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July 10, 2009 03:37 PM

Centron Solar has made front page news with the announcement that it may bring up to 300 much needed jobs to Eugene. But it remains unclear just how much substance Centron actually has and if all those jobs will actually materialize.

"Really, we don't know what's real here and what's not real," Bob Warren, a state business development officer for Lane County told the Oregonian.

“It doesn’t look like there’s a large upfront investment,” Jack Roberts, director of the Lane Metro Partnership told The Register-Guard.

Here’s some other details that also raise questions about the substance of the Centron Solar operation:

• The newspapers stories appear to rely entirely on one person, Ocean Yuan, for all their information about the company.

• Large Chinese manufacturing companies are alluded to as partners but not named and quoted. Yuan declined to name any of the companies involved.

• The company doesn’t appear to have much physical presence beyond its relatively small new website . The site registrant address is listed as a private home in south Eugene.

• The small rented warehouse location doesn’t look like much.

• With manufacturing done in China, it’s unclear what exactly people in Eugene would be doing. Is it a sales call center? An assembly facility? A corporate headquarters?

• Of the six people listed on the website as part of the company “management team,” only two live in Eugene. Two live in Portland, one in Vancouver, Washington and one in Atlanta, Georgia.

• The company posted job ads on Craigs List in numerous large cities throughout the country. The listings include several grammatical mistakes and appear to offer only part-time contract work done at home and paid only by sales commission.

July 9, 2009 05:33 PM

Local state Senator Vicki Walker will leave office for a $100,000 a year political appointment from the Governor, Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced today.

Kulongoski appointed Walker to chair the state Parole Board.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners will take nominees from local Democratic party leaders and appoint a replacement for Walker in the state Senate.

Walker’s District 7 includes west and north Eugene, Santa Clara, River Road and Junction City.

Leading possible candidates for the appointment include the two Democratic state Representatives from the district, Nancy Nathanson and Chris Edwards.

Of the two, Nathanson appears more progressive, based on information from Project Vote Smart. Nathanson, for example, got a 50 percent vote rating from the American Civil Liberties Union last year, whereas Edwards had a 0 percent ACLU rating.

Nathanson scored 95 percent from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters in 2007, Edwards scored 90 percent. The National Rifle Association gave Nathanson’s 2008 voting record an F grade. Edwards got a B from the NRA.

Walker, who also works as a court reporter, served 11 years in the Legislature and played a role in helping to expose former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt’s sex abuse of a 14-year-old girl. Goldschmidt was a close friend of Kulongoski, but Kulongoski denied he new about the crime. Walker was a strong critic of Kulongoski who considered running against him in 2006.

July 7, 2009 03:49 PM

With gas prices through the roof and the economy in the tank, locals are using less gas.

Here's a chart of declining gas use from a recent LCOG memo:

The drop mirrors that for the Northwest and U.S. in a recent Sightline Institute study:

The trend is good for reducing global warming and increasing livability, but will it stick if gas prices drop or the economy improves? Sightline thinks so, especially if governments increase transit and bicycling alternatives and limit urban sprawl.

July 6, 2009 04:03 PM

• The Village Voice's Rob Harvilla, like myself, is obsessed with Janelle Monae. Unlike me, he's gotten to see her perform live multiple times. I've had to make do with YouTube, which is a poor stand-in. Monae is appearing at this year's Bumbershoot, which is pretty much enough to make me want to spend Labor Day weekend in Seattle.

• Sports: still having issues with sexism.

• Cory Doctorow: Still all over the internets. Naturally. Doctorow's next novel will be serialized on Tor.com; a new piece of the 81-part whole goes up each Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the physical book's release in November.

• The unmatchable Warren Ellis greets his minions obsessed followers readers with some unforgettable shadow art.

• And speaking of art, Alex Eben Meyer (whose style particularly observant readers may remember from such covers as Winter Reading 2006 and Swizzle 2007) has a novel idea for how to get back at those nasty drivers who cut you off without signaling. Pigeons, however, aren't quite so plentiful here as they are in Brooklyn. Perhaps the (annoying, aggravating, start-squawking-at-five-in-the-morning-damn-their-little-bird-eyes) starlings would volunteer?

And with that, I'm off to see Moon and be disturbed by Kevin Spacey as a rather referential space computer.

July 3, 2009 12:27 PM

"USDA Organic" labeled food can cost twice as much, but under the loose system set up by the Bush Administration, the label may have become meaningless, threatening a lead industry in Oregon and Lane County.

"Purity of Federal 'Organic' Label Is Questioned," a Washington Post article reported today. The lengthy lead story found lax, corporate controlled regulation under the USDA. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who pushed the law to create the federal label, told the Post, "If we don't protect the brand, the organic label, the program is finished. It could disappear overnight."

Here's some of the revelations from the Post article:

• "Organic" beer has non-organic hops.

• "Organic" mock duck has synthetic additives to make it stringy.

• "Organic" baby food has synthetic fatty acids.

• The law required annual testing for pesticides, but USDA hasn't enforced the requirement.

• Corporations Kellogg, Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Dole are big players in "organic" food.

• "Organic" milk can come from factory-like feed lots without grass.

• The National Organic Standards Board has approved 245 non-organic substances for inclusion in "organic" labeled food.

Regulators appear to see their mission as more to grow the supposedly "organic" industry than to actually assure consumers are getting the organic food they paid for.

"People are really hung up on regulations, Joe Smillie a federal organic standards board member and an executive at a corporation that supposedly certifies "65 percent of organic products found on supermarket shelves" told the Post. "Are we selling health food? No," the Post quoted the federal "organic" regulator. "Consumers, they expect organic food to be growing in a greenhouse on Pluto. Hello? We live in a polluted world. It isn't pure."

July 2, 2009 04:03 PM

Internet miscellany: for when it's stupid hot out and thus you I, stupidly, walked to the bank and now have the brain capacity of a dazed manatee. No disrespect meant to manatees, of course.

• Have you heard the news? Apparently it's Author Internet Freakout Week! It kicked off when Alice Hoffman used her now deleted Twitter feed to insult the critic who reviewed her latest novel in The Boston Globe. She also posted the reviewer's phone number and email. Classy. Hoffman later "apologized." But just as that kerfuffle started to fade from memory, Alain de Botton (never lend On Love to a neurotic friend, by the way) got a bit cranky at the critic who reviewed his latest in The New York Times. Unlike Hoffman, de Botton later handled things very gracefully. Good for him. But it's not over yet! On Twitter, I mean. Next, Ayelet Waldman suggested that New Yorker critic Jill Lepore "rot in hell." (I'd like to point out the delightful headline on that last link, just in case you missed it.)

At least no one got punched in the face this time.

• And now for something completely different: RoboGeisha. Via BoingBoing, where it was described it thusly:

There is no part of this trailer that is not made of awesome. A robot geisha transforms into a tank. Two robot geishas (I guess) spew poison milk (don't ask) out of their titties at an opponent. A girl gets stabbed to death in the butt with a giant sword. Robot girls make giant swords pop out of their butts, presumably with which to stab other people in their butts. "Bust Machine Gun." And a dude is blinded with tempura shrimp.

Deadly. Shrimp. And bleeding buildings. And ... yeah, it's really pretty weird, but someone out there will love it.

• Three things make a post, so: two articles I've started reading but not yet finished because it's moments before a three day weekend and my attention span is shrinking:
- Chris Ruen's "The Myth of DIY," a treatise on artists and downloading which includes the succint and smart pullquote, "I don’t see anything artful or transcendent in our favorite record stores closing." I got several paragraphs in and was inspired to stop in at House of Records on my way back from the bank (for the Weakerthans and Dresden Dolls, should you want to track my spending habits).
- And lastly, Graeme McMillan interviews comics genius Grant Morrison, whose Invisibles series is one of the main reasons I start to see red any time someone uses the "Well, it's based on a comic, what did you expect?" line about another shitty comic-book movie adaptation. Morrison's latest is Batman and Robin.

June 26, 2009 05:27 PM

The City of Eugene plans to close one of the most popular bike commuter routes in Eugene this summer for repairs.

The city will close sections of the Amazon off-street bike path starting July 6 with work scheduled to be completed by the end of August. Unlike most road repairs, the sections of the bike path under construction will be entirely closed in both directions with bikers and pedestrians forced to take more dangerous alternative routes.

One detour suggested by the city includes south Willamette Street, where citizens have complained of hazardous narrow sidewalks and no bike lanes for decades without the city taking any action to solve the pressing problem.

The city has not disclosed exactly when various sections of the Amazon bike path will be closed during the phased reconstruction from 19th to 31st avenues. The city said it needs to reconstruct the cracked concrete path now because it did a poor job of building the foundation of the path in the 1970s.

The path runs through sensitive restored wetlands, sites with endangered plants and along Amazon Creek. The city's website does not mention any special environmental precautions for the highly visible heavy construction project. In the past, city projects have violated the city's own ordinances designed to protect waterways from construction runoff.

From the city's project website, here's the map of the project and detours:

June 25, 2009 03:08 PM

After a flurry of unconfirmed reports (well, reports only by TMZ, which was apparently good enough for pretty much nobody on a topic this big), the L.A. Times confirmed that Michael Jackson died today. He was 50. The New York Times ArtsBeat blog is getting updated very frequently with further information.

I heard the news on Twitter, where speedy updates about Jackson's condition have been replaced by memories and great links to YouTube videos, photos and more highlights of an incredible career. Comments about Jackson quickly overtook posts about Farrah Fawcett (RIP, Charlie's angel!) and news out of Iran with remarkable but unsurprising speed. There's a ton of coverage out there, which makes sense; is there any pop music fan, at least within a certain age range, to whom Jackson wasn't relevant at some moment or another?

I've stopped paying attention to Jackson in recent years, other than to marvel, momentarily, that he, Prince and Madonna had all reached or passed the 50-year milestone. Really? Really. But I distinctly remember buying Thriller on LP when I was a kid. I think I bought it in a department store; I seem to remember racks of clothing surrounding the little LP-shelf island. At some point each week, we could bring records to school to listen to, on headphones, with friends, and my kid-self was very excited to bring that one in and tap my little feet in time with "Beat It."

What's your earliest — or best — Michael Jackson memory?

And who else votes for a day of wearing single sequined gloves in his honor?

June 24, 2009 03:38 PM

Where can you earn more than $100,000 a year without a college degree, no experience and near total job security in this wretched economy?

The Eugene Police Department is holding a career night for police officers tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Emergency Services Training Center, 1705 West 2nd Avenue.

The salary range for Eugene cops is $48,588 to $61,984. With double pay overtime and lavish healthcare, retirement and other benefits, total compensation could easily reach six figures. The slim job qualifications don’t appear to match the fat salary. If you are a high school drop out, a GED will suffice.

Oh, and it’s almost impossible to get fired or disciplined. Eugene officers who have punched handcuffed people in the face or shot unarmed people dead have been reinstated by state arbitrators with full back pay.

June 24, 2009 03:14 PM

A fire late last night at the Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School has destroyed a 4J building with seven classrooms, according to Eugene Police.

Police called the cause of the fire "suspicious" and are investigating. The fire was first reported at 2:45 am Wed. by a neighbor who saw smoke and flames at the east end of the building.

School District 4J leases the building near 29th and Lincoln streets to the Montessori Charter school. In the past the district has talked of selling off the building and adjacent buildings leased by the Village charter school along with surrounding playing fields to a developer. The site behind the Market of Choice in South Eugene formerly housed 4J's Willard neighborhood school.

June 5, 2009 02:30 PM

It's looking more and more like the R-G is trying to Willie Horton progressive county commissioners.

The R-G ran an attack column today calling for taxpayer spending on pro-jail expansion propaganda (illegal by the way) with this clip-art illustration:

That looks a lot like the infamous Willie Horton ads Bush the senior used to get elected in 1988:

The "independent" ads were widely criticised as racist, untrue and illegal fear mongering, but they played a key role in electing Bush I, and subsequently Bush II.

After the R-G's conservative commissioner candidates lost in the last election, the paper is rattling the recall threat and trying to blame progressive commissioners for any crime that happens in Lane County. They won't let silly facts—like that the criminal released was released under the previous conservative county commission not this one, or that Lane County is one of the safest places to live in the nation—get in the way of their propaganda.

But voters today may be wiser. Desperate McCain supporters tried a Willie Horton style attack on Obama last year and failed.

June 1, 2009 12:39 PM

We try to be modest, but sometimes we just gotta toot our own horns. And that's OK. Or at least it's inevitable. Anyway, the point is, the Oregon and Washington Society of Professional Journalists held their annual awards banquet on Saturday, and we picked up a handful of awards, including two first-place nods for arts coverage. The honored stories are linked below.

In the category for non-daily print publications with a circulation greater than 8,000:

Third place, environmental reporting
"One Good Tern Deserves an Island" by Camilla Mortensen

Second place, consumer, food, lifestyle, home
"Much More Than a Mimosa" by Molly Templeton.
(This one's a PDF of the entire Uncorked issue — sorry! Some scrolling is required.)

First place, arts and criticism
"Forging Ahead" by Jason Blair

Second place, arts and criticism
"Operation Sharing Their Truth" by Suzi Steffen

In the category for alternative newsweeklies in region 10:

Second place, government
“Blind Oversight” by Alan Pittman

Second place, consumer/environmental affairs
"One Good Tern Deserves an Island" by Camilla Mortensen

First place, arts
“Buddhist Visions” by Suzi Steffen

Third place, special sections
“Water Day” by EW staff, edited by Suzi Steffen

May 15, 2009 03:44 PM

The Willamette Valley Music Festival! The Scottish Festival! Eugene Chosen! The Avett Brothers! It's one of those weeks when there's more nifty stuff going on in town than we can cram into the pages of the paper. Here are just two more events at which you could enjoy yourself this weekend:

This year's Out/Loud Queer Women's Music Festival features headliner Melissa Ferrick (above) along with North Carolina singer-songwriter Crys Matthews, who is releasing two new albums this year; the Athens Boys Choir, a former duo turned solo act featuring Katz, whose spoken word topics deal with "with issues of Gender, Politics, Love, Sex, and everything in-between including but not limited to spooning"; Bay Area hip hop performer and producer Katastrophe; and local singer-songwriter Virginia Cohen. The show starts at 8 pm tonight at the WOW Hall, and admission is by donation.

* * *

Tomorrow night, head down to Wheeler Pavilion at the Fairgrounds for "A Stitch in Time," a fashion show organized by Mitra Chester (of Deluxe and Kitsch) and Laura Lee Laroux (of Redoux Parlor) which gives local designers "an opportunity to directly present their creations to the community, while allowing Eugene to see the faces behind the unique fashions we support and enjoy," says designer Moria Wheeler (a preview of her Jaunty Design line is pictured above). Wheeler says, "My goal as a designer is to create fun, comfortable, unique and affordable clothing. Fashion should be exciting and accessible to all, even in Eugene." The show starts at 8 pm, but doors open at 5 pm; vending runs until and after the actual show. And there's a bar. Which is nifty. ($10 adv., $12 door)

* * *

So what are you doing with the summery, potentially spectacular weekend ahead?

May 13, 2009 01:10 PM

Let me gush a second: I pretty much loved Star Trek. It did a lot of things right, and it looked gorgeous, especially to eyes disappointed by the terrible effects in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I loved Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy the best of all, but John Cho is a respectable Sulu, Sylar Zachary Quinto a perfect Spock (I really only thought of Sylar once, when he glares at the council) and Zoë Saldana a whip-smart Uhura. The bad guy was a little stock, but the time-split really thing works for me.

That said, I've got some nits to pick. So if you've seen the film, well hey, shall we discuss? Let's!

Hey, That Was One Timely Distress Signal!
Isn't it nice for Kirk how his hearing gets interrupted by an event that lets him go on to prove himself fit to be the bestest most awesomest captain ever?

Hey, I Forgot About What That Drill Does...
It is a MAJOR point of the planet-eating drill that, somehow, it doubles as a transmission jammer. Why, then, do our heroes forget this when they make their saving-Earth plan, which relies in large part on transmissions and the ability to beam people hither and yon? (The abridged Star Trek also considers why the good guys didn't just torpedo the damn thing, but I think maybe they were going for the sneak attack...)

Hey, There Are a Lot of Dudes Here
Space: The final frontier for the endless sausage fest. I'm not asking that Scotty suddenly change genders, or that Kirk not try to pick up every lovely lady he sees. I'd just like to see a few more women in roles that don't involve getting hit on (or bedded) by Kirk. As for Uhura, I love her: I love, love, love how her intelligence is emphasized, and how key her talents are. But I also sympathize with her for that damn tiny skirt she's stuck in (this is one point on which I completely agree with Roger Ebert, whose review I otherwise find a bit codgery). Worse than the skirt, though, is her relationship with Spock, which feels shoehorned into the film like someone's flawed idea of What Will Bring In Female Viewers. It's unnecessary and awkward and reduces the lone woman in the main cast to doing little (after, I must acknowledge, her totally vital transmission reception — which, I must also note, happens offscreen) but trying to comfort poor sad Spock (whose sadness I didn't get to touch on in tomorrow's review, unfortunately — but then again, the movie doesn't do much with the reality of the destroyed Vulcan homeworld either). I'm hoping that J.J. Abrams — who has a pretty good track record when it comes to female roles in his TV shows (Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe) — was just sticking safely with this part of Trek canon for movie one, and will improve on it for future films (which I really do hope he's making).
(See also: Dawn Taylor at Cinematical; Melissa Silverstein at Women in Hollywood; Jennifer Weiner at The Huffington Post; Sady Doyle at The Guardian.)

Hey, That Looks Like It Came From Galaxy Quest!
Oh, Scotty. I love Scotty, even though he's been saddled with what someone quite aptly referred to as a granite Wookie sidekick (my viewing companion described Scotty's wee friend as "just on the R2D2 side of Jar Jar Binks"). But when Scotty slightly flubs it when he beams himself and Kirk onto the Enterprise, the script totally flubs it by sending him down a water pipe ... on the way to what looks like a giant fishbowl full of spinning razorblades — with a convenient and clearly labeled emergency hatch just before it!

If this isn't an actual conscious shoutout to Galaxy Quest, then frankly I have no idea what the writers were smoking.

Hey, Let's Not Guard Future!Spock's Shiny Spaceship!
There's kind of an explanation for this one: In this timeline, Scotty only just learned the equation for transporting at warp speed, so you might think Nero assumes there's no reason to guard the totally functional ship carrying all his red matter: No one can get to it unless they're fairly close to his ship in the first place. But wait! Nero comes from the future. In the future/alternate timeline, it's safe to assume people know how to transport at warp speed, because the Spock from the future gives this information to Scotty (I kind of have a problem with this, too, but whatever). So wouldn't he think that maybe someone could just beam onto his ship and run off with Spock's pretty spinny ship — just like Spock does?

Hey, Let's Hang Out By This Pretty Black Hole!
All that said, the dumbest moment by far was when smarty-pants Captain Kirk apparently thinks it's a grand idea to hang out and watch Nero's ship get consumed by what we have to assume is a black hole the size of several galaxies. It took a tiny dot of the mysterious, hey-science-is-complicated "red matter" to suck up an entire planet; what's that giant ball of the stuff going to do? I know: Let's wait around and see!

I actually thought for a minute that the Enterprise was going to get sucked through the hole and wind up back in the canon timeline. Honestly.

But despite all those complaints, I still loved the movie. I may also love picking at it like this. A love fed by nitpicks? I guess anything is possible.

For another kind of nitpicking, might I suggest Discovery's Bad Astronomy blog, which cheerfully takes on the science of the film? I'm particularly fond of:

But who knows what happens if you make a [cue creeeeeepy music] RED MATTER black hole. Maybe in those all kinds of weird things can happen, like Firefly was never canceled and the finale of Battlestar made sense. Crazy!