Amazon

Grant Goes to Three New Bridge

Bridge ProjectEUGENE, Ore. — Thanks to new funding approved by the Oregon Transportation Commission, the Lane Transit District will get $3.51 million.

The bulk of the money will go to build three new bike and pedestrian bridges over Amazon Creek. The bridges will be at Buck Street, Sam Reynolds Street, and between Commerce Street and Fern Ridge Path.

Both the west Eugene EmX project and the city of Eugene will oversee the projects.

Where Did The Week Go…

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A great summer tradition in America is barbecue. As someone who is very slowly learning the art, I’ve been mostly concerned with burning the meat or lighting my apartment deck on fire. But one thing I didn’t even consider being hazardous is that brush you use to clean your grill. For one Washington state man, something as innocuous as a grill brush nearly cost him his life.

Adam Wojtanowicz went to the hospital last Sunday complaining of abdominal pain that wouldn’t go away despite his taking medication. Doctors poured over some x-rays and found a metal bristle inside of Mr. Wojtanozicz. As a result they had to perform emergency surgery to remove it.

Don’t be brushing your teeth with that.

Adam says he recently hosted a cookout, and he thinks a steel bristle from his grill brush fell into his steak and he swallowed it hole without even realizing it.

Wojtanowicz is expected to make a full recovery, but this incident isn’t an anomaly. The Center for Disease Control says it knows of at least six people within the last two years who have suffered similar injuries from brush bristles.

Back in May, Sen. Charles Schumer became aware of similar incidents involving the barbeque utensils and called for a federal review of grill brush safety by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration.

In response to Schumer’s request, the CPSC collected data on injuries from hospital emergency departments around the U.S. and found nine cases of people injured by swallowing brush bristles reported since 2007. Grill brushes were also responsible for 28 other injuries since 2007.

Fortunately no deaths have occurred and the commission is reviewing the reports to see if there is an identifiable pattern of defect in the products.

So if you’re like me and you recently began grilling, or if you’re a master of the barbecue, pay attention to that brush and inspect your food a little more closely before eating it. The only thing we should be worried about killing us is what’s cooking on the grill and not what’s used to clean it.

The million dollar game collection

Some of us have a hard time letting things go. For nostalgic reasons, we like occasional reminders of things that brought us joy back in the day. One of the things that used to bring me a lot of joy (and occasionally still does) is video games. I remember getting the Nintendo 64 for Christmas and playing games like Mario 64, Wave Race and Goldeneye for hours on end.

But eventually I moved on to other forms of entertainment: Movies, sports, girls and newer game systems. All my games for the 64 were eventually sold or given away, but strangely I still have the console sitting in my old room at my parent’s house. It’s probably not worth much now, but what if I had kept all those games with the system? Could they have become a long-term investment down the road? Absolutely. But I was a kid who didn’t know words like nostalgia, retro or old school. That was my mistake because a man living in France knew the value of those words and he’s hoping someone out there does too.

An impressive collection for any gamer.

Andre is a 32-year-old man who works in law. Since the age of five he has been an avid gamer and for most of his life he has been collecting games. Last week, he decided to sell a significant proportion of his collection, a $1.22 million collection consisting of full-sets for 22 consoles and game-devices totaling 7,000 games. A bidder — who lives in Canada — supposedly is willing to buy this collection.

The collection includes a complete set of every game released in Japan on Nintendo systems from NES to N64 to GameCube, as well as every game for every Sega system and a full, factory-sealed collection of all NEC games.

It took Andre 15 years to collect every game for Nintendo, Sega and NEC.  He was intent on finding every game for every system because “I’m not what you’d call a hoarder, more like a completionist. I like to achieve challenges, and getting all games for a specific system was one.”

The big question is whether or not the bidder in Canada will actually fork over the cash. Andre isn’t fully convinced the bidder will follow through so he may be putting the collection up for sale again.

So if you’re in your late twenties or early thirties,  have $1.22 million laying around and feel like reliving the past, look up Andre on eBay. He’d be happy to fulfill your childhood memories.

Amazon employee stole $160,000 in electronics

While someone in Canada is unsure about opening their wallet on a game collection, an Amazon employee apparently decided he wasn’t willing to spend money to be entertained.

Todd Anthony Cofield, Jr. turned himself in to the police last Thursday after allegedly taking 726 iPod touch players and 49 HP laptops between April and May. A warehouse worker at the company’s distribution center in Cayce, South Carolina, Cofield hid his actions by forging paperwork to make it look like he stocked the electronics in the warehouse, but instead he took it all for himself. Security guards from FedEx Freight and Amazon managed to discover that the items were missing and reported the theft to the local police.

Not sure how he was going to unload more than 700 iPods or nearly 50 laptops. You never know, maybe he was going to give them away at Christmas like Santa Claus or start his own small electronic business. At least he did the right thing by turning himself in. Now the only money he’s concerned about is the $50,000 he would need to be freed on bail.

Stretch Armstrong movie coming

A couple of weeks ago I read a book on the struggles of screenwriters in Hollywood. They talked about projects that they failed to sell, scripts that they sold but were never turned into a movie and the rare times when they actually sold a script that made it to the big screen.

I see a story here that needs to be told on the big screen.

Some of the great ones interviewed included William Goldman (All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). These are some of the greatest scripts ever written. But these movies were made in the golden age of cinema, the ’70s. Before corporations took over the movie studios in the early ’80s, Hollywood produced some of the best original films. They cared about the quality of a picture.

Now it’s about how much money they can make. Looking just about anywhere to make a buck in the business, movie studios have been relegated to producing scripts based on toys (Transformers), video games (Resident Evil) and even boardgames (Battleship). Add another toy (ironically made in the ’70s) to the slow decline of originality in Hollywood.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Relativity has been “quietly developing” a Stretch Armstrong movie since the company acquired the rights from Universal in January. At one point Taylor Lautner was attached to the film when it was at Universal and way back in the ’90s Danny DeVito was interested in playing the role.

Now it looks like the long wait for a Stretch Armstrong movie is almost over. But you won’t find William Goldman or Paul Schrader writing it. That much-anticipated screenplay will be written by Greg Poirier who you might recall (or won’t) wrote such cinematic classics as Tomcats and See Spot Run. He was also one of eight people who wrote National Treasure: Book of Secrets. (Really? Eight people wrote that?)

The book talked about how scripts are often rewritten dozens of times. Who knows how many drafts or how many writers it will take to get to the true core of a Stretch Armstrong movie. Because that’s what we need, an origins story about a guy in his underwear who has stretchy limbs.

Is there still a place for local bookstores?

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Is there still a place for local bookstores?

– Ryan Beltram, EDN

In Fahrenhiet 451, Ray Bradbury wrote a story about a  frightening vision of the future where firemen don’t put out fires–they start them in order to burn books.  Bradbury’s society in the book believed that the appearance of happiness is the highest goal and that books give us knowledge and ideas that ultimately will influence us negatively. But in our own future, will we have any books to burn at all?

The nations second-biggest book retailer, Borders, filed for  bankruptcy in February and has already begun  closing 30% of its more than 600 stores.  The  Waldenbooks store at Valley River Center will also be closed soon, but what about local  bookstores?  The number of independent bookstores  has been declining for some time, from about 6,000 in the early 1990s to about 2,200 today, according to the American Booksellers Association.

“Are we an endangered species? Probably.” said Peter Ogura, owner of Black Sun Books.  “The most challenging times have been the last couple of years because of declining sales.  There are so many ways people can buy books now and I have not been particularly good at doing everything that I can to sell books online.” Despite being open for nearly 20 years, Ogura can understand the appeal of staying home to shop for books.

“It’s pretty simple but it takes away from  options in your community for sure.  If paying the least amount of money is your goal then you can always shop Amazon or Walmart. In the end it’s going to have an impact on local businesses and I’m not sure we will survive.”

In a digital world where everything is right at our fingertips whenever we want, the idea of leaving our home computer and driving to a store is becoming less attractive.  The music business was the first to feel the affect.

In 2009, the Virgin Megastore in Manhattan’s Times Square, said to be the largest record store in the world, closed its doors.  Last year, Portland’s Sheet Music Service store closed after almost 100 years in business. The end of music and record stores were due in large part to consumer’s ability to buy music from sites like Napster or iTunes and then download their music onto their computers and then onto small, portable MP3 players.  No need for CDs, tapes or records anymore.

Next to go were video stores.  Blockbuster, the leading video-rental chain filed for bankruptcy in September of 2010 due to debt and their inability to compete against Netflix, which mails movies to subscribers and also provides digital streaming and Redbox, which operates movie-rental kiosks at a cheaper price.

The demise of Borders has been a result of crushing debt and  their inability to successfully navigate rapid changes in behavior in  consumer’s spending habits.  Those new spending habits include the purchase of electronic readers or e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle or the Nook which is made by Border’s competitor, Barnes & Noble.  According to a report from the  Association of American Publishers, e-book sales in the month  of March increased by 145.7% from January of 2010. Compare that to hardcover books which saw an increase of only 6% from  last year.  Paperback books decreased in sales by nearly 8% in the same time span.  E-book sales have increased annually and significantly in all nine years that the AAP have been tracking the category.  But there is still an admiration and passion for books, particularly in local bookstores.

Lauren Kessler, Director of the Literary Nonfiction graduate program at the University of Oregon, thinks the appeal of local bookstores is the other things they offer. “There’s always going to be a hardcore group of people, and I’m one of them, who love bookstores and libraries.  The way artists love museums.  If bookstores want to succeed they have to give people reasons to come to them other than, we have a bunch of books and you should buy them. I do a lot of touring for my books and I go into bookstores all over the country and the ones that are vibrant today are the ones that have events.  There is a reason for people to go there.  They have author events, stuff for kids and community events related to books.”  Kessler, who has written six books herself, also believes that a book holds more value than any form of digital content.

“Books are an artifact.  The art that is done for book covers, the feel of the paper or the type style.  All of those things are like a piece of art.  Either you think of books as little works of art or you think of them as vehicles of information or entertainment. I have three children and none of them have e-readers and they’re not interested in them because they spend so much time on a computer anyway so it’s like a relief not to have a screen in front of them.”

In December of last year, Google eBooks launched its long-awaited electronic bookstore.  It immediately became the largest e-book provider in the world, according to Publishers Weekly, with almost 3 million books, including more than 2 million titles available for free.  The program offers options for independent booksellers to sell Google’s books on their websites without having to invest in expensive software platforms. This may spell good news for local bookstores trying to embrace the digital age.

But others in the independent book world like things the way they are.

“Why would anyone pick up a guitar or  a drum again when they can create a  whole orchestra digitally,” said Scott  Landfield, owner of Tsunami Books. “Why would anyone do anything when they can sit in front of a screen and appear to be doing something.  I have  people come in here and they want to  tell us their whole life story because this is a safe environment.  We’ve got to  have that interaction with people particularly if we’ve been behind a computer all day.”

Landfield is proud to say that despite some ups and downs, his business has been able to survive because of his loyal customers.

“We started with no money.  Our challenges have never ended.  We’re the only business that I know of that started 15 years ago with no money and is still a business.  I have nothing if nobody comes in here.  There’s a lot of wise people in the book industry but no one really knows in 5 years how this business is going to change.  The month Borders came to town my partner and I planned and made a move to advertise and our business took a 50% jump.  That was a cataclysmic move, the ultimate bookstore coming to town.  You don’t try to battle with them, you find your own niche and go for it.  People want to keep us open because it’s a traditional thing.  New is not always better.”

The independent book scene isn’t doom and gloom everywhere though.  San Francisco is a place where independent bookstores are not only surviving, but thriving thanks to a city of readers who view books not only as pleasure, but as a cause.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, San Francisco is the only city in the country that ranks in the top three annually in consumption of both books and alcohol. It remains to be seen what will happen here in Eugene.

Lauren Kessler is optimistic.  “I still think bookstores will exist.  You go to browse, to get ideas.  One of my friends is totally into vinyl and there has been this whole resurgence of vinyl lovers.  Why would there be?  Albums are big, they scratch, you have to put them some place and go to a store to buy them and he appreciates them as artifacts and I think the same goes for books.”

Tsunami Books
2585 Willamette St
Eugene, OR 97405
(541) 345-8986
www.myspace.com/tsunamibooks

 

Black Sun Books
2467 Hilyard St
Eugene, OR 97405
(541) 484-3777

 

The Trail of Peaceful Parks

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The Trail of Peaceful Parks
– Mike Hulter, EDN

My transportation in Eugene has been mainly by shoe, which has given me the good fortune to happen upon park after park after park. Nearly all of Eugene is connected through this network of meandering bike trails, hiking trails, jogging trails, preserved habitats, and specialized gardens. This unique aspect has been enabled by the continued efforts of various groups working in a variety of ways towards keeping nature near enough to notice. One of the more recent developments in Eugene’s park perpetuation is an additional dog park for the Amazon Parkway.

While Amazon already hosts a 3.4 acre dog park, there is a segment of the population that sees a need for a “small dog” park, where I assume dachshunds and chihuahuas will be free from the tyranny of great danes and dobermans. The “kiddie pool for doggies” as it were, will fittingly be less than a third of the size of the “big dog” park, which seems about proportional. This endearing initiative entails the forty or so supporters raising the money themselves, which in itself is a powerful show of community determination. Perhaps the fact that these people are willing to do it themselves is proof that it ought to be done. This new dog park follows in the footsteps of some other highly worthwhile organizations that have been key to Eugene’s extensive public parks.

Hendricks park, clocking in at 111 years old, is Eugene’s oldest park, and fittingly, has the most friends. Friends of Hendricks park is a group of around 300 members responsible for the development and continued maintenance of this natural preserve. Founded in 2001, they are responsible for such improvements as establishing a Native Plant Garden, creating the Moon Terrace, sponsoring tours and elementary education programs, installing a variety of informative kiosks, the continued maintenance and development of the extensive Rhododendron gardens, and on and on and on. To find something worth while and develop a community based on its maintenance and appreciation is a fairly common occurrence, but this level of functionality is extremely rare, especially when volunteers are concerned.

Like the name on this gravestone from the Pioneer Cemetery, Eugene’s extensive network fo parks holds clues as to why it’s different here. One route that I stumbled upon after giving up on my job search for the fiftieth time, took me in a massive spiral that started at the Pioneer Cemetery on U of O campus, went up and down two mountains, across the river twice, through downtown, down the length of Amazon Parkway, and ending at Hideaway Bakery behind Mazzi’s for a cup of iced coffee. It was my second day in town, and my logic started with “I’ll check out the campus.” followed by “hmm, Hendricks park is up there? I’ll get a good view of the city.” In Hendricks Park I discovered Pre’s rock, and a road leading down around and back to a footbridge. Cross the Willamette on the McKenzie footbridge, I still had no idea who Pre was and what his role in Eugene’s history may have been. Across the bridge, to the right, just a bit into Springfield, I discovered a sign describing Pre’s long distance running career and legacy. The sign also informed me that I was on his trail. Literally. So what else could I do but follow it?

photo - ElasticNovice

Pre’s is a soft trail modeled after the ones he ran on while training in Europe, and is made up of woodchips salvaged from local manufacturing plants. Apparently Pre was a predecessor to Eugene’s abounding tradition of green logics such as creative reuse. Jogging on asphalt and concrete sends shock waves through your entire skeleton, and has been linked to spine problems, shin splints, and various other hazards of athleticism. Pre’s soft trail is one that promises a prolonged and enjoyable jogging experience. Pre’s trail took me along the Canoe Canal, a 2 mile long water diversion created in 1974 for recreational boating, and into Alton Baker Park, Eugene’s largest at 400 acres, where I was able to hop back across the river on the ferry street bridge and Past the ancient and strange SMJ house on the Southern Slop of Skinner’s Butte, and up Skinner’s Butte for a second view of the city.

SMJ house - photo: Flickr (Unkanny)

Skinner’s Butte was once owned entirely by Dr. T.W. Shelton, the original owner of this unique victorian, But more importantly, Skinner’s Butte is Eugene’s origin, having been the site of Eugene Skinner’s trading post and ferry in the 1850s, so it made sense that I was suddenly in the center of the city. Skinner’s got a makeover 10 years ago with the Skinner’s Butte Master Plan, and maintains such niceties as the columns rock climbing wall, once a columnar basalt quarry. At this point I felt like I had seen all of Eugene from two different angles, but still hadn’t seen Eugene at all. So I cut through down town and made my way along the Amazon Parkway, past the site of the future small dogs park, and ended at Hideaway Bakery for an iced coffee, a fittingly hidden finale to my trek. It turned out to be a 9.5 mile walk which I regularly repeat in much smaller portions. Directions can be found here.