As I write this, Corvallis is in the midst of an ice storm, and the roads are treacherous — which isn’t keeping drivers from chipping through the ice on their windshields and taking off down the highways, oftentimes with disastrous results: The Oregon Department of Transportation reports the stretch of Interstate 5 between Albany and Eugene was the scene of no fewer than nine crashes overnight — and that stretch of the road, as you know, is straight and generally flat. In one of the crashes, a vehicle slammed into the back of an ODOT sand-spreader. I guess I can see why you’d want to follow a sand-spreader, but probably not that closely under those conditions.
In any event, the advice from experts if you want to travel somewhere this weekend is pretty straightforward: Don’t. If you feel like you must travel, I would first ask this question: Are you absolutely sure?
If the answer is still yes, remember the basics of winter travel, which are so easy to forget in the mid-valley, with its milder winters: So here’s a 70-page packet of relatively useful information from ODOT about winter driving. On the plus side, by the time you’re finished reading that, the worst of the ice storm might be over — but still be careful out there.
Also, OSU Extension Service experts recommend bringing in your hummingbird feeders at night during freezing conditions. I know this sounds random, but it’s not — I’ve got one of those hummingbirds hanging around the feeder just outside my window right now, as I type these words. I am trying to keep ice from clogging the holes in the feeder, though.
If you’re just planning to hang out in your house this weekend, that seems like a good choice, so you might need some longer reads to pass the time. I’ve got some lined up for you.
It wasn’t that long ago when comedian Taylor Tomlinson was gracing the stage of the Majestic Theatre as a headliner at Corvallis Comedy Night. The organizers of Corvallis Comedy Night have an excellent record at bringing rising comics to town, but even they must be stunned by how quickly Tomlinson has hit the big time since then: She’s logged two Netflix solo shows, with a third on the way, and she’s the host of a rebooted version of “After Midnight,” which will begin airing Tuesday on CBS after “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” She’s also the subject of this long profile in The New York Times.
Speaking of late-night comedy shows: As you might expect, the recent incident in which a door plug blew out of an Alaska Airlines jetliner at 15,000 feet last Friday night, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing at Portland International, was the subject of many jokes this past week. But the best joke I heard about the entire affair came on “Corrections,” the weekly show Seth Meyers posts on YouTube, in which he addresses errors made during the week on “Late Night.” You’ll find the joke — and it’s a quick one — right about at the 3:40 mark.
Meanwhile, the guy whose iPhone was sucked out of the plane during that moment of explosive decompression? He got the phone back this week. And it still works.
Speaking of that Alaska Airlines flight, The Oregonian’s Tom Hallman Jr. — one of the best feature writers in the nation — had a fun story about a somewhat similar incident some 33 years ago, when an Oregon man was partially sucked out a window during a flight from Portland to Seattle. Today, Hallman reports, the man is a pilot.
Speaking of people with nerve: Did you see that George Kliavkoff, the soon-to-be former commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, made a handful of comments to reporters about the conference’s collapse during the Washington-Texas national semifinal football game? Judging by this piece by Pac-12 writer Jon Wilner, Kliavkoff took credit for the Pac-12’s successful football season and blamed the conference’s schools for not being more patient during his (extremely) prolonged efforts to negotiate a new media contract. I would have something to say about this, but Wilner does a superb job of eviscerating Kliavkoff’s claims.
Chances seem good that you don’t know what a “Zyn” is — and, to be fair, I didn’t either, until earlier today. In this piece for The New York Times, Emily Dreyfuss describes them as little white rectangular packets that look like those desiccant packs labeled “Do Not Eat.” They’re filled with nicotine and are meant to be placed under your lip like tobacco dip. And, as Dreyfuss argues. they’re being marketed to children in digital ways that likely are off the radar to adults. (Warning: Tucker Carlson shows up in this story.)
Here’s a story that ranks among the most discouraging things I’ve read all week: Proponents of media literacy — a necessary skill in the 21st century — long have encouraged people to do their own research (which usually involves searching online sources) to help ferret out misinformation. And that makes sense. But a new study cited by Joshua Benton of the Nieman Lab comes to this depressing conclusion: Online searching to evaluate the truthfulness of false news articles (like the ones showing up in your uncle’s online news feed) actually increases the probability of believing them.
Finally this week, a correction of my own: You might recall that in a Weekend Reader a few weeks ago, I was complaining about the “Lower than Low” advertising tagline Fred Meyer uses to tout its prices. I wondered: What did that phrase even mean? Why couldn’t they just say “lowest?”
An alert reader set me straight: “Fred Meyer cannot use the absolute ‘lowest’ to describe its prices unless it can somehow prove to the folks at the National Advertising Review Board that its prices are absolutely and always the lowest. Thirty years ago, for the exact same reason, Walmart was unable to defend its longtime tagline: ‘Always the low price. Always.’ before the NARB. They changed it to ‘Always Low Prices. Always Walmart.’ (I think the tagline they’ve had for the last 10+ years is far better, more motivational: ‘Save money. Live better.’)”
That’s a good explanation. I’ll buy that. I still am bothered, though, by the little “Weeble”-like figures that show up in those Fred Meyer ads.
That’s all for this weekend. Stay safe out there and we’ll gather again next weekend.