Grant Madden

Viewpoint: Go Set A Watchman

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Go Set A Watchman
Go Set A Watchman US Book cover.

On July 14, 2015, one of the most anticipated fiction novels was released both in the United States and the United Kingdom. Go Set A Watchman, the second book by author Harper Lee made it’s debut almost fifty five years to the day after the first release of To Kill A Mockingbird. The storyline of Watchman centers on Jean Louise Finch, “Scout” returning home to Maycomb County to discover, everything has changed since she and her brother Jem were the object of attention from neighbor Arthur ‘Boo’ Radley.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

In the weeks leading up to the release, reviews began to emerge that the father of Jean Louise, Attica Finch, had become a racist. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus defends a man falsely accused of rape, and later during the film of the same name, Gregory Peck delivers one of the revered performances ever, which won him an Academy Award.

Writers and the blogosphere cried out in dismay at the fall from grace.

“Say it isn’t so?”

“Falls from grace – first Cliff Huxtable, now Atticus Finch.”

With a simultaneous release in both the United Kingdom and the United States, fellow writers “across the pond” got their hands on the book and were putting their thoughts into newspapers, before I even woke up. After reading their reviews, I wondered if it was worth preordering and prepaying for my copy on the first day release.

On the third day, and after avoiding the “mass hysteria” about Mister Finch’s tainted view, I picked up my copy and isolated myself for the read. Cover to cover, one sitting. As I read the book, I could not help but be drawn back to the circumstances that brought Lee’s first book to me.

Growing up in Australia, there was not a lot of detail paid to the civil issues of the South. The book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is required reading in junior High School English, along with Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. My first viewing of the film was in 1982 – not a lot of television in Australia. However, as my daughters grew up, they too also experienced Mockingbird as required reading in both Australia and the USA. Like myself, they also were not exposed to the civil issues of the south before the book, but had more exposure to Hollywood’s interpretation of the issues.

Go Set A Watchman draws on the premise that every person has a Watchman, a conscience. Jean Louise, on a humid Sunday afternoon finds herself sitting in the same balcony of the courthouse where she watched her father so many years ago. This time, Atticus is leading a Citizen’s Council. Jean Louise is horrified and then goes on tirade against almost everyone. Almost.

The book has flashback scenes interspersed explaining where her childhood friends ended up.  Dill lives in Italy and her older brother, Jem, passed away with a heart attack. About the only person in Maycomb that hasn’t changed is Calpurnia, who is still the housekeeper for Mister Finch.

Go Set A Watchman reads like a “first draft”, including a reference to Atticus defending Tom Robinson, and having him acquitted of rape twenty years earlier – the storyline that would eventually became Mockingbird. Watchman does not have the same hold as Mockingbird, and it’s hard to imagine that Lee would “allow” this to be released, after a lifetime of rejecting pleas for a sequel. Lee, aged 89 and still living in Alabama, had her manuscript of Watchman “found” during an audit of assets by her lawyer.

Widower Atticus Finch
Widower Atticus Finch

The commotion about Atticus appears to be, unjustified. After getting into a heated discussion with Jean Louise, Mister Finch delivers the same lines from Mockingbird that his daughter has always heard from him. As her father, Atticus has never “forced” her daughter to do anything, and this time is no exception. The hysteria about Atticus being a racist old Southern lawyer, is unfounded. The town of Maycomb may have had a change of viewpoint towards civil rights, but Atticus, is still the same reserved man fighting the same internal demons that he did in Mockingbird.

I wouldn’t expect anything else from a single father bringing up his children in a evolving world.

Protect Your Pet During 4th of July

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Protect your pet
Protect your pet from loud noises

Before heading out to celebrate the national holiday, take a few mitigation measures to protect your pet this 4th of July.  On the 5th of July, Lane County animal shelters become inundated with lost and runaway animals. It is the single busiest intake day of the year for animal shelters across the nation.

Fireworks and the loud noises associated with the evening entertainment, are uncommon noises that may frighten your animal. The fear is not just limited to domestic dogs and cats, it includes birds, reptiles and livestock. Knowing your pet better than anyone else, there are some measures you can take before your 4th of July celebrations.

  • Order sedatives from you veterinarian if required.
  • Keep your pet inside the house.
  • Avoid the noise. During fireworks, close windows and turn up the television volume.
  • Remain calm. Your pet will response to your ease.

In Lane County, the Human Society runs two two shelters, one that services the cities of Eugene and Springfield at 3970 West 1st Avenue Eugene, and outside city precinct at the Greenhill Humane Society at 88530 Greenhill Road. Both shelters run a combined web page which allows you to view which animals are at each shelter.

Unfortunately, less than 2% of all cats and 20% of all dogs are ever reunited with their family once they leave.

Protect your pet
Protect Your Pet from 4th of July fireworks

There are a number of commercially available devices that you can use to assist with identification if your pet does leave home.

Through Pethub, a QR identification code is which attaches to your pet’s collar. Once located, the code can be scanned with a smartphone to provide the owners particulars. S step up involved GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) Tracking through Pettracker will allow you to locate your animal away from home.

The best available identification process is to microchip your animal, before they ever need to be found.

Outback Steakhouse Embarrassed by Australia Day Promotion.

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Update: Outback changed the page on 1.26.15. to the correct flag.

There are approximately 3500 Australian nationals residing in the state of Oregon, and none of them will be impressed with Outback Steakhouse after the restaurant chain embarrassed itself with an Australia Day promotional  blunder.

Australia Day, January 26, commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Port Jackson, and is accepted as the first “discovery” of the southern continent. The Nation’s birthday is celebrated by its citizens around the world, with the same reverence as Americans accord to the 4th of July.

Outback Steakhouse Embarassed by Australia Day Promoiton featuring the incorrect flag.
Outback Steakhouse Embarassed by Australia Day Promoiton featuring the incorrect flag.

Outback Steakhouse, who markets itself as “Australian” cuisine, advertised a free appetizer or dessert as the Australia Day special. In the banner for the advertisement, the restaurant chain did not use the Australian national flag, instead posting the national flag of Great Britain- the Union Jack. Not only could the chain not identify the Australian National Flag, they also left the entire state of Tasmania off their interpretation of the Australian continent. Tasmania is approximately 35,000 sq mile in size, only slightly smaller than the American state of Indiana.

Australians residing in the United States are outraged that such a disgrace would occur, took to Twitter, Facebook and Buzzfeed to express their disgust with the chain.

 

The National Flag of Australia
The national flag of Australia

As an Australian citizen who immigrated to the United States, I hold the flags of both my nations in great reverence. My own personal encounters with the restaurant chain include a visit where the waiter overheard my Australian accent, and walked over to tell me that “I was laying the accent on a bit thick.” I’ve never heard of a “Blooming Onion“, and nor do I consider the chain representative of “Australian food”.

After posting my own tweet about the matter, less than 30 minutes later I received a telephone call from a friend who is more tech savvy than I. They advised me that Outback Steakhouse had blocked my account from their Twitter site, and therefore, my tweet was no longer visible.

A telephone call to both the Corporate Office of Outback Steakhouse and the Springfield-Eugene restaurant in Hutton Street was not returned.

Outback Steakhouse is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, was founded in 1988 to incorporate the casual atmosphere of the Australian Outback.

Their casual approach to the Australian flag, is a sham to their corporate brand, and to 28 million Australians.

Australian Map
The Australian nation is made up of 6 states and 2 territories. Tasmania, is the most southerly state (yellow).

 

Australia Post Moves Into Oregon

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24 million Australians have just received a brand new mailing address, in Oregon.

Australians, have been plagued with service delivery on products from the United States. Goods and services available in the United States, and marked for delivery to an Australian address, have been the subject of “double dipping” for many years. The use of an Australian address has sent manufacturers price commodities higher, and then charge an exorbitant amount for postage.

AusPost logo
Australia Post, Australia’s national mail carrier.

To give an example, for Christmas 2013, I purchased two 4 foot teddy bears for my children. Shipping to my United States address – $16.95. Cost of shipping to my Australian address – $295. Same product, same supplier, two different prices for shipping. And the price for shipping to Australia by FedEx or UPS, is even more.

Australia Post, the national carrier, has announced that they have set up a Portland warehouse, to have their products shipped to an “American” address, which are then forwarded to their Australian address.

Teddy Bear
A foot 4 Teddy bear costs $295 to ship to Australia.

The service also means that Australians won’t have to wait for products released in America, that haven’t yet made it “down under.”  Nor will they have to comply with the “shipping not available to Australia” clause, often associated with electronic media and books.

The new program, called ShopMate, charges a base rate of $24.95, with a weight rate of $5.95 per 500 grams.

This year, one of my daughters will be getting last years teddy bear, via an Oregon address, for a fraction of shipping costs.

Geocaching in Eugene

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Geocaching, is a world wide recreational activity where participants use Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers and other navigational aides, to hide and locate caches. An all age activity, geocaching is combination between orienteering and a treasure, hunt, which made for a great Sunday morning adventure in Eugene.

The first recorded geocache was placed in Beavercreek, Oregon, on 3 May 2000, following the United State military end of excluding the public to satellite positioning. With free access to precise latitude and longitudinal co ordinates,  Geocaching was born, and as of 1 April 2014,  there are over 2 million active caches hidden in the world,  in 185 countries and over 6 million registered participants.

Garmin Rhino 120 GPS
Garmin Rhino 120 GPS

As a “location based” game,  hiders place caches and then publish those co ordinates through a number of web sites, the largest of them being the the original geocaching.com. Once published,  the race is on to be the “first to find” (FTF). Geocaches can be any size, from a small matchbox, to the size of a shipping container. Participants come and go, trade swag, pick up and drop off travel bugs.

Prior to leaving home, I loaded up my Garmin Rhino 120 GPS. The Rhino is a solid workhorse, which I have dropped off buildings, into deep water, and on one occasion, run over with my mountain bike (not the recommended treatment.)  Knowing where I was staying, I logged into geocaching.com and typed in the address.  The web page gave me a selection of caches available within a five mile radius. I narrowed down the list to types of caches, availability of travel bugs, and what was achievable within walking distance of the hotel.  On a recent Sunday morning, I set out to cache around Skinner Butte Park.

Virtual Cache
Virtual Cache

There are places in the world you visit that a little history helps set the mood.  Eugene is no exception without a visit to the virtual cache,  Skinner’s Letter. Virtual caches are reserved for locations where the placement of any physical object may not be in keeping with the “spirit” of the area.  Normally used at memorials or places of historical significance, virtual caches require the finder to extract some information from the area, and report back.  The first set of co ordinates lead me to the original house of Eugene Skinner, where a plaque provided the information needed.  A quick email to the owner of the cache,  logged the find on my Android smartphone, and I was off to the next geocache.

A short walk away was a traditional cache,  Eagle’s Nest.   By far, this is the most prevalent type of cache.  These types of cache can range in size from a small bolt, to a large shipping container.  At Eagle’s Nest, a former lunchbox had been pressed into service, camouflaged with tape and ivy.  It’s location, as the name suggests, was chosen by the owner due to it’s proximity to a nearby Eagle’s nest. The cache was positioned just off the walking trail, and located without any difficulty. Inside the cache was a log book, a small toy car, some vouchers, and a travel bug.

Bulgarian Mystic Coin
Bulgarian Mystic Coin – a geocoin travelbug.

Travel bugs are items that geocacher’s pick up and move from location to location. Some travel bugs have logged over 300,000 miles in 80 different countries.  In this cache I located a geocoin, a minted travel piece called the Bulgarian Mystic Geocoin. The coin was of unusual design, and was collected. It would eventually be passed onto another cache in California, and then,  made it’s way to Australia.

Geocaching in Oregon
The “selfie”

Further up the hill I walked. The third geocache of the morning was an Earthcache called Basalt Column. An earthcache is a set of coordinates where cachers can learn about the formation of the earth.  Much like the earlier Virtual Cache,  to log the find, the geocacher must answer a set of questions in an email. At this earthcache however,  an additional requirement of a photograph of the geocacher is required. I snapped a “selfie” in accord with the cache requirements,  before moving further up the hill.

Mystery Cache
Mystery Cache

Near the top of the hill I encountered my first Did Not Find (DNF) of the day.  A DNF occurs when the cacher is unable to locate the cache. A mystery cache  The Platypus Cipher, involved solving the coordinates from a set of numbers. I had worked on decrypting the coordinates at home the week prior but was unable to come up with a solution. Upon arrival,  there was nothing in the area to assist.  I left unable to locate the cache. Later that night I showed the description to a local, who immediately recognized the pattern, and solved the puzzle.

Near the top of the hill I arrived at my final cache of the morning,  SBR -1926, and discovered,  (once again) I had not paid close enough attention.  Each cache is accompanied by difficult and terrain ratings, to give the geocacher an idea of what they may encounter.  This cache was rated difficulty 4, the earlier Eagles Nest was rated 2.5.  Additionally, attributes may also be included, that signify “bring specialized equipment”. Climbing equipment was suggested, despite the fact I had I arrived wearing black leather shoes, black dress pants and a collared shirt; attire more suited to plane travel, and not necessarily rock climbing. The GPS coordinates pointed “up” so up I climbed, and after a little sweating, had the cache in hand.  I signed in on the log, and scaled back down, and returned to the hotel.  In a little over 90 minutes, I had four finds, 1 DNF and discovered a part of Eugene that i had not seen or known of.

Geocaching is not an expensive activity to become established in. The Garmin Rhino 120 GPS is no longer available, similar models starting at $150 are available locally at REI Eugene. Membership at geocaching.com is free. Premium membership, which provides greater access to more caches, is $30 a year There are training classes and events where you can meet with other geocachers.  Geocaching can be a dangerous activity. Always be aware of your surroundings, and the creatures that may inhabit them. Like all activities, injuries can occur, but can be minimized with some simple precautions. Always dress for the weather, tell someone where you’re going, and carry more water than you think you’ll use.

Ghost Experience at The Campbell House

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Campbell House
Exterior view of the south side of the Campbell House, showing the three upstairs windows.

On Halloween night 2010, the cable television network A&E broadcast an episode of “Paranormal State”, a show which follows the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Team investigating ghost hauntings. Their episode that night featured Eugene’s Campbell House.

In December 2013, I was in Southern California when the show was repeated. As it was being broadcast, I telephoned the Campbell House and inquired about the hauntings. There was a cool reception from the concierge that night. They all knew about ghost experiences in the house, but were reluctant to elaborate.

Ghost experiences are normal in the City of Eugene. Writer Kevin Baird covered Haunted Eugene with local author Kent Goodman in November 2013, briefly mentioning the Campbell House.

Located at 252 Pearl Street adjacent to Skinner Butte, the Campbell House was originally built in 1892 by timber owner John Cogswell, for his daughter Idaho. Cogswell had another daughter, an older sister to Idaho, who passed away at four years of age, before Idaho was born. Idaho, after being widowed, remarried in 1897 to Ira Campbell, owner of the then Eugene Daily Guard Newspaper. Ira and Idaho Campbell had three children, Cogswell, Celeste and Jackson, before Ira passed away in 1904. Cogswell played football with Navy in a Rose Bowl team, was a business owner in Eugene, a naval submariner, and had two daughters with his wife Mary Ruth. Celeste was a University of Oregon graduate, assisted with nursing duties during World War 1 and 2 and never married. Jackson was 17 years old when he was killed in a hunting accident. It’s against this background that our ghost story takes off.

Years ago while staying at the Campbell House, I asked then girlfriend Suzi to marry me. We had not been back when we saw the Paranormal State television show, and shortly thereafter, I made reservations. Flying from interstate, we arrived Friday afternoon full of excitement. The staff warmly greeted us and when we told them our story, they offered one of the rooms covered by Paranormal State. We took the opportunity, accepted and moved into the Cogswell Room on the second floor.

The room was immaculate. Against the rose walls, the room occupied the center window of the second floor overlooking an old oak tree. It included a queen size bed, a writer’s desk, a fireplace with a flat screen television over it, and a second television inside a cupboard. I thought that a little odd, as we settled in and began unpacking, when we had our first encounter.

Campbell House 2
The Cogswell Room view from the doorway.

Suzi was inside the bathroom and I was at the writing desk when I heard a loud crash.

“The inside handle of the door fell off,” my wife announced. I walked in and picked up the diamond shaped door handle, still in one piece. A single gold screw was tightly bound inside the handle, which prevented me from securing the handle.

“I was doing my makeup and I heard the handle fall behind me,” she said. From my luggage I pulled out a Swiss army knife, used the flat tipped screwdriver, and reattached the handle. We left a short time later and on the way out, asked one of the staff about the room’s occurrences.

“Oh yes, that room has been quite active. There have been several ghost sightings of a little girl in the room, but nothing like the room downstairs.”

In one of the lower bedrooms, another ghost is reported to be an incubus, a male “presence” which is amorous with female guests. We excitedly asked the employee for more details, and she revealed that she personally had some encounters, but nothing of a sexual nature. We left the Campbell House talking to each other about why a presence remains in a building. After dining that night, we returned to find all the lights in the room out.

“Didn’t you leave the lights on when we left,” my wife asked. I couldn’t be sure, and we agreed that that was something we probably couldn’t pin on a supernatural experience. Suzi went into the bathroom and began taking her makeup off. We were talking about “the little girl” when Suzi called me into the bathroom. She was standing before the sink and pointing at her skin care product that was on the floor.

“I put that on the shelf a minute ago and now look at it. It’s like someone picked it up and deliberately put it there.”

Hand Cream
The hand cream which mysteriously was placed on the floor.

She was right. The product on the bathroom floor looked like it was “placed” there, as opposed to falling to the tiles, which neither of us had heard. I picked it up and put it back on the shelf and snapped a photograph of it for good measure.

From the outside room I watched as Suzi took the last of her makeup off, before she turned again and looked down. Unseen by me, and untouched by my wife, the skin care product had again, been placed on the bathroom floor.

I opened my laptop and began to do a search of the family. Jackson Campbell was 17 years old in 1917 when his life was cut short. He had been hunting in Harrisburg with two of his cousins, when he was killed by an accidental shotgun discharged. Jackson was interned at the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery beside his father, Ira. My wife and I talked about it for several minutes, before we heard the inside handle of the bathroom door fall off again.

Neither my wife nor I had any previous encounters like this. If there was a ghost haunting the room, it was mischievous, and not a threat to us. Suzi then had a soft conversation with our “presence”. She thanked them for allowing us to stay in their room, and that we would respect their residency and asked for an uneventful night. We bed down and slept without further incident.

The next morning, the inside door handle of the bathroom was off again, and Suzi’s skin care was again on the ground. We had not heard the door handle come off during the night, and we accepted the movements for what they were. We were packing to depart when one of the Campbell House staff walked by the open door. Suzi brought her into the room, and advised her that the inside bathroom door handle had come off. The employee went pale, and said that the door handle had only recently started to “come off” despite being secured several times. She said that a recent guest who had stayed in the room, reported being uncomfortable with a painting that had hung over the fireplace, and requested that it be removed, or that they be reassigned to another room. When I asked, the employee indicated that the guest reported hearing a male voice in the painting tell her repeatedly that “it wasn’t an accident.”

Campbell House 1
An undated picture showing the old picture above the fireplace, depicting a hunting scene.

After the employee left, a quick search of the internet found a photograph of the room, with a large painting of a hunting trip depicting Jackson Campbell. The space once occupied by the painting was now where the large screen television hung.

Our luggage was packed and we were about to leave when Suzi set her handbag on the end of the bed. We were standing at opposite corners having a debate about where to stop for breakfast, when her handbag flew four feet to the side, off the end of the bed. Both of us stood in silence for a moment, it was the first “occurrence” that both of us had seen. We both kneeled down and picked up the contents of her handbag before I started looking for the room key. The key wasn’t where I left it – on the writing table next to the car keys. I located the room key adjacent to the hand cream on the bathroom shelf.

With our luggage packed we left and settled up downstairs. To the reception officer, we thanked them for our stay and out of earshot of other guests, briefed them on our experiences. Nothing we said appeared out of the ordinary to them. After loading up the car outside, we stood in silence and looked at the room when had stayed in. As we stood there, one of the rooms’ wall mounted lights turned on, without either of us seeing a hand under the shade.

Neither of us are believers in the “supernatural” but there were some occurrences, minor in nature, which considered collectively, gave us pause to think. At no time did we think we were in danger, and at no time did any of the Campbell House staff shun our discussions. When we return later this year, we’ll confidently be asking to stay in the “other” downstairs room.

Epilogue: After writing the first draft of this story at our residency, I went into the bathroom to retrieve the name of the hand cream. Upon my return, large chunks of the story centering on the hand cream, had been removed, obliterated from the history and had to be rewritten. Photographs taken of the hand cream were now deleted from the story, and my camera.

Christmas In Queensland

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Surfing SantaI was never a fan of Christmas Carols.  All that “Boughs of Holly”, “Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Let it Snow” had no reason to exist, it made no sense to me. What was all this white stuff,  and why did it suddenly appear in every television show in December?

In Queensland, Australia, there isn’t any snow – because Santa surfed.

 

Queensland_Map           In the north east third of the Australian continent, lays the nation’s second largest state, two and a half times the size of Texas.  Historically, Dutch explorer William Jansz was the first explorer to map parts of Cape York Peninsular, but it was Englishman James Cook who is credited with discovery of the state, when he ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770. When the American Revolutionary War ended, England was in need of place to store their convicts, and consequently the penal settlement of Moreton Bay was created.

Despite the harsh environment, the area was attractive to immigrants given the abundance of timber, fruit and seafood. The original settlement was built on a river feeding into the bay, and the city was born. Brisbane (pronounced “briz-bun”) is one of the largest single municipalities in the world, measuring almost 550 square miles. Over the years it has been home to important moments – General Douglas McArthur’s South Pacific base, the Commonwealth Games, and the 1988 World Fair.  The alumni of Brisbane include Sigrid Thornton, Darren Hayes (of band Savage Garden), and Indy Car Champion Scott Dixon. Today, most locals and ex-pats still think of Brisbane as a large country town.

Pink Galahs           There is no snow in December. Actually, there is no snow in any of the other months for that matter.  In the sub tropical humidity, December is the first month of summer, where the sun rises just after 4:00 am, and sets shortly after 8:00 pm.  The days are humid with temperature heading towards 100 Fahrenheit, but the risk of skin cancer remains so the public wear light long sleeve shirts. At sunset, the hum of mosquitoes and flocking Pink Galah’s fill the air. When the sun does go down, the humidity is stifling, ceiling fans turn all night and in the last week of December, sleep can be difficult with residents often using make shift bedding outside of the house, where it rarely gets below 75.

Surfers Paradise 081
Looking south at Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia.

           An hour’s drive south of Brisbane is the nation’s holiday playground, the City of the Gold Coast. With high rise holiday vacations right on the Pacific Ocean, you could look out a balcony and view the ninety mile beachfront below. Tourism is the state’s major economy, drawing both domestic and international vacationers. For the Christmas period, the resident population of the Gold Coast explodes from 250,000 to well over 3 million people. On Christmas Eve, most vacationers gather on the soft sand for synchronized fireworks, before walking to one of the local restaurants, dressed only in t-shirt and shorts, to be served the staple delicacy of mud crabs, prawns and seafood. On Christmas Day, it’s a gift exchange in the morning and in the water by 7.00am.

World's most deadliest snake, found in Queensland backyards.
World’s most deadliest snake, found in Queensland backyards.

Christmas in Queensland is not without its risk, as the warm weather brings out the danger.  Seven of the world most deadly snakes can be found in the Queensland back yard, one so poisonous that if bitten, you will not have time to phone for assistance. The spiders of the area live inside your house, and if bitten, you will wish that you had died rather than endure the pain. And in the water, crocodiles, sharks and the Boxed jelly fish. But, most locals will tell you, if you respect the environment and exercise caution, nothing should kill you.

Christmas Day is a national holidays, there is nothing open. There are no newspapers, no supermarkets open, and with the exception of major highway interchanges, there are no gas stations are open. Many a tourist has been caught out traveling in the county, having to spend Christmas in their car, out of fuel. Being a Commonwealth country, Australia has adopted the day after Christmas as a national holiday too.  While traditionally it is the day that English Lords swap places with their servant staff, it also represents the unofficial first day of National Sporting competitions. Numerous sporting events are scheduled around the Christmas week, and with the vast coastline, Queensland hosts a number of water sports.

Bargara Beach National Titles 1986
Bargara Beach National Titles 1986

Before Australia II won the 1983 America’s Cup, there wasn’t a lot of focus on sailing in Australia. There were no World Champions and no Olympic medalists, (yet). While still a High School sophomore, my younger brother and I spent Christmas at a local yacht club in the National Championships. By the time I was able to drive, Christmas was sleeping in my station wagon in towns besides beaches and lakes.  Little towns, towns that might have one store of a combined gas station, post office and hotel. Little towns that might have a population of fifty during the year, suddenly became a bustling metropolis for Christmas as sailors arrived to compete, and where the front page of the weekly newspaper was the photo of a teenager winning a National race.

It’s been almost ten years since I had Christmas in Australia.  Christmas Day is a lot like the American Thanksgiving – except with heat. People will cross the country to be present when the meal is served. It’s cooking turkey and ham for days, and the need for a nap after the meal. Christmas is an Australian time of family, togetherness, and joy

But there isn’t any snow for Christmas in Queensland.

 

Don’t Lose Your Pet This 4th of July

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The single largest day of the year for lost pets, is the Fifth of July.  Following a nationwide celebration of independence and fireworks, shelters will be inundated on July 5th with lost pets. 30% of all “lost” animals occur on the evening of the 4th of July; most of these runaways could have been prevented with a few simple measures.

Fireworks are explosive, uncommon noises that frighten your animal. This fright is not restricted to the domestic cats and dogs. It can also include birds, reptiles and livestock. If you know that your animal is going to be frightened, take some preventative measures before the night. Contact your local veterinarian for sedatives if required.

  • Keep your pets inside that night. Fireworks put a strain on your animal. If you’re going to be away form your pet, have someone  stay behind to remain with them.
  • Keep your pet safe. During fireworks exhibitions, make sure your pet can access their “safe” house, the place where they can hide out. Don’t chain them up, their inability to escape the loud noises will only create more stress.
  • Avoid the noise. If your pet is inside, close windows and turn up the volume on television to overcome the noise for the duration of the show.
  • Remain calm. You pet will sense your reaction. Yelling at the animal does not help.

These four simple measures can assist during the course of the night, but what action should you take the morning after if you suddenly find your “friend” is no longer at home?

Have a recent photo of your pet and update your social media profile. Alert your local Neighborhood Watch team and advise them of your lost pet. Check local message boards and see if your pet has been found.

new+city+of+eugene+logoHopefully, if your pet does get out, they will end up at the local animal shelters. Lane County operates two animal shelters, one that services the city of Eugene and Springfield, located at 3970 W 1st Ave Eugene. PH: 541 – 844-1777. Outside of the city precincts, the City has partnered with the Greenhill Humane Society at 88530 Greenhill Road. Both shelters run a combined web page which allows you to view which animals are at the shelter.

In Lane County, animal shelters are only required to hold your pet for three days if the animal does not have identification marks,  and five days if the animal does have identification.

MurphyGreen Hill Humane Society Media and Events Manager Sasha Elliott says

“Friday will be on our our biggest day of the year.”

Elliott said that to accommodate the influx of animals this Friday, some of the animals already in the shelter have been moved off site.  When asked,  Elliott said that the shelter may take in as many as “a hundred or so” lost pets this Friday.

Commercially there are number of devices you can attach to your pet to assist with identification.

A QR identification code available through PetHub allows you to create a bar code, attach it to your pets collar, and if found, can be scanned with a smart phone to provide the animals particulars. For the more technically minded (owners that is, not animals) GPS Tracking through Pettracker will allow you to home in on your lost pet.

JasperIf your pet does become lost, recognize that a Microchip in your pet is the best identification procedure, but only if your pet is recovered.

Unfortunately, less than 2% of all cats and 20% of all dogs are ever reunited with their family.

The Lane County Shelter at 1st Avenue will be open on Friday 5th July from 10am – 6pm.

 

 

Fuel Price Rise – Blame It On Corn

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by Grant Madden, Eugene Daily News

Fuel prices are expected to climb higher until the end of summer, and the cause of the rise may be sitting at home in your cupboard disguised as a can of corn.

In the United States, ethanol fuels are classified as gasoline derived using a combination of fuel and field corn. The technology to create this mixture, originated during the Carter Administration’s gasoline shortage, and has been in use since the late 1970’s. Touted as being more environmentally friendly that traditional gasoline, these “biofuels” have been welcomed by state legislators across the nation, and progressively, mandated  in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere.

In 2007, the Oregon Legislative Assembly passed House Bill #2210 which included a renewable fuel standard (RFS). On April 1 2011,  the Oregon Department of Agriculture increased the standard for biodiesel blend from 2% to 5%, while legislating ethanol mixtures to remain at 10%.

In other parts of the country, particularly the mid-west states, biofuels have had success on the strength of the government subsidy. Corn growers across the nation had a captive market for their product, and fuel refiners were able to produce a competitive product to gasoline, at a subsidized price.

In Eugene, ethanol fuel has become the backbone of several industries,  including the SeQuential retail biofuel station on the McVay Highway. Stations such as these have seen success, in part because the State Government’s Renewable Fuel Standard forced the use of these “green fuel” on motorists. Their success  has occurred despite the fact that there is evidence that biofuels produce questionable emission results.

Until December 31, 2011, ethanol blends previously received a $0.45 a gallon tax credit, prior to the Federal Government declining to renew the existing thirty year old subsidy. The decision to do so is staggering given that the United States is the largest producer of ethanol fuels in the world, and has been since 1986. In 2008 the United States produced 138 billion US gallons of ethanol fuels, slightly in front of the nearest producer, Brazil.

The end of the fuel subsidy to biofuels also casts a giant shadow of the $6B a year research and development that has been put into these “green” fuels. With the governments decision to end the subsidy, the cost of producing these fuels will rise to be comparable with the traditional automotive fuels. With many states, like Oregon, in the unenviable position where these alternative fuels are now mandated, the consumer will be forced to reach into their own pocket to maintain flex fuel and bio fuel vehicles.

At the same time as ending the ethanol fuel subsidy, the Federal Government also eliminated the import tariff on ethanol fuels. This paves the way for the Brazilian government to ship their ethanol fuel to the United States, at a lower price than American refineries could make. This move has angered lobbyists who have campaigned tirelessly to reduce American the dependency on foreign fuel. The argument has been made that 30 years of research and development of local technology for alternative fuels, has been thrown aside in favor of cheap foreign imports.

In January 1 2012,the average price of gasoline in Eugene was $3.41 a gallon.  Gasoline prices have continued to rise, spiking on February 4 at $3.59 a gallon.  In 2011, the highest price of gasoline in Eugene was $4.02 a gallon on May 1.  Comparatively, ethanol fuel began the 2012 calender year at $3.29 a gallon for an E85 ethanol mix. With the withdrawal of the subsidy, the price per gallon quickly closed on traditional gasoline, reaching a peak on February 3 at 3.49 a gallon. A consumer poll at Eugene Gas Prices, an internet site that tracks the prices of gasoline as reported by consumers, shows that more than 50% of almost 9000 respondents believe that gasoline prices will reach or exceed, $5 a gallon by summer.

 

What Can Brown Do for UO at Christmas?

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by Grant Madden, EDN

T’is the season of holiday joy, office parties, and the inevitable shipment of packages across the country. The ten days before Christmas represent the busiest time of the year for shipping mail, and for the students at the University of Oregon, the wait for care packages from home recently became easier.

In January 2010, the United States Postal Service, as part of it’s $7 billion predicted loss, closed 491 branches across the United States. This included the annex at the University of Oregon which serviced the community of students and lecturers on campus.

The void left the campus to utilize the post offices either at East 18th Street or Willamette Street, both requiring a departure and a several-mile transit away from the grounds.  Pak Mail on High Street is close to the campus, but with international rates nearly double the post office, this doesn’t seem to be the answer either.

Enter the UPS Store.

Recognizing the captive market of the U of O, a United Postal Services (UPS) franchise has moved on to campus, occupying the former space of the United States Postal Service. Not restricted by the overhead of unionized labor costs, the new UPS Store is able to offer almost the same branding of services as an official post office, in addition to their extensive line of services unique to the brown-colored trucks.

UPS acquired the national Mail Boxes Etc. chain in 2001, and rebranded the franchise businesses as The UPS Store outlets in 2003. There are now about 4,800 locations in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.

Students at the U of O will still have access to the traditional mail delivery, albeit at a price for the convenience of being on campus. A school-year lease on a mailbox will cost around $100, with an additional three months for free, to assist students that stay on campus through the summer break.

David Wigan, sophomore at the college, reports that having the UPS Store on campus is vital to him. Though he has a cell phone, this type of communication with his interstate family is important.

“With the store on-site, my mail comes and goes without me needing to walk downtown.” Wigan said.

These sentiments are supported from the other side of the counter by store manager, Ben Evans.

“The international students at the college probably represent one of our biggest markets.  We haven’t missed a guaranteed delivery date since the doors first opened.” Evans said, “the business has been growing about 30% each month.”

As post offices across the country close, stores like the campus UPS Store #6258, continue to rise up, quite often in the same street address as former mail services. As a more convenient alternative to the United States Postal Service, with people who are more customer centric than their opposition, UPS Store’s have become a boom for niche markets like the student community of the U of O.

What can Brown do for UO? Almost everything you might expect in a central shipping location.

UPS Store #6258
1222 E 13the Ave
Erb Memorial Union Room M40
EUGENE, OR 97403