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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Portland Timbers Home Opener--Year 33

It was chilly Thursday night.  Dry but carrying the damp cold reminder that we aren't that far past March and this is the Pacific Northwest where weather can sneak off the ocean or out of the north and turn your sunburn to frostbite without a blink.  We gathered in Section 109,   just off the starboard flank of the Timbers Army.   Close enough to feel the blaze of energy; far enough away for us older folks to occasionally sit down.   The first year there were Timbers in Portland,  the seasonn began in June.  It rained but it was warmer.   I wore a big grin most of the night.  Was glad to have friends and teammates around me.  And my son, Sean, one of the second generation Timbers' fan/footballers.   And  way down the Timbers' green strip of the Willamette Valley was my daughter, Kaeli,  also a Timbers' fan/footballer waiting for me to text her if something exciting happened.   

So I confess that I am happy just to be at Timbers' games regardless of outcome.   They're my crew.  "Rose City Till I Die" as the crowd chants.   I remember the years when there were not Timbers.  As a player I always revert to the bottom line--any day I can play soccer is a good day.  But I like the excitement of having a home team.  Interludes with FC Portland, the Thunderbirds,  the early Surge,  and the Pride just didn't quite meet the standard.   But on Thursday night,  that was all in the past.   The "boys" were coming out on the field,  and the world was good.

The game was one of the prettier ones I've seen in PGE Park.  The venue has had many many lovely qualities since renovation.   The turf wasn't one of them.  The new carpet this year is a gift from the gods!  The ball actually plays in a way that allows for some of the prettiest elements of the game to surface.   That in itself was a big deal.   The departure of Josh Wickes from our goal to the roster of the LA Galaxy is terribly disappointing.  He was the lynchpin in our game last season, and will be missed.  How come the Galaxy can't just buy some supa-star keeper?  Like Brad Friedel?  I guess I don't begrudge him his opportunity.  However,  I watched anxiously to see what the new guy in back would do.  Not bad...but he wasn't seriously tested.   Our defense, however, was.  We could easily have gone down 0-2 early on since balls were played in front of our net to Islander players who were unmarked.  It's one thing to be rusty, but our defense last year was solid.  We got lucky this week.

At the other end of the flow,  I saw some things to like.  I thought our Japanese acquisition, Suzuki  (Solo Suzuki?) showed himself a class player.  He took the ball in traffic,  shook off double marking,  and played dangerous balls into the center.  Unfortunately,  he reminds me of Robbie Rensenbrink coming to Portland years ago in the sense that his skill makes him an immediate target for thuggery.   If his physique can handle it,  I think he's a winner.   I liked Chris Brown.  I missed his shot because I was looking at Timber Jim's last descent from the press box,  but he was just part of a varied attacking form that we've missed.   The midfield,  a little out of sync,  showed signs of good potential to put their small side game and movement to work picking apart opposing defenses.    

When the evening was over,  I went off with my folks to get my Timber Jim Log.  I was content.  We'd pulled off a win out of the gate.   The second game was now only a week away.   And new legends waited to be made.

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Pollution Makes You Fat

I swear I didn't make this up.  Check out Bruce Blumberg, professor at UC Irvine,  whose studies of pollution with laboratory animals discovered, much to his surprise,  that some of the particles were kicking the endocrine system into a fat producing frenzy.   The concept of "obesogens" isn't really as fantastic as it might seem at first blush.  We already know that chemicals in the environment affect reproduction and development,  also endorcinologically connected functions.

This is it!  This is the way the world ends...the last human on Earth will be a 350 pound anorexic who's  still gaining weight and suffocates after falling down and not being able to breath.  Yuck.   Mother Earth has her ways.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Facts regardless of the source-

I'm not a fan of George Will's philosophical perspectives nor of his conclusions.  However,  I have to give credit where credit is due.   This past week,  Will wrote a commentary on a New York Times' article about economics and our aging population.  The article apparently commented that the aging population of Americans wasn't going to be able to retire in the fashion they'd expected.  A man cited as an example was not going to be able to retire when he'd planned faced working a few years more.  His age?  59 years old.   Will, rightly, noted that American expectations to retire at relatively early ages and live in economic bliss are very new and not part of the American tradition.  Not too long ago,  the idea of a guaranteed retirement at any age with the benefit of a small stipend and health care was novel.  Retiring at 65 was only "early" in the sense that our lifespan and health expectations didn't extend far beyond that.   I applauded Will's scoffing at the implied assumptions in the article.

The next day I read a column by Nicholas Kristol in which he cited the recent Obama-Clinton debate and the readiness of advocates of each to see their side as having won.   Kristol noted that several research studies identify a tendency on the part of people confronted with the same information to find the pieces that supported their predispositions rather than to find the pieces that highlighted common ground.    The tendency toward polarized thinking is a dangerous one,  particularly when it involves denial of anything contrary.   Can there be civil dialogue or even a polity if no liberal ever reads George Will open to possible agreement or no conservative can do the same?   I doubt it.   I hear the heartbeat of the great Beast slouching toward Bethlehem in Yeats'  The Second Coming.   "Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer/Things fall apart' the centre cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world....The best lack all conviction/While the worst are full of passionate intensity."    Not original perhaps, but an idea worth coming back and revisiting.   The center must hold.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beirut & Bayreuth-redux

So I got a single comment on my post yesterday. The writer noted that the two cities' names were pronounced differently. That's a good point in that the 'apparent' similarity may partly be the vagaries of English spelling conventions applied to foreign words. But I then took a step which would have been sensible before writing. I looked up the source for Beirut, Lebanon. The site http://www.statoids.com/ulb.html provides the following: "From Hebrew be'erot: the wells". Seems reasonable but clearly would have no relation to the German name which is discussed on this site http://www.ngw.nl/int/dld/b/bayreuth.htm . The assertion here is that the heraldic images for the city from the 15th Century show crossed "reut" a farmer's sticklike tool, and that, thereby, the name comes from these symbols.

Hafta admit I find this kind of thing fascinating. Used to get caught up in reading page after page of the dictionary when I was younger.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BAYREUTH AND BEIRUT

Okay this is one of those strange things I wonder about and have never heard an explanation for.   The German town Bayreuth has a name that seems convergant with Lebanon's central city, Beirut.   Is this  serendipity?  Western colonialism's vestige?  Or just chance?   I've often wondered and never heard an answer.   And there are other similar incongruous convergances.   

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Dilemma of Stuff- Freight hauling overload

Recently I have heard presentations from people who work in the trucking and freight hauling industry. They have invariably made the points that more and more goods are in demand in our culture and hauling them to our dinner tables or front doors creates increasing problems. Just about any driver who's been on the road for the last two decades can attest to the fact that more and more trucks are competing for highway space. So much so that trucks are increasingly seen as a threat. At the same time, population increases, limited construction of new roadway, and growing consumer consumption mean the transportation system is being squeezed. Rail is not a viable alternative to trucking as things stand today for several reasons. Rail service is increasingly limited to main, profitable lines which means that smaller communities require trucks. Track conditions and the priorities of the private railways are also limiting factors. Air transport is expensive and, like rail, can't reach many destinations. Barging is an alternative for some goods in some areas, but also has limited reach. The conclusion, if we continue to require goods to be delivered, is that trucking is not going away.

All this was in my mind last weekend as Mar and I came back from a visit to BC. Driving south through the Seattle area at rush hour, we were helped along mightily by the presence of HOV lanes, allowing mass transit and multi-occupant vehicles to bypass the crowded main lanes. HOV lanes are often easier to weave into choke points in existing right-of-way without the problems of expensive new property acquisition. It occurred to me that perhaps part of the truck-car competition might be solved in some areas by creating "truck only" lanes which would get trucks out of the commuter flow of traffic, reduce the sense of anxiety among car drivers, and allow the freight carriers to move more freely past chokepoints so that their delivery times could improve. Calculating whether this would actually be of benefit in a given transportation grid would be complicated. And it may be that such systems exist in other parts of the country. I know that the freight hauling challenge is presenting serious headaches for planners, businesses, and policymakers. Maybe Truck Only lanes could be part of the solution.

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