Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hello friend! Time to get up and grab a piece of the pi! It’s Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Weather is partly sunny and partly showery, with highs of 55. Sunrise 7:24 AM, sunset 7:15 PM. Six days until spring!

Steven Hawking, who diagnosed with ALS at 21 and given but a few years to live, was 76 when he died today, on Einstein’s birthday, at his home in England. Sen. Lew Frederick, who crossed paths with Hawking as a TV reporter in the 1980s, messaged me with the following: “Hawking started a tradition here in Portland that he kept going around the world. In the afternoon before a talk, 20+ kids were invited to meet him and ask questions. The difference is these youngsters were all physically disabled in some way. Most, if not all of them, were in wheelchairs. Para and quadriplegic kids had a face to face meeting with one of the great human minds. He told them the barriers could be overcome, and their brilliance could shine for the world.”

We should know soon if a congressional district deep in the heart of Pennsylvania Trump Country will go blue, as young Democrat Conor Lamb has already claimed victory. He has a 579 vote lead over Republican Rick Saccone, but several thousand absentee ballots are still to be counted and the race is too close to call. This is a district that Donald Trump won by almost 20 points.

The youth movement against gun violence will be afoot today in the Northwest and across the nation as students — many in the Portland area with the full support of teachers and administrators — will leave the classroom around 10 AM and head to a courtyard or commons area for 17 minutes of silence in honor of those who died in the Parkland, Florida, shooting one month ago today. Among the walkout’s supporters is Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who issued an open letter saying in part. “Don’t listen to people who tell you you’re too young, who tell you that you don’t understand, who tell you you won’t get into college if you protest. Universities around the country, including Portland State University, have explicitly said any disciplinary action resulting from your activism will not affect your chances of admission. I support you as you make your voices heard. I also appreciate your teachers, administrators and parents, who have worked with you to create a safe and responsible location to hold your demonstration. This is an important, teachable moment for all of us.”

Rex Tillerson’s was not the only head that rolled in yesterday’s abrupt firing; moments after the president revealed the news on Twitter, the State Department issued a statement saying Tillerson had not spoken with Trump and didn’t know the reason for his dismissal. The undersecretary who promulgated that statement was gone within the hour. The VA secretary may be next.

The New York Times ran a story over the weekend about a former Nike executive in Beaverton–he was “senior director of global digital commerce”–who was so distressed by the Trump election that he quit his job and moved to a pig farm in Ohio where he has meticulously walled himself off from any news whatsoever of the world in which we live. He admits that makes him “a crappy citizen,” but says he’s never felt better.

The Great Junk Yard Fire of 2018 is out, pretty much; firefighters are looking for hot spots, but they need to infrared cameras to detect them. Evacuations are lifted. Investigators say it may be a couple of days before they know the cause.

The US Navy makes a courtesy call to City Hall today–we’re talking about uniformed brass sitting in chairs, not boats in the parking lot–to update the Mayor and council about the new amphibious transport ship the USS Portland, which sails into town for commissioning ceremonies next month.

For anyone thinking of traveling by air with a pet…the story of what happened on a United flight from Houston to LaGuardia should cause second thoughts…a flight attendant instructed a woman to put her dog in its crate in the overhead bin, in violation of company policy, and the poor dog did not survive the flight. I’m super-respectful of flight attendants, never call them stewardesses, and I’m especially appreciative of their kindness during our eventful travels two weeks ago, but: I’d get thrown off the plane before I’d put any living thing in the overhead. Then again, I’d drive three days in a minivan before I’d fly a dog.

A remarkable piece of self-examination in the April edition of National Geographic, which focuses on race, and wherein Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg says it’s important that the magazine acknowledges its own past failings. She writes, in part: “…until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured “natives” elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.”

And yes, it’s Pi day, 3/14, in approximation of the transcendental and irrational equation that represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi is ultimately unknowable; even the Old Testament ballparks it as 3, in a passage in I Kings. My second favorite fact about Pi is that it’s the trick that Spock uses to defeat a computer in the “Wolf in the Fold” episode; he tells it to calculate Pi to the last decimal place, which cannot be done. But my favorite Pi fact is that some dining spots offer free pie on Pi day! Anyone know of one that we should go and visit today?

(H4HH) (2+2) (π day) :

–“9-year-old Midlands boy saves neighbor’s life after car falls on top of him”

–“Animal shelter putting old chairs to good use by letting rescue dogs curl up on them in their cages”

–“Delta gives free pizza to stranded passengers”

–“‘Boaty McBoatface’ survives ice mission”

–“Walt Disney Company launches $100m initiative with Texas Children’s Hospital to help reinvent the experience of children’s hospitals around the world”

–“Pakistan swears in ‘untouchable’ Hindu woman as member of Senate”

–“Golden Retriever Service Dog Is Trained to Snuggle His Owner’s Seizures Away”

Away into Pi Day!

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