Summer of Stratovolcanoes

Summer of Stratovolcanoes

It has been a wonderful summer of viewing and climbing about the famous Cascadia tectonic zone, in particular the string of stratovolcanoes that form a necklace up the midsection of the Pacific Northwest.  My son and I first visited Mt. St. Helens, with stunning views that day of Mt. Adams,...
Between Shaniko and a Hard Place

Between Shaniko and a Hard Place

All veterans of America’s many foreign military adventures should mix the way we did last week in Central Oregon. There is a tendency, not just to personally isolate after tours of combat duty, but to self-segregate by group according to war experiences.  On our Outward Bound trip we had Iraq,...
Size Matters:  Portland's Tiny House Option

Size Matters: Portland’s Tiny House Option

Can Airbnb be a good neighbor in Portland? It’s a question worth asking just as the San Francisco-based company builds out offices downtown with expansion plans creating more than 120 new jobs in Portland. It appears on the surface that, yes, Airbnb is a win-win, promoting affordable, alternative lodging for...
Air for Air's Sake

Air for Air’s Sake

Only in China could a Mason jar of fresh mountain air be sold as an objet d’ art.  It fetched almost nine hundred dollars. Liang Kegang, a Beijinger, went to France and got the idea of bottling a whiff of air Provencal. Upon return to China he quickly sold the...
Off The Grid In The Arms of God

Off The Grid In The Arms of God

Christian missionaries in Asia do poorly where governments are authoritarian, controlling, and xenophobic. That those societies are rooted in ancient Confucian and Buddhist belief systems further inoculates them against foreign ideas. On the margins of the Chinese empire, however, in the mountainous borderlands of Laos, Vietnam, and Burma, Christianity has...
Spared The Fail Decade

Spared The Fail Decade

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I love this quote from the French.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. I feel it’s true about Portland, a place that for all its new and different looks remains nicely proportioned, a city built and sustained on...
Elevate your business with great writing

Elevate your business with great writing

word + image = POWER Writing good prose can be like climbing a mountain–a hard slog. But once you summit, the view more than pays back the effort. An accomplished writer, if she is honest, will admit that meaningful self-expression is difficult, with as many potential pitfalls and reversals as...
Slugs, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails

Slugs, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails

It seems like anything that moves in China is fair game for dinner.  The range of living things incorporated into the diet, from land, water, and air, is so much wider than in the West.  I’ve eaten dog, jellyfish and silkworms.  They didn’t taste great, but they didn’t make me...
Let there be LED

Let there be LED

For the rest of my life I want to reflect on what light is. –Albert Einstein  China appears to be well ahead of the curve in solid-state lighting adoption, at least in several product areas, including large outdoor display lights, floodlights, high bays, and replacement bulbs. It’s not unusual to see...
The (Supply) Chain Gang

The (Supply) Chain Gang

U.S. customers are the most demanding in the world.  They drive my Chinese partners crazy. They don’t just want low product price, but they’ve got to have quality, reliability and timely delivery, too. In other words, they want it all. The competitive pressures on American companies, particularly those outsourcing production,...
Burma-Shave

Burma-Shave

Working the supply chain in the wood products sector can be like a brush-less shave, prone to nicks, scrapes, and cuts.  A smooth ride is seldom had.  It takes you to places you don’t care to see again. Border towns in China have an anxious ambience, an unnerving undercurrent of...
Human Beasts of Burden

Human Beasts of Burden

Do we, as responsible global citizens, owe people we don’t know halfway around the world safe working conditions in exchange for the cheap goods they make possible for us to buy and enjoy? It sounds like an abstract moral question for a debate squad, until you see for yourself workers...
Paper Tiger

Paper Tiger

China’s future role in the world is debated with much vigor in Washington’s “thinktankland,” and is frequently an op-ed topic that assumes the U.S. is in relative if not absolute decline as world hegemon.  (By the way, a similar debate rages in China, with similar assumptions about U.S. decline). The...
The Party's Over

The Party’s Over

Is the party done?  Not the Communist Party, at least not yet.  No, I mean the party of drunken revelry in China’s economic miracle.  After 30 years of non-stop double-digit growth, it seems the disco music has stopped. Slowing economic growth is among the factors causing alarm.  That 7.5% annualized...
Made to Fade

Made to Fade

China’s factory production is prodigious, but the quality of goods made, overall, is like a cheap blouse, unable after several wash cycles to maintain its shape and color. I can vouch for every problem documented in the popular business book, Poorly Made in China (2009), by Paul Midler. They all...
The Weibosphere

The Weibosphere

Absent a thriving and diverse free press, it isn’t easy to know what’s going on in the minds of Chinese.  Or is it?  By looking at the Chinese cybersphere, there are ways of divining attitudes, values and aspirations. China doesn’t have Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and other social media...
Ennui in Anhui

Ennui in Anhui

A sick giraffe was recently (February 2014) euthanized at a Scandinavian zoo, the carcass cut up and fed to other animals. The whole spectacle was performed in full view of families visiting the zoo. The story caused an uproar among animal rights groups around the world.  Well, I’ve got news...
Under the Gaydar

Under the Gaydar

My “gaydar” has been prone to registering false positives in China.  That’s because young women customarily hold hands walking in public, and even sit on each other’s laps in a cuddly embrace while hanging out in coffee shops. Similarly, boys walking down the street slouch on their male companions, sometimes...
Le Pont du Eiffel

Le Pont du Eiffel

One of the longest and oldest bridges in Asia was designed by Gustave Eiffel.  It spans the Red River and three tumultuous centuries. Hanoi’s Long Bien bridge, completed at the tail end of the nineteenth century, was originally the Paul Doumer bridge, named after the French colonial governor of Indochina...
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My unhappy, fat sister back East

My unhappy, fat sister back East

I wish I didn’t have to post such a downer, but my sister is a big, fat idiot.  She draws negative, counterproductive attention to herself all the time, which at 58 is a little pathetic.  But then I guess we are all still capable of either growing or regressing, whatever it is we choose to...
Did the U of O Become Faber College (with a really good football squad)?

Did the U of O Become Faber College (with a really good football squad)?

Autzen Stadium made its Hollywood debut in Animal House (1978) in a scene that gave moviegoers a split-second look at the curvilinear wall where Chip Kelly later stenciled his “Win The Day” logo. A drunken college student named Pinto, played by Thomas Hulce (Amadeus), is taking advantage of an underage female somewhere in the red...
"It is what it is."

“It is what it is.”

There are many terrible hackneyed phrases, cliches, and word usages common today that irritate me, and which I believe degrade the quality of conversation. Top on my list: “It is what it is.” It’s as if the person uttering this banality has the last word on the matter and the conversation is therefore over. There...
The Corps of Discovery

The Corps of Discovery

Lewis and Clark were robust explorers, but not even they could handle the Oregon winter. They lasted just a few months at Fort Clatsop before heading home. Too much rain, not enough varied food, and one could surmise insufficient fun, as Indian casinos would have to wait a few more centuries. Clatsop has recently been...
China's Great State Autism

China’s Great State Autism

Did I imagine it, or did I just hear Chinese Defense Chief Chang Wanquan dress down U-S Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in public no less? How far and fast we have come to the place where we now openly talk about potential U-S-China military conflict. Chang, at a joint press conference with Hagel in Beijing,...
One Gorge As Good As Three

One Gorge As Good As Three

Nobody has ever asked me “is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area as beautiful as China’s Three Gorges?”  But here’s my answer anyway: Yes. They are very similar.  Both have towering forested canyons.  Both are often socked in with rain clouds. Both gorges are formed of a combination of orogenic uplift and river erosion....
Our Moment of Zen

Our Moment of Zen

A psychotherapist once implored me:  “Sit there, don’t just do something!” I got his point and have taken it largely to heart ever since.  It’s not so much the destination–it’s the journey. And nobody appeared to love the journey and the contemplative life more than a hermit-scholar on Cold Mountain. Han Shan, the revered Tang...
Half the Sky

Half the Sky

Jimmy Carter is devoting the rest of his working life (he’s 89) to a fight he considers the preeminent scourge of the age–the denial of human rights that consigns hundreds of millions of women and girls around the world to ignorance, backwardness, and poverty, to say nothing of torture, slavery, and death. A saying in...
Tiger Balm for Chinatown

Tiger Balm for Chinatown

A new alternative healing arts business in Old Town-Chinatown has lifted the spirits of longtime tenants and residents in the area.  Some wonder if it’s precisely the balm the neighborhood needs. Called simply “2bwell,” the N.W. 3rd and Burnside storefront aggregates professionals under one roof to provide a variety of complementary-alternative treatment modalities:  acupuncture, naturopathy,...
Jobless in Jiangsu

Jobless in Jiangsu

Reports from China are that job markets are as tight as ever, with more than 7 million university graduates (a population as large as Switzerland) about to flood an already distressed labor market. And not just English majors, but students with science, engineering and computer technology degrees. Xi Jinping paid a visit to a job...
The Varieties of Physical Experience

The Varieties of Physical Experience

Energizing the public space can be a challenge for urban planners and real estate developers whose goals are to increase “foot traffic,” maximize pedestrian “usability,” and harmonize “traffic streams.” Urban Chinese have loads of experience using scarce public space for recreation, and–shorn of the planning jargon–they can teach us a thing or two about promoting...
Chinese Manifest Destiny

Chinese Manifest Destiny

The movement of Russian troops into Crimea, followed by Putin’s declaration of Crimea’s independence from Ukraine, distracts us from a more formidable security challenge over time, perhaps the singular security challenge of the 21st century. A dangerous great power game has been building for a decade and most Americans seem unaware of the implications of...