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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Playing Hurt: The Favre melodrama continues

Posted By on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 9:48 PM

Years ago the NFL's iron man standard was Raiders center Jim Otto. Wearing his famous 00 jersey, Otto played 14 seasons without missing a game at football's most unheralded and unglamorous position. Beloved by Raiders fans, Otto paid dearly for his years over the ball. His retirement years were filled in serious pain.

During retirement, Otto once owned a restaurant just off Interstate 80 in Auburn in California's Sierra foothills. I remember going there once and seeing Otto seated at the counter talking with friends. When someone in came in and called his name he had to slowly rotate the counter stool to see them because he appeared to be completely immobile in from below his shoulders on up.

In all, Otto had 70 surgeries for a variety of ailments and wore a $40,000 carbon fiber artificial leg.

It was sad to see how Jim Otto fell apart physically just like it's going to be sad to see what Brett Favre looks like in a few years. Ego and the urge to be the iron man of iron men aside Brett, you should have quit when you left the Packers. Think of it, you could have joined the ranks of the top professional athletes (former Steeler great Lynn Swann comes to mind) who have quit on top and gone on to achievements outside football.

But Favre seems to be listening to the ESPN talking heads and their incessant chatter about the heroics of him prolonging his "streak". It's those same talking heads that will wail and moan years from now about how sad it is when Favre is gimping around taking endless pain meds and trying to enjoy retirement in Mississippi.

It's those same talking heads that bewail the NFL's call to end helmet-to-helmet hits as if the League were taking away the player's First Amendment rights.

It would be nice to see helmet-to-helmet hits go away for the player's sake just as it would be nice to see a happy ending to the Favre story. Somehow the chances of that diminish every time he steps on the field.

Time to quit Brett, and believe me, nobody will hold it against you.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Enough Already: Campaign slogans and lawn signs

A run down of the highs and lows of campaign season and some tips on yard signs.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 25, 2010 at 7:21 PM

Chicago's late Mayor Richard J. Daly was famous for fracturing the English language. A much-cited Dalyism was uttered when he tried to describe the "plateaus" the city government had attained.

"We are rising to higher and higher platitudes," Daly noted, and platitudes are what we're dealing with this entire election cycle.

Platitudes particularly related to the economy and jobs. Apparently if you elect certain candidates based on what they're saying, the dire unemployment and economic situations will be solved overnight. New companies will come racing to Oregon with family wage jobs and the state's economy will become robust in minutes.

I don't think so, but apparently a lot of voters do think that a simple change of office will right all wrongs, heal all wounds and right the ship of state.

Beyond the ship of state, there's the state of the nation and the constant whine from some voters that they "want our country back." That slogan sounds like something the American Indian Movement (AIM) might have used by in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After all, they are the Native Americans?

Moving on to lawn signs, can we discuss sign coloration? Who told candidates that white signs with blue or green writing were legible, let alone memorable? They aren't.

Signs with a blue bodies and red and white lettering are most legible and stand out. So kudos to the Dudley, Kozak and Capell campaigns for good sign design.

Finally to my favorite candidate name of this election cycle: Wells Ashby. I don't know Mr. Ashby yet every time I see his name on a lawn sign my mind conjures up a character out of a Jane Austen novel. You know, "squire Wells Ashby, laird of Avon Manor, cut a dashing figure at the yuletide ball."

I wish Mr. Ashby well and all who take the time to run for local and state offices.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Warming Up: Gathering wood for winter

The Bend tradition of gathering autumn firewood appears to be making a comeback this year.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 4:46 PM


Twenty-five years ago on any given autumn weekend, Century Drive would be virtually bumper-to-bumper with old pickup trucks loaded with firewood. Firewood gathering, along with the opening of hunting and fishing season was a Bend tradition. Most gatherers did multiple loads during a day and for many people, wood gathering was a family affair complete with a picnic lunch.

Come winter, Bend was primarily warmed by wood stoves, so much so that an EPA study from a site near Pilot Butte in the late 90s showed the local air to be among the foulest in Oregon in winter. That was especially true during extended periods of inversion.

With the onset of an inversion there was a slight pall of smoke in the air. If you took a short walk in the evening, you'd come home smelling like you'd spent all night in a smoky bar.

Eventually, the City Council passed an ordinance calling for the replacement of, on the sale of a house, an existing old wood stove with a new clean burning stove. The ordinance also mandated the installation of clean burning stoves in all new construction, should a wood stove be part of the plans. More recently, the state has adopted rules that require all woodstove owners to upgrade to clean burning stoves because of air quality concerns.

Wood stoves and wood stove heat slowly became something of the past.

But apparently there's a renaissance of home heating with wood. Witness the dozens of wood gatherers along Century Drive for the past several weeks. Hey, it's almost like the old days are back thanks to lots of beetle kill and rising home heating costs.

I love it. It reminds me of when Bend was smaller and far more rooted in tradition. So, cut away wood gatherers and enjoy the warmth of a wood fire this winter.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Bend Brews: An exercise in shameless self-promotion of my new book

Bend Brews, a new book about Bend's beer culture, tells the stories of our area breweries.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 6:25 PM

This past winter local photographer and passionate beer lover, Andre Bartels, approached me with the idea of collaborating on a book about craft beers and the craft-brewing business in Oregon.

I immediately envisioned myself swilling every possible ale, lager and stout in the state in a short but oh so sweet project. Then reality set in. Covering Oregon's rapidly expanding craft beer scene would be an effort requiring years not months of research.

So Bartels and I settled on Bend and Central Oregon and got to work with interviews and photo sessions for our book, Bend Brews. For the record, it was a wonderful experience for both of us as the brewery owners, brewpub managers, employees and brewmasters were extremely helpful. Also, the experience opened our eyes to a wonderful variety of beers made locally and places to swill them. Bottom line: buy local and dine and drink local because it's not only cool but a great experience.

As we were into the book's creation, VisitBend's Doug LaPlaca announced the Bend Ale Trail program. Working with LaPlaca and his team, the beer book will be a premium reward for those who complete the Ale Trail and get their Trail passports stamped by all the local brew makers.

So look for Bend Brews to debut later this month. It will be available at local booksellers, breweries, brewpubs and at VisitBend (

This book's creation proved a labor of love. Cheers.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

All In: Addicted to ESPN's World Series of Poker

Poker may not be a sport, but it makes for some great television thanks to characters like Chris Jesus Ferguson.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 6:31 PM

It's Tuesday afternoon and when a friend calls to see if I want to meet him for a beer around six, I say I can't. That's because it's World Series of Poker night on ESPN and I'll be glued to the show from 6 until 8.

"Are you whacked," he says, "poker isn't a sport. Why waste you time on watching poker?"

Because, I love the characters. To hell with the game itself, it's the characters that make the World Series of Poker (WSOP) interesting and the drama surrounding the play fascinating.

WSOP players/characters have, over the years, ranged from Dickensian to those out of a Damon Runyon novel, to some you think have to be the invention of some gifted Hollywood screenwriter.

The first WSOP was staged in 1970 at Binion's Horsehose club and casino in old downtown Las Vegas-real Vegas, if you will. In 1973, CBS-Television first broadcast the event. Few people watched.

That's because television's general audience didn't get the likes of men like Amarillo Slim Preston and Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson for whom gambling was a way of life.

Those who did watch got to see the genuinely drug addled and tortured poker genius, Stu Unger, win three WSOP championships.

So the WSOP staggered along as sort of tawdry television fare only to get a big boost in 1998 when the movie "Rounders" debuted featuring two-time WSOP champion Johnny "The Orient Express" Chan in a key cameo role playing Texas Hold'Em.

Texas Hold'Em (the only event in those days at the WSOP) suddenly became the game to play in poker clubs and at casinos and began to attract a younger crowd to the tables.

A younger and brighter crowd, many with advanced degrees in match and science from prestigious universities. Many, who were often chess and backgammon champions to boot, became poker pros.

Pros with the nicknames like Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Howard "The Professor" Lederer, Phil "The Poker Brat" Hellmuth. Despite not having a nickname, a math whiz like Erik Seidel could win the WSOP and the coveted bracelet that goes along with the title.

Along with the brainiacs came some very good women players led by Howard Lederer's sister Annie Duke.

But the WSOP and poker still didn't capture much viewer attention even with ESPN broadcasting the annual tournament. That changed forever in 2003 when an aptly named CPA, Chris Moneymaker beat the well known professional poker players for the $2.5 million dollar WSOP title. Suddenly Texas Hold'Em went worldwide aided greatly by the advent of on-line poker sites.

Hold'Em became anyone's game not just the game of cardroom heroes like Scotty "Baby" Nguyen, a émigré from Vietnam who was, along with Johnny Chan, the first of many great Asian-American players. Sitting down at the Hold'Em tables across American and elsewhere were accountants, regular guys, loggers, business owners, shoe salesmen, truckers, retired postal workers and a patent attorney named Greg "Fossilman" Raymer who took the title in 2004 WSOP Championship.

The year "Fossilman" won, the tournament moved from Binions to Harrah's Rio casino and dozens of other championships (Omaha, Stud, etc) were added. But the grand championship is still the $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas Hold'Em championship.This year's WSOP Hold'Em event drew 7,319 players vying for the $8.9 million dollar first prize.And the mix at the tables was different yet again. Hundreds player-bright young undergrads and grad students, young on-line players, along with Euros are the ones to watch now.

The 2010 WSOP is winding down with most of the old school players gone along with leaders of the new world of poker like steely nerved Phil Ivey and all-over-the-emotional-map, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow.

This year, it looks yet again like an under-thirty young gun will win it all. That is unless a young throwback player like Michael "The Grinder" Mizarachi comes through.

So the poker drama with its larger-than-life characters continues every Tuesday night until November when a new WSOP champion is crowned. Until that moment, I'm all in on watching.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Food on The Table: A fitting end to NeighborImpact's fund raising campaign

NeighborImpact expands its emergency food program after an 11-month fundraising project.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 10:12 PM

It's one of those stories that won't get much press but should. It's how NeighborImpact recently completed a successful 11-month fundraising campaign to expand their emergency food program.

The emergency food program currently provides food for an estimated 14,000 people every month in the tri-county area. That's seven percent of the population with most of those being served working, retired or disabled. Because of the increased numbers of people who have come to rely on the emergency food program, NeighborImpact set out last November to expand their warehouse and freezer capacity to be able to accept more food donations from local markets and from the Oregon Food Bank.

A goal of $100,000 was set with 20 percent of it initially donated by the Oregon Food Bank as part of a DEQ settlement with an unnamed industrial firm. Under State law, a DEQ violation monetary penalty can be paid to a non-profit group.

Once the $100,000 goal was reached, NeighborImpact's warehouse can now accept 800,000 pounds of locally recovered and Oregon Food Bank donated food annually. It also has a new freezer unit that increases cold storage capacity by 100 percent.

How important the new freezer is to the program was pointed out this summer as the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) gathering at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds wound down. FMCA called NeighborImpact to see if it could take a donation of 12,000 frozen pancake breakfasts. Prior to the fund drive and the acquisition of the new freezer, that would have been impossible. With the new freezer it was.

Just as more food from other resources won't go to waste and can be used by a very worthwhile program that is a necessity in these hard times.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Going South: Oregon big time college festivities and fandom take on an SEC look.

When did Pac-10 football fans start channeling the SEC?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 5:50 PM

First came the over-the-top pre and post-game tailgate parties. Then came those little pennants that attach to car windows and stand straight out and flap in the breeze at speeds over 10 mph declaring love for either the Ducks or Beavers. Finally, someone painted his or her house in U of O colors.

Obviously big time football in Oregon is getting more "Southernized" every year. Because it's down south where tailgating, car flags, and home team colored houses took on a life of their own years ago establishing the fandom benchmark.

Look no further than tailgating at the Georgia-Florida game. For years called the world's largest outdoor cocktail party, this tailgate lasts almost a week. Note that the "cocktail" has been dropped in most recent news coverage but it's still implied.

And it's not just Georgia-Florida, but every game in a part of the U.S. where college football is about as close to a religion as it can get. And it seems to be getting that way in Oregon which is odd for those of us who remember when Oregon was a perennial Pac-10 non-title contender and Oregon State was considered by opponents an easy win. Now both schools have big national football reputations, expressive fan bases and much talked about coaches.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly is touted as football's new offensive genius. Oregon State's Mike Riley is praised as one of the last good guys in college football coaching - and he's a Corvallis native to boot.

But neither coach has had any influence on the things that go on around the game, including the scenes that look way south of the Mason-Dixon line.

But to be fair, Washington was the first school to offer a tip of the hat to the Deep South when alums and fans inaugurated the huge floating tailgate on Lake Washington years ago. That event could easily be called the world's largest floating cocktail party.

Then, as is befitting the quirky Pac 10, there's the completelack of any discernable tailgating at Cal games. That's because there's nomassive parking area at Cal's Memorial stadium. Fans park on Berkeley streets or in its public garages.

The only thing maybe even remotely close to a tailgate at Cal is the free-for-all partying that takes place on "Cheapskate" /"Tightwad" (take your pick) hill at the north-east corner ofthe stadium.

During one Cal football season I consumed more cheap wine and had more contact highs than a person should be allowed in a lifetime while watching games for free from the hill.

So, I like that Cal has no tailgating. I do like the school's time honored tradition of the marching band parading through campus after every home game and finishing with a few fight songs and the alumni anthem in Sproul Plaza.

Moving back north, perhaps before things get way too SEC in Corvallis and Eugene, Duck and Beaver fans will come up with a truly unique Oregonian twist on tailgating and showing college pride and demonstrate to Southerners that fans out here know how to go one better.

In closing, it should be noted that the football fans who took their horse and buggies to the 1896 Princeton-Rutgers games and had a picnic that inadvertently started the tailgate craze did not have little pennants supporting their team festooning their buggies.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ride On: Out of our way, we're important

Posted By on Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 12:24 AM

What with this past Saturday being what looked like the last sunny day for some period of time, a friend and I took a mountain bike ride. A ride up a trail that gets a lot of downhill traffic from riders who have been dropped off in the high-country. That always means more than a few encounters with riders bombing down and uphill riders like us going slowly.

Not to worry, on Saturday we encountered several groups of fast downhill riders and via hand signals or shouts established who had the right-of-way. 50 percent of the time we yielded; the other 50 percent the downhill riders yielded.

No matter who yielded, pleasantries, like, "Thanks', "have a great ride", ""have fun" were exchanged.

That was during the first part of the ride. Later things got, well, back to full-on Benditude. You know encounters with uber-serious riders who, because of their self importance, have the right-of-way all the time, always have their race face on and never say a word in passing. In short, riders who give local mountain biking a bad name.

The weird thing is that the problem riders aren't the local "name" riders. Most of the top local pro men and women are the first to observe the pleasantries of the trail and are not overwhelmed with their selves. Look no further than Adam Craig and Carl Decker.

No, it's the second tier of wannabes who prove insufferable. They want you to know that they are indeed fast and warrant your respect. Get outta the way dork(s) or you will suffer, seems to be their mantra.

There's also the "just moved here" types who feel they have to make a statement. Hey, they were apparently big deals wherever they came from and want you to realize that when the scowl at you and pass you at mach one on the trail.

So here's to those who have zero Benditute. Those who have their mountain bike riding in perspective and are out for shear enjoyment not to impress you with how epic/gnarly/extreme/cool and wonderful they are.

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