Opportunities for the New Year

Resolutions haven’t worked for me in recent years, and I’m not sure they were ever very effective at helping me improve myself during the course of a new year.  This year, I have decided to dispense with resolve and explore opportunities instead.

I’m hoping for some opportunities to lose weight.  I still run, but I am apparently spending more time eating than I am running.  It hasn’t helped that I’ve recently developed strange cravings for Italian food, with a particular tilt toward pizza.  I think it takes about three miles of running to work off one slice of pizza.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that heavier people generally run slower than lighter people, so I now find myself being passed by other early-morning runners.  The most imminent opportunity I’m going to try is a run out of the Gateway Canyon on Christmas Day.  This six-mile ordeal represents my personal bottom line for fitness, validating that I am not a complete slug if I can make the circuit without stopping.

Reading higher-quality material is always an opportunity that I anticipate but somehow usually avoid.  I’m currently reading a book about a young woman seeking revenge after her father commits suicide as the result of falling for a Nigerian e-mail scam.  It’s an interesting novel so far; and, if I really stretch, I can rationalize that I’m learning something about how technology is being used by enterprising folks in the developing world to cheat their more affluent brothers and sisters in other countries.  I can even connect this to my work because I think I have received as many e-mails at work from African princes as I have from any other source over the past decade.  Just to reassure our outstanding IT employees, I should note that it has been quite awhile since I’ve had an opportunity to earn millions by helping a distressed person in Africa.

Nearly every year, I remind myself that I need to do more hiking and exploring in Oregon.  I did a couple of nice hikes in 2013, but I think they totaled a little over four days out of 365 possibilities.  We live amidst some of the most incredible scenery in the world, and yet almost all of my time is spent indoors or inside a car.  Taking better advantage of this opportunity would have the added benefit of working off some of that pizza I’ve come to crave. 

My greatest opportunity for the New Year will be the chance to be nicer and more concerned about others.  I will get this chance every day, and I plan to at least take a good shot at it.  Visitors to my office will notice that I removed the crushed beaver from my screensaver, and I gave away the statue of the Duck strangling a beaver some time ago.  I realize that to realize great opportunities great sacrifices are required.

I’m truly looking forward to 2014 and extend best wishes to all for a peaceful and prosperous New Year filled with opportunities.

Working on Christmas

My plan for celebrating Christmas this year is to drive over to my in-laws in Central Oregon and enjoy a quiet few days with my wife and her parents.  Our children and grandchildren are scattering to their in-laws after spending Thanksgiving at our house.  I am grateful for the chance to be with family at this special time, but I’m also grateful for the many people who will be working over the holidays to provide the services and goods that make the rest of our lives safer and more comfortable.

Former Albany City Manager Steve Bryant sent me the following link today, and I was reminded that many city employees will be on the job while I am enjoying some time with my family:  (http://www.youtube.com/embed/WxjZB5S_g7s?rel=0.).  Police, fire, and public works employees will be doing many of the things they do every work day; and I hope those of us who are fortunate enough to have the day off will keep them in our thoughts.  Many of us have worked on holidays in the past; and, although we were compensated, there is a sense of loss when you can’t be with the people who matter most to you.

It has been ten years since I celebrated Christmas in Iraq by attending a meeting at Kerbala University before helping to host a dinner at the house I shared with four other members of our staff.  Among my memories of that day was doing some shopping downtown where I encountered a young woman holding an obviously disabled child while begging.  My Buddhist colleague was offended that the young woman was using a disabled child as a way to get money, but all I could think of was how lucky I was to have healthy children and grandchildren.  I remember putting my arm around my friend after giving the young woman some money and saying simply, “It’s Christmas Day.”  We didn’t share the same religious beliefs, but I think he understood.

The Christmas Feast
The Christmas Feast
Christmas Produce
Christmas Produce
Kerbala on Christmas Day
Kerbala on Christmas Day

Like the trooper in the YouTube video, I have many valuable memories from the holidays I’ve worked and perhaps the significance of the day makes its events more memorable.  I know the words of Luke were especially important to me that day in Kerbala:  “Fear not:  for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  Best wishes for a joyous holiday season.

Why Hasn’t My Street Been Plowed?

I have received very few complaints during our recent bout of icy weather, and I’ve been a little surprised at people’s patience.  The streets have been slick and dangerous in places, and I know there have been more accidents than usual.  City, county, and state crews have been working since the start of the snowfall to sand or clear roads, but we do not maintain the resources to keep every street ice free during weather like we’ve had over the past few days.

My experience has been uniformly positive while driving around the community, and I’ve been able to safely travel to every place I’ve wanted to go.  I’ve occasionally used the low gear in my front-wheel drive sedan, and I have not had any trouble with slipping or sliding.  I know there were some serious problems on the Lyon Street bridge, but by Saturday I was able to easily drive over to the K-1 Chinese restaurant to pick up some takeout.  I know others have not been so fortunate, and many people have simply chosen to stay home rather than risk driving.

I hope by the time this column is published the roads will be completely clear and people will be able to travel with no greater concern than normal.  Our snow and ice problems are generally very short, which explains why we do not buy snowplows or a larger number of sanding units.  I lived in La Grande before coming to Albany, and we did have plows as well as more sand trucks.  By policy, plows were not used until we had at least a six-inch accumulation of snow; and, like Albany, we would make do with sanding most of the time.  Snow removal policies generally reflect the climate of the area, and I do not know of any Willamette Valley communities that maintain resources comparable to what we had in La Grande.  I would also add that people in Eastern Oregon are generally more accustomed to driving on snow and ice and are consequently better at it than many of us who live in the Valley.

The short answer as to why a particular street has not been plowed is that the community has never made a commitment to keeping all streets clear after every snow or ice storm.  We do send out sanding trucks, and we coordinate with the two counties and the state to keep major thoroughfares passable.  A greater commitment would require greater resources that would come from either increased taxes or a reduction in other street maintenance or construction activities.  The City Council could certainly consider that policy option and may choose to do so if it appears that weather events like those of the past few days are likely to become more common.