days of naze
A little audio gift (85 kb .wav)
for my Faithful readers on
the first anniversary (7/14/99) of
the site. Hand cranked to help
you on the long march.
An obnoxiously large
(101k .wav) audio greeting
from the Author.
La Dolce Vita / La Dolce Vota
Life has been pretty good lately.
Speaking of it assures that I will be hit by a bus tomorrow, but let's postpone such thoughts and savor the now.
When faced with a batch of vacations days that have to be used or lost, I am at my best. Gentle Readers: The Author is nothing if not a Master Hedonist.
One of the early stops was this spot, high in the Cascade Range. I'm standing on Johnston Ridge and behind me is what was once the peak of Mount Saint Helens. Twenty years ago, a geologist (Johnston, natch) who had been closely observing the mountain's tremors and spewings, stood roughly on the spot where I'm standing here. For more than a year Saint Helens had engaged us with it's creaking, gurgling and spewing. And then on the morning of May 18, 1980, Johnston witnessed firsthand and point blank the most violent explosion in U.S. history.
In the moments before the eruption and his quick death, his radio transmission carried a vast rumbling and his voice calling out, "This is it! This is it!" With the force of 1000 Hiroshima strength bombs, 1500 feet of the mountain was launched miles into the sky. Some of the 540,000,000 tons of ash circled the Earth within 2 weeks. The concussion instantly flattened square miles of forest and in a second searing hot gases melted the snow. A wall of water 60 feet high traveling 100 miles per hour carried thousands of trees down the Toutle River destroying everything in it's path including my step-grandparent's home. (They were thankfully safe in town at the time.)
Forty-seven people died that day.
At that moment, just 25 miles southwest of this catastrophe, I lay in bed at my father's house in Longview, Washington oblivious to it all. The eruption shook the house a bit (probably about 2.5 on the Richter) which struck me at the time as simply another tremor. I went back to sleep.
On my visit last week, the wind whipped down from the mountain at a constant 15-30 miles per hour. The peak wore a cap of vapor and the valley floor of ash was carved with great rivulets from seasons of melted snow. Saint Helens has blown every few hundred years for several thousand years. I imagine it will continue to do so well after we are all gone. It has a way of making you feel real quiet.
This is my cathedral.
(The VolcanoCam provides live updates from Johnston Ridge that look a lot better than my lame photo.)
Later that week I took a day trip West to the coast.
Cannon Beach, Oregon is generally my destination of choice when heading to the Pacific. It's just a couple of miles south of where Lewis & Clark first saw the great sea.
Cannon Beach is a quaint little town with shops and restaurants and art galleries, but what it is really famous for is Bruce's Candy Kitchen. The pink and white building has been there for ages and it's proprietors (Bruce died about 3 years ago after 40 years in the biz) make saltwater taffy (not my fave, but fun to watch it being made through the enormous storefront windows) to a wide selection of chocolate treats. They are best known for a clever candy called sea foam, which seems to be made from chunks of crunchy yellow dried meringue-like stuff dipped in chocolate. Once you have stopped at Bruce's and taken a walk on the beach, you have met the minimum requirements to certify that you have been to Cannon Beach.
The monolith behind me is Haystack Rock, one of the largest monoliths in the world (almost as large as the ego standing in front of it). The tide is coming in. Sometimes people like to climb on the rock when the tide is coming in and get trapped and then have to get rescued by the Coast Guard in helicopters and jet boats and other expensive vehicles that you and I pay for. Silly people.
Last Friday, Cathy and I took the day off to celebrate our 9th year of wedded bliss. Eleven years ago I would have told you that such an event was extremely unlikely to happen. We'd had a long time to knock around and it wasn't long thereafter that our relationship took a turn to a deeper level of commitment that says, hey, let's buy a house together. And when that worked out we decided to take the vows.
We dropped the kids off at their respective schools/childcare. My sister-in-law and mother-in-law picked them up, giving us the entire day to enjoy the best anniversary I can remember.
When we first met, we were debate partners in college. We needed to do some research on our topic and agreed to meet in the Park Blocks near the Portland State University library on a Saturday morning in October. She succeeded in diverting us to the Three Lions Bakery where we picked up breakfast and then walked among the Autumn leaves. So we began our anniversary day at the bakery, later taking the same path through the leaves, doing the things that on a busy day you never take the time to do.
We wandered through the sculpture garden outside the Portland Art Museum and meandered through the maritime room and the early Portland memorabilia at the Oregon Historical Society.
Lunch at Todai, a massive Japanese food buffet, was at turns jarring and delightful. The carnival atmosphere and the serve yourself style runs a little counter to my preferred sushi experience but the food was respectable and plenty, and hot sake in the afternoon is always a bonus. We bought each other gifts afterward that have provided lasting pleasure: a silver and amber bracelet for her that I actually picked out and Atari's Greatest Hits (responsible for at least 2 days delay in getting this entry up) for me.
After a brief visit to Jack's classroom for a relative's day open house, we headed home for a siesta. Activities took place in the Afternoon that were in fact a Delight, although the Starland Vocal Band was pre-empted by Liz Phair. A damn fine day.
We discussed life and children and Napoleon and the merits of very strong smoky martinis at a chi-chi bar in the Pearl District and capped the night at my favorite restaurant on Hawthorne Boulevard. A marvelously hedonistic anniversary and a comforting reminder that I made the right decision 9 years ago.
It is very odd hearing the phrase "battleground state" used to describe Oregon. Hello? We've got 7 electoral votes. But there you have it. Bush and Gore have been to our neck of the woods 4, count 'em 4 times during this Presidential campaign. Nader's first major campaign event packed 20,000 paying supporters into the Memorial Coliseum here in the Rose City.
And today it's a dead even race between Bush and Gore: Gore 45%, Bush 44%, Nader 6%, Buchanan 2%. Voter turnout is projected at a whopping 84%.
Part of this mania may be our wacky mail-in ballot system. Evidently it's some kind of big deal that we're the only state that does all elections by post. We've had our ballots for a couple of weeks now. Some people say that it takes an hour to fill out. That may be an exaggeration or not. It accounts for more than half of all the ballot initiatives in the nation.
It's funny how these things work. About 40% of the voting population is solid Republican and will vote that way regardless of who the candidate is and the same can be said for the Democrats. Which means that the remaining 20% of us decide who gets their finger on The Button.
I have a basic minimum requirement for the President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World and the Commander-in-Chief: he/she must be able to speak in complete, grammatically correct sentences most of the time. Bush fails.
I understand that he is a very nice man and charismatic in small groups, however the world stage is somewhat larger than a small group. His one term as governor of Texas just isn't persuasive to me that he has what it takes to run the show.
I do believe that he has shown the most courage of any of the candidates in addressing Social Security. Nader and Gore are postponing the mathematical certainty that the current model is unsustainable. Seniors currently receive far more in benefits over their lifetimes than they ever put into the system. The Baby Boomers will crush all of us remaining in the workforce like a bug.
Consumer Reports spelled this out a
few months ago.
I am a registered Independent. I voted for Perot the last 2 elections. (Laugh if you must, Monkey Boy.) In '92 I wanted to shake things up. I'm essentially a debt hawk and a social liberal. Ross fit the bill and had his charts. He clearly made the race more exciting.
In '96, Ross' meltdown guaranteed he wouldn't be back, but the next Reform Party candidate would need the matching funs that a respectable showing would guarantee. I waited until they called the election for Clinton and then voted Perot for the second time. So now the Machiavellian Buchanan stages his beer hall putsch - "legally" of course - disenfranchising virtually everyone who built the party.
I strongly believe that all Americans must have health care and that until they do, it is a stain on our honor. We clearly have the know-how and money to do it, it's simply a matter of will.
And how is it that Social Security gets cost of living adjustments but that the federal minimum wage is allowed to lapse into stagnation? That's just wrong.
Publicly funded elections would cost a pittance in the overall budget but would free candidates from being beholden to big contributors.
I want a much better value for my defense dollar. First of all, the men and women of the military deserve to be paid and housed better. I would raise pay for the bottom two-thirds significantly (say 15%) in the first year and then in increments over the following 4 years. An 8 year building program to replace most of the existing housing with quality. Make no mistake about it -- technology does not in the end protect us, people do. When we take better care of the troops they will be more effective.
I would take a relentless red pencil to the weapons programs. I want stuff that works. I want incremental improvements in performance. I don't want to throw our money down a rat hole. I don't want 6 more stealth bombers than the Pentagon requested because Newt-fucking-Gingrich's district makes them. There is no reason to continue an arms race in today's world. What we need is continuous improvement on proven technology. I would pay for the better pay and housing through cuts in the speculative weapons systems and existing programs that aren't meeting performance standards.
Nader is right on so many of the issues. So why am I not voting for him? This was a very difficult decision. I understand that my reasoning is not unassailable, but here are a few observations. Ralph has built his life around throwing bombs at the establishment and in doing so he's done an awful lot of good for the country. But bomb throwing is only occasionally a vital skill in the White House. I'm not persuaded that Nader would be successful at working deals with Congress to get his agenda through. Especially a Republican Congress.
And it's a damn shame, but for some reason too many Americans have been duped into fearing any kind of plan that insures that everyone gets health care. Which means we are stuck with incremental gains.
I don't like how Ralph is spouting off about how great it would be for the environmental movement when a backlash against Bush's policies develops. Or how the appointment of Supreme Court Justices won't have an effect on key civil liberties. I also take umbrage with his ignorance on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. The major party candidates both slink away from the novel concept that a person in the end stage of a painful terminal illness has the right to take measured, regulated steps to die with dignity. Nader says that opens the doors to doctors killing patients to save money. That's not how it works, Ralph. Never take a stand on an issue you know nothing about. Multiple safeguards are in place to insure that the patient is of sound mind and that the patient is indeed terminal and that it is not a decision made in the heat of passion. Nader knows nothing about our law. I expect the other two to kowtow to the fears of ignorant on this one, but for Nader I find this particularly galling.
And yet I can find forgiveness in my heart. I very much want Nader to get 5%+ so that the Green's get matching funds next time. They have a very important message that must be carried. I strongly encourage Gore supporters in Bush majority states to make a statement about the agenda you want addressed by voting Nader. But I won't be playing my vote until the 11th hour. The race in Oregon is just too damn close.
I've read a fair amount about all of the candidates, their records, and their lives. I believe that Gore is the right guy for the job. He's smart, hardworking, and matches up pretty closely with what I think are the key issues. By virtually all objective measures we are better off as a nation after 8 years of Clinton-Gore. By all accounts Gore has also been the most actively involved and consulted Vice President in U.S. history. It's a bonus that Gore was one of a few key legislators responsible for funding the Internet in it's formative years.
Gore's economic plan is solid. Be aggressive in reducing debt. The reward is a reduction in the size of our interest payments on debt which are more than 10% of the entire budget.
It took me 8 years to pay off my college loans. And those loans were after significant grants from my college and help with tuition from my mother and step-father. I remember talking to students 5 years after I graduated. Tuition had nearly doubled. These poor kids were saddled with debt equivalent to what purchased a small home at the time. That is just wrong.
Al's college tuition tax credit is a perfect example of why targeted tax cuts are the way to preserve a healthy economy. You identify a behavior that serves the well-being of the country like we do with home ownership or retirement savings and then provide an incentive, in this case post secondary education.
It's difficult for people older than, say, 38 to understand the tremendously greater load that new graduates face with tuition as high as it is and with aid in general lower than when they went to school.
And that gets to the very core of what this whole damn thing is about. Most of you Gentle Readers are indeed American citizens. Regardless of how you vote, I ask that you consider these 3 things:
1) Ronald Reagan was swept into office in 1980 in part based on a critique of government inefficiency. His rhetoric took hold because there was indeed a sense that there were many bloated bureaucracies and wasteful practices. However, even after significant hacking at social programs, the momentum of this thesis morphed from "government must be more efficient" to "government is bad". The sort of black and white thinking that short circuits rational thought. Consider this: the government is made of people, not file folders and form letters. People you know, people who live nearby, people on the web. Like Don the Ratbastard, my neighbor Carol up the street and Cathy, my wife.
If you can't muster an occasional "we" or "us" when referring to your democratically run government, isn't that a failure to own up to what you have wrought or at least a failure to identify with those that serve you?
2) For god's sake, can we please have an end to the whining about not liking your choices in candidates? Our Constitution was built with a wacky little feature called the electoral college. The electoral college all but guarantees a 2 party system. The long Presidential campaign and party nominations insure that you get 2 relatively moderate candidates with decent resumes who have managed not to offend too many people. I'm not a huge fan of the electoral college. I think we would be better off running with the popular vote, but the record shows that our Presidents, on average, have outperformed those of any other country over the last 225 years.
You are not voting for Mr./Ms. Perfect, Mr./Ms. Best Entertainer, Mr./Ms. Be My Daddy or My Mommy. The Presidency is a job. A job I suspect that most of us would not want to have. A job, when you consider the pressures, the responsibilities, and the unholy hours is pretty badly underpaid. You start the job with 30-40% of the population at least a little pissed off and maybe hoping you'll suck. Every word and action will be relentlessly analyzed and critiqued.
This is democracy, people. If you are not moved/entertained/delighted, that's your problem. We're voting on flawed humans because that's the only kind they make.
3) Please remember that when this year's contest is over, we need to make it work. We are stewards of this experiment. We've been given an extraordinary gift. When people look back on our time, will they say that we took what was given us and made it better as previous generations have or will they say that we squandered our inheritance? Twenty years from now will you look back and see the seeds of a proud legacy or the blank page of the timid and selfish?
I'd like you to take a quick look in your pocket or your purse. Is there a coin in there? (I'll wait...)
On every U.S. coin from the new Sacajewea dollar to the lowly Lincoln penny you'll find 3 Latin words, E pluribus unum, that describe what we were, what we are, and what we are trying to become. And as you have carried this currency all your life, I ask that from this day forward you carry the meaning of those words somewhere closer to your heart.
From many, one.
|previously on days of naze :
dad with 3 small children
|May you never be more active
when you are doing nothing.
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
-Carl W. Buehner
|in the feedbag:
football: It's a damn good time to be a diehard Oregon fan. Number 6 in the nation, baby! We win it our way, which means a clean program, with talented players modest about their gifts, and never, ever giving up. Joey Harrington, our QB, graduated from Central Catholic High School which is about 10 blocks from my house. The Ducks have played in more overtime games than any other Division I football team. It's a little hard on the fans, but where would the drama be if we didn't have to sweat it out?
health: The lingering cold has rallied it's troops and is assailing the walls. Mass congestion and coughing in a winning battle versus massive quantities of water, cough drops and Advil Cold Medicine.
book: halfway through the napoleon bio (it's about a thousand pages). the little general is a class a certified bastard. his secretary of 10 years is exhausted after working non-stop with no time off. he resigns. napoleon humiliates him, effectively exiles him, and the former confidante dies in grinding poverty.
© christopher naze