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Weather Service's mission looking a little foggy lately


The government's weather forecasters have added the well-being of newborn calves and lambs to their list of worries, which seems to me an intolerable burden.

The prognosticators have quite enough pressure just with figuring out whether it's going to rain tomorrow.

I came across this latest curiosity in the fashion typical of our times — I was prowling about online, hoping to kick up something interesting.

(It's usually a short prowl, requiring the gentlest of kicks.)

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Never mind the '60s: Today's the heyday for horsepower


Wasn't so long ago that "hybrid" was used most often to describe either certain canines of a wolf-like nature, or fast-growing poplar trees.

Today, of course, when we see that word we think first of cars.

Many of these, including the ubiquitous Toyota Prius, are thrifty runabouts. They sport cute little carbon footprints and are festooned with badges and decals invariably rendered in green and incorporating, in some fashion, the prefix "eco."

Conspicuously absent, or understated, in the advertisements for these models is a measurement that used to be foremost in many customers' minds.

Horsepower.

Automakers, ever conscious of their image, are increasingly reluctant even to acknowledge that their products produce, and therefore consume, power.

Particularly since the vast majority of automobiles built since Karl Benz was in the business rely on non-renewable sources of energy to get around.

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OLCC touts its hard liquor sales — but not too proudly


Oregon's budget continues to suffer, but the boozers, bless their hearts (and livers), are doing their part to keep the state afloat.

I'm no teetotaler, mind you.

Although beer is my favorite tipple I don't begrudge people who prefer the harder stuff.

It is, as they say, a free country.

Yet I never fail to be amused by the semantic machinations which manifest when the government is, in effect, both bartender and surrogate AA counselor.

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Lots of 'finding' of Bigfoot — but nothing's ever found


You’d think, on a TV show called “Finding Bigfoot,” that maybe just once in a while, if only to mollify the habitual channel-changers, the cast would actually find, well, a Bigfoot.

And I mean a real Bigfoot.

Not that CGI beast that roars before and after each commercial break.

The cast members from The Animal Planet program, which recently started its second season, frequently imply that they’re practically surrounded by unidentified, but apparently quite elusive, primates.

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Sharing a scary story, and an ode to technology


Michael Hendriks doesn’t mind admitting that he was about as scared as he’s ever been while driving.

Scared enough, at any rate, to stop by the Herald office and tell me his tale.

I’m glad he did.

Hendriks’ story belongs to that category of precautions which, as the cliche goes, can’t be repeated too often.

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Please pardon us during construction

Notice anything about the appearance of today's issue of the Herald that seemed, well, unusual?

I suspect, if you've given the paper more than a cursory glance, that your answer is "yes."

Some of these differences probably were intentional.

Others, perhaps not.

The explanation, in a word: computers.

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Feeling better about the abundance of public land


I had of late been lamenting the “islands” of public land east of Baker City — those chunks of ground, some measuring in the hundreds of acres, that are surrounded by private property.

“Public,” as applied to these places, is a misleading adjective.

Because there is no general easement across the intervening private parcels, the public can’t get to these islands without trespassing.

This seems to me an awful waste.

(Except, perhaps, for the owners of the adjacent private property.)

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The waste of a bighorn sheep, and a wolf gets fawned over


Some cretin has illegally killed a bighorn sheep ram near Brownlee Reservoir.

This is like walking outside and shooting the neighbor’s cat.

Except there are too many cats as it is, whereas bighorn sheep are not so abundant around here that we can afford, biologically speaking, to sacrifice any to scofflaws.

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Strawberry slime, and the one-way minimum wage


My first paycheck was stained with a slime made of strawberry juice and Willamette Valley mud.

These ingredients were not combined in equal parts, though.

If the slime were, say, a martini, then the mud was the gin and the strawberry juice the vermouth.

I’m not sure where the olive and the swizzle stick fit here, but the analogy was of questionable taste anyway, so no matter.

At the end of the berry-picking season I had accumulated a stack of these tickets that seemed, to a 10-year-old, of impressive thickness.

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A tragic tale: The story of the Blue Mountains forests, well told


I’ve gotten around finally to reading a book which I managed somehow to avoid, as though it were an optional but probably unpleasant medical procedure, for better than a dozen years.

The book is Nancy Langston’s “Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares: The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West.”

Langston’s ambitious goal with the 1995 volume is to explain how the national forests in the Blue Mountains — the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla and Malheur — got as messed up, ecologically speaking, as they were then.

And pretty much still are today.

Langston succeeded.

Her book is the most comprehensive, and cogent, examination of this complicated topic that I’ve read.

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