The P in P-town

I know, I know, you probably thought it stood for Portland. But, hey, there’s no shame in being a newb. Happens to us all at one time or another. In Oregon and Washington, just so you know, the P in P-town actually stands for Powell’s.

collage: one exterior and three interior shots of Powell's Books

(CCL Rosa Say)

As in Powell’s Books, the Portland bookstore that covers an entire city block–from 10th to 11th, from Couch (rhymes with smooch) to Burnside–and rises four stories.

How big is Powell’s?

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Youcef Nadarkhani: Two things you can do to help

Youcef & Fatemah Nadarkhani with sons Daniel & Yoel

Youcef Nadarkhani with wife Fatemah Pasindedah and sons Daniel & Yoel, c. 2009

After having run through the Iranian appeals process, Youcef Nadarkhani has received a final sentence of death from the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the Province of Gilan, according to reports that our State Department is taking very seriously. The original execution order, handed down in September, 2010, mandated that:

. . . the above-mentioned person as an apostate will be executed by being hanged until somehow his soul is taken from him.

Though the trial court found no evidence that Nadarkhani had ever practiced Islam, he has been sentenced to death for being an apostate–that is, for renouncing Islam (can you really renounce a faith you never practiced?) and converting to Christianity.

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Ash Wednesday: The centre cannot hold

a pottery bowl holding ashes

(CCL newbirth35)

I grew up wondering what lint had to do with church.

My sole source of information on the subject was Billy Wyatt, who always showed up late to school, and with a black smudge on his forehead, one morning a month or two after Christmas vacation. Billy seemed pretty embarrassed by the whole thing. About all we ever got out of him was that it was Ash Wednesday. And that the priest had said, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” We would keep an eye on him for a while, but when he didn’t give any evidence of disintegrating any time soon, we lost interest in Ash Wednesday.

I mean, no candy, no presents. Letting someone tell you you’re dirt. Clearly not as user-friendly a holiday as, say, Christmas.

But then something happened.

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Teacher can’t teach: your tax dollars at work

side back shot of girl hunched over and looking at computer screen visible in background

(CCL Ian Forrester)

My neighbor’s 14-year-old, “Meghan,” is a high school freshman. She takes online classes through a Washington State public school district.

Meghan had this math problem in a unit entitled “Free Fall Calculations.”

3. A shoe falls out of a helicopter flying at 1500 meters and takes 6 seconds to hit the ground.

What is the shoe’s acceleration when it hits the ground?

A)     90 m/sec2 B) 250 m/sec2 C) 10 m/sec2 D) 150 m/sec2

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In the words of John Adams and friends . . .


John Adams

John Adams, oil on canvas by John Trumbull, 1793 (CCL cliff1066)

“The American experiment,” wrote Charles Francis Adams (grandson of John and Abigail), ”is the most tremendous and far reaching engine of social change which has ever either blessed or cursed mankind.”

It’s sobering to note that Adams, writing in the mid-19th century, seemed to think the jury was still out on just which it was going to be: a blessing, or a curse.

But no wonder.

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Dan Savage asked me to speak up against hate–so I am

Head shot of Dan Savage


Meet Dan Savage. He’s Editorial Director at the Seattle alternative weekly newspaper The Stranger, and author of The Stranger’s syndicated sex advice column, “Savage Love.” He’s also co-founder of the It Gets Better Project, a website aimed at reducing LGBT teen suicide by getting LGBT adults to post videos giving LGBT teens hope that life will get better as they get older. It Gets Better also encourages site visitors to take a pledge to speak up against hate, intolerance and bullying “whenever I see it.”

I do pledge that. And I hope you do, too.

But hold onto your hats, folks. Because this is where things start getting really ironic really fast.

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