Columbia River Crossing

IKEA opened a big, shiny new store in Portland a couple years ago. It anchors the Cascade Station shopping center that also includes Target, Nordstrom Rack and Home Goods among its retail businesses. Cascade Station sits near Portland International Airport, strategically positioned at the south end of the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge that connects east Portland with Vancouver, Washington. The shopping destination’s parking lot is filled with autos displaying Washington license plates. The location is strategic because shoppers pay a 8.4% sales tax in Vancouver compared to the Oregon sales tax rate… oh, there is no Oregon sales tax.

Property taxes in Clark County (Vancouver) Washington are lower than Multnomah County (Portland) Oregon. The good-paying jobs, however, are on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, in Portland. Every workday Vancouver commuters clog I-5 and I-205 and their respective bridges across the Columbia. The city of Portland is infested with Washington drivers and their endearing motoring habits.

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Potato Scraps

I first saw them on a menu at a McMenamins outpost somewhere in Portland. I thought, Wow, just like Mom used to make heat up in the oven. And they were offered with the option of ranch dressing, not just ketchup. How sophisticated. “Tater Tots,” with capital “T”s, a registered trademark, has become almost a generic term, like “kleenex” or “coke.” Now they’re everywhere. Food writers in cities around the country write up their “10 Best Tots” lists. It’s now hip to eat oldsters’ childhood memories.

Like me, Tater Tots were born in Oregon. Ore-Ida foods, a processor of frozen corn and potatoes in eastern Oregon, hated sending the potato detritus resulting from slicing French fries out for livestock feed. They came up with the idea of chopping the scraps, mixing in a little flour and seasoning, then pushing the mush through an extruder and cutting into bite-sized pieces. Deep fried, then frozen, they arrived in grocery store freezers in 1956.

Tater Tots was a poor seller. Ore-Ida implemented the marketing strategy later employed by Starbucks and others. They raised the price. Consumers decided if they cost that much, they must be good. Sales took off.

H. J. Heinz purchased Ore-Ida in 1965. Americans ate nearly 4 billion of the potato gems in 2017; that’s 70 million pounds.

Can You Hear Me Now?

The Verizon guy in the TV commercials is so friendly and down to earth, we know that his and the company’s mission is to provide their customers with the best plans at the most reasonable costs. Just ask firefighters battling the blazes in California. Wireless communications are vital to provide and update information, manpower deployment and battle strategies. Imagine their surprise when service suddenly slowed to 1/200th of the normal speed. “It essentially rendered those very routine communications almost useless or completely ineffective,” said the Santa Clara County Fire Department captain whose team had been deployed to Lake and Mendocino counties in northern California.

Verizon Wireless had a simple explanation. The department had purchased an “unlimited” data plan, but when a certain usage threshold is reached, transmission speed slows precipitously. Verizon also had a simple solution: upgrade the plan at twice the cost.

Verizon said their practice is to remove data speed limits for emergency responders in emergency situations and they are “reviewing the situation” and “will fix any issues going forward.” They also said the speed restrictions had nothing to do with the Federal Communications Commission’s termination of net neutrality regulations that, among other things, had prevented Internet service providers from charging more for speeding up delivery of certain content. The three-Republican two-Democrat FCC, led by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, voted 3-2 to abolish the regulations.

Making America Great Again.

Mark Twain #MeToo

Stanford White

Harry Kendall Thaw shot and killed Stanford White while the famed architect watched a play on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden. The year was 1906. The building was one designed by White, who was responsible for the Washington Square Arch, the Metropolitan Club and numerous other landmark buildings. The Astors and Vanderbilts lived in mansions designed by White. He also had a reputation as a seducer of young women.

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