We haven’t heard much about Measure 37 recently, but that’s not because much isn’t going on — it is, and the biggest pieces of this fractured story are the least obvious. First, to the obvious: Measure 37 is about the money. The money that landowners claim they’ve lost or will lose by the state or counties barring them from developing. The money that lures forestry companies to turn from logging to condos. And the money that farmers, house-holders and others with what they see as presently useless or excess land are costing the rest of us with their claims. Claims may be totally legit (though numerous ones in Hood River County, at least, have asked to make developments that were never allowed under their original zoning), but they take public time to assess. That’s cost Wasco County, for one, several thousand dollars; and the real impact will come with the May rush, of some 30 claims to assess, according to The Dalles Chronicle. Wasco County doesn’t charge landowner claimants for its planners’ time. Hood River County, with many more claims, does; but nowhere near enough to pay for their efforts. Measure 37 presently accounts for an estimated 70 percent of the planning staff’s time — and the fees the county charges cover less than 10 percent of the planning budget... Read More »
Can we agree that smoggy air is really counter to the whole idea of living in the Northwest? That haze doesn’t belong in the Columbia Gorge? Turns out, a growing cause of the haze that’s increasingly obvious here, is the slew of poison spewed into the air by China. Let me for the record say — that’s a bad thing. Clean air, good; polluted air, bad. I don’t how you vote or what whack-job political commentators you listen to — I don’t care — but my 3-year-old daughter shouldn’t have to breathe China’s dirty air in her Columbia Gorge backyard. Or any dirty air, for that matter... Read More »
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about the Gorge is the seasons. We have them; unlike some of the other places I’ve lived, where either summer or winter or some particular sort of weather predominates. In the Gorge, we have summer, fall, winter, spring. Four beautiful stages of the year, as I’ve told friends in other places more than once. Thanks for making a liar of me, weather. It’s hit 50 degrees or warmer for the past several days here in The Dalles. It’s been pleasant, but disconcerting. You shouldn’t be able to stroll around without a coat in January. This comes on the heels of the notice that scientists are saying 2007 could be the warmest year ever recorded. Yes, that’s anecdotal evidence, but still a close-to-home example of global warming. It’s also part of larger pattern, what with recent repeat floods in our backyard, and endangered polar bears up north. And then there’s this: that every year since 1992 has made the list of the 20 warmest years on record... Read More »
There’s been plenty of ink spilled about the almighty Google and its new, semi-secret plant in The Dalles. (Read previous thoughts here and here.) But Wired magazine’s article by George Gilder this issue lays out the technology, the competition between search engines and the future of the Internet — what Gilder calls the “new global ganglia of computers and cables” — as clearly as I’ve seen anywhere. Gilder’s answer to The Question — why in the world did Google locate their server farm in The Dalles? — is the most thoughtful and cogent yet. The answer remains pretty close to what we’ve thought already: Cheap power and high-speed fiber. But the ramifications, and the specs, are interesting. Consider, for example, that some analysts predict that the insatiable need for air conditioning and other power needs of the massive server farms and the rest of the Internet’s physical infrastructure could eventually consume half of the world’s electrical output... Read More »
CBS breaks Google news this week: the Internet colussus is building a new plant! In The Dalles! ... Oh, you’ve heard about that somewhere before? Yes, well, CBS does a bit of context: The Google plant, says the report, is one in a string of data centers spanning the planet, from Ireland to Atlanta. “The sprawling new complex will handle billions of search queries a day and a growing repertory of other Internet services,” says CBS, in a short written report accompanying a video segment. Check out the opening scene of the segment, which has a “Welcome To The Dalles” sign in the foreground, in front of the infamous “Adult Shop” sign. Welcome, indeed. There’s also decent footage, later on, of the Google site under construction, and an overview of the big-tech-company-revitalizing-a-small-town theme. Why did Google pick The Dalles? Like other media, CBS notes the city's plentiful water, power and the highspeed fiber lines. Oh yeah, and 15 years of city tax breaks. A little something to sweeten the deal for a company that has its hands full with billions of search queries a day. Read More »
The article’s a real lapel-grabber. The Dalles Chronicle reported on Google Thursday, trumpeting a crack in the computer company’s concretious secrecy. Google’s dropping the hard-to-get act, the paper seemed to say with its headline, “Google lets the sun shine in.” Except, it isn’t. There’s nothing new to report here, except saying how many people the Internet company’s hired (“more than 20 local people”), and that it plans to hire more. Urs HÃ¶lzle, senior vice president of operations, told the Chronicle that the Googleans “plan on having a large ad in the local papers in the near future, with a complete listing of openings.” Oh. Alright. Sooooo... is it true the Google site at the port of The Dalles will be a server farm, as speculated in the trade blogs? Who knows: “The facility will contain technology infrastructure,” says the article. No kidding. Having worked at small papers as a reporter, an editor and a publisher, I can vouch that the impulse to oversell an article can be strong... Read More »
Electricity, the spark that lights our civilization, comes mostly from the dams and coal plants in Oregon. But wind power — less reliable, but infinitely cleaner and less-impacting — is making small steps towards Gov. Kulongoski’s 25 percent power goal by 2025. All of Oregon’s wind power is generated just east of the Columbia Gorge, on the windy heights in Sherman County and points east. This week, encouraging news comes that more wind turbines are on the way, with two new wind power projects announced to be online by the end of 2007. Together, the projects — Klondike III by PPM Energy and the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm by Portland General Electric — will triple the state’s wind-generation, to more than 700 potential megawatts... Read More »
You can just see this one coming: A new fake news comedy program set in the Northwest. Some goof-ball Gorge local happenings. Put ‘em together and what do have? An interesting summer, maybe.
A new Comedy Central TV program, “Dog Bites Man” — a cringe-inducing fake news show along the lines of “The Daily Show” — has just hit the airwaves. “Dog” is a fictional morning show based in Spokane. The straight-faced cast uses silly, stupid, potentially offensive questions while it interviews real people, who are often unwitting participants, and not always happy about it, including some Oregon university professors.
I suppose a new program of that ilk is always looking for catchy material. Here’s hoping, for the sake of locals’ dignity, that the program’s producers don’t start reading Columbia Gorge newspapers.
Consider the Hood River story of the teenager hospitalized after a — no kidding — Happy Birthday beating last week. How might that sound in a comedy sketch?
Turns out that New West Columbia Gorge isn’t the only one with eyes on the hush-hush Google project in The Dalles. The same day I posted about it last week, The New York Times ran a longer piece, after actually talking with some local officials. Not bad for an East Coast media outlet. Even if its reporters did take a dig at our corner of heaven. Said the article, "And odd as it may seem, the barren desert land surrounding the Columbia along the Oregon-Washington border — at the intersection of cheap electricity and readily accessible data networking — is the backdrop for a multibillion-dollar face-off among Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that will determine dominance in the online world in the years ahead.".. Read More »
Internet companies, far from being ephemeral cyberspace creations, need elbow room in the real world — a lot of it. We're talking warehoues full of servers and processors, preferably close to high-speed fiber systems and cheap power from old-fashioned power grids. Cheap land near cheap power, in other words, says a recent article in Business Week magazine. And there are only so many places that fill that bill, like Quincy, Wash., not far from the Grand Coulee Dam. Yahoo! and Microsoft are building server farms there. Then there’s The Dalles, near its own dam, where Google has invested in a new campus. That finite amount of space that features both data and power needs may get to be hot real estate. Says the article: “You may not give it a thought while firing up a Google search, downloading a song from iTunes, or chatting on the phone via Vonage's Internet service. But all those tasks have to be processed on computers somewhere." ... Read More »