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Salem World Beat Festival

Saturday, June 30, 2007
This weekend is the weekend of Salem's World Beat Festival. I went today because I'm busy tomorrow. Admission was a suggested donation of $3 which - being a poor college boy - I didn't do.

Maybe it was the hour at which I went (6 o'clock-ish) or the fact that the day was fantastically beautiful so everyone was somewhere else (not at the riverfront park?) but the place seemed relatively empty. I mean, there were people milling about but the overall energy of the crowd seemed low. I don't know. I did get some ice cream there (strawberry, just to be different) and that was pretty good.

Salem World Beat Festival

Honestly, there's wasn't much to see today. There was some live music and dancing, but it just was difficult to get engaged. I wish I could go tomorrow to see the dragon boat racing, but (alas) I cannot. Oh well, now I know.

Move Review: Ratatouille

I had the opportunity to go see the new Pixar film Ratatouille on opening night, something I haven't done for a film in a long time. And, like almost every other Pixar movie, it was truly fantastic!

Okay, so Cars wasn't their best. It had potential, but something was just off there. However, every single other film they've done has been nothing short of amazing and Ratatouille certainly lives up to that heritage. It's the story of a rat (named Remy) who has a very sensitive nose, an interest in food, and a convenient ability to understand human speech. He ends up helping a boy become a chef in a fine Parisian restaurant. Wacky hijinks ensue with humor for everyone.

So it doesn't sound that interesting. But the animation is first-rate, the voice acting is amazing, the plot is pretty solid, and the movie comes off like every other Pixar film: great for kids and adults alike. I highly recommend it and was very, very glad I seized the chance to see it. You should do the same!

Wanted by The Man

Friday, June 29, 2007

Imagine my surprise after the events of last weekend at getting, in my mailbox, an important letter from the Marion County Circuit Court. There was a bit of trepidation after opening it; however, it seems I'm being summoned for Grand Jury duty!

I think I'm going to have to defer. In this case, it's a two-week commitment and I can't, unfortunately, take that time off work. I may have to try to do it over Christmas break. Were I truly devious, I would put it off for a full year and perhaps move out of Marion County before then... but I actually want to do it! I enjoy doing my civic duty (I've done jury duty before... that was a 3-week-plus trial!) but there's a time conflict there that I'll need to resolve. I just hope that, if I defer, I'll get Grand Jury duty again.

Us Vs. Them

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
So, in browsing the news today, I came across an article entitled Dillard ripped for Obama ad. Well, having a passing interest in politics and out of curiosity more than anything else, I decided to read it.

The short of it is that Republican Illinois State Senator Dillard appeared in an ad that endorses Democrat Barack Obama, who is, incidentally, running for President of the United States in 2008. This treachery, this treason has upset the powers that be in Dillard's party. The reaction, by and large, has been along the lines of "To say I was disappointed in him would be an understatement" (as said by his predecessor.)

Dillard's response?
The bigger message being sent is that we know how to cooperate, and the current crop of Democrats needs to have an infusion of Republican input because it's just gridlock and economic chaos coming out of Springfield.

This man appears to be a moderate. This sort of out-of-the-box thinking that might lead to cooperation in politics to achieve ends rather than power has no place in the government. Give this man the boot, immediately!

In all seriousness, though, it sounds like he was being honest, and I respect that. So - bearing in mind that I'm not endorsing anyone - you judge for yourself:

That pesky "majority"....

Oregon voters, several years ago, passed what we refer to as the "double majority" law. This law - really an amendment to the Oregon Constitution - simply stated that, in matter of property taxation where the levies were sent to the voters, a majority of voters must vote and a majority of those voting must vote "yes". This is described in HB 2640 (about halfway down the page) where the state House and Senate are trying to repeal this.

Under the 50 percent voter turnout requirement, often referred
to as a 'double majority' requirement, non-votes have the effect
of a 'no' vote if less than 50 percent of qualified voters
participate in the election. An example demonstrates how current
law works. Assume:
Number of qualified voters in jurisdiction: 1,000,000
Voters who voted: 499,999
' Yes' vote: 499,999 (100% of those who voted)
' No' vote: 0
Voters who did not vote: 500,001
Result: Measure fails; non-votes have effect of 'no' vote

I fail to see the problem. Less than 50% of the people wanted to pass this measure. Of course, the opposing scenario is also true, where just over 25% of the people want to pass a measure:

Picture this situation:
Number of qualified voters in jurisdiction: 1,000,000
Voters who voted: 500,001
' Yes' vote: 250,001 (50.0002% of those who voted)
' No' vote: 250,000
Voters who did not vote: 499,999
Result: Measure passes; non-votes have no effect.

See the difference? All that needs to happen is that a majority of voters need to show up before everyone gets assessed with a tax. So where's the problem?

People aren't always voting.

We tend to vote in May and November. In major elections, such as presidential or gubernatorial ones, voter turnout's not much of an issue. However, in off years where we're just getting a notice that "they" want to raise our taxes, there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for the democratic process. The double majority protects us from a small but passionate group from imposing fines on the rest of us.

Of course, there are games in politics. I personally haven't voted for a measure because I didn't want it to get the double majority vote; in that case, a "no" vote would have gambled that they DID have a voter majority turnout... but if they didn't, I would have been contributing to it. However, without the law it would be possible to obfuscate and perhaps hide important tax laws and let the aforementioned small but passionate group of voters decide the outcome. Which is more fair?

I guess the ideal solution would be to simply require that a majority of registered voters pass any taxation law. This is like the double-majority rule, inasmuch as a non-vote is a "no" vote, but then even if a slim majority is votes, they must all vote "yes". A very unlikely (but not impossible!) situation.

I understand where the government's coming from; not enough people are voting, and levies aren't being renewed which freaks everyone in the government out. Also, statistics come into play as a "meaningful sample" is collected. However, rather than addressing the root problem of voter apathy, they're simply trying to apply an easy fix. I hope the people of the State of Oregon recognize this and vote "no" accordingly.

Interesting Times

Sunday, June 24, 2007
So my life just got interesting. As my friends know, I have a tendency to get drunk and, as they say, "miss the action." Tonight was no exception. The difference is that tonight it's 4:45 AM and I was driven home by a very nice police officer, something that doesn't happen frequently. Now I have to worry about two things: a) getting my car tomorrow, and b) the fallout from this mess.

And, for the record, this was the third time I've ever puked from being drunk. To the relief of the officer driving, I managed to avoid the inside of the police car (though the ride did have something to do with it.) Nonetheless, I'm not proud. 28, and I'm still partying hard.

UPDATE: Well, it made the news.

I is a geenyus!

Friday, June 22, 2007
Due to the solstice and wanting to enjoy the longest of summer evenings, I decided last night (somewhat on a whim) to ride my little motorcycle out to Lincoln City last night to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. The weather in Salem was gorgeous: it was warm (but not hot), slightly windy, and clear with the occasional small cloud floating by. I checked sun-set time (right around 9) and set off at about 7:40 to the coast, chasing the sun as it started to drop.

Let me refresh my readers' memory: I am a native to the Willamette Valley. I've lived her all my life and I love it! Over the past 28 (almost 29 years) I've grown pretty used to how things work around here, so you'd think I'd have checked the weather report before venturing coastward. Being a rocket scientist, I thought about this but completely neglected to do it.

So there I am, riding at high speeds towards the world's largest ocean when, ahead of me, springs the Coastal Range, a small range of hills/mountains between the Willamette Valley and the sea. Hanging above these was not a clear sky, but a formidable wall of rain clouds that stretched as far as the eye could see.

"Maybe it just LOOKS like it's raining," I hoped.

Rain clouds behind me.
No. It was raining pretty righteously in those hills and spray from oncoming cars kept clouding my helmet's visor. I couldn't see the setting sun from the road, I could barely see the car ahead of me. Let me assure you that due to the warmth of Salem when I left, I was wearing jeans and still had the vents on my jacket open. Did I stop or turn around? Of course not! I wanted to see the ocean! Were I to have had a Mensa membership, it would have been revoked at this point.

In what can only be described as a minor miracle or a divine gift, as I pulled into Lincoln City (which is about 65 miles west of my apartment) the clouds parted and the rain stopped. The sky was by no means clear, but it was clear enough that I could see traces of the sun setting the sky on fire as it started dropping below the horizon. This trip was, in fact, worth it. Lincoln City was warm, slightly breezy, and smelled of the open sea: a perfect setting.

The sun setting behind clouds over the Pacific Ocean.

Birds on the beach.
I stayed just long enough to watch the sun disappear and I turned around and headed home. I had closed my vents and put the liner in my jacket, so I wasn't absolutely freezing. As I re-entered the Coastal Range I was mentally preparing myself for more rain; rain which never appeared. Instead, it seems, the air was thick with bugs emerging at dusk. The wholesale slaughter of these creatures upon my visor necessitated at least one stop within the first 20 miles as I could barely see the road anymore. I should have stopped again, but I wanted to catch as much light of the fading light as possible as I sped home.

Was the trip worth it? Absolutely. Did I learn my lesson? I sure hope not...

Dancing Elephants

Thursday, June 21, 2007
I just finished reading an excellent book called "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance" by Louis Gerstner, Jr. (), former CEO of IBM. It was his account of being CEO from 1993 to 2002 - from assuming the reins of command during IBM's darkest hours to turning the company around to be not only competitive, but again an industry leader.

The book takes a deep look at what made IBM great, and how some of forces for greatness took on a life of their own and paralyzed IBM during the mid-to-late 80s - and then what was needed to fix them. He looks at the culture within IBM and describes the decay; a global business full of some of the world's most brilliant minds that had grown so out of touch with the market that - when times changes - IBM as a company almost stopped existing.

Lou Gerstner is an excellent writer; the book is clear, well-organized, and communicates simply and effectively. Is there a tone of self-congratulation in the book? Of course there is. He led the recovery of IBM and, given the success of his job, he deserves to say "I was right."

I contrast this book against my other favorite management book: "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors", John Z. Delorean's account of the decay at GM back in the late 70's. The difference is that IBM once again became a leader; GM's faults were identified over 25 years ago and they still haven't come back. Both are great books, and I recommend them highly to anyone interested in management!

The Fortunes Have Spoken

Tuesday, June 05, 2007
I was fortunate enough to have Chinese food the other day and - to my great surprise - in the obligatory fortune cookie I got not one but two fortunes! The first was this one:
You will inherit a large sum of money from an unexpected source.
Well, that would be a very unexpected source since all the sources I know of aren't set to have anything for me to inherit, if you know what I mean. However, I'm pretty sure the second fortune was the one meant for me:
You will have many friends when you need them.
Now that one is true. I have some of the greatest friends on the planet, and in that way I'm most *ahem* fortunate. I wouldn't trade this fortune in for the first one for any inheritance. (Well, maybe if it was super big...)



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