Your Weekend Reader for Dec. 30-31

by | Dec 30, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 2 comments

It’s the last Weekend Reader of 2023 and to celebrate, I’ve bumped up the type size to a whopping 16 pixels. The “small” type setting in WordPress has become too small to my eyes, and the “medium” setting is too large We’ll see what it looks like at this time next year. And by “it,” I mean not just the type size but also the general state of the nation.

We start this week with bad news out of Eugene: Eugene Weekly, an alternative weekly that has served that city for 40 years, has been forced to lay off its entire staff and halt print publication because its funds have been embezzled by a former employee. This is particularly devastating for Eugene, where the daily Register-Guard — once one of the best newspapers of its size in the country — has been gutted by its owner, Gannett.

Eugene Weekly has launched a GoFundMe campaign to try to get back on its feet, and hopes are that the weekly will not become one of the newspapers across the nation that has permanently shut its doors. A recent study by Northwestern University found that the pace of newspaper closures increased in 2023, with an average of 2.5 papers shutting down every week.

Sadly, stories about trusted employees embezzling from small business are common, as any search of the internet will show. If you work at a small business, here’s a piece from SCORE about how to prevent embezzling. And if you’re currently embezzling from a small business, stop it.

If your sense is that this winter thus far has been warmer than typical, you’re correct, and even chilly Eastern Oregon is experiencing warmer temperatures than usual — and, unfortunately, a commensurate lack of snowpack. The National Weather Service is predicting warmer-than-usual temperatures through at least February, thanks to El Nino, as this OPB story reports. The precipitation outlook is still uncertain, the story says.

Speaking of climate disasters (and we kind of were in the last item), we’re all familiar with the idea that we should have a “Go Bag” ready with essentials — medication, copies of identity papers and so forth — ready if we have to evacuate our residence at a moment’s notice, because of flooding or wildfires or earthquakes or what have you. But in this new piece from The Atlantic, Ayurella Horn-Muller suggests going a step further and packing a second bag — she calls it her “Climate Bag” — containing personal items of value such as photographs, family heirlooms, journals and whatnot. If this seems unnecessary to you, consider this: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 1 in 70 U.S. adults has been displaced due to a disaster during the last year. The link to the story is free, but it will expire in 14 days.

Speaking of The Atlantic, it has a new piece about something we’re sadly familiar with in the West: chronic wasting disease, and the terrible toll it takes on deer populations. The bad news is that it’s spreading throughout the United States. The even worse news: The disease is incurable and scientists have no good idea how to stop it — and some think extinction is a possibility. I’m not a particularly huge fan of deer, but my preference would be that the species survives.

This year-end column from The New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman finds him assessing the state of the world today (not so great, he admits, but he still sees reason for hope). Friedman then takes a fascinating deep dive into the Israeli-Hamas war. You might not agree with everything he writes, but this is still well worth reading.

Here’s a very nice Associated Press profile of Lily Gladstone, the Native actress who has emerged as the odds-on favorite to win the best actress Oscar at next year’s Academy Awards for her performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” If Gladstone works the awards circuit with the same dexterity she shows in this interview, this Oscar race could be all but over — and remember, when you win your Oscar pool, you heard it here first. (I’ll be rooting for her in part because of our shared Montana connection; Gladstone grew up in part on the Blackfeet Reservation.) The awards-prediction site Gold Derby currently has Gladstone as a slight favorite over Emma Stone, an almost-certain nominee for her work in “Poor Things.”

If you’re planning to get married on Sunday — New Year’s Eve — in Las Vegas, be ready to wait in line. Vegas is expecting a record crop of marriages on Sunday, the AP reports, in part because the date — 12/31/23 — is considered a “specialty date,” thanks to the repeating 1-2-3. But what will be the specialty date for the divorce?

The Gazette-Times has an update on the effort to oust Corvallis City Councilor Charlyn Ellis for allegedly violating the terms of the city charter by asking the council (and, before that, the city’s Climate Action Advisory Board) to approve a motion asking the city manager to fill the vacant climate action specialist position. Councilor Gabe Shepherd has submitted a resolution requiring a two-thirds majority vote of the council to oust a councilor. The council will consider Shepherd’s motion at its Jan. 2 meeting. That meeting will come two weeks before a due process hearing at which Ellis will be able to defend herself. G-T editor Penny Rosenberg (I assume she wrote it, but remember that editorials represent the opinion of the paper, and not just that of one writer) has a new editorial posted about the matter.

I enjoyed the G-T’s headline on its coverage of Friday’s Sun Bowl, in which Notre Dame kicked in the teeth of the Oregon State Beavers (hey, that’s how Scott Barnes, OSU’s athletic director put it): “Beavers avoid shutout in Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame.” Now, that’s looking for the positive. I might have gone with something else for the headline: “Beaver marching band performs well during somewhat-related football game.”

Speaking of OSU (and the University of Oregon), The Oregonian/OregonLive has an interesting story on a long-term enrollment trend at both schools: The percentage of in-state students has steadily dropped. At OSU, the percentage of in-state students has dropped from 78% in 2000 to 50.2% this year. There are a number of reasons for that, as the story points out — the growth of OSU’s online offerings and general enrollment increases, for example. But I was surprised that the story didn’t mention another factor: Out-of-state and international students pay full tuition freight, and so the universities have worked to recruit those students, in part to cover the gap left by declining state funding. The story is for Oregonian subscribers only, but you still can get an online subscription for $10 a month.

If you’re the type of person who likes to make new year’s resolutions, this piece from The Atlantic (it actually ran at the start of 2023) suggests ways to make meaningful ones. It’s an interview with Oliver Burkeman, the author of the book “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mere Mortals,” who suggests, among other things, not making resolutions until mid-January at the earliest. And, because I’m kind of in this weird mood, I appreciated this opening question: “Do you think New Year’s resolutions are worth making, considering we’re all going to die, as your book posits so bluntly?” I also appreciated Burkeman’s answer. Maybe I should read that book.

OPB, bless it, has compiled a list of some of its most-inspiring stories of 2023 from around the Pacific Northwest. Not to be outdone, The Oregonian/OregonLive has curated a list of the weirdest stories of the year from around the Northwest.

In the meantime, it’s probably a good idea to enjoy these last few hours of 2023 — because something tells me that 2024 will be even stranger.

Have a happy and safe holiday weekend. We’ll gather back here next weekend to start taking the temperature of 2024 — but if I had to venture a forecast, I’d say it’ll be warm, wet and weird.

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