that we have seen Ann shoot herself in the foot on more than one occasion. She has yet to learn that discretion is the better part of valor. Though she has been very passionate proactive in dealing with issues in the county that need to be dealt with, she has also been very reactive to things that spontaneously popped up. There were things that could have waited for a better time to address or not address after sleeping on them. Many of these things would have been better left alone. Ann can rebuild her political career. Being her loss was so close by only four votes tells me there are a lot of people that didn’t drink the poison that was passed out and can see deeper meaning to what she has achieved in the bigger picture outside of land use decisions. She is an advocate for mental health and when the power went out for weeks in her district last winter she got people from the rest of the county to lend generators to people in her district. She also got firewood for those in need. She has energy and the ability to motivate people. I'd be willing to bet that if the recount does not favor her; she could get her seat back if she ran for it again in May.

Finally the biggest injuries were inflicted upon we the citizens of Clatsop County. We not only had to foot the bill for this four-vote folly, but we got to live in an extremely toxic political environment that we’ve been living in since before the 4-123 campaign. One writer on the KAST forum says that one can’t help but think the recalls have a direct relation. When the dots are connected with the cast of characters this picture does come into view. Hopefully this will now be drawing to a close.

Another bit of collateral damage of Ann’s recall was the political across-the-aisle cooperation. Yes, the County Commission is supposed to be a non-partisan board, but party affiliation is hard to mask in the decision process. It makes us sick when we citizens see the partisanship in politics where lines are drawn in the sand with them on one side and us on the other. This mind set washes out all the good intention of any project. Ann was able to work with everyone as opposed to the other Democrat on the Board of Commissioners who seems to vote against things because the others are voting for it. Ann is Democrat, but the Democrat Party of Clatsop County shunned her for reaching across the aisle to get things done. Their narrow minded effort lost them some members and credibility. They need to be more inclusive than exclusive; however I doubt they will come to this conclusion with their present leadership. They shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back for this shallow victory of ousting one of their own.

The entire county has been wounded except for those that print signs and flyers, or collect advertising revenue, but they too have to live here and do business under a pall that covers our County. What business would possibly want to locate here with the toxic political and social environment as it presently stands? Maybe that is the underlying intent to keep business out and to guide the County back down the road of a bad economy where it has been so often in the past.

I recently heard a sound byte on the radio of one of the anti activists at a planning meeting where an entrepreneur was talking about building some stores on his land across from Fred Meyer. This activist said, "Just what we need, another strip mall." Need it or not, are you willing to put up a road block to someone legally pursuing their American Dream? Do you want to remove the liberty of free enterprise?

Yeah, back to nature is all well and good but the anti people fail to see that they are consumers too. In order to use a piece of toilet paper you have employed a land owner, a logger, a truck driver, mill workers, a buyer and a retailer, and you supported the infrastructure such as chain saw manufacturers, roads, factories, delivery trucks and retail stores. The market determines where there is an over saturation of these things.

Look if you want to save the salmon, stop eating them. If you want to save the trees, buy some land and plant some trees and don't cut them down. Stop buying poster board for your signs. If you don't want a strip mall somewhere buy the land from under the developer. Just quit whining.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I'm From New Jersey

OK, here is the last New Jersey that I pulled from the rotation two weeks ago:

There are a few of us who live here that come from New Jersey. You can tell we are New Jersey Ex-pats when ever this John Gorka song comes on the radio. We perk up a bit, quietly. We aren’t the type to stand up and salute, yet we still have reverence for where we once lived.
John Gorka, I’m From New Jersey.