Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Crushing Issue: How to Destroy Brand-New Cars

A Crushing Issue: How to Destroy Brand-New Cars

Mazda Forced to Design A 'Disassembly' Line After Odd Sea Disaster

April 29, 2008; Page A1

PORTLAND, Ore. -- "Fire in the hole!" shouts Ron Hoodenpyle, covering his ears and stepping away from a brand-new Mazda 3 he just wired with special detonators. Suddenly, all six of the car's airbags explode at once.

Within hours the metallic blue sedan will be drained, gutted, squished and shredded -- one of thousands to meet the same fate here. The cars are so new, most don't even have 10 miles on the odometer.

To watch Video Click Here.

Auto makers usually try to find the best way to build new vehicles. These days, Mazda Motor Corp. is busy figuring out how to most efficiently destroy them.

It all started about two years ago, when a ship carrying 4,703 shiny new Mazdas nearly sank in the Pacific. The freighter, the Cougar Ace, spent weeks bobbing on the high seas, listing at a severe 60-degree angle, before finally being righted.

The mishap created a dilemma: What to do with the cars? They had remained safely strapped down throughout the ordeal -- but no one knew for sure what damage, if any, might be caused by dangling cars at such a steep angle for so long. Might corrosive fluids seep into chambers where they don't belong? Was the Cougar Ace now full of lemons?

The Japanese car maker, controlled by Ford Motor Corp., easily could have found takers for the vehicles. Hundreds of people called about buying cheap Mazdas. Schools wanted them for auto-shop courses. Hollywood asked about using them for stunts.

Mazda turned everyone away. It worried about getting sued someday if, say, an air-bag failed to fire properly due to overexposure to salty sea air.

It also worried that scammers might find a way to spirit the cars abroad to sell as new. That happened to thousands of so-called "Katrina cars" salvaged from New Orleans' flooding three years ago. Those cars -- their electronics gone haywire and sand in the engines -- were given a paint job and unloaded in Latin America on unsuspecting buyers, damaging auto makers' reputations.

No Easy Way

Mazda saw no easy way to guard against these outcomes. So it decided to destroy approximately $100 million worth of factory-new automobiles. "We couldn't run the risk of damaging the brand name that Mazda worked so hard over the years to develop," says Jeremy Barnes, the company's corporate-affairs director for North America.

It turns out that wrecking cars isn't a simple matter. "We had to create a disassembly line, basically," says Bob Turbett, the Mazda executive overseeing the destruction process.

It took more than a year to devise a plan that satisfied everyone. The city of Portland wanted assurance that nearly 5,000 cars' worth of antifreeze, brake fluid and other hazardous goop wasn't mishandled. Insurers covering Mazda's losses wanted to be sure the company wouldn't resell any cars or parts -- thereby profiting on the side. So every steel-alloy wheel has to be sliced, every battery rendered inoperable, and every tire damaged beyond repair. All CD players must get smashed.

Discharging Airbags

Little things make a big difference. For instance, most of the cars have six airbags, and discharging them individually (forcing them to inflate so they can't be resold) takes about five minutes apiece -- or a total of a half-hour per car. So engineers back at Mazda's headquarters, in Hiroshima, fashioned a device that can discharge all six at once. Multiplied by 4,703 cars, that trick alone saved months of work.

Mazda declined to put a price tag on the demolition, which was covered by insurance. The company says all its insurance claims have been settled.

The process runs with startling efficiency. It begins when longshoremen take the cars from the freighter and drive them to a nearby lot where the airbags get destroyed by men like Mr. Hoodenpyle.

On a recent day, dressed in a white jumpsuit and wearing goggles, he twiddled a few knobs on his special airbag detonator, and pushed a button. The staccato pop-pop-pop of exploding bags sounded like the muffled gunshots of a wise-guy assassination in a gangster film.

A forklift next piles the cars onto trailers for a brief ride to Pacific Car Crushing. There it takes about 45 minutes to prepare each Mazda for flattening. Steel-alloy wheels are sliced with high-power saws to make sure they won't be resold. Holes are drilled into every tire.

Mazda insists that armed guards patrol the site to deter pilferage. One guard keeps watch as catalytic converters, rich with precious metals like platinum, are removed. Parts like these have a street value of hundreds of dollars apiece.

The cars get placed into a crusher that applies 25,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, flattening them into colorful slabs.

Next stop: Schnitzer Steel, a salvage yard down on the waterfront that's home to an immense metal grinder. "You turn 7,000-horsepower hammers loose on them, and they're eaten in 10 seconds," says Jamie Wilson, Schnitzer's manager. A bemused smile spreads across his face as another load of Mazdas disappears into its maw.

Moments later, metal shards -- most no bigger than an ashtray -- sprinkle onto a mountain of scrap near Schnitzer's dock. There, a freighter prepares to take the scrap back to Asia where it will get recycled.

Mr. Wilson looks on and concludes: "It'll all probably end up coming back as cars."

Write to Joel Millman at

Where are they when I need one?

A Tokyo tourist snapped this shot of an umbrella graveyard.

Click photo to enlarge.

Tower Cranes

Earlier this month there was a story in The Oregonian about tower cranes. We have a tower crane in our view, so we've been watching for the operator. This morning we saw him climbing to the tower, and I got some photos.

Longing for Identity

"Personally I believe that man's fascination for art lies in our unsatisfied desire for identity. I believe that our unarticulated longing for freedom, our painful and impractical and completely unreasonable longing for freedom derives simply from the fact that we are shut up inside that system of apparent necessities which is called our personality, or which we call our personality, because we need to fasten a fine-sounding name to the cage in which we have shut ourselves up. … We live a crippled life, shut up inside the narrow cage of considerations, caught in the net of expectations." (Words Through the Years, 1966, by Johan Borgan.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Do We Vote on Tuesday?

Why Do We Vote on Tuesday?

April 27, 2008 · Jacob Soboroff, executive director of the non-partisan group Why Tuesday?, asks the presidential candidates how they feel about proposals to change the day on which Americans typically vote — including moving elections to the weekend.

To Listen to the talk Click Here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Beware of Imposters

Click on Image to enlarge.

Put This on Your 2009 Travel Agenda

Darwin 2009 Cambridge

Cambridge, 5–10 July 2009

2009 sees the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work ‘On the origin of Species’.

You are warmly invited to attend a celebration to mark these two anniversaries. Who is the Festival for?

The Festival is aimed at a broad audience. We should like to attract members of the public, school students (16+), undergraduate and graduate students, teachers and other professionals as well as academics and specialists. What we are offering?

A festival of the science, society, literature, history, philosophy, theology, art and music arising from the work, writings, life and times of Charles Darwin. How we shall do it?

Leading figures in science and the arts will come face to face with each other and the public. There will be talks, discussions, performances, workshops, exhibitions and tours; some formal, others relaxed, all bound in a festival atmosphere in and around the historic city of Cambridge. Why we are doing it?

To excite, enthuse and explore the past, present and future of the natural world. To cultivate a deeper interest and understanding in science and the arts.

More on Darwin:

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online
This site contains Darwin's complete publications, thousands of his private papers and the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue ever published; [Click to enlarge] also hundreds of supplementary works: biographies, obituaries, reviews, reference works and more.

Listen to the story of the Online Website: Click Here.

The Guardian:
150 years ago, Charles Darwin unveiled his theory of natural selection. To mark this anniversary we bring you the definitive guide to the naturalist's great book, with extracts from key chapters and essays from leading scientists and thinkers.

Audio book of Darwin's Beagle Diary
Charles Darwin's 'Beagle Diary' was BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in December 2006. These mp3 recordings are now available on Darwin Online for free download.

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
by Carl Zimmer

Wednesday, April 23, 2008



By Neal Peirce © 2008
Washington Post Writers Group

What do immigrants and libraries have to do with each other? As our politicians wrangle over official immigration policies, can public libraries in our cities, neighborhoods and towns help assimilate the 32.5 million foreign-born already here?

Librarians and their allies argue “yes” -- that America’s libraries are successfully carrying out their historic tradition of turning immigrants into productive citizens.

English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are bring taught. Special sessions on American culture are being conducted. Materials in languages ranging from Russian to Hindi are being made available. Librarians find themselves providing counsel on computer use, Internet access, even on-line job leads.

In immigrant-heavy Washington, D.C. suburbs, many public libraries have recast themselves as welcome centers. Some checkout desks have signs in Korean, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese. A recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic said: “I come to the library almost every day. And two days a week I follow the conversation classes. We have the opportunity not only to improve our English but to get new friends from all over the world.”

The idea of libraries as social gathering places is hardly new. Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate who built 2,500 free public libraries around the world in response to the immigrant flows and broad social gaps of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, intended they’d be places to attract young people. Robert McNulty, a library advocate and president of Partners for Livable Communities, reminds us Carnegie actually built gymnasiums, boxing rings and swimming pools into some of his libraries -- hoping that once there, the youth would “be exposed to books and learn to read.”

Our public libraries, argues library expert Plummer Alston Jones, “have remained a sovereign alchemist turning the base metal of immigrant potentialities into the gold of American realities.”

But they’re more than that. They help get children into reading habits. They can provide authoritative information, book- or Internet-based, that’s more comprehensive and often more reliable than a normal free Google search. And they can be a fulcrum of renewal in cities and neighborhoods.

McNulty told me over a decade ago that “the next hot idea as a downtown anchor will be the fun library.” It turns out he was right. Close to 20 cities have constructed elegant new multi-use central libraries -- among them Seattle, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Phoenix and San Jose. Soaring and original exterior designs, brilliantly-lit public halls and intimate spaces, conference centers, connected theaters and teen centers -- all are part of the new mix.

As Project for Public Spaces reports, “If the old model of the library was the inward-focused ‘reading room,’ the new one is more like a community ‘front porch.’” An element in the new liveliness of downtown Charlotte, N.C., for example, has been the combined ImaginOn children’s library and theater, a joint project of the Children’s Theater of Charlotte and the Public Library of Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. “Some people come to the library and find the theater; some people come to the theater and find the library,” says Beth Murray, librarian at the ImaginOn.

The new champion of citywide library excellence may be Chicago, which has progressed from its landmark Harold Washington Library Center, opened in 1991, to the building or renovation of 52 neighborhood libraries. Many replace nondescript storefronts and run-down buildings that were more blight than strong points of their neighborhoods.

Major credit for the revival goes to Mayor Richard M. Daley and Mary Dempsey, the visionary manager/librarian he appointed library commissioner in 1994. Based on the library’s first-ever strategic blueprint and a professional development plan for the system’s 1,300 employees, Dempsey was able to persuade the city council to approve $170 million in bond issues to upgrade the neighborhood branches.

“I’ve purchased and knocked down more liquor stores, more no-tell motels, more really crummy and dilapidated, burned-out buildings in neighborhood after neighborhood and replaced them with libraries than I’d ever thought I’d do in my life,” Dempsey told an annual meeting of the American Library Association.

A big recognition for Dempsey’s efforts came in 2006 when she received a Governing Magazine award as one of the 10 most outstanding U.S. Public Officials of the Year.

“The Library is the People’s University, a place where people from all over the world can educate themselves, interact with their neighbors,” says Dempsey. That’s why, she adds, for “more than 100 years, immigrants have seen the libraries of Chicago and other cities as an indispensable “welcoming institution.”

For American success stories, that’s hard to top.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dog, Cat, Rat

Click here to see the video.

This video is sponsored by Barbara Marx Hubbard's organization Humanity Ascending.

Barbara Marx Hubbard's "broad and unattributed claims about the potential for technologies such as scalable quantum computing, clinical immortality, unlimited zero point energy, and an integrated space/Earth environment do not enjoy widespread scientific consensus."

Whatever your opinion of this type of futurism, the video is cute.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What to these four have in common?

What do these four have in common?

The answer is available in Portland right now and well worth checking out. To find out Click Here.

For local information Click Here.

Watch video.



The price of Gas versus Printer Ink

All these examples do NOT imply that gasoline is cheap; it just illustrates how outrageous some prices are....

You will be really shocked by the last one!
(At least, I was...)

Compared with Gasoline......

Think a gallon of ga s is expensive?

This makes one think, and also puts things in perspective.

Diet Snapple 16 oz $1.29 ... $10.32 per gallon

Lipton Ice Tea 16 oz $1.19 ..........$9.52 per gallon

Gatorade 20 oz $1.59 .... $10.17 per gallon

Ocean Spray 16 oz $1.25 ......... $10.00 per gallon

Brake Fluid 12 oz $3.15 ...... $33.60 per gallon

Vick's Nyquil 6 oz $8.35 ... $178.13 per gallon

Pepto Bismol 4 oz $3. 85 .. $123.20 per gallon

Whiteout 7 oz $1.39 ....... . $25.42 per gallon

Scope 1.5 oz $0.99 .....$84.48 per gallon

And this is the REAL KICKER...

Evian water 9 oz $1.49..$21.19 per gallon! $21.19 for WATER and the buyers don't even know the source

(Evian spelled backwards is Naive.)

Ever wonder why printers are so cheap?

So they have you hooked for the ink.
Someone calculated the cost of the ink at...............
(you won't believe it....but it is true........)
$5,200 a gal. (five thousand two hundred dollars)

So, the next time you're at the pump,be glad your car doesn't run on water, Scope, or Whiteout, Pepto Bismol, Nyquil or God forbid, Printer Ink!

Just a little humor to help ease the pain of your next trip to the pump...

And - If you don't pass this along to at least one person, your muffler will fall off!!

Okay, your muffler won't really fall off...but, you might run out of toilet paper

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dogwood time

Fragment of the Poem "A Color of the Sky"
by Tony Hoagland,
from What Narcissism Means To Me. © Graywolf Press, 2003.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,
dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature's wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It's been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sailing To Byzantium

Sailing To Byzantium

by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
--Those dying generations--at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Getting Rid of Junk, Staying Green

Getting Rid of Junk, Staying Green

After the Techno Lust, There's Always E-Cycling
Morning Edition

Americans are using — and getting rid of — more electronic devices than ever. As technology improves and gets cheaper, old cell phones, computers, iPods and digital cameras end up in desk drawers, basements — or on the curb.

While some of these gizmos are recycled, lots of them still wind up in the garbage. In 2005, the EPA estimated there was about 2.2 million tons of e-waste. And about 80 percent to 85 percent of that ended up in landfills, with the remainder being recycled.

Electronics contain mercury, lead and cadmium, which can harm the environment by leaching into groundwater or into the air through incineration.

Dell and other computer makers have recycling programs — and they're developing products designed to minimize the devices' impact on the environment. And the U.S. Postal Service recently turned mailboxes into recycling bins — helping consumers mail their techno-waste to recycling centers.

New Jersey recently approved a law requiring the recycling of computers and televisions, and 13 additional states are considering laws making manufacturers responsible for electronics recycling.

More consumers are realizing the need to recycle electronics, but it's not easy being green.

There's no national system for recycling, so consumers need to do their research about where to take their items for disposal. But Web sites including:
2) E-cycling Central
offer searchable databases of local recycling centers across the country.

Renee Montagne discusses various e-recycling efforts with technology expert Mario Armstrong. To listen Click Here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Travel? Music? Art? Portland?

If you have friends in other parts of the country who need an excuse to visit Portland, here are two Elderhostel programs that might lure them here this summer.

Sounds of Summer: Your Backstage Pass to the Chamber Music Northwest Festival

Immerse yourself in chamber music at one of the nation’s best-known summer music festivals on the beautiful campus of Reed College. Mingle with internationally acclaimed artists, enjoy engaging talks on music and attend three outstanding concerts in an acoustically superb concert hall. Discuss with renowned composer Peter Schickele how he creates music, spend time with musicians in pre-concert conversation and post-concert receptions and observe the intricacies of a rehearsal performance. Portland musicologist Bob Kingston will serve as your chaperone and enhance your appreciation for chamber music. Observe master classes with young musicians and enjoy special excursions to exciting attractions in downtown Portland.

To read the details Click Here.

Portland's Emerging Art Scene: From Canvas to Craft

What’s driving Portland’s transformation from a tranquil Northwest city to an exuberant new art scene? From canvas to crafts, investigate the full range of Portland’s art explosion. Go behind the scenes to meet with a local artist in his own studio. Stroll along the city streets to discover the delightful creativity of a public art program that’s bringing sculptures, designs and painting into the public eye. At the Contemporary Crafts Museum and Gallery, explore emerging craft arts and get “hands-on,” working with artists on a current creative project. Visit with curators and artists at the Portland Art Museum, the Pacific Northwest College of Art and several galleries to learn how each is impacting the Portland art scene.

To read the details Click Here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Conversation with the Dalai Lama

A Conversation with the Dalai Lama

Morning Edition, April 14, 2008 · The Dalai Lama renewed his call for "meaningful" autonomy for Tibet within China and said China, "whether intentionally or unintentionally," is carrying out "cultural genocide" in Tibet.

To Listen to the Conversation Click Here.

The Dalai Lama arrived in Seattle late last week to promote "compassion." He found himself talking about confrontation — in Tibet, in China and along the path of the Olympic torch.

Once again, the Dalai Lama is caught up in the complications of being both a spiritual and a political leader. And he carries the expectations of those who come to see him, including 55,000 people who filled Seattle's football stadium.

"If some people have the belief or view that the Dalai Lama has some miracle power, that's totally nonsense," he told the crowd. "I am just one human being."

The Dalai Lama insists he's just a simple Buddhist monk. He's also the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the head of a government-in-exile, who fled his land nearly 50 years ago after Mao Zedong sent China's army into Tibet.

'Much Worry' About China's Clampdown

In an interview Sunday with Renee Montagne, the Dalai Lama discussed his concerns about China's recent clampdown in Tibet.

"If things continue as it is, then tightening control will increase," he said. "So naturally, a lot of suffering, a lot of problems and great damage about Tibetan Buddhist culture. So there's much worry."

In his first public comments on the protests, Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line Saturday on the unrest in Tibet, saying problems in the region are an internal affair that directly threatens Chinese sovereignty.

"Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem," Xinhua quoted Hu as saying, referring to supporters of the Dalai Lama. "It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland."

In the interview, the Dalai Lama called Hu's remarks "quite strange but OK if they really enjoy to attack [me] .... People, I think, don't believe that. Even the Chinese people."

China's Control of Information

The Dalai Lama said he's saddened by the negative image of him painted by China's government-controlled media.

The Dalai Lama said "millions of Chinese — those innocent Chinese — who have no other way to access the situation, totally rely on the government information. These millions of Chinese then really feel anger towards me. At that I feel very sad. What's the way to tell these innocent Chinese brothers [and] sisters the reality? But there's no way to send information or to send news."

The Dalai Lama has said he does not support a boycott against the Summer Olympics being held in Beijing this August, but he also backs people's right to demonstrate — "provided [it's] strictly non-violent."

The Dalai Lama said the freedom of speech is very important. He noted that even in Tibet and "among our friends, some are very, very critical towards me," saying he's too moderate.

"For example, my own elder brother one time described me as a traitor" to Tibet, the Dalai Lama said.

"But I never say to these people, 'Shut up.' ... It's their right to express what they feel."

Holding on to a Culture

The Dalai Lama said Tibet gains many benefits by remaining part of China, but it must hold on to its cultural heritage.

Tibet is "materially backward," he said. "Every Tibetan" wants a "modernized Tibet," he added. "It's their right: more prosperity, better [facilities for] education, health and daily life. So in this respect, China [is] becoming richer and richer. So therefore, [Tibet should] remain within the People's Republic of China. As far as material development is concerned, we gain much benefit.

"Since we have our own unique cultural heritage, including our language, our script, these matters should be in the hands of [Tibetans who know] about our culture, about our religion," the Dalai Lama said.

He agreed that Tibetan culture is in the process of being destroyed or overwhelmed by China.

"With this present arrangement, whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place," he said.

The Dalai Lama said China's central government should be in charge of foreign affairs, but "the rest of local business should be in the hands of Tibetans. Autonomy is meaningless just on paper. So we are appealing to the Chinese central authority: Now give us meaningful autonomy. ...

"In the constitution in the early 1950s, Chairman Mao recognized [the] Tibet case is something very special. So if [the] Chinese government [keeps] that spirit, then these problems will not happen."

As the interview ended, the Dalai Lama was asked one last question: Do you think you'll see Tibet again?

"Yes, we believe, we believe," he said with a hearty laugh.

This report includes material from the Associated Pres

China Notes

China Notes

A friend just returned from China. Here are his notes.

I spent the last two weeks in China. Though I have been to China periodically, this trip was a bit longer than my recent trips and afforded more time to see some of the changes affecting the country, the region and the world.

I first started visiting China in the mid-90s. On all of my trips since then I have been amazed at the continually evolving skyline. Infrastructure is growing on a massive scale. Areas of farmland and small homes have transformed into blocks of amazing sky scrapers. Many of the world's tallest buildings line the horizons and construction cranes continue to dot the horizons (thought this may be slowing down). Factories seem to be growing, though we hear many are relocating further outside of the major cites and also springing up in larger inland cities. Wide roads and elevated freeways now have signs both in English in Mandarin, and electronic traffic controls. Traffic still follows some bizarre and unpredictable patterns, and often at slow speeds. But there are a lot less bicycles and hand carts on the roads. In my earlier trips I saw a lot more of the traditional means of transportation, including bicycles and push carts with everything from pigs to refrigerators piled on top.

The new airports in Pudong, Shanghai and Beijing are truly amazing. Vast, clean, efficient, with great customer service, these airports are architecturally pleasing as well as functional in sharp contrast to the travel experience in most US airports. They know how to move people: great signs, helpful customer service, clean layouts, and friendly staff including through the security turnstiles. I lament what has happened in the US where the TSA has fired all the friendly foreigners to hire US citizens with a civil service mentality. It’s also great to see how a country can build great infrastructure, and pay for it. (In contrast to the US where bridges are falling down and roads are filled with potholes for years on end). They have put a lot of money into roads and bridges, tunnels, buildings and schools, and are making massive investments to create sustainable jobs. While there are still huge problems with pollution (terrible!) and weak environmental protections, government and industry are starting to rally around the need for sustainable environmental practices.

Chinese national pride is running strong. Olympic fever is running hot all over the country, in the press, in advertisements and on-line as well as on TV and outdoor banners. The economy has done well and employment is strong, though there are big issues looming. Inflation is a big problem, with food costs going up 30%/year. We met with a number of economists who each highlighted different problems such as overcapacity, wage inflation, labor shortages, food hoarding, currency appreciation. The Chinese government is cracking down on corruption, and making public examples of former officials such as the ex-Mayor of Shanghai who avoided the death penalty and ended up with 17 years in prison for accepting bribes.

Several other observations struck me this trip. One is the number of young people in the big cities and their English skills. A decade ago I could hardly understand any of the locals, including fellow employees in our factories and most of the hotel workers from 4 and 5 star hotels. It seems a significant number of people in the big cities under about 30 years of age understand and can converse in English. Another trend we heard about is the impact of urbanization. We heard that ~40% of China’s universities are in Shanghai and Beijing. We heard there is a big transition of young people to big cities to study and work, and that the countryside is left with mostly old people. The young people I saw seemed ambitious and hard working, and they had many opportunities to chose their profession.

Shanghai has over 100k foreigners, mostly westerners. When we were driving, one of my companions pointed out a large complex where a number of retired Japanese reside. These people were instrumental in developing infrastructure and advising the government, and wanted to retire in China, but had no retirement income, so the government built housing for them. Another trend a noticed is the continued influence of overseas Chinese and their impact on entrepreneurship and the economy. Chinese from the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other countries including Europe and Asia have established businesses and are taking advantage of their education and experience in the West, often from top notch universities and blue-chip companies, and going back to their family roots to generate indigenous Chinese businesses.

Another trend is a noticeable acceptance of capitalism. My companion said: “The government directs industry and promotes business, and companies follow the direction of the government.” It seemed to me they have embraced capitalism and free markets to help fuel growth and provide for people much more openly. There are some interesting challenges and tensions arising from their system of governance. One I had not previously considered was the conflict caused by charitable giving. Some companies and NGOs have challenged the government’s traditional role in providing welfare programs with large donations, which have been allowed but watched carefully because of the risk of undermining the traditional role of the party.

These trends, (urbanization of youth, education, returning Chinese, government support for job growth) coupled with US immigration policies which discourage entrepreneurs from staying in the US after completing their studies will certainly result in enhanced Chinese competitiveness in the decade ahead.

Wonder on the tundra

Wonder on the tundra

What would happen if you put a Polar bear and a husky together? Probably not always what's depicted in this slideshow -- but that fact that it did this once is amazing enough for me.

The photos were taken by famed German wildlife photographer Norbert Rosing, who once spent three years photographing Yellowstone National Park. He has worked since 1988 on capturing the essence of the Polar bear in photographs, and his photos from the ongoing project have been published in several magazines worldwide, including National Geographic.

In this slide show Stuart Brown, a physician and clinical researcher who founded the National Institute for Play (really, there is such a place) describes Rosing's striking images of a wild polar bear playing with sled dogs in the wilds of Canada's Hudson Bay.

To see the video Click Here.

Y'all listen up

From the Writer's Almanac

It was [April 14] in 1828 that Noah Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language. He was a man who'd grown up in America at a time when Americans from different states could barely understand each other because they spoke with such different accents and even different languages. Americans in Vermont spoke French, New Yorkers spoke Dutch, and the settlers in Pennsylvania spoke German. All these different languages were influencing American English and there were few standards of spelling or meaning.

Noah Webster spent 20 years working on his dictionary, which contained 70,000 words, and he did all the research and the handwriting of the book by himself. He is believed to be the last lexicographer to complete a dictionary without an assistant.

Webster's dictionary had the result he intended. His standardized spelling and pronunciation guides helped ensure that Americans who speak English speak more or less the same English. The United States has the fewest dialects of any major country in history.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chef Pepín: Stirring the Soul

Chef Pepín: Stirring the Soul

Cuban-born, award-winning Chef Pepín has traveled from his family’s farmhouse kitchen to TV fame. Here he shares the ingredients of a joyful life—and easy recipes for a favorite comfort meal, with a healthful twist.

On young Pepín Hernández’s favorite afternoons, Hilda, the family cook, would be waiting for him at the school bus stop, seemingly bursting with good news. Knowing what that look on her face meant, he’d yelp, “¡Malanga amarilla!” His favorite delicacy, the yellow taro root, had arrived at the farmers’ market. And Hilda, a culinary goddess in his eyes, cooked it to perfection.

Little did either of them know that the boy would grow up to be Chef Pepín, the beloved television personality famous for whipping up dishes resonant of those childhood afternoons.

As Pepín serves up his 20th year of cooking on Univision with his trademark flamboyance and unveils a new line of cookware, he’s returning to the essence of that bygone era when, for him, family was a seamless notion and all food was comfort food.

That sense of nostalgia has also allowed the Cuban-born Pepín to travel deeper into his own culture—and well beyond the culinary. Whether at Miami’s Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center visiting elders or at farm-worker events, “he is truly part of the fabric of our community,” says Maria Garza, who is president of the Mexican American Council and a community organizer in Homestead, near Miami.

Pepín, 59, often serves as emcee for Garza’s events. Three years ago, she called on him to honor the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. “I can’t think of anyone who could have turned that difficult situation into such a special moment the way Chef Pepín did,” she says. “He’s not just the TV personality, the chef. He’s also an outstanding human being, a national treasure.”

But at his core, he remains a chef. And in that role, his latest endeavor is lightening up his classic dishes without losing flavor—and without using lots of lard. It’s fresh and simple ingredients, back-to-the-earth sabor. And it’s healthy, too.

“In the Hispanic kitchen, we were organic before organic was the word of the day,” says Miami-based Pepín, whose first culinary memory takes him back to his grandmother’s farm in Matanzas, Cuba, where he learned to make butter from fresh cream. “Our flavor was as healthy as it could be—[from] garlic, onions, olive oil, bay leaves, oregano,” he says. “We ate grains, fish, beans. We love flour, yes, but we can make it whole-grain. What could be more healthy?” And recalling his grandmother’s high blood pressure, he also reduces salt.

His greatest culinary influences were his grandmother, Carmen Beltrán; his Tía Mary; and, of course, Hilda. The trinity of women represents a strong maternal force in the life of a boy whose mother, María Amelia, died of multiple sclerosis when he was 5. Pepín took solace in the Havana kitchen of his Tía Mary, who pampered him and raised him in a house where life revolved around myriad visitors and fun, made-to-order cuisine, “like a restaurant,” he says.

Try your hand at these delicious recipes:
Fish in Green Sauce
Rice and Corn

The feasts continued when the family fled Cuba for Miami in 1960, although when they arrived they were suddenly poor and squeezed into a one-bedroom apartment.

“We were very, very resourceful,” says Pepín, who would whip up batches of nougat using the government-issued peanut butter then given to Cuban exiles. Those early years reinforced the importance of family, shared meals, and traditions. Food, he learned, not only nourishes the body; it bridges generations and builds memories. Today, just as his grandmother and aunt brought him into the warmth of their kitchens when his mother died, Pepín now bakes cookies with the younger generation: his cousin’s preteen grandchildren, whose father passed away three years ago.

His own children, he says, proved less inclined to follow his culinary inspirations. He jokes that his daughter Anamaría, 38, is more likely to make dinner reservations than dinner. And 32-year-old José Antonio isn’t much better. He went to a neighborhood market and asked a fellow shopper to help him pick out some lemons. The shopper shot him a curious look and asked: “Aren’t you Chef Pepín’s son?”

But Chef Pepín wasn’t always top chef in his own kitchen. While the Hernández children were growing up, Pepín’s wife, Telvy, 59, made dinner daily. Always highly organized, she worked as a bank vice president then came home and cooked from a planned menu.

“She’s a good cook,” says Pepín of the woman he met on the first day of high school and married in 1967. But the menus grew so predictable that one day their son blurted out, “Why don’t you ask Chef Pepín for a new recipe?”

Eventually, Telvy ceded her kitchen to the rising-star chef, who turned it upside down with his inventive style. Both mother and son say Pepín’s cooking is a symbol of something greater: an uplifting and generous spirit.
“Inside that huge body there’s a little boy,” says José Antonio. “He’s hilarious, loving, and fearless—in orange shoes.”

It was that “orange shoes” spirit that gave the world Chef Pepín, the flamboyant TV personality. Although he was a foodie all his life, he became Chef Pepín in 1987, when he got a beeper call from Anamaría, who was working as a TV producer on a new Univision show called TV Mujer. They desperately needed a host for the cooking segment. She asked him to try out.

Pepín, who was selling insurance at the time, showed up in grand style. “I wore an apron and a hat that said ‘Kiss the Cook,’ white Gucci loafers,” says Pepín. He joked as he cooked up a storm, and at the end of the segment he belted out what would become his trademark phrase:

“Con el Chef Pepín, hasta el fín!” (With Chef Pepín until the end!) The rest is TV chef history.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day 2008

National Healthcare Decisions Day 2008

On April 16, 2008, join Americans across the country to talk to others about your future healthcare decisions and complete your advance directive!

Despite recent gains in public awareness of the need for advance care planning, studies indicate that most Americans have not exercised their right to make decisions about their healthcare in the event that they cannot speak for themselves.


All healthcare institutions are required to:
· Provide information about health care decision-making rights.
· Ask all patients if they have an advance directive.
· Educate their staff and community about advance directives.
· Not discriminate against patients based on an advance directive status.

According to the Pew Research Center’s study in 2006:
· 71% of Americans have thought about their end-of-life treatment preferences
· 95% had heard of a living will
· 29% had a living will

Where can I get an advance directive?

Oregon Advance Directive Form
Click here for a printable copy.

The Five Wishes document helps individuals express care options and preferences. The advance directive meets the legal requirements in most states and is available in 20 languages for a nominal fee. Order online or call 850.681.2010.

Caring Connections

Caring Connections offers free, state-specific advance directives for all 50 states and DC that meet the legal requirements for each state. Download individual copies for free or call 800.658.8898 to have a copy mailed to you.

Center for Practical Bioethics

Caring Conversations is a free workbook to help individuals and families communicate with each other about their healthcare preferences and contains advance directive documents. These forms are valid in every state when notarized and signed by two witnesses. Download for free or call 800.344.3829 to order.

Project Grace

Project Grace offers a free Advance Care Planning Document that is legally valid in states that do not require forms to be notarized. Download for free, or call 877.99.GRACE to order a copy.

National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives

National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives offers general and state-specific information on psychiatric advance directives.

The Will to Live Project

The Will to Live Project provides state specific forms for designating an agent and stating healthcare wishes.

Organ Donation Choices: or

State-Specific Resource for Oregon

Portland Buys the Portland Building

The Portland Building: We Own It, Fake Ribbons and All.
Posted by The Oregonian April 09, 2008 14:01PM
Categories: Breaking News

On April 1, the City of Portland made its final debt payment on the Portland Building, the colorful and controversial 15-story box where Portlandia perches. The building is world famous for its architecture, a mixture of classical bits and irony (dig the fake blue ribbons on those 2-D red columns). And it's locally infamous for dim, cramped working conditions, thanks to too-many cubicles and too-small windows. Here's a tour of the $25 million building that's now, literally, all ours.

To watch Video by Kraig Scattarella Click Here.

To enlarge click on image.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Now if you don't have it, just bring me a check for the water

Click here to listen to the King.

Click on image to enlarge.

Frim Fram Sauce

I don't want french fried potatoes,
Red ripe tomatoes, I'm never satisfied,
I want the Frim Fram sauce with the ausanfey,
With shififah on the side

I don't want pork chops and bacon,
That won't awaken my appetite inside,
I want the Frim Fram sauce with the ausanfey,
With shififah on the side

Well, you know, a fella has really got to eat
And a fella should eat right
Five will get you ten
I'm gonna feed myself right tonight

I don't want fish cakes and rye bread,
You heard what I said, waiter please serve mine fried
I want the Frim Fram sauce with the ausanfey,
With shififah on the side

Tuesday, April 8, 2008



By Neal Peirce

© 2008 Washington Post Writers Group

The world is urbanizing at a breathtaking pace. Ten percent of mankind lived in cities a century ago; this year we pass the 50 percent mark; by 2050, the United Nations now projects, it will be 70 percent.

But beyond global warming and poverty afflicting urban masses of the developing world, there’s a threat we Americans actually modeled. It’s how we grew in the age of the automobile -- separating where people live, work and buy, dividing classes economically, then investing first and foremost in highways and disinvesting in cities where humans can mix and relate. The threat now: that new and growing cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America are too easily drawn to thoughtless mimicry of our “motors first” model.

That’s the dire warning of “The Endless City,” a 500-page tour de force of six major world cities’ development issues, published this month by Phaidon Press. Edited by London-based architect-planners Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic, the book’s based on an “Urban Age” project of city experts comparing the metropolises of New York, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Mexico City and Johannesburg.

Click on Image to Enlarge.

Their bottom line: more compact development -- mixed-use, transit-connected, democratic cities -- is the only sustainable answer to global urban growth. And not just because less sprawl translates to less energy use and pollution (cities already contribute 75 percent of the world’s carbon emissions). Investment in public transportation, the authors write, is also “a form of social justice, providing millions of people with access to jobs and amenities.”

Mexico City is said to epitomize the wrong way to go. It’s mushroomed for years in low-rise spread development. Sixty percent of its 20 million residents live in illegal and informal housing (i.e., shanty towns). Mexico City’s poor, the authors assert, are effectively “pushed out to the far fringes of this seemingly limitless city” even while “the rich seek protection” in vertical high-rises or “golf-course residential areas within armed and gated communities.”

The tragedy: Mexico City, its government split between the historic core and the fast-expanding suburbs, imposes no growth boundaries and caters to private car ownership. Public funds flow into massive freeways, exacerbating some of the world’s most grievous air pollution and ignoring the dramatic public transit successes of major busway systems in such growing cities as Curitiba (Brazil) and Bogota (Colombia), each serving broad masses of people.

The situation’s even grimmer in post-apartheid Johannesburg, where the gritty central district of Hillbrow, formerly home to the city’s major banks and corporations, is now a dangerous “no-go area to black and white residents alike.” Symbolically, the Johannesburg stock exchange moved to a new suburban enclave, Sandton, in a setting the authors describe as “a fast-expanding sea of walled shopping centers” and guard-protected residential areas “inhabited by white families and the emerging class of economically empowered blacks.”

And what of the townships of Soweto and Alexandra? They remain physically segregated. There’s little or no public transit except an unreliable and expensive communal taxi service which is many residents’ only lifeline to jobs.

Transit is getting major attention in Shanghai, where there’s been heroic and rapid investment in a Maglev train servicing the airport and a subway system planned to service virtually all the citistate’s expanding edges. In city center, an astounding 8,000 towers more than eight stories high have risen in 25 years.

Still, the new book’s authors find lots to criticize including Shanghai’s “decision to accommodate growth by building high, with isolated point blocks surrounded by car ramps and empty open space, damaging the subtle urban grain of a city of immense character and dynamic street life.” Also faulted: forced relocation of inner-city residents to remote housing projects, and the banning (gasp!) of bicycles on certain streets, supposedly to relieve congestion.

London and New York have both prospered as global “command and control” cities in recent years and get credit for expansive transit systems. Each has big problems helping their millions of low-income people survive high-price economies. London’s smart new response: requiring 50 percent of any new housing be affordable for lesser-income residents and such key workers as fire fighters, police officers and nurses.

New York is praised for linear parks and open spaces along its recycled industrial waterfronts, London for focusing building around transit stops and Mayor Ken Livingstone’s congestion pricing scheme for central London and his “Green Belt” policy to accommodate all growth within the city’s existing boundary.

Berlin’s rated “poor but sexy” -- in the words of Mayor Klaus Wowereit. Why? The city’s failed to expand economically or get appropriate national government aid after being recoronated as Germany’s capital city. But Berlin’s legendary spirit of freedom and open culture is attracting creative types, and the cafe culture flourishes.

Each city profile is open to challenge. But The Endless City should help trigger incisive global debate on what makes cities tick, what to avoid, what to treasure and emulate in a century packed with promise-- and some really scary perils.