Sunday, September 30, 2007

IKEA, mööö

purposeful prose by Jack Michael

I don't like crowds, and i hate shopping. So naturally i jumped at the chance to go furniture hunting with my partner Roberto at the new IKEA in Portland. Fall came early to Puddletown. (Actually it came right on time this year, but usually we procrastinate, putting it off until later in October.) I don't know what it is about rain that makes people in this river village so insane. It's not like it's acid rain. It won't harm you. At most, it will make you wet. And with the proper clothing, even that peril can be mitigated.

Our problems started in the parking lot, or in IKEA-speak, hëll. Worse than full, it was a freak show... with wrong-way drivers and double parked vehicles. And always... the ubiquitous stealthy parking spot huntress, stopped midway down the lane, waiting... eying the shopper with the Sörum bed frame in a box... he must certainly be freeing up some nearby place to park. As for us, we drove across the street to another store's lifeless lot and hoofed it back to Sweden's Sears store.

Upon entering, one is sort of swept up in a flow. Before i knew it we were on an escalator, being pulled upwards into the great Showroom like cows into a cattle car. I'm sure many shoppers here picture their entrance into heaven to be much like this. Once deposited upstairs, all we needed to do was follow the arrows on the ground, past one efficiently appointed display "room" after another. I tried once to swim back up stream and was met with an annoyed glance from one very determined looking shopper. I turned back around...

We were on a mission as well. Having gotten rid of our coffee table earlier in the year, we were on the lookout for a smaller piece of furnishing which could pull double duty as both an ottoman and a cocktail table. We tried first at Dania (where we got most of our livingroom furniture a few years back). The advantage there would have been the ability to have whatever we found upholstered in the same purple that our sofa and comfy chairs came in. No luck.

It wasn't long before we found something close to what we were looking for; the Ectorp Bromma. The top flips to change the soft surface to something hard and flat. It also sports a hollow inside where we could store our magazines before we finally give up on reading them and toss them unread into the recycling. The Ectorp only came in red, white and leather so we grabbed a brochure for later reference and followed the arrows further.

Before long we were past the living rooms, beyond the bath and bedrooms and escaping through the kitchens. That's where something else caught our eye; a couple examples of counter extensions that would go well in our cucina. Either the Grolånd or the Förhöja would seem to do the trick. Having recently lost my "butt pen," i grabbed an IKEA pencïl and noted their respective dimensions for later research.

As we continued along, looking for the exit we came across the carpeteria. We're also in the market for something new on the living room floor, so we lingered. They actually have real Persian rugs, called here "Persisk". (I checked the labels... "Made in Iran") A bit surreal considering that we may be carpet bombing the Iranians soon. Besides the stacks of affordable floor coverings, several huge rugs hung side by side, like oversize posters in a gift shop. Two children played among them. "Don't squish your brother," screamed their mother. I waited to see if they managed. No luck. Timmy emerged unscathed.

The arrows finally brought us to the end of the show, but the beginning of the action. We decided to go with the white Ectorp ottoman and color it purple once we got it home, but how to acquire it? We retreated to a nook among the last pieces of display furniture to assess the situation. One IKEA veteran, sensing our apparent virginity gave us the rundown. She pointed out the forms we had to fill out, noting: "Once you figure it out, it's a pretty good system." I still had my IKEA pëncil and transcribed the data from the brochure to the form. Roberto, who always pays attention better than i do, took the information to where he was instructed.

I stayed behind in housewares. A particular party plate tickled Nancy's fancy. "Made in China" was stamped on the back. I've vowed not to make any impulse buys if the product in question comes from this cold war foe turned economic ally. The label surprised and disappointed me. Caveät emptör! At one point there was a mini-stampede. I wondered if there was a blue-light special somewhere. It was then that my adult onset agoraphobia set in. In the midst of a low-level panic attack, i tried phoning a friend... like a 12-stepper in crisis. I just got her voice mail.

Roberto finally returned and handed me a slip of paper with coordinates; 16-37, 16-39. Our next step was to find the hall called "self-serve furniture." It's called this because evidently "warehouse" doesn't translate well from the original Swedish. We walked past aisle after aisle of products stacked to the ceiling like offerings in a modern day temple. We proceeded down aisle 16 and found what we were looking for; #37 for the white coverings and #39, foot stool in a box. It now became clear just what was really meant by "self serve furniture." "Some assembly required" would be an understatement. We looked at each other and decided to get it anyway.

When we made it to the check-out, we again had second thoughts. The whole experience at IKEA had been akin to lines at Space Mountain. When you finally appreciate the magnitude, you figure you've been at it so long, you have to complete the mission. In for a Euro-penny, in for a pound. We hedged our bets and stood apart in two side by side check-out lines. I was shadowing a couple from San Francisco. They seemed to have all the fashion sense that we lack... designer labels, multiple earrings, etc. I didn't catch their names, so we'll just call them Adam and Steve. Steve had one of those Star Trek ear phones like Lt. Ohura. That was the only resemblance. Soon Steve got a phone call. "Use your inside voice," i wanted to tell him. Instead, i just listened in. He recently got laid off. I thought maybe he was moving to Portland and needed to furnish a new apartment. Instead, he was simply getting his closets back home organized, a Nostalgisk, two Vackers and a Skübb. Roberto and i ended up nearly simultaneously at our respective checkers. At the last moment, he joined me. It feels good to come in first. The couple behind us shot him a dirtly look. Three quick scans and a signature later, we emerged. IKEA? I hardly knew ya...

Dedicated to Michelle...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

PDX Peace Rally

Dan Handelman of Peace and Justice Works leads the way.

Organized by 55 local peace and justice related organizations, today's "grossdemo" attracted a scant 700 demonstrators. I was glad to see Steve Novick and supporters at the rally and march. I looked in vain for his primary opponent in the race to unseat Senator Gordon Smith (R-war supporter). The national Party's pick, Jeff Merkley, seemed to be missing in action again (as he was for the Peace Vigil atop the Hawthorne bridge a month ago.

Steve Novick says no more support for Dubya's war!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Merkley gets country cred

Supporters get Testy after Blowback from Tester Endorsement

Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley in yet another attempt to prematurely lock up the Democratic nomination to challenge Gordon Smith, our Republican fruitpacker US Senator from Pendleton, received another heavy endorsement yesterday. Junior Montana Senator and flat-topped farmer Jon Tester weighs in on Oregon's senate race:

"I am emailing you today because I am supporting a true progressive for US Senate: Jeff Merkley. I look forward to traveling to Oregon before the end of the year and for an event with Jeff. We'll get the details about my visit out to you soon. But today I'm asking for your help. We need another good Democrat in the United States Senate."

The timing of this endorsement was curious and turned out to backfire on the Mandate/Merkley machine. It seems many undecided voters would prefer that our candidate be chosen through the Oregon primary in May as opposed to back-door meetings with Chuck Schumer and the DSCC national party Dems.

Some undecided progressives also take issue with Tester's recent vote in the US Senate condemning a newspaper ad by Much like the GOP-engineered vote in the Oregon legislature acknowledging the "courage of George W. Bush" (which Merkley fell for), the "Democratically controlled" congress got suckered into flag waving yet another supposed "support the troops" measure through the legislative process. Jon Tester helped the Republicans. Jeff Merkley was merely collateral damage this time around.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Local Boy makes Good

Wins us back our Rights!

Two months after the 2004 Madrid train bombings, local attorney Brandon Mayfield (a Moslem convert) was arrested by the FBI without charge. Held for over two weeks with limited access to legal counsel, he was at first held at in the county jail under a false name. Mayfield was later transferred to an unidentified location.

During his illegal detention, the government searched the family home, took DNA samples and removed several items. After Spanish authorities refuted the "evidence" used by the American government, Mayfield was released with an apology. Not satisfied, Mayfield also sued to get his (and our) rights back. Today, we won.

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) - A federal judge ruled Wednesday that two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

sad milestone

Today we recognize a sad milestone in Bush's quest to bring democracy by the sword. (Lord knows the ballot box doesn't work!)

The semi-official US death toll reached 3800 when a Task Force Lightning soldier was killed in an IED attack in Diyala Province. With the deaths of an additional 300 foreign troops, the total death toll for the Coalition of the Billing stands at 4100.

Despite the escalation allowed to occur by a complicit "Democratic" majority, the civil war in Iraq continues unabated.

[Editor's note: often ignored are the American civilian contractors killed (and killing) in Iraq. Conservative estimates should add at least 150 to the US death toll, but there is little or no oversight into the dealings of these mercenaries funded by US taxpayers. More here...]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gloom for Blum

Earl Blumenauer stands up for impeachment!

Just kidding...
[See also: Blumenauer peace vigil Week 9 / Week 10]

While Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer's aides waited outside for the Hollywood Theater to open its doors for their boss's forum on "Peace and Accountability," impeachment supporters were already gathering, hoping for their long awaited opportunity to finally address their representative and encourage him to support the impeachment process.

Although a previous supporter (and fair to say "fan") of Blumenauer, he lost me when he stopped telling the truth. This "forum" was promised a month ago and confirmed to many. Blumenauer thought he could renege and nobody would care. (I mean who else are you going to vote for in May, and then the General?) It wasn't until Blumenauer's aides were confronted at his closed door conference with Pelosi that a September date was set.

The "Peace" part of the forum came in the form of an oversize petition declaring peace in Iraq which the congressman eagerly signed. Not known was if George W. Bush was waiting in the wings with an oversize veto pen.

The "Accountability" part of the forum was a piece of fiction bigger than Blumenauer's fake form. There was no dialog at this event. Our Representative was simply goaded into an hour or so of listening to most of the constituents who signed up to speak their 2-minutes worth of mind. The overwhelming majority of comments supported pushing forward with impeachment.

One community member who addressed the crowd was Portland attorney John Bradach Sr. whose nephew Travis Bradach-Nall was killed in Iraq after the toppling of the Saddam regime. Travis, a 21 year old Marine Corps corporal. He volunteered to stay in Iraq an extra three months to help clear mines. Looking on were John's brother James, a Portland longshoreman and their sister Lynn, Travis's mom.

At the end of the forum, Blumenauer responded by saying we all should look for good news soon regarding the lawless military contractors and the Iraqi refugee crisis. When he rose without saying ANYTHING about impeachment, the crowd became raucous. He then blurted something about his previous statements, blah, blah.

I had asked him about his statement earlier this month on KPOJ.

And one of the things that concerned me was the notion that it wasn't quote "on the table" at this moment. Somebody at some point said the phrase quote "off the table" - I wanted to clarify it...

I called him out for pretending not to know who started the "rumor" that impeachment's off the table. I reminded him of this story (from the Washington Post):

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told her caucus members during their weekly closed meeting Wednesday "that impeachment is off the table; she is not interested in pursuing it," spokesman Brendan Daly said. [Friday, May 12, 2006]

Blumenauer isn't telling us the truth on impeachment. His recent statements that impeachment should now be on the table (coordinated after the August break with other chastised congressmen) along with his hollow call for "investigations" is just a stalling tactic. He has promised Pelosi he won't support impeachment. In exchange he's already gotten a new office with a splendid view of the Capitol dome. He's not running for the Senate because he's holding out for that long awaited Committee chairmanship.

Make me a liar, Earl. Do your duty and hold Bush, Cheney & Co. accountable.

[Video: h/t Joe Anybody...]
[See also: Blumenauer peace vigil Week 9 / Week 10]

Heidi's Hoofers

Race for the Cure

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Reading this statistic, i immediately thought to the future and 2008. Looking ahead to 2008, i feel a sense of optimism. By joining Race for the Cure®, i was taking an affirmative step towards a better tomorrow. Soliciting contributions in the symbolic amount of $20.08, i was heartened and humbled to receive not only several donations, all generous, but many words of encouragement from several other friends and family members as well.

Much of my inspiration to participate came from Heidi Tauber and her team at 620AM KPOJ progressive talk radio. Sort of my daily bread... Heidi, Carl, Paul and Thom have provided me with ample food for thought. It was a genuine thrill to join Heidi's Hoofers and help make a difference by gaining support and visibility this year's event. Perhaps the most diverse team in Portland's 2007 Race for the Cure (the nation's 3rd largest this year), the Hoofers included city commissioner Randy Leonard, Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain, a world champion paraplegic athlete (Heidi's brother), broadcasters, truckers, gay couples, crossdressers, healthcare and social workers, police officers, firefighters, military veterans, cosmetologists, entertainers, film makers

All in the Family

Perhaps not everyone has a connection to a cancer with the cultural caché of breast cancer. But there isn't anyone reading this blog who hasn't been touched by the big C one way or another. I walk for for Aunt Connie and Uncle Dick (lung cancer, throat cancer). I walk for uncle Bob (prostate cancer). I walk for my sister and my dad (skin cancer). I walk for Uncle Jack, for Grampa and for Aunt Chris. I walk for my Mom whose battle with one of those "female cancers" ended four years ago.

I'm walking, because i need to do something. I need to make 2008 better than 2007. I walk for myself and for the next generation... for Renze, for Oskar and Theo... for Abby.

I walk for the moment, because i can... hand in hand with my love.

Becoming A Komen Supporter

This is the first such "benefit race" i have ever participated in. (The bridge pedal doesn't count as i'll join in just for that view from the Marquam Bridge!) I also have to name as an inspiration for this event my cousin Gary, who climbed Mt Hood this year as part of a benefit for the Lung Association in memory of his mom. Days before the climb, his dad passed from cancer as well.

Looking back, i see the seeds for hope and great expectation planted by my family (especially ma famille choisie!). Every day is filled with a multitude of choices. I am thankful to every person who chose to support me - in kind word, dough and deed.

Last chance for donors... You can click here!

(Click on all photos for enlargement goodness!)

"Was it your plan to put the KPOJ booth right next to the honey buckets?"
"Yes, but don't you like how our peach colored team shirts pop against the backdrop of these teal outhouses? We never had it so good back in Montana!"

Tom and Randy share a laugh in the midst of the 50+ strong team of Heidi's Hoofers.

Carl and Gary making a Hans sandwich under a pink halo. Ignore the symbolism!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pirates on the Columbia

a benefit for the Oregon Crusaders, a non-profit youth performing arts organization
Thom donned his hook and cutlass and set sail for the shores of Phil's classic end-of-summer party. Buccaneer Thom steered clear of the grog but plundered the pirate food. He'll be blowing those balls of fire out his broadside when the bells strike 5. Shiver me timbers! Why did he not heed the warning? "Avast ye and beware!"

Warming up for the arrrrggh-off...

"Listen, matey... aaar ye goin to hand overrr that ale, or do i have to get rough?"
"Why don't you just walk my plank!"

"Aaarrgh! Who grabbed me booty?!"
Don't forget to . Contribute securely over here.

and this just in...

It’s the Black Spot for Gordon “Red Ink” Smith, says “Left Hook” Novick

Captain Steve: Avast, ye fair people of Oregon and hear these words from our fine new cap’n, “Left Hook” Novick, who having sailed the harsh seas of politics, hereby calls Gordon “Red Ink” Smith to account to explain his doings. [more ...]

Friday, September 21, 2007

City Clubbed

Oregon 3rd District congressman, Rep. Earl Blumenauer spoke at the City Club today in downtown Portland's Governor Hotel. Earl came back to town to talk about farming and its connection to mostly urban Portland.

Some in the audience also wanted to talk about holding Bush, Cheney & Co. accountable. The Congressman has in fact recently said that impeachment is back on the table (seven weeks after his constituents began regular demonstrations in front of his Portland office (Thursdays, noon - 2pm, 729 NE Oregon Street). It remains unclear if our representative will truly stand up to Nancy "off the table" Pelosi and listen to the people of SE Portland...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bush kills Mandela

Just when you thought Bush had done everything possible to demonstrate the depths of his stupidity, the Decider held a press conference today and declared that anti-apartheid activist and former South African President Nelson Mandela (who currently lives in Johannesburg) was dead!

“I thought an interesting comment was made — somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, 'Now, where’s Mandela?' ... Well ... Mandela’s dead ... because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.”

Think Progress has the video. It will make your head hurt. Mandela was previously held for dead by CNN in the run up to the Iraq war.

In today's news conference, Bush tried to fend off rumors of an economic downturn by engaging in a little grade inflation of his own. When asked to rate the risk of a recession, our CEO President responded:

“I think you need to talk to an economist. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low... and being fisky... fiscally responsible with the people's money.”
Bush was actually a "C-" student of Economics, what people at Yale politely refer to as a "gentleman's C." Apologies in advance if you spat out anything on to your computer screens.

Novick for Senate

HQ Opening Bash

US Senate candidate, Steve Novick kicked off the opening of his campaign headquarters in SE Portland with a come one, come all, come as you are Bar-B-Q.

Campaign Headquarters:
1339 SE 8th
(between Main and Madison)
Portland, Oregon
Google Map

Mailing address:
Novick for Senate
P.O. Box 42349
Portland OR 97242
Phone: 503-236-7289
Merkley's man from Mandate may sell himself out as BlueOregon's "chief cook and bottle washer," but Novick has one helluva Grillmeister in campaign manager, Jake Weigler. Here we see him working overtime on his famous secret chicken. What's his secret? "Give the burned pieces to solid Novick supporters and save the best for folks still on the fence." Nobody reads this blog, so Jake's Grill secret is safe for the moment.

Cap'n Hook on the Stump

Novick got the crowd fired up before the tryptophan set in. I've seen him speak in public on a few other occasions, and i have to say this. As a candidate, he's more charming than charismatic. But when he talks, like a major league slugger, he connects. His message truly resonates with progressives like myself (until recently, i was registered with the Oregon Green Party).

Steve Novick also has a natural affinity for the working class. His father was a union organizer who, as a young man, left Brooklyn for the South to fight for civil rights. Steve's mother dropped out of college when she had her first child (Steve). She became one of the first Head Start teachers, and then spent many years as a waitress in Cottage Grove. After seeing that her kids went to college, she later went back to school herself, earning a Ph.D. and became a researcher on early childhood education.

Steve talks policy, sports and life with supporters at the opening of his campaign headquarters in SE Portland.
A Novick supporter listens to TJ of Loaded Orygun.
"That's just what Novick says, TJ... Is he in there?!?"