Driving: Never look down

The state police said this was the result of distracted driving on I-84 near Pendleton. (OSP photo)

The state police said this was the result of distracted driving on I-84 near Pendleton. (OSP photo)

If you're driving a truck down the interstate, how do you fail to notice another big truck and trailer right in front of you? You might miss seeing it and then run right into the back of it if you've been looking down at your cell phone instead of straight ahead through the windshield. At least that's what the state police said on Monday, when they reported on a collision that morning on Interstate 84 near Pendleton.

Both truck drivers had to be treated at a hospital, and so did the wife of the one in front. He had slowed down to 5 mph because of two flat tires on his trailer, which was loaded with apples. The poor guy was cited for driving an unsafe vehicle, and the driver who slammed into him for following too close.

The state police used the occasion to point out that April is "Distracted Driving Awareness Month." (Believe it or not; there's a month for that.)  And the police say that while there are many ways to become distracted while driving, using a cell phone is among the most common.

I don't know about that. Seems like the direct cause of this wreck was not using a cell phone but the driver taking his eyes off the road. And that's what makes it easy to recommend how to avoid causing an accident. It's simple: No matter what else you are doing while driving, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. (hh)

When it’s someone you know…

100_0029On the mornings of every fourth Tuesday of the month, I've gone to the Albany Senior Center to chat with a small group there. We talk about the news or anything else anybody wants to talk about. One of the regulars over the past year or so wasn't there on the fourth Tuesday in February. He was in Arizona, vacationing. Later that very night, according to a brief report in the Arizona Republic two days later, he was riding is bike on a private street in Mesa when he crossed an intersection and got hit by a car. He died at the hospital.

This was Bob McCain, 78, whose obituary appeared in the Democrat-Herald on March 6. At our chats at the senior center, he and I often talked about different aspects of cycling, including the Lance Armstrong doping controversy when it was in the news. (I tried to make excuses for the cycling legend; Bob was not nearly as willing to forgive.)

I didn't know Bob's background until I read his obit, but I knew him as a dedicated sports fan who was knowledgeable not just about sports but lots of other things as well. I hope it's not too late to express my condolences to his family. Getting hit by a car is a risk we take when riding a bike, but we obviously hope it doesn't happen, and it's a shock when it does happen to somebody we know. (hh)


Apostrophes: Who needs them?

100_0454Maggie sure doesn't, as you can see in the accompanying cut. Does anybody? Well, the point can be made that as in Maggie's case on this bench, one of several in the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, the meaning is just as clear without the apostrophe. So, considering how often it is left out or misplaced, should we just get rid of that little squiggle in most cases? For more, check the video below.

Ray Kopczynski responds: Count me as one of the "old folks" who prefer the use of them.  Yes, we can (and do) dumb down language over time.  Maybe that's the wrong way to say it.  Language evolves over time.  On the other hand, the precise use of language determines many things, not the least which can be treaties, laws, what "is" is, and even definitions of debt.  We still need the column of James J. Kilpatrick -- even in repeats.

To the question of who needs apostrophes, D'Ann Matthews says, "I do."

And Warren Beeson says, "I dont."

Gun licenses: Why the hostility?

Outside an Albany gun show in March 2013.

Outside an Albany gun show in March 2013.

Democrats in the Oregon Senate are pushing bills that would make life more difficult for holders of concealed handgun licenses. Why would they do that? What do they have against citizens who have obtained those licenses? That ought to be the main question from CHL holders when the Senate Judiciary Committee under Floyd Prozanski, D- Eugene, holds a hearing April 5.

The hearing deals with four bills and their proposed amendments, two of them hostile to CHL holders and applicants. One of them, SB 347 would make felons of CHL holders who carry in a school. The same bill was rejected last year. What changed? Has any CHL holder committed a gun crime in school? I haven't heard of any.

Another, SB 796, would require license applicants to pass, in addition to current requirements, a rigorous shooting qualification totaling 50 rounds with time limits counted in seconds. Taking those tests will be costly and will reduce the number iof licenses sought.

Last spring there were about 148,000 CHLs in Oregon, good for four years each. For each one, sheriffs got $50 and firearms safety trainers got whatever they charge. Linn County alone processed about 1,000 applications a year. That $50,000 in revenue for local law enforcement is worth keeping in mind.

There's been no problem with gun licenses in Oregon, so what -- other than spite -- is the point of these bills? (hh)

Chuck Leland responds: Your comments about legislative bills proposed to limit and control gun rights bring some thoughts to mind.  I think some of the proposed legislation, such as background checks at gun shows and private sales, has merit as do some other proposed legislation at state and federal level.  I also wonder, as I'm sure many gun owners do, where any legislation aimed at our 2nd amendment rights will stop.  I read between the lines that our rights are to protect ourselves not only from  foreign invasion and criminals, but from our very own politicans and  bureaucrats.
Lastly, I received an e-mail recently stating that our licensed hunters number much larger than any standing army in the world. That alone should give pause to anyone threating our country or our individual liberties.

Springtime on Cox Creek (An update)

Near Cox Creek on Friday: Fighting weeds.

Near Cox Creek on Friday: Fighting weeds.

Springtime means maintenance work along the banks of Albany's Cox Creek from Salem Avenue to the Willamette River. A crew working for R. Franco Restoration, an Aumsville-based contractor for the Calapooia Watershed Council, spent Friday killing weeds around thousands of plantings placed on the bank last  fall.

Earlier, the contractor had cleared the creek banks of blackberries and other invasive species. On an 11-acre parcel closer to the Willamette, the crew last fall got rid of a meadow of invasive reed canary grass and also planted native bushes and trees.

It will look beautiful when it's all done, promises Rosario Franco, whose company is doing the work. (Listen to Franco in the video below.)

It's all part of a multi-year project by the Watershed Council to restore the lowlands in the floodplain along Cox Creek to their natural condition. Later this year, the plan is to take out a small concrete dam at the former Nebergall packing plant, now the research center of ATI Wah Chang, to open up more of the creek as a wintertime refuge for fish in the Willamette River.

In 2012, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board approved a $199,000 grant from state lottery funds to pay for the restoration, which is expected to continue through 2017. (hh)

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