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Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns

The rains came, and Ozzy’s bad rep goes away


The June rains barged into Baker County more or less on schedule, though with a bit more verve than is typical.

We were doused with the full month’s worth — almost an inch and a third — in the first five days.

The climate in our valley follows a discordant rhythm — utterly unpredictable but reliably so — that pleases my inner ear.

(Although my outer ear doesn’t think much of sub-zero mornings when I leave my stocking cap in its cozy spot in the closet.)


Where the gulls go, and watching giraffes spar


I saw more seagulls while I was driving through Bowen Valley the other afternoon than I saw in three recent days at the Oregon Coast.

And Bowen Valley hasn’t been within the reach of the tides for something like 200 million years.

This is the sort of avian discrepancy that can happen because the weather at the shore is better suited to filming an episode of “Deadliest Catch” than to letting a toddler get sand in his hair for the first time.

I have no doubt that gulls, which seem unperturbed by the nastiest of gales, were as ubiquitous as ever during our beach trip.


Coming Monday: A new, more attractive, Baker City Herald


The Monday, June 4 issue of the Baker City Herald will be put together by the same team of reporters, photographers, ad designers and editors who assembled the edition you’re reading right now.

But Monday’s paper will look different.

And, we think you’ll agree with us, quite a lot better.


Like father (not) like son: Showed up in chemistry class


My son, Alexander, is completing his high school career by taking chemistry and physics.

Which makes him 50 percent smarter than I am.

Or maybe it’s 100 percent.

I’m equally lost among the precepts of mathematics as I am fumbling around in convoluted formulas of chemistry and the insane concepts of physics.

This is why I labored through only chemistry in high school, achieving, by way of the dogged determination that is the clueless student’s only advantage, a flaccid “C.”

(I was pretty deft with a Bunsen burner, as well. And one time I tried to make nitroglycerine, a failed effort that seemed to amuse the teacher. Probably because I didn’t hurt anyone.)


Irrigating from the sky: The wonders of a rain barrel


I didn’t realize how much water there is in one brief rain shower until I started harvesting it.

Or collecting, or whatever the proper verb is to describe diverting rain into temporary storage.

This all started because our house came without gutters.

Whether this omission was by design, or the result of a construction oversight, I can’t say.

But considering the aridity of our climate — we’ve a lot more in common, precipitation-wise, with Phoenix than with Portland — I’ve never felt any great pressure to put things straight.

(Or more likely crooked; I couldn’t hang anything level if you gave me a plumb bob and one of those cunning tools that projects a laser beam on the wall.)

Besides which, based on the TV commercials that are broadcast relentlessly on Saturday mornings, it seems that gutters are quite the nuisance, frequently getting clogged with leaves and pine needles that are the very devil to pry loose.

The lone pine on our property is a stripling that barely comes up to my sternum, so the only way its needles could get into a gutter (if we had any) is if something (a bird, for instance) carried them up there.


Food, food everywhere, but how to get it onto my plate?


I’m all for eating local food, but the trouble is nobody around here makes Milk Duds or licorice whips.

Not that I know of, anyway.

I do on occasion consume things that contain actual nutrition. And certain of these foods — unlike sugar, cacao beans and high-fructose corn syrup, all of which I relish — are grown in abundance hereabouts.

Beef, of course.

But also potatoes and wheat and peaches and apples and much else besides.


Benign-looking PVC pipes proving deadly to certain birds


I have, it seems, been misled into believing that a 12-gauge shotgun is an especially effective weapon for killing birds.

Turns out I should be lugging around lengths of PVC pipe instead.

Which, besides being comparatively light, aren’t likely to cause grievous wounds should you drop one while trying to climb over a barbed wire fence.

I bring up the slaying of birds not to poke fun at my ineptitude as a hunter, a trait which surely needs no embellishment.

(I am to upland birds what lightning is to the general public; a threat so remote that it can be rationally dismissed.)

In fact the topic is quite a serious one.


A den of iniquity in Eugene, or just a lot of blowing smoke?


So apparently quite a few football players at my alma mater, the University of Oregon, smoke marijuana.

I spent four years on the campus in Eugene, and I seem to recall the subject of cannabis consumption coming up now and again.

In fact, before I ever scrawled my name on the U of O application I had an inkling that the place had a reputation for, well, permissiveness as regards the demon weed.

There’s a reason the Grateful Dead favored Eugene over, say, Corvallis.

And it’s not because Jerry Garcia was afraid of livestock and disgusted by bad football.


The quaint era when our trust in technology was universal


The recent commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy, besides being a fascinating historical remembrance, was for me also a preview of sorts.

Two years from now marks the centennial of another epochal episode from the previous century: The outbreak of World War One.

These two events, due in part to their proximity in time, have come to represent a glaring, and disastrous, plunge from what had been a steady rise in the belief that technology would inevitably enrich the lives of most people.


Smartphones ready to save dumb drivers from hefty fines


I’ve never been so glad that my teenage years happened well before anybody thought to put “smart” in front of “phone.”

Back in the ’80s a lot of phones were sort of stupid, frankly, what with waiting for the rotary dial to plod back to its stop so you could put in the next number.

Calling someone who was encumbered with a lot of 8’s and 9’s could induce carpal tunnel syndrome.

And those extra seconds were pure torture when you were already engaged in the mentally exhausting, and ego-destroying, exercise of phoning a girl to see if she’d go with you to the homecoming dance.


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