Friday, December 23, 2011

Early to Bed, Early to Rise Probably Means You're a Dim Bulb

One of the many oddities I noticed about Bend almost immediately after moving here was how early in the morning the inhabitants wake up. Winter or summer, cold or hot, rain or snow, they awaken long before the rosy fingers of dawn touch the tops of the Cascades and often are outside running, cycling, climbing rocks or doing myriad other "healthy outdoor lifestyle" things while it's still dark.

And of course they go to bed correspondingly early, which is one reason Bend's nightlife rivals that of a Carmelite nunnery.

I've never been able to figure out the reason for this early-rising fetish. Is is a holdover from the era when Bend had a primarily agricultural economy and folks had to rise before dawn to milk the chickens and slop the cows, or whatever? That didn't seem like a fully satisfactory explanation.

But now some research reported in Psychology Today sheds light on the question. Quite possibly, it appears, people in Bend rise early and go to bed early because they're stupid.

"Night owls are smarter than other people, and now we may know why," the story says. "The modern world contains many features our slow-to-evolve brains still find unfamiliar — cars, TVs, hot dogs on a stick. But the world has always thrown new stuff at us, and brighter humans may adapt more ably. ... Because the nocturnal lifestyle allowed by electricity didn't exist 10,000 years ago, we must now rely on general intelligence to override our early-to-bed instincts. So those with more of it stay up later."

The article mentions research by Satoshi Kanazawa, a psychologist at The London School of Economics and Political Science, who tracked bedtimes and wake-up times for 20-year-old people of varying levels of intelligence. The results are quite intriguing: On weekends (when not compelled to rise early for a job) the "very bright" subjects (IQ of 125 or higher) awakened, on average, at 11:07 a.m., a full 58 minutes later than the "very dull" ones (IQ of less than 75), and went to bed one hour and nine minutes later.

Since the average Bendian appears to rise at 4:10 a.m., I'd guess the average IQ in this town hovers somewhere around 25. Which would be consistent with my other observations of the Bendians' behavior, such as their driving skills.

And the fact that they live here in the first place.

ADDENDUM: On the other hand, there is this: "Night owls tend to be less reliable, more emotionally unstable, and more likely to have problems with addictions and eating disorders, according to a 2008 study by psychologist Marina Giamnietro. They are also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke, says Dutch psychiatrist Walter van den Broek ..." More here. It might also be noted that research shows more intelligent people are more likely to drink, smoke and dabble with drugs than dummies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The First Sucky Inversion of Winter 2011-12

It didn't take long for this to happen: Bend is experiencing its first -- but most assuredly not its last -- "inversion" of this winter.

An inversion is a truly suckerrific weather phenomenon in which cold air slides in under a layer of warmer air and gets trapped there like a cat under a heavy blanket. Up above the inversion layer skies are clear and sunny, as in the photo above taken just minutes ago by Mount Bachelor's live weathercam. Below the layer, it's cold, cold, cold and gray, gray, gray.

Bend has an amazing variety of weather, most of it bad, and inversions, in my opinion, are the worst. There's no snow, no wind, no rain -- nothing but monotonous cold and lead-colored skies.

And it can stay that way for days and days and days.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Friday, December 9, 2011

November Temp Stats: Into the Suck (and Out, Temporarily)

Please excuse me for not posting the November temperature stats sooner; I've been too busy enjoying our Indian-summer-in-December weather and gloating over the poor skiers and snowboarders who haven't seen any fresh powder in weeks.

We've probably seen the last of the warm days in Bend until late April, at the earliest. Predictably, November produced no comfortable (high in the 70s or above) days. There were just four tolerable (highs of 60 or above) days scattered throughout the month. The skies were mostly overcast, with only 12 days recorded as sunny or mostly sunny.

After Thanksgiving, however, a marvelous ridge of high pressure moved in over the Pacific Northwest, and it's been clear and sunny (and the skiers have been moaning) ever since.

Monthly Totals:

Comfortable Days: 0
Tolerable Days: 4
Cold Days: 26

YTD Totals:

Comfortable Days: 98
Tolerable Days: 59
Cold Days: 58

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let It Shine, Let It Shine, Let It Shine

A big, beautiful high pressure dome has been parked over the Pacific Northwest since right after Thanksgiving, giving us delightfully clear, sunny (but chilly) weather in Bend. It's not warm enough to qualify as a second Indian summer, of course, but I'm enjoying it immensely anyway.

I'm also immensely enjoying the moans and groans of the skiing/snowboarding addicts, who are lamenting the lack of any fresh snow on Mount Bachelor since the lifts started running on Thanksgiving Day.

Back in June, when I and many others were begging for just a little bit of warmth and sunshine, those same bastards were calling us whiners and saying, "Ooooh, ooooh, I LOVE winter! Oooooh, I hope winter never ends!"

And now when they're bitching about a shortage of snow in December they expect me to give them sympathy?

Fuck 'em.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It Is Time for Us All to Give Thanks

Yes indeed, my friends, it really does suck that hard.

I am thankful for many things -- my wife and family, my friends, my (more or less) good health, my (more or less) sound mind -- but at this moment I am most of all thankful that this will be the LAST winter I spend in cold, gray, dreary, dismal, more-sucky-than-anyplace-has-any-right-to-be BEND Goddamn OREGON!

Happy Fucking Holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Bitch Arrives, Bringing The Suck

Okay, I have to admit that October wasn't too bad -- especially compared to last October and the one before that, when we had about six inches of snow on Oct. 4.

According to data posted by The Weather Channel, there were six days on which the thermometer (just barely) rose into the 70s and 15 days on which it hit 60 or above, making a total of 21 days that ranked as either comfortable or tolerable. Although not warm enough to qualify as a true Indian summer, it was pretty damn nice.

However, all that changed on Nov. 1, when The Bitch (La Nina) brought us a chilling blast of winter. So far this month we've had only two days with a high above 50  -- 63 on Nov. 2 and 52 yesterday. The average high for the first eight days of the month was 48.13 degrees. That's almost a degree and a half below the average daily high for November -- and we haven't gotten to the really cold part of the month yet.

What will The Bitch do to us in future weeks? Three feet of snow on the ground by Thanksgiving? A "snowicane" for Christmas? Woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers in the downtown streets?

Nobody can say. But one thing's for sure: It's gonna suck.

Totals for November:

Comfortable Days: 6
Tolerable Days: 15
Cold Days: 10

Totals YTD:

Comfortable Days: 98
Tolerable Days: 55
Cold Days: 32

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Incredible Alaska 'Snowicane'" to Hit Northwest This Weekend

I don't think this requires any comment from me beyond ...

WHAT THE FUCK???!!!!????

Sunday, November 6, 2011

There's No Suck Like Home

A harpist in the plaza in Santa Fe

 We're back in cold, gray, dreary, sucky Bend again after a week-long exploration of the Albuquerque and Las Cruces areas in New Mexico. Some observations:

The desert landscapes of New Mexico are, in my opinion, far more beautiful than the desert landscapes of Eastern Oregon. The mountains loom up more boldly above the plains, shapes are more dramatic, colors are more varied and intense, and the sky is almost painfully blue. Above all, the light has a quality that makes everything stand out with crystal clarity -- no doubt a big reason why so many painters and photographers are attracted to the place.

Don't get me wrong; I love the high desert landscape of eastern Oregon. But the colors there run to muted shades of gray, gray-green and brown. It's a much more limited palette than Nature uses in New Mexico.

Cottonwood trees wearing their brilliant golden fall foliage are prettier than any trees I've seen in Bend.

The Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque, originally built as a hospital back in the 1920s, is a delightful place to stay, and has a rooftop cocktail lounge that offers a great view and excellent Sazeracs. Highly recommended. Five stars.

Santa Fe is a pretty neat place. It's full of touristy shops, yes, but there seem to be relatively few of them selling kitschy junk (rubber tomahawks, plastic arrowheads) and relatively more selling expensive and/or tasteful wares, such as Pueblo Indian pottery and Ansel Adams prints. (You can pick up a nice one of the latter for only $40,000 or so.) They've done a good job of preserving the historic adobe buildings and making the new buildings harmonize with them architecturally. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi alone is worth the 45-minute drive from Albuquerque.

Albuquerque is a pleasant, friendly city with many attractive residential neighborhoods. But it's a casualty of uncontrolled sprawl, and lacks a really cohesive and vital downtown core. Las Cruces, a three and a half hour drive south on I-25, is smaller, but even more sprawling and shapeless. They've attempted to revive the downtown by turning part of it into a pedestrian mall, with predictably pitiful results. I don't know of one American city where the pedestrian mall idea has worked, yet cities insist on trying it anyway.

The old Mexican settlement of Mesilla just outside Las Cruces is worth a short visit, and La Posta restaurant serves tasty Mexican food.

Bottom line: Las Cruces has been crossed off our list of possible retirement destinations because of remoteness, ugliness, and the 50-mile-per-hour winds that howl there from March to May. Albuquerque isn't officially off the list yet, but we can't seem to get really excited about the prospect of living there.

And so the search for a place to escape The Great Suck continues.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why I Never (Well, Hardly Ever) Wear Jeans

I own two pairs of jeans. I put one on occasionally, mostly when I need to do some gardening or other messy chores. Most of the time the jeans just lie in the bottom of my closet. I don't like to wear jeans.

Why? Well, in the first place, although other people seem to think jeans are the most comfortable garment ever invented, I don't agree. I think jeans are uncomfortable. They're heavy, they're stiff, they're scratchy.

I guess if you wear a pair of jeans every day for three or four years they'll get soft and flexible. But who wants to wait that long?

Jeans don't look good on me either. I don't think they look good on anybody. Okay, they look good on women with great bodies. But everything looks good on them.

The other reason I don't wear jeans -- which is probably the big one -- is that everybody in Bend always wears jeans. Next time you're traveling around town, notice how many of the Bendoids you see are wearing jeans. I'd bet the proportion is about eight out of 10 -- nine out of 10, if you just count males. (The 10th guy is wearing Lycra bicycling shorts.)

I've never liked to dress like everybody else, and the male Bend uniform -- jeans and a hoody in the winter, jeans and a T-shirt in the summer -- strikes me as especially monotonous, unattractive, drab and colorless. So I usually wear khakis and a shirt, and throw on a sweater if it's chilly.

And sometimes, when I want to really freak out the yokels, I'll add a sport coat.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Indian Summer"? Fuhgeddaboudit.

How hard does THIS suck???

After the hottest September on record -- 13 days with highs in the 90s and five more with highs in the 80s -- Bend reverted to its usual cold, grim, gray, dismal, drizzly form in October, and promises to continue in the same sucktacular mode from now until July, at least.

Every year the winters here seem to start sooner and drag on longer, and the pitifully brief summer gets even more pitiful and brief. Once upon a time Bendoids could pretty much count on decent weather through October, but that's a thing of the past.

Damn, this place sucks.

Totals for September:

Comfortable Days: 24
Tolerable Days: 6
Cold Days: 0

Totals YTD:

Comfortable Days: 92
Tolerable Days: 40
Cold Days: 22

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Bendite in Pa#a#i#e.

This is not a sunset over the Cascades.

I am now several thousand miles away from Bend, thanks be to God and Alaska Airlines. The weather is warm and sunny, the ocean is delightful to swim in, the palm trees are swaying in the trade winds, and everything is perfect.

In short, it is pa#a#i#e. I promised myself not to use that hackneyed word, which is why I'm not spelling it out. Let's just say that Hawaii is what Bend pretends to be, but isn't.

And the shittiest day here is better than the best day in Bend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer, We Hardly Knew Ye

R.I.P. Oregon Summer

Born July 15, 2011 -- Died September 15, 2011

"Gone, and Soon Forgotten"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

We're Fucked -- The Bitch Is Coming Back

My colleague in bloggery, Jack Elliott, recently forwarded to me a story in Science Daily headlined: "Evidence suggests La Nina will return."

La Nina (Spanish for "The Bitch") is a weather pattern that pushes the jet stream northward, which makes the Southwest hotter and drier than normal and the Northwest and Pacific Coast colder and wetter than normal. La Nina was blamed for the record-breaking suckiness of the spring and early summer experienced by Washington, Oregon and Northern California this year.

And now The Bitch is getting ready to return. At any rate that's what the scientists at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center say.

"In July, the CPC issued a La Niña Watch, indicating favorable conditions for the development of another La Niña event in the next six months," the Science Daily story reports. "With colder-than-average waters once again upwelling in the tropical Pacific Ocean, La Niña appears to be re-forming.

"'Temperatures below the sea surface have decreased quite markedly in the last few months,' said David Unger, meteorologist at the CPC.

"In addition, he said, the Climate Forecast System model -- a state-of-the-art climate model that integrates interactions between Earth's oceans, land, and atmosphere -- has been impressive in its prediction capabilities in the last few years and has been increasingly more confident in the development of a La Niña this winter."

This news only confirms my determination to make the coming winter the last one I spend in Bend, Oregon.

And I'm already thinking about booking a place in Palm Springs for March, April and May, when the interminable Bend winter really starts to induce thoughts of murder and mayhem.

Friday, September 2, 2011

At Last, Normalcy: August Behaved Like August

Well, this is easy: Every day in August recorded a high above 70 degrees except for the last day of the month, when the thermometer only managed to creep up to 66.

Twenty-three days experienced highs in the 80s, and five were in the 90s. Which is just the way things should be, because August is normally Bend's hottest month.

The cold front that brought us that 66-degree day has moved on to the Upper Midwest, and temperatures are predicted to reach the mid- to upper 80s during the Labor Day weekend. Which, again, is the way things should be.

Leaving us with the question: Will we have a real, honest-to-God Indian summer this year to partly compensate us for our totally suckitudinous spring and early summer? We haven't had one in three years, which makes me doubtful. But we shall see.

Totals for August:

Comfortable Days: 30
Tolerable Days: 1
Cold Days: 0

Totals YTD:

Comfortable Days: 68
Tolerable Days: 34
Cold Days: 22

Monday, August 29, 2011

Enjoying That Healthy (Gasp! Wheeze!) Outdoor (Choke! Gasp!) Lifestyle (Hack! Cough!)

When Mrs. Blackdog and I returned to Bend Saturday from a week-long trip to Northern California, I was afraid for a moment we'd headed the wrong way on I-5 and ended up in Los Angeles.

A pall of heavy, reddish-brown, pungent smoke hung over everything, thanks to four major wildfires that had broken out on the Warm Springs Reservation to the northwest of Bend

I'm used to this phenomenon -- a predictable August occurrence here -- but I don't think I've ever seen it that bad. Not able to see the mountains? Hell, I could barely see across the street.

Incredibly, on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning I observed people out exercising in this vile-smelling, nauseous gunk, running and riding their bicycles (mountain and road) and inhaling great lusty lungfuls of carcinogens and toxins.*

One delicious irony here is that most of these idiots no doubt would have a seizure if they saw somebody light up a cigarette within 30 yards of them.

But that's Bend for ya. We're gonna enjoy our healthy outdoor lifestyle even if it kills us.

*"Although wood smoke conjures up fond memories of sitting by a cozy fire, it is important to know that the components of wood smoke and cigarette smoke are quite similar, and that many components of both are carcinogenic. Wood smoke contains fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Wood smoke also contains chemicals known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxin." More:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Sucky Aspects of "Dressing in Layers"

One of the many suckeriffic aspects of the Bend climate is the insane temperature variations we experience during the course of a typical day.

When you leave the house on a summer morning the thermometer might be in the low to mid-40s; by early afternoon it very well could be in the mid- to upper 80s, or even higher. And then as soon as the sun goes down it will dive into the 60s or 50s again. How is one supposed to deal with this craziness?

"It's easy," the loyal Bend chauvinists say. "You just dress in layers."

Hmm, okay. Dress in layers. That sounds simple enough ... until you think about the practical ramifications.

Such as: How many layers? What kind of layers?

And the big question: What are you supposed to do with the layers you progressively remove as the day goes on? Tie them around your neck? Throw them in the trunk of your car? Chuck them into a Dumpster?

One solution might be to push a wheelbarrow or drag some kind of small cart around with you all day to carry your superfluous layers, plus maybe a few spare sweaters and parkas in case one of our August blizzards unexpectedly swoops down.

The solution I prefer, however, is to move to someplace where I'll need to wear only two layers: a T-shirt and my skin.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Finally, The Suck Relents (and It Was About Time)

I am going to say something now that will shock my faithful readers (all three of them): In summer (both months of it) Bend's weather really is like paradise. Or as close as we're going to get to it in this vale of toil and sorrow.

After the dismalest, dreariest, wettest and chilliest spring and early summer in my memory, La Nina or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or whatever it was finally relented and let us have a summer-like July.

The temperature rose above 60 every single day of the month. It rose above 70 on 30 days, and above 80 on 17 days. It even climbed into the 90s on four days. Aside from a chilly, wet two-day interval on the 18th and 19th, even I couldn't really find anything to complain about.

August is picking up where July left off, and I'm hoping we'll get at least two solid months of summer in. I'm even daring to hope that we'll have a nice long Indian summer to compensate for the totally suckalicious spring. But that's probably delusional.

Totals for July:

Comfortable Days: 30
Tolerable Days: 1
Cold Days: 0

Totals YTD:

Comfortable Days: 38
Tolerable Days: 33
Cold Days: 22

Note: I have decided to use the Weather Channel as my source for the daily highs because (a) it's turned into a pain in the ass to log them every day myself and (b) sometimes I'm not around to do it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Explaining the Suck: It's The Bitch's Fault ... Maybe

A Facebook friend posted a link to a story on The Oregonian's Web site that tries to explain, in sort of a half-assed way, why we had such a suckeriffic spring and are having a (mostly) sucktastic summer.

Matt Zaffino, chief meteorologist for KGW-TV in Portland, seems to think this year's La Nina* (Spanish for "The Bitch") is responsible both for the mammoth "heat dome" making life miserable in the Midwest and Northeast and the freakishly cool summer temperatures in Oregon and Washington. "When you have such a persistent, stable dome of hot air, it just sits there," he said. "By default we are on the cool, upstream side of that dome."

I'm not sure I can completely buy that explanation. The "heat dome" didn't form until this month, and Oregon's weather has sucked ever since March. In the second place, I've been through a lot of La Nina years here, but none of them was as bad as this one.

Is there any hope for amelioration of the suckiness? Well, the "heat dome" is supposed to diminish and move out to sea, and the thermometer is predicted to climb into the mid- to upper 80s in Oregon this weekend.

But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. The La Nina pattern has broken down, The Oregonian reports, but "its effect on the atmosphere has not."

Then comes the real crusher: "And there are some indications that it may return by fall."

Somebody please shoot me. Just shoot me now.

*I don't know how to create a tilde in this application, so you'll just have to imagine it. Sorry.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It Really Sucks to Be Told You Suck

"You can't handle the truth."
-- Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in "A Few Good Men," 1992

Bill Watkins is not a popular fellow in Bend.

Bill Watkins, an economist from Southern California, first came here in January 2009 to present his economic forecast for Deschutes County, which already was about two and a half years into the Great Real Estate Fire Sale. Watkins told the audience of local movers and shakers that unemployment here would hit 15%.

The movers and shakers pooh-poohed. Couldn't happen, they said. Ridiculous. No frickin' WAY. Why, people wanted to live here.

As it turned out, Watkins was wrong. Unemployment did not hit 15%. It passed 15% and breezed right on by it, reaching almost 20%.

So the pooh, as the saying goes, was on the other foot.

Flash forward to the present day. Watkins has been hired by the Deschutes Economic Alliance, a group trying to find ways to help Bend and Deschutes County extricate itself from the crapper. The other day he gave an interview to a Portland radio station.

“They’re in bad shape, with an unemployment rate ranging from just a little below 15% to over 17%, depending on the community in Central Oregon,” Watkins said, as reported in today's issue of The Bulletin. “Home prices have just been decimated, still are very weak.”

Two of the three Deschutes County commissioners became incensed at Watkins, not because he uttered untruths but because he said some things that ... well, they just weren't very nice.

“I would have expected something factual yet positive toward our area,” said Commissioner Tammy Baney. “Quite possibly that is because he doesn’t live in our area and doesn’t see what I see on a daily basis. I think you can say we have high unemployment, but you can also marry that with ‘the numbers are getting better.’ ”

Commissioner Alan Unger sounded even dumber: “We aren’t going to move forward by repeating the challenges that sort of sound doom-and-gloomy."

To his credit, the third commissioner, Tony DeBone, took it like a grownup. “Those are facts, and I don’t think I see anything wrong there,” he said of Watkins's comments.

Watkins is sticking to his guns. “I think my job is to tell the truth as I see it, and if people can clearly evaluate the situation, they’re better able to deal with it. I just don’t see how I’d be doing the community any service if I sugar-coated it.”

Poor Bill, you just don't get it. Folks in Bend don't want truth-tellers; they want cheerleaders. They don't want to swallow any bitter truth pills; they want that sugar coating. Lots and lots of sugar coating.

In fact, forget about the pills and just keep feeding them sugar. They'll adore you for it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Suckiness of Presenting False Choices

I'm ready to declare the summer of 2011 in Bend over. It started July 2 and ended July 11. The temperature hasn't made it into the 70s since then, and as I write this (12:45 p.m., July 14) it's mostly cloudy and 64 degrees.

But that's not what's really annoying me right now. What's annoying me are the imbeciles -- and they are many -- who, when you complain about the profoundly and chronically sucky spring and summer we've had, retort with: "Would you rather have it be 105 degrees like it is in Oklahoma?" or wherever.

Yes, triple-digit heat -- especially when it's prolonged and accompanied by drought, as it is in much of the southern tier of the United States this year -- can truly suck. It destroys crops and can kill old people who don't have air conditioning (and younger people who are stupid enough to work out in it).

But the suckiness of weather conditions elsewhere has no bearing whatsoever on the suckiness of weather conditions in Bend, Oregon. The fact that it may suck harder someplace else does not make it suck any less here.

So comments like, "Would you rather have it be 105 degrees?" are just moronic. It's as if somebody told you he had a compound fracture of the femur and you replied: "Would you rather have metastatic colon cancer?"

Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. And rather douche-baggish, frankly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How Hard Does THIS Suck???

Just a reminder that no matter how hard Bend's weather sucks, Portland's weather is gonna suck 10 times as hard about 85% of the time.

No wonder Portlanders who move to Bend think they've arrived in "paradise." They're so glad to see the sun shine and give their socks a chance to dry out that they become delirious.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

June Report: The Big Chill, Cont.'d.

Bend's sucky Big Chill "spring" continued through June, with daily high temperatures running a good five to 10 degrees below normal. (And god knows the "normal" in Bend isn't that high to begin with.)

It wasn't until June 14, by my reckoning, that the mercury (metaphorically speaking; I'm using a digital thermometer) crossed the 70-degree mark -- barely. The highest temperature I recorded for the month was 84, during our three-day "heat wave" on June 20, 21 and 22. I also logged a high of 81 on June 27.

Overall the month wasn't intolerably cold; the high surpassed 60 on every day. But it wasn't exactly late-spring-like either: Only seven days managed to achieve highs of 70 or better.

Now that the disgusting Portland Rose Festival is over, the usual summer high-pressure dome appears to have formed over the Pacific Northwest and we're finally enjoying some warm and sunny weather. (It's supposed to hit 90 in Bend today.) Here's hoping summer lasts more than two months before the fall-winter suck season returns.

Totals for Month:

Comfortable Days: 7
Tolerable Days: 23
Cold Days: 0

Totals YTD:

Comfortable Days: 7
Tolerable Days: 32
Cold Days: 22

A Note About Temperature Readings: The temperatures I have recorded may or may not match the "official" highs recorded for Bend. Bend has many micro-climates; my front entryway (where my thermometer is located) may well be colder than some of them. On the other hand, it may well be warmer than some of them. Also, please don't write to tell me: "Only 84 on the hottest day in June? Are you out of your frickin' mind?!? I went fishing (or whatever) that day, and it hadda be at least 90!" The sun in Bend (when it's shining) is very intense and makes one feel very warm when one is in it, even on a fairly cold day. I take my temperature readings in the shade -- which is where temperature readings should be taken.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another Possible Explanation for Our Increasing Suckiness

This study dates back four years, but I wasn't aware of it until it was posted by a friend today on Facebook:

A study from Texas A&M University reports that air pollution from Asia is making the Pacific region cloudier and stormier, disrupting winter weather patterns along the US West Coast and the Arctic. The study, led by Renyi Zheng, was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (LA Times, 2007).

The Arctic has been freakishly warm this spring -- on any given day, Fairbanks, AK tends to be warmer than Bend, OR -- while Hawaii and the whole West Coast have been unusually wet and cool.

Oh well, guess it's just another way that the Chinese are fucking us over.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Best Outdoor Town"? Not Even in the Running

Oh woe, oh woe -- Outside Magazine is conducting an on-line poll to determine the "best outdoor town ever," and Bend, Oregon ("Recreation Paradise! Healthy Outdoor Lifestyle! 300 Days of Sunshine!") didn't even make the Top Ten list.

Adding to the shame, two Oregon cities did make the Top Ten -- Ashland and Portland. (Portland, seriously? Soggy, dismal, dreary Portland?)

Of course, this news should not be dismaying to anybody who knows how magazines go about compiling these ratings. It works something like this:

1. Ad department comes up with an idea for a Top Ten list -- top ten cities for mountain biking, top ten cities for skiing, top ten cities for backyard goat farming, whatever.

2. Ad salespersons get their marching orders, start calling up prospective advertisers in the cities on the list and making their pitch: "We're coming out with our Top Ten Cities for Catching Chlamydia in September, and (Bend, Portland, Ashland, Sioux Falls, etc.) is in the running! I'm sure you'll want to be part of this fantastic advertising opportunity!"

3. Cities where the advertisers cough up sufficient bucks stay on the list; cities where they don't get bumped in favor of ones where they do.

4. Editorial staff cranks out puff pieces on each of the "winning" cities, making sure to regurgitate all the bullshit Chamber of Commerce talking points.

Which means, essentially, that all of these Top Ten lists are as phony as a $3 bill -- or as Bend's "300 Days of Sunshine."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You Can't Eat the "Lifestyle"

From this morning's Oregonian. Note especially the third paragraph:

Forget about expanding Portland's economic pie anytime soon. A new report predicts the metro area must wait until mid 2014 just to recover the number of jobs it had before the recession.

Corvallis will do better, returning to pre-recession peak employment in 2013, according to the report Monday by IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm. Medford will take until 2018 and Eugene-Springfield until 2019, the report said.

Metro Bend? Oregon's poster city for the housing bubble won't stage a jobs comeback until  "beyond 2021," the forecasters said. They see double-digit unemployment gripping Deschutes County through 2013.

I'm ceaselessly amazed by how many people come to Bend without a job or any prospect of one because "they just want to live here." They stay until their savings are exhausted -- one month, two months, six months -- and then they either leave or become a burden on the social services system.

Maybe we need to stop encouraging people to move here for the "healthy outdoor lifestyle" unless they've got a healthy paycheck in the offing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One Hundred Years of Bullshit

As the poster above (circa 1911) attests, the tradition of hyping Bend and Central Oregon as some kind of "paradise" is a long, if not necessarily honorable, one.

In the first decade of the 20th century, railroad moguls James J. Hill and E.H. Harriman had a race to build the first railroad to Bend. Hill won, finishing his Oregon Trunk Railway from the Columbia River to Bend in 1911. On Oct. 5 of that year, Hill came to Bend to personally drive the golden spike symbolizing completion of the link.

The Oregon Historical Society reports: "Hill encouraged people at the ceremony to focus their efforts at cultivating agricultural products for consumption by urbanites.  According to Hill, 'There is no reason why Central Oregon should not produce enormous wealth.  We have a good deal of faith in it.  If we did not have we would not have come here.'"

Trying to make the Oregon Trunk Railway profitable, according to the historical society, Hill "promoted the Bend area as an agricultural garden spot. Some settlers were disappointed, finding the altitude and aridity of the region a hindrance to agriculture. Similar sentiments among settlers on the Northern Plains earned Hill a dubious legacy in the form of this schoolyard rhyme: 'Twixt Hill and Hell there’s just one letter.  Were Hill in Hell we’d feel much better.'"

Once the would-be settlers figured out that the "fertile Deschutes Valley" was more suited to the cultivation of rocks, sagebrush and scrub juniper trees than peaches, apples and tomatoes, the "agricultural garden spot" scam pretty much played out. It was left for later generations of hucksters to come up with a fresh one: the promotion of Bend as an "outdoor recreation paradise." But we're still waiting for Central Oregon to "produce enormous wealth" for anybody but real estate hustlers.

And so it goes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Taking Anti-Troll Measures

Due to the recent upsurge in troll activity, I have decided to tighten the security for comments on this blog. Anonymous comments will no longer be allowed, and you will need a Google account for identification. To establish a Google account, go to and click on "Sign In" on the upper right-hand corner. If you don't already have an account you'll be prompted to set one up.

My apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. As usual, it's a case of one or two douchebags spoiling things for everybody else.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Send in the Trolls

The past couple of posts on this blog have attracted an invasion of trolls. Actually I think it's only one troll, but it worked itself into such a frenzy of rage that it fired off six comments in rapid succession last Tuesday.

I don't publish comments that are personally insulting, especially if they're anonymous and especially if they're insulting to me. (This is my fucking blog, after all.) But I'll quote some choice excerpts just to give you the flavor:


"Get outta here loser! Go invest in california!"

"I'll give you a ride to california tomorrow cheese dick!"

(I'll admit I had to go to the Urban Dictionary to look up "cheese dick." The first definition:
"A guy who is not only cheesy with the ladies, but is also an arrogant dick head. He almost definitely wears gel in his hair at all times and/or dresses in nice expensive clothes." Now, an arrogant dickhead I may sometimes be, but I have NEVER worn gel in my hair and I rarely dress in nice expensive clothes, for the simple reason that I don't have many nice expensive clothes. Of course, in Bend if you wear anything other than a T-shirt, a hoodie and jeans people will ask why you're "all dressed up.")

And finally this one:

"Bruce, you're a piece of shit. If you don't like it here please move! You are the kind of loser who is ruining this town!"

That last sentence was particularly intriguing. How, exactly, am I "ruining this town"? I'm a law-abiding, property-owning, tax-paying citizen. I don't deal drugs or expose myself to children at playgrounds or build vast crappy housing tracts.

Evidently the troll thinks I'm "ruining this town" by mentioning some of the negative aspects of it. I'm "ruining" it by refusing to be a cheerleader -- by not doing my part in pushing the "Bend is PARADISE!!!" fantasy.

Behind this attitude -- which is pretty common among the Bendoids, especially the lifers -- is a lingering faith in the Doctrine of Bend Exceptionalism and the deluded belief that if we just sell the fantasy hard enough, we can convince millions of people that Bend really is Paradise, the real estate bubble will re-inflate and the good times will roll again.

For those who still cling to that delusion, here are two points to think about:

1. If Bend really had been even 27% as wonderful as it was made out to be, the real estate bubble never would have popped.

2. If people in Bend hadn't bought their own bullshit propaganda about Bend being Paradise, to the point of believing everybody in the world wanted to live here and would pay any price to live here, the real estate bubble and the economic disaster resulting from its collapse would never have happened.

Which raises the question: Who really "ruined" Bend -- those who peddled the bullshit, or those few who told the truth?

Tra-la, It's May, the Sucky Month of May*

The Spring Suck Marathon continueth.

According to my highly accurate and sophisticated records, Bend did not enjoy a single 70-plus degree in May. That's right, nary a one. Zero, zilch, zip, nada.

In fact, only nine days out of the 31 managed a high of 60 or above, and at least three of them didn't even reach 50. The month's "heat wave" was from May 10 through May 13 -- four above-60 days in a row. Yippee.

The forecasters say we're finally going to get some unsucky, spring-like weather this weekend, with highs in the mid-70s on Saturday and Sunday. All the Bendians are chortling with glee and rushing out to buy petunias and fuchsias.

Me, I'll believe it when I see it.

May Totals

Comfortable Days: 0
Tolerable Days: 9
Cold Days: 22

*Adapted from Lerner & Loewe's "Camelot," 1960

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stuck in the Middle of Bend

This priceless gem by Holly Hamilton deserves an encore. Strangely, it says nothing about the utterly sucktacular Bend climate, but it covers most of the other low spots.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"It Clears Up So It Can Get Colder"

7:04 a.m.: Suck-free
8:22 a.m.: Suckiness moving in
10:57 a.m.: 100% complete suckiness achieved

 7:02 p.m.: Cleared up and ready to get colder
Long, long ago, when I had lived in Bend for only a year or two, I commented on a peculiar local weather phenomenon to one of my colleagues at The Bulletin who had lived here all her life.

"I've noticed that many times the day starts off clear, and then it gets cloudier and cloudier until it's completely cloudy, and then just before sunset the clouds mysteriously go away," I said. "Why does the sky clear up at sunset?"

"It clears up so it can get colder," was her simple reply.

It might not be sound meteorological science, but it makes sense if you subscribe -- as I do -- to the doctrine that the Bend climate not only sucks profoundly, but actually is malevolent and sadistic.

It teases you with one or two pleasant days and then whacks you in the head with winter again. It taunts you by presenting you with what promises to be a sunny day, only to move the clouds in before noon -- and then pull them away at sunset so the earth and air will lose what little warmth they have been able to absorb during the day, and tomorrow you'll be freezing your nuts off again.

The sequence of photos above, taken over a 12-hour period yesterday from the same spot on my patio, documents this infuriating phenomenon, which is a major contributing factor to Bend's overall suckitudinousness.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Don't Care What the Calendar Say ...

... gonna wear my summer shoes anyway. Because in Bend you've gotta grab your summer when you can, which generally means grabbing it in little bits and pieces -- three days in January, two days in February, two days in May, etc.

Besides that, I've been re-reading The Great Gatsby and I'm in kind of an F. Scott Fitzgerald frame of mind. And besides that I wore them to astonish the Bend yokels, most of whom (males) have a footwear collection consisting of (a) sneakers or work boots for winter and (b) flip-flops for summer. Except for the yokels who wear cowboy boots year-round.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bend's Strange Stokenphobia*

The city government of Bend hasn't had many good ideas in the last 25 years, but I can think of at least one: traffic roundabouts.

Roundabouts -- otherwise known as "traffic circles" -- are far superior to four-way stops or traffic signals in terms of both safety and efficiency. They reduce the amount of stop-and-go needed to get through an intersection (thereby improving gas mileage and cutting pollution) and they virtually eliminate the often deadly  "T-bone" crashes that happen when people run stop signs or red lights.

Yet when the city started putting in roundabouts about 12 years ago, the local citizenry was close to panic. Everybody was all, like, "Mah GAWD, Ethel, the cars will be goin' around in circles! We're all a-gonna DIE!"

There are now 29 roundabouts in town, making Bend one of the top five roundabout cities in the United States. Most of them are (naturally) on the ever-so-fashionable west side. The city is trying to sell the voters on a bond issue that would pay for as many as five more. A couple of them would be placed on Reed Market Road, which is one of the few routes from the west side to the east side and experiences Southern California-style congestion during rush hours.

Although anti-roundabout sentiment isn't as prevalent as it was a decade ago, it's still out there. For instance, here's what one letter to the editor in the Source Weekly, our local alternative paper, had to say about building more roundabouts:

"Did one of the [city] planners take a course in college entitled 'Traffic Circles 301' that he, or she, really, really liked? ... [D]o we really want to buy three more traffic circles at $3 million each? ... Enough with the traffic circles already!"

Ah, well. Bendoids, I've observed, do not adapt well to new ideas. Many of them are still trying to figure out what a "Yield" sign means and how to merge into traffic on a freeway.

*No, I did not make that word up. It means an irrational fear of circles.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Quiet Little Town"? "Great Place to Raise Kids"?

Reprinted without comment from KTVZ:

A 23-year-old Bend man was arrested this week on drug charges, accused of conducting a heroin deal in downtown Bend near the library, a school and the Boys and Girls Club, authorities said Friday.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Street Crimes Unit received information around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday about a planned delivery of heroin, arranged to take place near on Wall Street near Kansas Avenue, close to the library, Amity Creek Magnet School and the Boys and Girls Club of Bend, said sheriff’s Sgt. Bryan Husband.

The unit then began a surveillance operation and saw several pedestrians, some apparent juveniles, conducting activities typical for the area, Husband said.Two males, already suspects in a previous heroin investigation, arrived in the area on foot, he said.The Street Crimes Unit contacted the men, one identified as Zachary William Cheney, who Husband said was found to be in possession of a street-level amount of heroin and about $300 in cash.

Husband said the two men admitted being in the area to make a drug deal.Cheney was arrested and lodged at the county jail on charges of heroin possession and delivery within 1,000 feet of a school.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

More Bend Strangeness: Charred Stumps as Garden Decor

A fine specimen of charred-tree-stump garden decor
This post isn't about Bend's suckiness per se, but about a strange phenomenon I've wanted to comment on for some time: charred tree stumps as garden ornaments.

People in various parts of America use some pretty weird shit as garden decor -- plaster gnomes, old tires painted white, wooden figurines of fat ladies bending over and presenting their asses to the passerby -- but Bend is the only place where I've seen charred tree stumps employed for that purpose.

When I first saw these charred stumps on people's property I assumed they were simply left over from some long-ago forest fire. But it's not so: They have been brought in deliberately and positioned in lawns and flower beds for decorative purposes.

Why Bendians think a charred tree stump adds to the beauty of their domestic landscape is a mystery. Maybe the explanation is that charred tree stumps, along with rocks, bark dust and juniper bushes, are among the few garden items that can tolerate the Bend climate.

This is a topic that requires further research, and possibly another post.

Friday, May 6, 2011

East Bend ... or East LA?

From our local TV news Web site today:

Dozens of police cars swarmed the side parking lot at the east Bend Safeway Thursday evening after a call on two possibly drunk men soon led to an officer drawing her gun on five people who refused to get out of a car. Three were arrested -- two on theft or drug charges, all three for parole or probation violations.

The incident began shortly after 6 p.m. at the Safeway on Highway 20 at NE 27th St., said Sgt. Nick Parker.A female officer responded to a report of two suspicious men in the parking lot, described as acting "very unusual," "talking weird" and possibly intoxicated, Parker said. The caller told dispatchers the men got into a car parked in the lot and were leaving.

When the officer arrived, she learned of a reported fight in the bottle return area on the east side of the store, by 27th Street, Parker said. The two men were described as similar to the earlier call of two suspicious men, one of them having a cane, he said.

The officer spotted the car on the east side of the store, with four people inside, Parker said. Another man was running from the bottle return area to the car, apparently to avoid police contact, Parker said.The officer confronted the people in the car, ordering them out with their hands up.

When none of them would do so, and not knowing if anyone was armed, she was forced to draw her gun and held all five at gunpoint until backup arrived, called to the "high risk" stop.

"Small-town charm"? "Quiet little village nestled in the Cascades"?

Maybe once. Not now. And not ever again.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another Aspect of the Suck: The Big Bend Chill

"This year, April took a chill pill" says the headline on this morning's daily Bend newspaper. "April 2011 will go into the books as one of the coldest Aprils in Central Oregon and around the Northwest in years," said the story under it.

The average daily high in Bend in April was a truly sucktacular 40.1 degrees, which was 3.6 degrees below the long-term average (1971 to 2000) of 43.7.

Last month was, indeed, chillier than usual for Bend and the Northwest. But Bend takes a chill pill every year.

Long-term data from the Oregon Climate Service shows that the average daily high in Bend surpasses 70 degrees in only four months: June, July, August and September. It surpasses 60 degrees in two more months -- May and (barely) October.

Bear in mind also that a high in the 70s or 60s does not mean the temperature is in the 70s or 60s for all, or even most, of the day. It might climb into the 60s or 70s for only a couple of hours before dropping back into the 50s, 40s or 30s. And of course it's notorious that after sunset, the temperature in Bend goes down faster than a $20 hooker.

(As an aside, Bend's climate is not exactly hospitable to baseball, especially night games. When Bend had a minor league team back in the day, locals joked about attending "30-30" games -- 30 people in the stands, 30 degrees on the field.) 

Last year I examined Bend's "300 days of sunshine" claim and proved through rigorous scientific investigation that it is pure double-distilled 200-proof bullshit. This year I intend to focus on a different aspect of Bend's suckiness: the temperature. I'm going to track the daily high temperature and score each day as comfortable* (high of 70 or above), marginal (high of 60 or above) or sucky (high below 60). I'm starting with today's reading (May 1) and will go through April 2012.

To add interest, I'm also starting a contest to guess how many comfortable (above 70) days Bend will experience over the coming year. Whoever comes closest to the exact number will receive an appropriate prize.

I'm betting the total will be 102.

*NOTE: I define 70 and above as  "comfortable" because it is the temperature range in which I can feel comfortable outdoors without wearing a sweater, jacket, coat, parka, anorak or similar extra insulation (unless the wind is blowing, which it usually is in Bend).

Friday, April 29, 2011

If the Royal Wedding Was Held in Bend, Kate Would Have Frostbite

It's the next-to-last day of April 2011, the Royal Wedding day. It's  partly cloudy and 68 degrees in London. (Congratulations, Kate and Bill.) Here on the other side of the pond, it's sunny and 56 degrees in Minneapolis. Sunny and 65 in Portland, Maine. Sunny and 67 in New York. Partly cloudy and 67 in Denver. 
In other words, it's spring -- real spring -- in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. But it's cloudy, 32 degrees and snowing in Bend, Oregon.
Need I say more? BendSux(TM)!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How's This for Springtime Suck?

The Baby Chick Zombie sends springtime greetings from sucky Bend, where it presently is 33 degrees and snowing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Vacation Is Great. Your Life Sucks.

There is a singularly stupid and obnoxious bumper sticker in Bend. It isn't very common, but I've seen it three or four times. It says:


And under that are the words: "Bend, Oregon."

This is stupid because the person who stuck that thing on his car knows nothing about the people who see the bumper sticker, or where and how they vacation. Maybe they spend three months a year in their villa in Tuscany. Maybe they spend the summer cruising the Mediterranean in their 60-foot yacht.

Vacations like those are a hell of a lot better than your life, dude -- unless your idea of a terrific time is freezing your ass off in a boring little town in the middle of nowhere.

As for the obnoxious part: This bumper sticker encapsulates not only the stupid provincialism of Bend ("No place in the world can possibly be as all-around super-duper wonderful as this place") but also the colossal arrogance that led Bendians to march lemming-like over the cliff of the real estate bubble ("This place is so gosh-darn all-around super-duper wonderful that everybody in the world is dying to live here and will pay anything to be able to do it").

So up yours, pal. My vacations are spent in Hawaii. Your life is spent in Bend.

Which means my vacation is great. And your life sucks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Dark Underside of "Paradise"

One of the most cherished and assiduously promoted myths about Bend is that it is a wholesome place, an outdoorsy place, a place where folks are happy and friendly and crime is rare. "It's a great place to raise kids," people here are always saying, as if kids were a crop like alfalfa or corn that needs a particular set of conditions to grow.

Mayberry on the Deschutes.

As is usually the case with Bend, the reality is somewhat less rosy than the Chamber of Commerce hype. Some examples:

Yesterday police recovered a body believed to be that of Sandy Meyer, a 72-year-old woman who had been missing for more than a month. The body was in an underground utility box in the backyard of the home in a pleasant gated community in Southeast Bend where she had lived with her husband.

The body of the husband, John, had been found inside the home one week after he reported his wife missing. The cause of death was a gunshot wound. Police think it was a case of murder and suicide. There are rumors that the Meyers had financial problems and John had lost a considerable amount of money day-trading.

On April 14, Kipp Rusty Walker, 19, was singing and playing keyboard at an open mic night at Strictly Organic Coffee, a popular local youth hangout. Without warning he suddenly stood up, pulled out a knife and repeatedly stabbed himself in the chest. He was taken to a hospital, where he died of his injuries.

On April 8, the Oregon Medical Board suspended the license of prominent Bend gynecologist Dr. David Redwine for having sexual relations with a patient. The patient was Tami Sawyer, a former Bend real estate broker currently under federal indictment for assorted alleged fraudulent activities. She also was the defendant in a lawsuit brought by none other than Dr. David Redwine. (Yes, this really is a small town.)

 On April 7, Darrell Middlekauff, 48, was convicted of murdering his wife, Brenda. Brenda was reported missing in 2002; three years later, her body was discovered stuffed into a steel drum buried near the couple's home in southern Deschutes County. After murdering Brenda, Darrell was shacking up with a 17-year-old girl.

The point of this gruesome recital is not that Bend is a crime-infested hellhole. The point is that people  here are like people everywhere -- driven by lust, passion and greed to sometimes do horrible things. And if people are lustful, greedy and dishonest, moving to Bend won't change them. The pretty scenery and clean air will not bring about a magical transformation. As the old saying has it, "Wherever you go, there you are."

Even if you go to "paradise."

ADDENDUM: I forgot about this one ...

BEND, Ore. -- A shooting in central Oregon that left a Bend woman and her daughter dead, and seriously injured her 2-year-old boy, was a murder-suicide, police said.

Julie Angela Still, 39, shot and killed her 5-year-old daughter, wounded her son, and then turned a .22-caliber pistol on herself at their home last December, according to a Bend police report released Monday. 

More here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Sheer Horrifying Suckiness of Bend's "Spring Festival"

The horror. The horror.

It's a classic Bend spring day -- gray, windy, 48 degrees and drizzling. Naturally, this was the day they picked to hold the second annual "Spring Festival" in Northwest Crossing, which, for the benefit of those of you who don't live here, is a yuppified development in the northwest quadrant of Bend full of faux "Craftsman" houses, Volvo and Subaru station wagons and thin blond white people who wear Lycra a lot.

Mrs. Blackdog and I rode by there early this afternoon, and in spite of the weather there seemed to be about a thousand people milling around in the cold drizzle. Bendoids are like that; they will turn out in hordes for any event, no matter how shitty the weather may be. I attribute this to two factors: 1) the high boredom quotient in Bend and 2) the low Intelligence Quotient in Bend. Probably in equal parts.

The whole scene was just too ugly and sad and depressing and horrible, and I got the fuck out of there as fast as I could.

Why did it bother me? I think it's because holding a "spring festival" in Bend in mid-April is not only monumentally stupid but seems like a taunt, a heartless, jeering mockery of the dashed hopes of those of us who keep dreaming that somehow, some year, by some blessed miracle, spring will bring a little sunshine and warmth.

In commemoration of the horribleness of it all I bought, for $2, this creepy little plaster figurine of a baby chick zombie, and I'm making it the official emblem of "spring" in Bend. 

Which really, truly, deeply, profoundly and horribly sucks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sucked In by the Sucky Bend Springtease

 Hopeful green shoots, April 3
Less hopeful green shoots, April 6

It happens every year: People in Bend -- even some of the old-timers, who really should know better -- get fooled into thinking "spring" has arrived in early April, when it won't truly get here for another two and a half months.

After five weeks of almost non-stop suck from late February through March, we had a spell of sunny and (relatively) warm weather that lasted about four days. Crocuses popped up. My "friends" on Facebook posted photos of their crocuses and started babbling about the gorgeous gardens they were going to have this year.

"Yesterday was like the perfect Bend weather day," chirped Duncan McGeary, one of the old-timers who definitely should know better than to be chirping, on April 2.

Then -- wham! -- winter smacked us upside the head again. As I write this the temperature is in the 30s and the forecast calls for a "wintry mix" of scattered rain and snow (most likely graupel too).

What makes "spring" weather in Bend even harder to take are the imbeciles -- typically the skiers and snowboarders -- who revel in its suckiness and yammer about how they wish the winter would never end.

One of them was a Facebook "friend" of mine until this morning, when he posted yet another comment about how delightful Bend's endless winter is. I unfriended him. I just couldn't take any more of that crap.

The Bend "spring" is a shameless tease. She lets you buy her drinks, flirts with you, smiles at you, winks at you, puts her hand on your knee, gets you all hot and bothered ... and then walks out of the bar with some other guy.

It sucks.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring. Yeah. Right.

This is a crocus that popped up in my backyard on Monday and got crushed by Wednesday. Sort of emblematic of the annual hopes of Bend residents for "spring."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Grappling With Graupel

This stuff is graupel.

For the past couple of weeks in Bend, we've been treated (using the word in a general sense) to occasional showers of graupel. Graupel is snow that takes the form of pellets. It is created when layers of rime accumulate around snow crystals.

In appearance, graupel resembles those small white plastic pellets that you'll find inside a beanbag chair, should you be unfashionable enough to still own a beanbag chair and foolish enough to cut it open. Graupel looks like hail and is easy to mistake for hail on first glance, but it's soft. You can tell graupel from hail when it's falling because graupel doesn't bounce.

I had never seen graupel before moving to Bend, and my reaction the first time I saw it was along the lines of: "What the fuck is THIS shit?!?" But after two and a half decades in Bend, I have lost the ability to be surprised by anything that falls from the sky. If flaming toads started falling from the sky in Bend it wouldn't surprise me.

Graupel almost never accumulates enough to cause any problems, so we take it in stride. It's just part of the ever-changing, never-ending pageant of suckiness that is Bend weather.

Postscript:  Just drove home from taking Mrs. M's car to Les Schwab to get the studded tires taken off (another absurd aspect of life in Bend that I'll blog about someday) and rode through a pretty intense graupel storm. What's the verb to describe graupel coming down? Is it "graupeling," as in, "It's graupeling really hard now"? Does anybody know?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Almost Live Blogging With Elliott

3:10 pm: Sitting at the bar in the 10 Barrel pub drinking a Tullamore Dew next to comrade-in-bloggery Jack Elliott, who talked me into joining his annual St. Patrick's Day pub crawl. Jack is having some kind of "Irish" red ale. Doesn't think much of it.

One respect in which Bend doesn't suck too hard is it's a good drinking town. There isn't a hell of a lot else to do, so people kill time in the many brew pubs. As Holly Hamilton sings in her wonderful parody, "Stuck in the Middle of Bend": "There's one job for every 10 people here, so we sit around and drink micro-beer."

Gotta bug out of this pub crawl before too long or I'm gonna have a macro-hangover.

4:05 pm: Made it to O'Kane's without any casualties. First Tullamore Dew has settled well -- now working on the second one. Elliott was kind enough to let me scarf up some salami and provolone from his antipasto at 10 Barrel. Gotta keep the stomach well-coated. Steady as she goes.

4:17 pm: Even on St Patrick's Day, O'Kane's refuses to play anything but the goddam Grateful Dead. "This is a Grateful Dead cigar bar," I was told once when I requested a change in the music. WTF is a Grateful Dead cigar bar? A Grateful Dead marijuana bar ... now, THAT would make some sense. Fortunately there is a bagpiper outside who is more or less drowning out The Dead.

5:20 pm: Leaving O'Kane's. Eliott is headed off for Velvet, another pub, to continue the crawl. I'm crawling home. Two drinks is enough for me, considering I don't want to arrive home completely shitfaced for Mrs. Miller's special St. Patrick's Day dinner. An enjoyable mini-crawl it was, nonetheless.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Outdoor, Yes. Healthy? Maybe Not So Much.

It’s almost impossible to spend more than 15 minutes in Bend without hearing about its “healthy outdoor lifestyle.” Bend’s “healthy outdoor lifestyle” is touted ad nauseam by the locals, as well as the professional booster groups and the local daily newspaper, which seems to run stories about it at least five times a week.

How true is the “healthy outdoor lifestyle” claim? Like most other Bend boasts, this one appears to consist of a small kernel of truth wrapped inside many layers of puffery.

True, Bend is home to an unusual number of world-class athletes, especially endurance athletes – marathoners, triathletes, bicycle racers. They get a lot of attention from the media, and the implication is that their lifestyle and level of physical fitness are representative of the town in general.

But of course elite athletes are a tiny minority anywhere, even in Bend. How outdoorsy is the ordinary Bendite? Is he outdoorsier than most other people? And if he is, does that make him healthier?

Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but The New York Times has posted a cool interactive map that may furnish some clues.

The Gallup polling organization has been calling up 1,000 randomly selected Americans all across the country each day for the past three years and asking them questions about 20 different “well-being indicators,” including everything from how happy they are with their jobs to whether they eat fruit and vegetables. The numbers are broken down in the Times map by congressional districts.

Turns out that people in the 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses all of Eastern Oregon including Bend, actually are pretty outdoorsy – or anyway they get a fair amount of exercise, which isn’t quite the same thing, but close enough. Well over half of them – 56% – said they got at least 30 minutes of exercise on at least three of the previous seven days.

But this is only about average for the western third of the United States, where (according to Gallup) people exercise considerably more than folks on the East Coast or in the Midwest. The four other congressional districts of Oregon have almost exactly the same percentage of exercisers.

Ah, but are people in Eastern Oregon healthier because of all their huffing and puffing and grunting and sweating? Gallup’s numbers suggest they are not.

Asked if they “have health problems that prevent [them] from doing any of the things people [their] age normally do,” 26% of those polled in CD2 answered “yes.” That’s worse than any of the four other districts except CD4 (southwestern Oregon), which had 31%. And it’s worse than Southern California, where the percentages tend to run in the teens and low 20s.

27% of Eastern Oregonians reported they had been told by a physician or nurse that they had high cholesterol – again, more than in any other congressional district except the fourth, and more than in most areas of California. For diabetes and obesity the pattern was similar.

What to make of all this? One obvious point is that being outdoors will not, in itself, make you healthy. Sitting in a fishing boat drinking beer all day or riding around in a golf cart doesn’t do much for your health.

The other thing that jumped out at me while looking at the Times map is that if there’s one thing good health clearly seems to correlate with, it isn’t exercise – it’s money. The more affluent areas of the country (mainly those on the coasts and around large cities) generally scored better on the health questions than the less affluent areas, meaning primarily the inland, rural ones. 

Lack of a good job and economic opportunity – and the likely concomitant, lack of access to necessary health care – may well be more hazardous to your health than couch potato status. So if health is what you're after, instead of moving to Bend for the “healthy outdoor lifestyle” you might be better off moving to LA or San Francisco for a healthy paycheck.

Update: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has just published new rankings that show Deschutes County as the seventh-healthiest of Oregon's 36 counties. We're below the national benchmarks for adult obesity and smoking, but way above the benchmark for "excessive drinking" (18% vs. 8%) and spectacularly above the benchmark for sexually transmitted infections (273 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 population vs. a benchmark of 83 cases).  The data suggest that even more than climbing rocks and riding mountain bikes, folks in Bend like to get drunk and screw.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Official City Anthem of Bend

This song, which the lovely, talented and saucy Mrs. Jack Elliott e-mailed to me today, says just about everything.

My one bitch: They didn't need to change the lyrics of the chorus. "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right" works perfectly for Bend.

Addendum: I should note that while the song was sent to me by Mrs. Elliott, it was written and performed by a talented local singer named Holly Hamilton.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Prineville: Perhaps Somewhat Less Sucky Than Bend

Today I took a long drive out to Prineville, a pretty little town about 40 minutes northeast of Bend, and up the scenic Crooked River toward Bowman Dam for no particular reason other than to blow the stench of Bend off myself and get the sight of strip malls and clogged highways out of my eyes.

I was glad I did. I was reminded of what we originally moved to Bend for, and what Bend doesn't have anymore: small-town charm, friendly and down-to-earth people, a slower pace of life, affordable homes, wide-open spaces, unobstructed views, no traffic congestion. (Two cars passing each other on Main Street at the same time is almost a traffic jam; see photo above.)

Bend offered all that and more 25 years ago, but thanks to decades of hell-bent-for-leather development it's been uglified and crappified and suckified beyond all recognition -- especially on the Eastside, where I have the misfortune to live.

A quick examination of the climate charts on indicates that Prineville also has at least a somewhat milder climate than Bend. For example, the average daily high in Prineville in mid-April is 60 degrees; in Bend it's 55. The average daily high in Prineville in mid-May is around 68; in Bend it's 65. I can't be certain, but the graphs for sunshine and cloud cover seem to show that Prineville gets a little bit more sun too.

This tends to bear out the fact, well-known to locals, that Prineville is the Banana Belt of Central Oregon. Gardeners can grow plants there that wouldn't survive in Bend outside of a greenhouse.

I'm not saying Prineville is paradise. It's even more isolated than Bend, for one thing, and has even fewer entertainment options and cultural amenities. And the political climate is so conservative it makes Bend look like Berkeley.

So I don't think we'll be pulling up stakes for Prineville in the foreseeable future. But it's good to pay the place a visit once in a while just to remember what Bend once had, and stupidly threw away.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Premature Spring Ejaculations

There is a couple who owns a little shop on the Eastside of Bend selling things for gardening and raising chickens and what-not. On the last day of February they put this message up on the sign in front of their shop: “ONLY 20 DAYS UNTIL SPRING.”

I have never met them, but I have heard they are nice people. I bear them no ill will. I wish them success in their business and happiness in their lives.

But if they really believe that spring comes to Bend on March 20, they are idiots.

March 20, of course, is marked as the first day of spring on all the calendars. But all that means is that on March 20 the sun is directly over the equator at noon and days and nights are of equal length. (Thus the name “vernal equinox.”) On June 21, the summer solstice or first day of summer, the sun will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at noon, giving the northern hemisphere its longest day.

In reality, however, the date of March 20 means absolutely nothing in Bend. It still looks and feels like winter here, and will look and feel like winter until sometime around the middle of June.

Yesterday our local daily newspaper ran its monthly story about the latest measurements of the depth of the snowpack in the Cascades. The snowpack was looking skimpy in mid-February, but a couple of storms blew through in the latter part of the month and now it’s is pretty much back to normal.

The most interesting thing about the story, though, was a little graph that showed snowpack levels through the year, with trend lines for this year, last year, and the historical average from 1971 to 2000.

The historical average line shows that the snowpack reaches its maximum on April 1 and then starts to decline, as fewer and less fierce storms blow in from the Pacific. By July it’s almost all gone.

Based on this, it would make some sense to observe April 1 as the first day of spring in Bend, or at least as the turning point at which winter begins slowly and grudgingly loosening its icy grip on us. But it would make more sense to celebrate June 15 as the real first day of spring, when winter finally relents and warm, sunny weather arrives at last.

On second thought, maybe June 21, which is observed as the first day of summer in parts of the Northern Hemisphere that have a normal climate, should be celebrated as the first day of spring in Bend.

As for when we'd mark the first day of summer ... well, August 1 seems to be the likely candidate.