Monthly Archives: January 2003

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No, no, not like that. We're not talking about world-shattering events of moment. We're talking about a daily annoyance. The subtle war of the sidewalk.

While I was in Australia, I noticed that, while those crazy Aussies drive on the wrong side of the street, they are at least consisitent. They also walk on the left side of the sidewalk. No one has to tell them to keep left. There are no crafty stare downs, no telegraphing of body language. They just keep left.

Americans, on the other hand, have no idea where to walk.

I think the problem has historical roots. In the States of old, we weren't concerned with sticking to one side; we were concerned with status. The inside of the sidewalk--the bit away from the road--was the prime spot. Gentlemen yielded the inside to ladies. Youngsters yielded to the elderly. Horribly (and not so long ago), blacks yielded to whites. I remember taking the sidewalk etiquette of Gunsmoke to heart as a child. Shame on my parents for not realizing what a bad influence Marshal Dillon was.

As roles changed between genders and races, our collective course of action should have been obvious: keep right. But no. Instead we've devolved into a mishmash of walking wherever we end up, and working it out as we go along.

Me, I'll keep right under almost all circumstances. I read a book about assertiveness when I was young that suggested women give their parcel of sidewalk to men a bit too often (Marshal Dillon would not approve). I was surprised to find this true in practice. I no longer yield in such cases if I'm on the right. You'd be amazed how many people of all types barrel down the sidewalk with a sense of entitlement. Here's my message to all of you: if you're not on the right, you're not entitled. Move the hell over, and make life on this earth just a little more pleasant.

And the Marshal says to stop that goll-derned spittin'.

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Of course it's hilarious to get that "666" tattooed on your baby's skull, then let the hair grow over it so it's discovered later. Preferably long after you're dead. Here are a few other ideas, for those who love the idea of a little surprise, but don't want to unleash yet another Beast:

  • Made in Taiwan

  • Deposit: 5¢
  • Inspected by: #14
  • Please Recycle
  • PROPERTY OF U.S. GOVT
  • Break here in case of emergency
  • I'm not really your father

Yeah yeah, I know: don't have kids.

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I'm very frustrated right now. Today in downtown Portland, there will be a huge peace march, and I want to go very badly, as does Bill. It's even on a Saturday, making it easy for me to participate without missing work. Sadly, Portland police have a habit of doing ugly things to protesters, most significantly arresting them. So I have to be goddamned a grownup about it and weigh the consequences.

First, I have to consider that the most important thing is that I be able to continue to do my part, in whatever way I can, in the future. This includes spreading the word, donating money, etc. With that in mind, I consider the consequences of arrest: I would lose my job, and Bill's visa application would be denied. If Bill got arrested, his job would probably be safe--but it wouldn't matter because, again, no visa. This means Bill goes back to Australia, and I can't go live there because, hey, I have a record!

The end result is this: two people who care about what happens to this place are essentially put out of commission. That's the cost for the cause. The personal cost is obviously much greater.

So Bill and I can't march, and we're not happy about it. In fact, we're pissed. But taking that risk would be monumentally stupid. So do me a favor: go march for us. For each person who marches for Bill and me, we'll donate $25 to Not In Our Name. To let me know you're marching, send me an email. As long as I don't get mailbombed, I'll take folks at their word.

4:05pm: Ah, screw it. We went anyway. The police were very relaxed, and the protest was peaceful--as it should be! More than 20,000 people marched today. More people than I've ever seen at such an event. Pretty amazing stuff.

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If you don't mind rain, may I make a suggestion? Go to the zoo.

Bill and I went to The Oregon Zoo on Saturday, and had the place practically to ourselves. Oh boy, did we ever have fun.

I can't think of a lot of things more beautiful than a pair of tigers pacing their territory. I hadn't been to the zoo (except for zoolights) in quite a few years, so I got to do a lot of oohing and ahhing. The enclosures for the marine life are especially impressive. I was literally inches from a massive, graceful Stellar sea lion, as well as a fierce looking croc.

But better than being inches away, is being not away at all! There's now a lorikeet enclosure where you are in among the birds. You can buy nectar at the door to feed the greedy little critters. At one time I had five perched on me in one spot or another. One fella was particularly fond of sitting on my left shoulder and squawking directly into my ear. I loved it. Next time, I'm getting two cups of nectar.

After three hours of wandering about, we still missed major chunks of the park. The place is critter Disneyland. I've always loved the attitude of the Oregon Zoo--they are all about conservation, and they've always strived to make the animals more and more comfortable. The enclosures are large, and made to resemble the animal's native habitat as much as possible. Lots of room to roam. The only miserable animals there were miserable because of, well, the rain. Poor things.