The compass boat

by Steve, February 22nd, 2012

A lesson on electromagnetism turned into a toy boat building activity. It always points to magnetic north, unless a big magnet comes and leads it astray.

To make a compass at home, you’ll need: a magnet, a sewing needle, a slice of wine cork and a pan of water. A compass for reference wouldn’t hurt, either.

  1. Magnetize the sewing needle by rubbing with the magnet, always in the same direction and with the same pole of the magnet.
  2. Carefully push the needle through the slice of cork.
  3. Float it on a pan of water.

If your needle doesn’t swing to the north (or south, depending on which end is which pole), check to make sure there are no metallic objects or magnets nearby. If it still doesn’t work, you may need to spend more time magnetizing your needle.

When you get tired of watching the needle swing to the north, decorate your little boat, and use your magnet to pull it around its little pond.

Local Blight

by Steve, February 20th, 2012

We’re surrounded by bank-owned and short sale houses, but I haven’t seen one of these yet. Sign by We Are Oregon. Photo by Doug Geisler, used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

Friendly is as friendly does

by Steve, February 15th, 2012

[audio:LetsAllGoShopping.mp3] Let’s all go shopping

Adding a little spice to the mix of the “progressive workplace” Eileen Brady helped create, supporters of fired New Seasons Market worker Ryan Gaughan held a rally outside of the Seven Corners store yesterday.

Ryan was well-regarded by customers and coworkers, and has a reputation for speaking up for himself and others. His supporters insist he was fired on trumped up charges.

(photo by Doug Geisler, used under the terms of a Creative Commons license)

So far, they’re just calling on New Seasons to rehire Ryan, and for a peer-review system for discipline.

Lurking behind it all is the dreaded “U word”, of course, but they don’t want to utter it just yet. They just want to focus on getting Ryan his job back first, a worthy cause if ever there was one. (They also probably don’t want to muddy the waters with any kind of Eileen Brady tie-in, but god help me, I just have to connect the dots of the bigger picture.)

I understand, because I’ve been there. It’s all so very familiar. In 1996, I was working for Stan Amy (president of New Seasons) at his previous grocery chain, Nature’s fresh Northwest. When Stan and his co-owners sold their business to publicly-traded GNC, some of us knew the old talk of being an “alternative” workplace wasn’t going to hold up. We tried to get a union certified, first for the entire chain, and finally just for the truck drivers. (Stan’s henchman, Brian “Mr. Eileen Brady” Rohter, fought us tooth and nail, and prevailed.)

Before we got the union involved, we tried a lot of what Ryan’s supporters are trying now. We spoke up at staff meetings. We wrote letters to the president and general manager. We asked politely. We got nowhere.

The same thing was going on at Food Front in the mid 90s. People writing letters. Asking. Demanding. Getting nowhere. They eventually ended up with UFCW Local 555 and a contract that was totally reasonable and workable from the management perspective. I worked there briefly and served as an assistant shop steward after leaving Nature’s in 1997. In 2007, Food Front staff voted to decertify their union. (I’m still shaking my head over that.)

Anyway, the point is, no matter how “cool” or “alternative” an employer is, the only way workers will gain a modicum of protection from arbitrary discipline is under a collective bargaining agreement. Without it, everything is only “cool” as long as you play along with management. If you speak up (or party with the wrong crew), you better watch your back.

New Seasons’ staff are facing a situation similar to what we faced at Nature’s: a once “family-owned” business is now majority-owned by an investment capital firm. The “friendly” factor looks more and more like a hollow marketing slogan than a way of doing business.

I wish them the best and offer my solidarity in their struggle against workplace injustice.

Make no mistake, even though they’re only minority investors, this is exactly the kind of “progressive workplace” Eileen Brady and Brian Rohter fostered with their business investment. Small wonder New Seasons turns out to be every bit as anti-union and anti-labor as Nature’s was, in pretty much the exact same ways.

sun bath

by Steve, February 11th, 2012

Ms. LuLu soaks it up.

Supporting our Service Members and Their Families

by Steve, February 10th, 2012

People like me who are opposed to war are often pitted against those who serve their country. This is a rhetorical trick, of course, which can easily be turned on the tricksters. After all, those who advocate sending young men and women to fight and die and get maimed in wars and occupations of choice are on thin ice when they claim to “support” the brave individuals they use as geopolitical pawns.
Coast Guard Vessels, downtown Portland, Ore.

It’s sad and unfortunate that the military-industrial machine provides the only sure-fire jobs program for the poor in this country.

My beef is with the trap, not the quarry. (Since this is such a simple distinction, I have to assume the righties who don’t get it are being disingenuous. Or, in some cases, maybe they’re just plain dumb.)

I recently found my photo above was used on the cover of a newsletter (PDF) put out by the Navy League of Santa Barbara, a civilian non-profit organization in support of sea service personnel.*

You know I’m not going to be all rah rah for this group, or agree with them politically on much (if anything). But we can surely agree that, whatever our political differences, the life choices of individual sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen are not at issue.

Rose Quarter club level(Did I ever mention I was a finalist for a Navy ROTC scholarship before withdrawing? How different my life might have been if I’d gone to sea as a junior commissioned officer instead of on the road with a band of hippies. And speaking of my photos being picked up, the ad agency that was putting together the annual report for NW Natural — sheesh, another Neil Goldschmidt connection — bought the rights to use this photo, but they never used it, apparently, at least not in anything I could find publicly.)

*The photo, like most of my photos on flickr, is offered to anyone for free use under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike license. My thanks to the Navy League of Santa Barbara for adhering to this license and giving proper attribution. I’ve found several instances where people have felt inclined to use my photos without following the simple terms of the CC license.

The years just fly by

by Steve, February 8th, 2012

The wife and I have been at this Internet publishing thing for quite a while. Fourteen years, to be exact, since we experimented with a Web-based literary arts magazine called the LuLu Revue in 1998.

More Hockey Less War, which turned six-years-young this month, is one of our more recent endeavors. Wacky Mommy was the first fully-featured blog hosted on our own servers, going live seven years ago this month. We also ran an experiment in citizen journalism with PPS Equity from 2008-2010.

I started ranting from the left with our first “Wacky” domain, Wacky Monkey, in 1999. I also developed (for hire) a Web-only vintage clothing store in 1999, and developed and hosted various political and public service Web sites throughout the aughts.

As we enter the twenty-teens, we’ve counter-intuitively stepped into the realm of book publishing, both e-book and paperback. Yes, despite our mad tech skills, we’re bibliophiles at heart, and we’re working on tools to take advantage of (and help define the direction of) this disruptive phase of publishing.

We’ve consolidated all of our publishing endeavors — Web, books and soon music — under the imprint of New Deal Media. We’ve got other things we’re dealing with (family life, working for a paycheck), so this publishing thing is (so far) a side project (or, more accurately, a series of side projects). I can’t wait to see what the next 14 years bring!

Gardener Bowl

by Steve, February 6th, 2012

Since we’re not fans of American football or television advertising at Chez Wacky, we spent the day eliminating lawn in our front yard.

A couple fruitful trips to Farmington Gardens, a yard and a half of dirt and mulch and about a dozen plants later, and we’ve got a good start on our front yard. The lawn has gone to mostly moss (not that I mind moss), and I don’t have any desire to restore the grass. We converted about 20 percent of the grass in the front yard to planting beds.

We’ll do more soon, including another Japanese maple.

Among the new plants: two daphne odoras, an upright fuchsia, a white cone flower, a phlox, and some others I can’t recall. In the side yard planters, under a shady pine tree, two already-fragrant sarcococca confusa and two geraniums.

It was a beautiful weekend to work outside. Sunny and mid-50s. Zone 8 rocks… plant baby pictures to come soon!

Anna Griffin Tweet Mash-up

by Steve, February 2nd, 2012

A collection of Anna Griffin’s tweets, compiled and mashed up by Fred Leonhardt. (Anna Griffin is on leave from The Oregonian, but will once again grace its pages with her substantive musings soon).

Tomorrow’s column

    Tomorrow’s column
    is decidedly mediocre
    and touchy feely.
    I apologize
    and promise that Saturday’s column
    will be
    snarktastic and meaty.


    Is it time for Project Runway?
    Is it time for Project Runway?
    Hell, is it time for Jim and Pam to get married?
    I love Thursdays …

Life is Weird

    Life is weird:
    Working in a coffee shop,
    sitting right next to a guy who is reading my column
    and oblivious to my presence.


    On the blissful Monday agenda:
    campaign finance reform,
    sore throats
    nasty headaches and
    snot galore.
    Anybody got any happy news for me?
    I am thankful for coffee
    There is no amount of bad morning that a maple bar and coffee cannot fix.

My Basic Philosophy

    My basic philosophy:
    If they have a maple bar,
    you buy it.
    Not hungry?
    Watching your weight?
    Doesn’t matter.
    A maple bar trumps all.

Bag, Dang It

    A co-worker just referred
    to my cute little bag
    as a purse.
    I am 99% certain
    I never have carried a purse.
    It’s a cute little bag,
    dang it.

Ode to George Clooney

    I dreamed I was pregnant last night
    It’s been a long time since I was this happy to wake up.
    Dear George Clooney:
    Next time you appear in my dreams, could you ditch
    the horn,
    and weird lizard tongue?
    Actually, keep the tongue.


    When the badass black boots
    in my giant size
    are marked down from $110 to $60,
    I’m meant to buy them, right?
    Isn’t that a sign
    from above?
    Tom McCall,
    any way your ghost might come show us the way?


    Headed to a kiddie bday party featuring
    B.J. the Clown.
    I just bought real pork sausage
    Now I feel naughty.
    Neil Goldschmidt, could you lend someone your vision,
    if not your morals?
    And yes,
    Im 13.

Eileen Brady’s pass expires

by Steve, February 1st, 2012

[audio:LetsAllGoShopping.mp3] Let’s all go shopping

Last year, when Eileen Brady declared her intent to run for Portland Mayor, I started trying to draw attention to her and her husband’s anti-labor past with Nature’s fresh Northwest and its successor, New Seasons Market. Portland’s non-union (and often anti-union) media missed the boat completely and gave her a pass when she claimed credibility as a “progressive” employer.

Now Nigel Jaquiss, one of the few reporters in town who not only “gets it” on any number of issues, but also has the editorial freedom to “write it,” has dug up a remarkable passage in the New Seasons employee manual Brady takes credit for writing (her paternalistic husband claims he wrote the passage in question).

Labeling unions “extremist” and lumping them in with “anti-human rights organizations,” the manual appears in conflict with federal labor law (which guarantees workers the right to talk with and about unions).

Read Nigel’s piece to get all the hilarity of Brady’s husband Brian Rohter (who screamed sexism at an earlier WW piece) trying to shield his wife from criticism on this.

Way to go, Nigel. Glad there’s at least one reporter in Portland who is willing to probe Brady’s questionable past with regard to organized labor.

Update 2/1/2012 2:00pm: Brady’s campaign wasted no time getting a defensive e-mail blast out (read it on her campaign Web site).