Your Weekend Reader for Feb. 4-5

by | Feb 4, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

Has there been a greater news story this week than the one involving the Chinese spy balloon that was first spotted floating over Montana, The Last Best Place? I think not. I kept waiting for an authoritative news source to follow up by giving me the full rundown on these balloons, and this story from The Associated Press came close. But I still have questions, mostly along the lines of why a superpower just wouldn’t use its actual surveillance satellites to gather data without waiting the week or so for the jet stream to push the balloon into place. How seriously are we supposed to take a supposed military superpower that uses balloons for its espionage? Next, we’ll learn that Chinese generals send orders to their troops via fax.

And here’s a Weekend Reader bit of breaking news: United States forces have shot down the balloon off the coast of the Carolinas. Take that, China! Wait … what if that’s what they expected us to do?

Talk of hostile balloons over the United States may have triggered memories in some longtime Oregonians: During World War II, Japan launched thousands of hydrogen balloons across the Pacific, and hundreds made it to the western United States and Canada. The idea was that the bombs would trigger massive forest fires; that didn’t happen, in part because the western U.S. received much more precipitation than normal that year, but there were fatalities: In May 1945, six civilians died when they found one of the balloons on the ground near Bly, Oregon, and it exploded.

In a weird footnote to the whole balloon business, that video you’ve seen of the balloon floating over Billings, Montana was filmed by Chase Doak, the former online editor at The Billings Gazette. Years ago, I nearly talked him into joining the staff of the Gazette-Times and the Democrat-Herald as our online editor. He decided to stay close to his family in Montana, and now he’s famous.

You might have caught Thursday’s episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” in which Colbert — riffing on a news report that New Mexico’s Legislature is considering making the roasted chile its official state aroma — proposed official aromas for other states. The list included Oregon, and here’s Colbert’s suggestion for its official aroma: “Wet hippie.” Here’s a link to the whole monologue, which is worth viewing in its entirety, but the aroma discussion begins at about the 9:45 mark.

There’s more news this week about the “Greater Idaho” effort, which proposes moving the Oregon-Idaho border so that 15 Eastern Oregon counties would become part of Idaho: Nonbinding measures calling for lawmakers from Oregon and Idaho to open conversations about the idea have been introduced in both the Oregon and Idaho legislatures. The Idaho measure will be heard by a committee on Feb. 13. The Oregon measure, Senate Joint Memorial 2, has been assigned to the Senate Rules Committee; no hearing has been scheduled, and it will be interesting to see if one ever is.

The other big news in Salem this past week came as Gov. Tina Kotek unveiled a proposed $32.1 billion state budget for 2023-25. Say what you will about Kotek, but thus far she’s focused on the exact areas she said she would focus on: housing and homelessness, behavioral health and education. The proposed budget draws $765 million from the state’s reserves, which now are sitting at more than $2 billion. With expectations of a mild recession running high, expect that point to generate discussion during the legislative session. The Oregon Capital Chronicle’s Julia Shumway had a very solid story about the budget proposal.

What with the Chinese balloon, state aromas and Greater Idaho, this has been a grand week for odd news, and here’s another Oregon story to continue the trend: Up in Astoria, police have arrested a 35-year-old man who apparently placed a dead fish on the porch of the house featured in the movie “The Goonies,” then stole a $150,000 yacht and piloted it down the Columbia River only to have it capsize in high waters, requiring a dramatic Coast Guard rescue. The Oregonian has the details in a story that’s available only to subscribers. The video that goes with the story is probably by itself worth a subscription to The Oregonian.

The Grammy Awards are Sunday night. The show, hosted again this year by Trevor Noah, the former host of “The Daily Show,” usually offers some fun moments, but the awards themselves have a generally well-deserved rap for being notoriously behind the times. But here’s an opinion piece from The New York Times by Warren Zanes, the former guitarist for the Del Fuegos, making the case that sometimes the Grammys get it right, and that might be good enough. (Like all Times pieces, this is available only to subscribers, but I can send you a free link to the story if you want to read it. Just leave a note in the comments section.)

Does your Apple Watch or iPhone 14 think you’re dead? 911 call centers around the country — especially those with ski areas in their service areas — have been inundated with calls, made automatically by the devices, which believe that their wearers have been involved in debilitating crashes. Apparently, Apple has added increasingly sensitive sensors to the devices, and the sensors often mistake skiers for car-wreck victims. This is why I’m sticking with my iPhone 6, which frankly doesn’t seem to care if I’m alive or dead. Matt Richtel has the story for The New York Times.

Good news for the Fender’s blue butterfly, which is native to the Willamette Valley: On Feb. 13, it will move from the endangered to the threatened species list under the federal Endangered Species Act. Once thought to be extinct, the butterfly’s population has grown to about 19,000, thanks to an expansion of its habitat due to conservation efforts on public and private lands. Alex Baumhardt of the Capital Chronicle has the details.

And speaking of insects: An alert Weekend Reader reader has called my attention to a unique fundraiser for Corvallis’ worthy Chintimini Wildlife Center. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the organization is giving donors the chance to symbolically name an insect, a rodent or a vegetable after a loved one — or, as necessary, a hated one. If you cough up $100, the center will create a personalized video in which your renamed insect, rodent or vegetable is fed to one of its critters. Best of all is the name of the fundraiser: “Bugs and Hisses.”

It’s just not going to get any better than that this week. See you next weekend.

Want your art event listed?

Read more published work

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Recent Blog Posts

Your Weekend Reader for April 20-21

Your Weekend Reader for April 20-21

The high court gets the Grants Pass homelessness case. A nation gets high on April 20. It’s Record Store Day! The war against high school theater. Athletic departments in the red. And an ethical question involving a cat. It’s all in the new edition of Your Weekend Reader.

read more
Your Weekend Reader for April 13-14

Your Weekend Reader for April 13-14

Tight budgets face state schools. Guarding against disinformation. OSU and the transfer portal. The Bundy standoff in Nevada. “Civil War.” Unrest at the Times. And “Having a Coke With You.” It’s all in the new edition of Your Weekend Reader.

read more
Your Weekend Reader for April 6-7

Your Weekend Reader for April 6-7

Solar eclipse memories. White rural rage. Wolves and drones. Community and smartphones. A deadly conflict for journalists. Runaway sawblades. Birding. And “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” It’s all in the new edition of Your Weekend Reader.

read more

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

Comments on this website are the sole responsiblity of their writers and the writers will take full responsiblity, liability and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment.

We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever.

More Blog Posts

Your Weekend Reader for April 20-21

The high court gets the Grants Pass homelessness case. A nation gets high on April 20. It’s Record Store Day! The war against high school theater. Athletic departments in the red. And an ethical question involving a cat. It’s all in the new edition of Your Weekend Reader.

read more