Observed

Death and the Skeptic

October 16, 2008

Tonight on NPR’s “Philosophy Talk” I heard this declaration referring to death: “The world as I know it will cease to exist,” and then there will be nothing. When I heard this somber reminder of what everyone fears, I was in the car on the way home. I had been drinking wine at a downtown […]

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One Angry Dude

October 15, 2008

I’m glad the presidential debates have ended. Too much anxiety watching them, though they served their purpose in educating people about both candidates. After the second debate, I read that eighty-six percent of Fox News viewers believed John McCain had won. That statistic may have been the second-most revealing element of the entire campaign. Objectively […]

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Dark path of light

October 15, 2008

One of my two world-trekking pilot friends unknowingly gave me a gift. It’s an image that flashes to life at odd moments. I don’t know if the image bears any resemblance to what he saw, to what he experienced on many long journeys. He told me of flying 747 cargo jets to points scattered around […]

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On the Edge

October 12, 2008

He looked familiar. Not his rumpled clothes. Or red blotches mottling his face. The man on the sidewalk reminded me of a close friend’s older brother. So striking was the resemblance that he could have been a down-trodden other brother. The guy looked done in, as if he’d recently had but lost the financial wherewithal […]

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Something’s in the Air

October 11, 2008

At the Portland Farmers Market, roasting chilies perfume every cool breath. Autumn has thinned the crowds but not the produce. Along with poblanos, I buy what may be the year’s last peaches, several varieties of apples, shiitake mushrooms, and more. The once-ubiquitous volunteers registering people to vote are nowhere to be seen beneath the canopy […]

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Reaching out

October 10, 2008

Each morning I obsessively pore over information about visits to Cracked Window. Not that the number is large, though this offbeat post about a bear campaigning for Barack Obama attracted more than ten thousand because The Atlantic magazine’s Andrew Sullivan linked to it. I’m curious about what gets read how often — which posts resonate […]

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Portland in Snapshots

October 9, 2008

Four street scenes all within fifty yards of NE 15th and Fremont, expose Portland’s big beating quirky heart: The first to catch my eye in a thirty-second span is a hand-painted sign on a rickety weathered fence: We Love People. Another sign, this one on a post outside a Starbucks, had read: No Skate Boarding. […]

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More Than a Camping Trip

October 7, 2008

My morning email trek began with discovery of a story that pushes aside all the world’s troubles. Even with NPR blaring about economic travails and bitter presidential politics, I was transported to the East Oregon mountains and into a stranger’s childhood memory. The 1,004-word evocation of a father’s love for his son isn’t a story […]

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‘Hiding in Plain Sight’

October 5, 2008

After closely following the mainstream media’s superficial coverage of the presidential campaign, I’m not surprised that much in Rolling Stone’s damning new portrayal of John McCain’s life and career isn’t widely known. The piece feels like a hatchet job but only because the sheer volume of negative information is so shocking. I’ve read some of it […]

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Excitement in the ‘Hood

September 30, 2008

Excitement of the moment sometimes clouds my judgment. That’s the inescapable conclusion from a phone conversation with a Portland police dispatcher yesterday. I called the cops while standing next to our friends’ house up the street. They were out of town, and another neighbor had told me that a solicitor tucking a business card in […]

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On the Beach

September 29, 2008

What will the boy remember of yesterday? Years hence, is Atticus, my son of three, doomed to never recall his first day at the new edge of his known world, the Pacific Coast? As I watched him run toward and away from tiny advancing and retreating waves, I realized how fleeting the moment probably was. […]

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Sound of the sea lions

September 28, 2008

Long after midnight, I heard sea lions barking. The sound echoed off Yaquina Bay, exotic at first as if I was on an isolated Pacific atoll, alone except for the abundant wildlife. After awhile I craved stillness and had to step inside from my perch on a condo balcony to escape the incessant cacophony. The […]

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Future past of now

September 17, 2008

A name, “Huff,” is sewn on his backpack. The backpack is made of camouflage cloth. So is his Army uniform. I’m standing behind the young man. We’re stuck in an airline aisle, inching toward our seats. “Headed to I-raq,” he says when another passenger asks. The soldier’s tone is flat, inflection free, practiced.

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