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PETA takes on Portland, and horse poop takes center stage

I can go along with PETA for some distance but I keep getting distracted, and well short of applying for membership, by the group’s loony pronouncements.

Which, in defense of my ability to concentrate, is pretty easy to do when it comes to PETA.

Traipsing across Washington, a heat wave on our heels

I was pursued recently, and quite doggedly, by a heat wave. This experience intrigued me, as my interest in meteorological matters is boundless, but it was also a plain old nuisance.

The latter was due mainly to all the changing of shirts.

Government should settle for simpler alternatives

President Obama appeared on what seemed like half my channels the other evening, pitching his prescription for health care.

The president had plenty to say about the American people. Politicians have in recent years taken up the American people in a big way, and we are as a result getting quite a lot of press coverage.

Rowling proves that magic doesn’t happen just on the big screen

Watched the latest episode of the Harry Potter series Sunday at the Eltrym, and the film erased two and a half hours as effortlessly as did the five movies that came before it.

Even without malted milk balls or red vines to sweeten the experience.

I expected as much.

Good-bye to all these great people

Public goodbyes aren’t my thing, but in the newspaper business they sure can be efficiently handled.

In one column I can wish you all well and say nice things about the people I’ve worked alongside the past nine years.

Both are easy tasks, but neither is a job I tackle with relish. Except for the nice-making part.

First things first.

You people — you know who you are, because you’ve graced our Page 1 over the years — have been wonderful, a privilege  to profile. Ned Steele told me the moving story of his Marine Corps service during the Battle of Guadalcanal — a story so painful he’d just started sharing it with family members in August 2002, the 60th anniversary of that fierce battle.

Losing a really good reporter — and a really bad French accent

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, but a particular melancholy has come over me in recent weeks at the prospect of watching my colleague Mike Ferguson leave the Baker City Herald building for the last time as he prepares to move his family to Iowa.

I won’t say that I’ve enjoyed every day of working side by side with Mike. You see, I like a quiet work environment.

Mike, on the other hand, is a thespian and a storyteller. He even fancies himself as something of a song-and-dance man. On more than one occasion, upon arriving at the office with a less-than-enthusiastic attitude, Mike’s voice has been the first thing I’ve heard as I walked through the front door. Never mind that he’s still two rooms away at that point.

I'll miss my colleague. . . and my friend

My colleague Mike Ferguson will leave soon for Iowa, where he will not, so far as I know, work in the corn industry.

This bothers me (Mike’s leaving, not his inability to find corn-related employment, even in Iowa) because his departure means I have to figure out who’s going to report on Baker City Council meetings and do the myriad other tasks which Mike has performed deftly and with particular aplomb since he joined the Herald’s staff nine years ago.

Basically this looks to me like something of a hassle, and I dislike those.

But there’s another Mike Ferguson who’s leaving.

I call him my friend.

A little lake in the Elkhorns has gone nameless long enough

A lake ought to have a name, mainly so I can tell people where I was when I got pierced by a gaggle of mosquitoes.

Or swarm, or whatever you call a bunch of ill-tempered mosquitoes.

Freedom in decline? How to explain all the guns and beer?

The notion that freedom is on the wane in America seems to have gained widespread currency these past several years. This is an alarming prospect at any time, but it seems to me particularly so as I ponder the matter on this eve of America’s birthday.

On July 4, more than on any other day, we celebrate our shared belief that freedom is not merely desirable but necessary, the granitic foundation which underlies and supports the grand and noble construction that is the United States.

The possibility that the bedrock beneath us might in fact be riddled with cracks after 233 years, which is no great span in the life of a nation, troubles me greatly.

'Quiet' study has a lot to say about recreation on the forest

A report bearing the intriguing title “Economic Impacts of Non-motorized (Quiet) Recreation on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest” reached my desk recently.

It was that little word — “quiet” —which caught my attention. The word itself didn’t interest me especially, as I learned some time back what quiet means.

What piqued my curiosity, rather, were the author’s use of quiet to describe recreation, and his decision to confine quiet to the grammatical quarantine that is the parentheses. This suggests to me that the author, Dr. Kreg Lindberg of Oregon State University’s Cascades Campus in Bend, isn’t confident that either quiet or non-motorized precisely conveys the sort of recreation he studied, so he put them both in the title.

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