Your Weekend Reader for Aug. 12-13

by | Aug 12, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Have you brought in enough ice to cope with next week’s stretch of dangerous heat, which forecasters now say could bring temperatures as high as 106 on Monday? Are you planning to spend the next week indoors, checking the weather app on your phone every 30 minutes and frequently texting “Hot enough for you?” to friends and family?

That’s my plan too.

A couple of years ago, during the lethal heat dome event, I tried to track down the hottest temperatures on record in the mid-valley. The task is complicated somewhat by the fact that neither Corvallis nor Albany has an “official” National Weather Service — the nearest stations are in Salem and Eugene. Our “official” station is the site Oregon State University maintains at the Hyslop Farm property, about midway between Eugene and Albany just off Highway 20. Temperatures there tend to be cooler than in the city.

In any event, the best number I could come up with for the hottest day in the mid-valley was 110, set on June 27, 2021. The next hottest day was 109 on July 8, 1905. If we’re lucky, we shouldn’t be setting any records this next week, but that’s cold comfort, so to speak.

Here, for your reading discomfort, are a couple of climate-related pieces:

The good news from the Weekend Reader Science Desk is that Saturday night and Sunday morning will be peak times to see the annual August Perseid meteor shower. The very best time will be in Sunday’s predawn hours. As an added bonus, the temperature then will be in the mere 60s. Here’s a story from The Oregonian’s Jamie Hale about the best places in the state to see the show. Here’s the summary: Head east.

It’s been a busy week for the Science Desk, which also found this story by a former colleague, Darrell Ehrlick, the editor of the Daily Montanan. (Like the Oregon Capital Chronicle, the Daily Montanan is part of the States Newsroom network.) Recently in Montana, three women were attacked by an otter while floating on the Jefferson River. I know that many of you are saying to yourself, “But they’re such adorable little creatures.” I do not share your opinion — and, in fact, was once told (off-the-record) by someone who had worked at an aquarium that they are, in actuality, little furry jerks. But, to be fair, as Ehrlick reports, you have a much higher chance of being struck by lightning than being attacked by otters.

The Capital Chronicle has a solid story about the controversy surrounding that combination sheep ranch and solar farm that’s been proposed near Brownsville. This won’t be the last time you hear about this issue: If the United States is to hit its electrification goals, solar panels likely will need to be located on agricultural land, which makes up more than 40% of the surface land in the lower 48 states. And Oregon State University continues to research the idea of what’s called “agrovoltaics.”

The Capital Chronicle also had a story reporting that the project to renovate the Oregon State Capitol has incurred a $90 million overrun and now is budgeted at $465 million. Lawmakers quietly authorized the additional spending during the session. House Speaker Dan Rayfield essentially told the Capital Chronicle that there wasn’t anything to see here, arguing that overruns are typical for Capitol renovation projects.

Robbie Robertson, the lead songwriter and vocalist for The Band, died this week at age 80. Here’s a piece from The New York Times assessing Robertson in the light of “The Last Waltz,” the Martin Scorsese documentary about the band that long has been hailed as one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll movies ever made. (My money is on “Stop Making Sense,” but that’s another discussion.) It turns out that “The Last Waltz” has long been divisive among Band fans — and this story explains why.

In an important new piece in The Atlantic, Steven Waldman argues that it would cost only about $1.5 billion a year to sustain 25,000 local-reporter positions — roughly the same number of positions that have been lost over the past two decades. (Waldman assumes a salary of $60,000 a year, which is more than most reporters make — but it would be a nice place to start.) The key part of Waldman’s argument, however, is that such a relatively paltry investment would almost certainly more than pay for itself, and he shows how. (Atlantic articles are available only to subscribers.)

It was, of course, another busy week for the Weekend Reader’s Sports Desk, what with the continuing fallout from the Pac-12 Conference’s collapse. Here are some highlights from the past week:

  • Jon Wilner, the best Pac-12 reporter in the country, has a piece in which he quotes another well-sourced reporter: former Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano. Canzano reported that the Pac-12 presidents last fall rejected an offer from ESPN that would have paid each school $30 million a year for its football and men’s basketball rights. Instead, the presidents told Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff to go out and land a deal in the $50 million range. Of course, Kliavkoff couldn’t do that, and maybe no one could have. But if the Pac-12 had accepted that offer last year, chances are pretty good that we wouldn’t be having this discussion today.
  • For purposes of comparison, the Pac-12 last fiscal year paid each of its member schools $37 million. The Mountain West Conference distributes about $6.6 million each year to its member schools — so you can see the $30 million hole facing OSU if it becomes a member of the Mountain West, which still seems to be the likeliest outcome. (It is true that the Mountain West likely would be able to renegotiate its media rights deal if it adds some Pac-12 schools, but that wouldn’t come close to filling OSU’s $30 million gap.)
  • Canzano also is reporting that the Pac-12 appears to be serious about rebuilding — and has hired longtime sports executive Oliver Luck (yes, Andrew’s father) as a consultant. Rebuilding seems to be the plan at OSU as well, which issued another statement Friday from President Jayathi Murthy to that effect. Of course, as we know these days, those sorts of promises can quickly fade away as circumstances change. But, hey, the OSU Athletic Department actually bought a full-page ad in today’s Gazette-Times! (The Athletic Department also is welcome to buy space in the Weekend Reader.)
  • While I’m pulling for the Pac-12 and OSU, the fact is that rebuilding the conference on what amounts to a very tight timeline will be an uphill battle, as this piece from The Athletic documents. It doesn’t help matters that, of the four presidents at the remaining Pac-12 schools, only one — Washington State University’s Kirk Schulz — has any kind of lengthy experience on the job. Much still hinges on what decisions Stanford and Cal make — and both the Atlantic Coast Conference and the American Athletic Conference might also be in play for at least some of the remaining Pac-12 schools.
  • And here’s a riveting story from The Athletic recounting the 24 hours last week when the Pac-12 fell apart. (I regret that Athletic stories are available only to subscribers; maybe that will change when The Athletic takes over all the sports coverage for The New York Times, which allows me a certain number of “gift” stories each month.)

In the meantime, keep cool. Remember to hydrate. We’ll see you back here next weekend.

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