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EW! A Blog.

April 17, 2008 10:35 AM

Just watch. And don't read the description first! You'll spoil the fun.

April 16, 2008 08:32 PM

In tomorrow's paper, I review — in a roundabout, bowled over kind of way — Ursula K. Le Guin's new novel, Lavinia. I had to write swiftly, and I kept thinking how, given about 1200 words, I'd have a million things to say — things that have since flown out of my head. But, er, the point is, I left out one very pertinent thing: the book doesn't officially come out until Monday, April 21.

So stop by your local independent bookstore then! (Or now, as it appears to be available, at least on Amazon, despite the not-here-yet release date.)

April 11, 2008 03:45 PM

green house

The Oregonian
has a front page story today about a couple of Portland brothers tearing down a little old house to build an "ultrasustainable" home. The article and website for the house sound great.

But is it really "ultrasustainable" to demolish a serviceable old house to build a more energy-efficient design? Consider the issue of embodied energy—that is how much energy does it take to build the house and manufacture and ship the materials used to build it? Here's a widely cited City of Philadelphia web page stating:

"The materials in an average home contain 892 million Btu's of embodied energy, an amount of energy equal to 7,826 gallons of gasoline, or enough to drive an SUV 5 ½ times around the earth."

The average home consumes about 101 million Btu's a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So even if a new ultrasustainable house uses zero Btu a year, it could still take it about nine years to break even with the old house.

The well-meaning Portland brothers appear to have considered the issue, recycling a lot of the wood in the old house and using other materials in the new house with low embodied energy. But not everything can be reused or recycled and the question remains, how sustainable is it to tear down an old house to build a new, greener house?

There's also a broader question here. What about the embodied energy of solar panels? A Prius? According to some reports, it would take about 20,000 miles of driving a Prius to recoup the embodied energy in the car's manufacture. It can take about three to seven years to recoup the embodied energy of a solar panel.

These are important questions to consider. The ethanol and bottled water once favored by some greens haven't turned out so green. Maybe the green revolution isn't about building or buying something new. Maybe the most sustainable home is a renovated little old house, or an old high-rise apartment. Maybe the greenest vehicle won't be a high-tech car that runs on hydrogen, but an old-bike that runs on donuts.

April 9, 2008 05:01 PM

With the Olympic trials coming to Eugene and all the attention on protests of the Chinese torch run, it's worth it to ask, who came up with this Olympic torch thing anyway? The ancient Greeks? Wrong. Here's a hint:

Notice the swastikas and the sieg heil salutes? That's right, it was the Nazis who first came up with the idea of an Olympic torch run, as shown in this infamous propaganda film.

No way you say? Well it's right here in the New York Times and here on the "official website of the BEIJING 2008 Olympic Games."

April 9, 2008 03:40 PM

A story in the Wall Street Journal March 19 featured an interview with UO Professor Nathan Tublitz and the headline: "Has Serious Academic Reform Of College Athletics Arrived?"

The article describes Tublitz as a neurobiology professor who is co-chairman of the faculty driven Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics.

The WSJ describes theoretically tough new standards on academic progress by the NCAA, but raises the question about whether they will actually be enforced.

Article author Mark Yost writes that the idea that players are "supposed to be students first and athletes second" is "a quaint notion in an era when CBS is paying $6.1 billion for the broadcast rights to the college basketball tournament that will draw far bigger ratings than any of the presidential debates."

Tublitz describes the royal treatment the UO gives recruitment targets with "female chaperones" and "fancy hotels." Tublitz told WSJ that only 3 percent of division 1 players get an NBA career. If the other 97 percent lack an education giving them other job skills, "They're lost."

April 7, 2008 10:32 AM

The City of Springfield is conducting an anonymous online survey to determine support for the city's plans to expand its urban growth boundary (UGB) creating more urban sprawl.

Developers and land speculators have lobbied hard for the UGB expansion, which could increase the value of their property by ten fold or more . But numerous studies have shown that urban sprawl can lead to more pollution, global warming, habitat loss, traffic congestion, obesity and urban ugliness and less livability and higher taxes.

March 31, 2008 02:22 PM


Willamette Week's Nigel Jaquiss has a cover story on the state attorney general race between former federal prosecutor John Kroger and state legislator Greg Macpherson.

Here's some highlights:

• "'I prosecuted Enron, and Greg’s firm represented them,' says Kroger."

• Eugene city attorney and Philip Morris tobacco lawyer Bill Gary boosts Macpherson for his work in cutting the cost of PERS: '“He’s shown exactly the kind of political courage that it takes to be AG,' Gary says."

• "Macpherson differs with Kroger on Measure 11, the law that provides mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes. Simply put, Macpherson says he’s more willing to consider reducing sentences. 'We’ve gone on a prison-building boom and underinvested in other services,' he says."

• Consumer advocate Dan Meek criticises Macpherson for voting against a bill to close a loophole that allowed Enron to overcharge customers $1 billion: "'Macpherson was one of only two D’s in the legislature who voted against 408,' says utility lawyer Dan Meek."

Both Kroger and Macpherson are Democrats and there is no Republican challenger, so voters will decide the race in May.

Here's an earlier EW cover story on the race:

March 28, 2008 02:59 PM

Now we're talking.

(I also love the Campion/St Vier shirts another online shop seems to have run out of, but that's a wee bit more obscure.)

It may be time for me to actually put my "Republicans for Voldemort" sticker on my car...

March 28, 2008 12:55 PM

Lately, I've developed a knack for opening books to random pages and finding upon those pages sentences which, taken out of context, are truly funny. OK, so maybe a two-time occurrence isn't quite a knack. And it's entirely possible that only Suzi and I find these things funny. But I'm going to practice this apparent talent (my boyfriend has a variation of this talent; he can open to the smut in any given title) and see if I can't keep coming across delicious things like these:

"Have you ever fucked a Bulgarian?"

— from Tom Perrotta's pretty excellent The Abstinence Teacher
(Confession: The first Bulgarian that came to mind as I read this was Viktor Krum. I ... yeah. Not sure how I feel about that.)

"The forces of the status quo don't want this reading!" she announced through a blare of feedback.

— from Andrew Foster Altschul's just-arrived-and-thus-as-yet-unread-by-me Lady Lazarus, which has such over-the-top flap copy it begs to be read aloud. (A snippet: "Together they chronicle her story, from her silent childhood to her first tortured public statements about her father; from her publication of a wildly popular book of poetry to her mysterious disappearance; from her return as the mute leader of a cultlike brigade known as The Muse to her last, terrifying crusade." Phew.)

Anyway, I know there are others out there with this talent. Please, open your books at random (no, this isn't that blog meme involving the 17th line on the 123rd page of the third book on seventh shelf on your smallest bookshelf) and tell me what you find! Rejoice in the random!

(I can't tell if I need more or less coffee...)

March 25, 2008 12:27 PM

True Story*: Several (OK, six) years ago when I was still living in New York, I went out a couple of times with a fellow who knew another Molly. Yeah, that one. The Ringwald. This was a source of awe and wonder, of course, but I tried not to bring it up; that would be, like, dorky of me. Still, there came an evening when this fellow called me from a party at That Molly's house. There is no post-teenage shock like seeing RINGWALD, MOLLY on your caller ID. Did I take a picture? You bet your DVD of The Breakfast Club I did. Molly Ringwald wasn't just the face of the teenagers a few years older than me; she was someone who made being a Molly cool back before it became the sort of name I hear yelled in the supermarket once a month. Now, I'm just as inclined to admire the source of this name of mine, the brilliant Molly Haskell.

But I digress. Point is, there's a great, if fluffy (in a good way) story about the Hughes Effect that you might want to read when you've got a few minutes. And don't miss the slideshow. I can't believe they didn't mention Cameron — er, I mean, Alan Ruck — in his tiny but awesome role in Star Trek: Generations!

* Don't forget: You must read this in Jon from The Real World: Los Angeles fashion! "TAAH-ROOO STORE-AY!"

March 19, 2008 03:07 PM

Edgar Wright makes awesome movies. Perhaps his name sounds familiar from such films as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz? If not, please familiarize yourself with said films as soon as humanly possible. While you're at it, you may want to check out all three seasons of Arrested Development, one of the best half-hour comedies ever to grace television. Pay special attention to Michael Cera, who ever so winningly plays the young George Michael Bluth. Isn't he charming? And funny? Wasn't he fantastic in Superbad? Won't he make this fall's Nick and Norah's Ultimate Playlist even better than the sometimes trying-too-hard, over-adored novel?

As we all know from those Reese's commercials, sometimes two great tastes go great together. And it seems it's time for these two great tastes to meld when Wright directs Cera in an adaptation of Brian Lee O'Malley's freaking fantastic Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life. This awesome comic is about a guy who meets the girl of his dreams — but discovers he has to defeat her evil ex-boyfriends. (While you're at it, check out O'Malley's Lost at Sea, which is super cool but not, as far as I know, named after a song by Plumtree, which is a funny little fact about Scott Pilgrim that I just now learned).

This is a downright dreamy combination. And, just for the hell of it and since I'm talking about movies based on comic books, how awesome does Hellboy II look? And how cool is the (probably not that new, but I just discovered it yesterday) preview function on Netflix? All the teensy movies that never come here (or that I miss) and that I add to my queue, only to avoid actually getting for months — suddenly, their charms are all the more apparent! Fantastic!

Edited to add: Bryan Lee O'Malley has a few words for us over-enthusiastic internet-reading comics-junkies on his blog. Guilty as charged, Mr. O'Malley. And still really excited.

March 13, 2008 02:55 PM

Three things to brighten a certain kind of person's Thursday:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to be made into two movies. OK, yes, this is yesterday's news. But it's still fantastic news; if only they'd taken that path around, say, the last film (Order of the Phoenix). Lots of talk about how it serves the story and not the bottom line is floating about, which raises my bullshit flags a little bit, but frankly, I don't care; I just want the movie(s) not to suck.

2. The possibility of the sequels to The Golden Compass getting made is ... still a possibility. As Variety reports, the film "is on course to make box office history as the first film to gross $300 million in foreign while failing to reach $100 million in North America." The film's producer, Deborah Forte, "won't give up the fight," and is quoted as saying, "I will make 'The Subtle Knife' and 'The Amber Spyglass.'"

As disappointed as I was in Compass, I still hope the sequels get made. And not just because it's more exposure for the fantastic Philip Pullman.

3. From USA Today comes this story: "Rapier Wit: Western Martial Arts tradition enjoys a renaissance." Why is it relevant locally? Because Northwest Academy of Arms' Maestro Sean Hayes is quoted in the story. (I admit to thinking this is extra cool because I take Maestro Hayes' fencing class, as does my colleague Chuck Adams.)

And with that, I have just one thing left to say for the day: Go Ducks!

March 8, 2008 02:10 PM

Eastside alternative elementary parents who have strongly opposed a merger with the poorer and browner Harris neighborhood elementary have verbally "beat up" their own teachers to the point where half may no longer want to work at the school, according to 4J Superintendent George Russell.

"I worry now how Eastside can be Eastside if half or more of the teachers are deciding they don't want to be Eastside," Russell said at a school board meeting today, March 8.

"It's not right for the teachers to get beat up by parents," Russell said of the Eastside teachers who have supported talking with Harris teachers about a merger or some other collaborative hybrid. Harris is 67 percent free and reduced lunch (FRL) and 25 percent Latino while Eastside is 5 percent FRL and 1 percent Latino.

Russell said given the opposition of Eastside parents to a merger with Harris, he may want to close both schools. "Probably the way I feel now, I'd make a recommendation to close them both."

Several school board members shared Russell's dismay at the parents at Eastside, one of the whitest and wealthiest schools in the entire state. "I was disheartened by what I heard from the parents of Eastside," said board member Alicia Hays. "I don't think Eastside is viable because I don't think they are going to be able to diversify."

"To the extent there is an exodus of teachers, that suggests to me a viability question," said board member Craig Smith. The merger/collaboration offered Eastside parents the opportunity to show their "good faith" commitment to diversify, Smith said. "What we're hearing is they don't want to do that."

Russell said that some Eastside and Harris teachers are talking about another meeting on Tuesday to further discuss mixing the two schools. Some board members said they would like Russell to meet with the teachers to see if the merger still has any chance of success.

Board member Yvette Webber-Davis said, "I think there is at least some sentiment on the board for trying to give Eastside and Harris a chance."

March 8, 2008 12:52 PM

Just how far are some people willing to go to keep driving their SUVs?
Check out this (hopefully tongue in cheek) video of techo fixes for global warming.

Wacky? The New York Times reported last year that most scientists and governmnt agencies used to think so,
"But now, in a major reversal, some of the world's most prominent scientists say the proposals deserve a serious look because of growing concerns about global warming."

Hmmm. Sounds like another video. What was it called? Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying about SUVs and Love the Bomb: