Thursday, April 28, 2005

"It's exactly like Rudy Giuliani fighting crime, except the criminals have automatic weapons and 155-rounds"

Here are a few tidbits from a lengthy discussion at The First Blog, that of Dr. Jerry Pournelle, the esteemed rocket scientist, political theorist, old-school conservate (No Imperialist Neocons Need Apply) and scarily prescient SF author:
The benefits of Iraqis' taking the lead security role go beyond lifting the burden from Americans and removing the political irritant of foreign troops. General Patreaus says of the Iraqi police and army units, "They have an ability to interrogate people very, very rapidly. They speak Arabic. They speak the dialect. They know the neighborhoods. If we did it, we would still be working with the translator and asking, 'Is that Mohammad with an "a" or Mohammed with an "e"?' The Iraqis will have already gotten the intelligence and be back in the pickup truck heading to the next target."
There are now 100 operational Iraqi combat battalions, with an average of 750 men each. In March, 6,000 former soldiers and new recruits completed basic training.


Reading the entire passage is well worth your time, if you have any interest in world affairs and our place within them.

I am reminded of what a British Airman said, once upon a time:
"Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them." - T. E. Lawrence

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Oak Lodge CC Meeting Notes, Last part first

I'm turning notes into readable text, and will post them here as they become coherent, filling from the end of the meeting to the beginning. I apologize for having missed the CCFD#1 briefing and some of the anti-floridation's advocate's speech, but I was unexpectedly on the air, running an ARES Net, out in the parking lot.....


Reports from service districts
--
Water: Jim Knapp

He has a manual available for checkout, provided by the anti-floridation advocates, one of whom spoke earlier.

Water Board member Roy Smith resigned, so a Water District board vacancy will be filled. Applications are available; Knapp circulated some.

The district is working rapidly to get work on roads done before paving starts. Flushing of water mains is underway as well.

Our water year is from October 1 to September 30, and catching up with our low snowfall winter would require double the normal rainfal now. However, there's plenty of water for this year.


Sanitary District: Kent Squires

The district has 100 miles of sewer line, and cleans them on a 5-10 year schedule. Like to lay down grade rings around manholes before paving's done, otherwise you will feel the manholes when you drive over them. Leaks into manholes and from elsewhere is part of the reason there's 2.6-2.7 million gallons on a dry day, but 15 million gallons of flow in soggy season.

Coordination with the County Road Department has been excellent, and surface water management programs have been fine-tuned to synchronize with county road work. The District's goal is to avoid tearing up roads for sewer work for at least three years, preferably five, but emergencies will override that plan. If good job of paving is done, a street can last 20 years.

However, last year when there was an unanticipated excess of paving material, the Road Department paved Vinyard Way early; the District then gave residents their choice of having sewer work done as planned, and the Vinyard Way residents chose to decline the sewer work.

The use of fiber-optic remote television inspections help somewhat in anticipating needs.

One project, where the District planned the work but the County did the construction, led to a problem. Sanitary sewers are typically eight foot down, or deeper, whereas storm swewers usually are three to four feet deep. After the county or its contractor rototilled to create the best base for new paving, some of those shallower storm drain sections were found to have bene crushed, so those had to be dug up & replaced.

Next year, the district will develop a new master plan, projecting collection, transmission & treatment for the next 40 years. The last master plan was developed in 1990, and it's out of date. The district hopes to complete it in six to nine months, then move on to construction planning.

Pumping station Four is an 50-year old 'airpot' (a noisy design using compressed air, with a pressure chamber which will fail sometime). It serves 26 homes, at the end of Oak Shore Lane, between the street end and the river, and is surrounded by an arborvitae hedge. Flooding requires sealing it, which has happened several times in its service life. It will be replaced with smaller, quieter & more efficient pumps which will not require the pre-flood sealing work.

Capital projects are largely completed for this year, including Silverleaf and Chestnut. Pending projects include Blanton St, Oatfield & Silverstrings, Sun Avenue, Courtney & Park, Evergreen & 20th, Arista Drive, a Park Ave Storm sewer (funded with a community block grant), fixing problems with a publicly-owned drain which runs through the Concord Mobile Home Park, and some other non-identified projects {plus at least two I could not accurately copy - Ed. note}, as well as the Trolley Trail Culvert (at least the design, if not the construction), down to the south where the creek passes the trail. A fish-friendly box culvert is planned, & contruction will be planned to try to get it done in 5 working days so as not to put out the runners/joggers/bikers/hikers. Thelma noted Metro's design calls for a bridge instead, but since that's now all County-owned, a simpler design may be substituted.

A pre-design study of River Lake will look for the cause of siltation there. Water into the lake is pretty clean, but want to improve the water quality if not the cosmetics there

The projects total around 660 kilobucks, plus another 965 kilobucks on the sanitary sewer capital improvement project.

Doug asked about the five acre Stringfield Park on Naef Rd, owned and controlled by North Clackamas Parks & Recreation. The Sanitary District got involved to create a model riparian corridor to show other neighborhoods what improvements could be made for them, but it still has a lot of berries, ivy and other invasive plant growth, so landscape design for 25-50' out from banks will follow, then the District will look to see if volunteering & donations will get the job done, or if it must contract it out. Federal funding requires no one occupy the house there; Jerry Fox is trying to get consent for a groundskeeper there. The District's Community Advisory Committee is pondering a weekend planting there as well.

George asked about the diffuser in the river. Jim replied the district has a 300' mixing zone above & below the outfall. It can't discharge acute toxics outside zone of initial dilution (a 30' range), and no chronic toxics can be discharged at all within that 300' radius mixing zone.

He also noted a disparity in how toxics are regulated: Industries can discharge 40 times what a public district or agency can do, and noted the difference between provind a small amount of jobs versus serving the homes of his district's 30,000 people.

An ongoing bioassay on fish, algae & plants showed if the organic toxics remaining after treatment are diluted to 25% or less, the fish monitored lived as well or better than a same-species control group of fish in clean water.

Most problems the District's treatment plant experiences are not not the high volume organics which clear when mixed with air in the water ('aerated'), but the heavy metals and the PCBs (poly-bichorinated phenyls) like paper mills generate. Of the heavy metals, mercury is the major offender. Studies show 135 kilograms (298 pounds) a year, only three percent of which comes through the treatment plants. That three percent, incidentally, primarily comes from dentists' office, when removing old or applying new fillings.

--

Land Use: Dick Jones

First, he discussed case Z-29300, the property down next to the Wick's. Additional data was not provided within seven days & a ruling is forthcoming when the hearing officer (Epstein) returns from vacation.

An appeal to waive a sidewalk on Rimrock Meadows on Rimrock Lane will be heard on May 26.

The county denied setbacks variances for a duplex on a 45' lot at Oak Grove & Lee, as was another variance at what was Dr Walker's house with only 16'9" betwen house & line. The county seems to be less generous in waivers now.

--

Other miscellaneous items:

Dick Jones & Thelma (?) discussed support for a trail. A good 'SOLVE Day' was had. Will figure out how to widen trail & clear veg, perhaps with flail mower. New trail users found from that event have spoken up. The trail has been surveyed, and the county will contract the work. County now holds deed to trail, Metro is no longer involved. Will have walks in June & July as last year Monday nights.

A Library spokesperson will speak at the next Oak Lodge CC meeting. The library is negotiating for another year at least at current location.

Another member wants to invite a county spokesperson to speak on their policy, methods and experience in resolving Measure 37 claims. Kent Squires from the Sanitary District briefly noted claimants with legitimate criteria are winning zoning waivers, as the county does not have funding to fight claimants.

Chuck Peterson praised PGE for effectively dealing with a power loss at his home last week. Power failed at 7:15 PM. After troubleshooting, a power company tech was on site in an hour to restore the 110v service. A crew started at eight the next day & by 11:15, 220v service was restored.

George Schneider noted, in follow-through to the CCSO deputy's mail/identity theft discussion, that a friend had checks stolen from mail. The Sheriff's department quickly caught the crooks & recovered all but three blank checks.

Adjourned at 9PM.

US Bank, Bank of America & Chase still force users to be vulnerable to ID theft

Posted in the highly recommended Risks Digest:

This may have been discussed before, but with the recent spate of DNS cache poisoning attacks and fake WiFi hotspot proliferation I believe it has new relevance.

I was actually rather shocked to find that U.S. Bank, Chase and Bank of America all still *force* users to enter their login and password on an insecure page. This exposes account holders to a great risk of their credentials being stolen. The login forms on their genuine home pages are submitted to a secure site, as they claim.

The problem is that you need security *before* you enter your data. If DNS, a router or a proxy server anywhere along the path to their server were compromised, the login page could be substituted for one that submits to another site or injected with JavaScript that sends info elsewhere, asynchronously, before it goes to the real destination. Without an SSL certificate chain there is no way to verify that the insecure page with the form came from a trusted source and no way short of exhaustive code inspection to tell where the form data is actually going.

BankOne, Wells Fargo, Citi, Washington Mutual, Bank of the West, Key Bank and Sun Trust all offer SSL versions of their login page, but for some reason, U.S. Bank, BofA and Chase redirect to an insecure site or return an error when trying to connect with SSL. You *can't* log in securely, even if you try. The existence of this kind of obvious and fundamental security mistake after all the publicity about this category of attack (note that all these banks *do* have a user education page on phishing/fraud prevention!) is definitely something to keep in mind when choosing a bank.

- Brad Hill

Oak Lodge CPO meeting tonight

This is not an official announcement of the Oak Lodge CC.

The Oak Lodge Community Council, a Community Planning Organization of Clackamas County, will meet tonight at 7PM at the Oak Lodge Sanitary District headquarters, 14611 SE River Road, which sadly has no Tri-Met connection closer than 8/10 of a mile away at that hour.

This map shows if you are within the boundaries of the Oak Lodge CC.

A phone call today to chair Richard (Dick) Jones revealed tonight's agenda will include:

- A presentation of the flouridation of water
- A county rep to speak on Summer Paving projects
- Special District reports, from the Sheriff's Department, Clackamas County Fire District No. 1, Sewers and Water.
- There is no Land Use report planned for this evening.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

If You Unwire, They Will Come: Cheap Urban Renewal for Clackamas County by Free WiFi

Although this impinges on the technical, so I'd normally write about it over in my Tech Blog, it has the possibility of significant economic benefit for my friends and neighbors in Clackamas County, so it really belongs here. I'll keep the bits-bytes-RAM-ROM technobabble down to a minimum, so please stick with me.

Phone companies (with DSL) and cable systems have been the primary way to get better-than-dial-up connections to the Internet, and a significant portion of the public now view this as essential, with 56% use nationwide, and much higher use here in the metro area.

Good Internet connections create jobs where there were none before; just look at Google's expansion into the Dalles, because there was a good very-high-speed connection there, built by foresighted city leaders.

My mother-in-law in Prineville is a self-employed information worker, so I learned Prineville is becoming popular in part because of the availability of cable broadband, DSL and wireless Internet, for folks priced out of Bend and Redmond.

The cellular companies have been trying, without much luck, to become an alternative provider for Internet connections with their '3G' cellular data service, but that's spendy and has serious drawbacks; making a connection is slow ('latency'), so even if they're fast once connected, waiting for that connection is trouble; and, since the Internet is pretty much a system where you reconnect every few seconds, with multiple connections required for every new web page likely, that latency is a big drawback. So, counting on cellular as an alternative isn't practical, especially when it has limited capacity for growth without more spectrum.

And, the major telephone companies, after decades of promising fiber to the doorstep, still only deliver plain-old-DSL, and that's if you're lucky enough to have an uninterrupted stretch of quality wiring to your house from a central office which can be no more than three miles away. Their empty promises got them tax breaks, but hurt your ability to connect.

Instead, the practical alternative to expensive Urban Renewal is free wireless networking. Making it easy to reach the Internet from a home or home office is a wonderful 'force multiplier' for the local economy, and Portland's Personal Project is 'unwiring' inner-city North Portland.

With the low rents, easy transit access and funky old buildings of downtown Milwaukie and Oregon City, adding free wireless Interent would be a cheap and effective way to create a new young crowd in those aging, greying blighted areas, a crowd which is now finding similar neigborhoods along Alberta and in the Pearl too expesive with rising rents. 'Unwiring' is much cheaper than traditional Urban Renewal, especially if a Meyer Memorial Trust grant could be found (as was the case for the North Mississippi neighborhood project).

It's also much easier to measure your progress, as the web traffic itself will tell you how successful your project has become.

Fortunately, the recent attempt down in Salem to stifle community wireless died in committee, no thanks to the Republican House member from Ontario and our very own Democrat from Happy Valley, Michael Schaufler. However, watch for further assaults on community wireless, because creating a monopoly is easy to do if the politicians are bought cheaply.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The fumes are getting to me....

as I find myself running on fumes more and more often, reluctant to pay the 25 cent-per-gallon higher prices at some gas stations when compared to other local stations. Some folks will pay higher prices, just like some folks will pay more in Tanasbourne for milk than I do in Oak Grove, but it's virtualy all the same stuff inside the tank of my truckette, so why not shop for it? Shopping for gas drives prices down.

Yesterday's lowest price locally for regular is
$2.319 a gallon (Troutdale) vs
$1.839 in Jackson, Missouri, and
$2.919 in Rancho Mirage, California.

How do I know that? Gas Price Watch, and Portland Gas Prices, a service of Gas Buddy.

Yes, some of those sites have lots of pop-up ads. I don't see them because I use AdBlocker with Firefox. Both are free, and make web use much more pleasant, not only for keeping me from having to see ads, but also to keep my computer from taking the time to download and calculate how to show those ads to me. The tech guru of the Wall Street Journal praises it for its speed and security. Shouldn't you?

AAA also posts average pricing for Oregon and nationally, and will even estimate the fuel cost of a trip for you.

And, BTW, gas, even with today's prices, is a much lower part of the cost of owning a car than most think. Shop more carefully for loans, or maybe even keep driving your heap another year to save up for a bigger down payment, and you'll save a lot more than if gas dropped back to the prices of a decade ago.

As long as the cost of building a new refinery's too expensive (thanks to NIMBY folks), we'll have these prices, and higher, because even if the base price of crude oil drops, there are so many other factors affecting prices (such as 'boutique fuels') and with our very limited pipeline, we will assuredly have higher gas prices than average.

We will not conserve our way out of this problem. However, there are a few adjustments in your driving habits which might save you a few bucks.

So, short term:
1. Get a new tire gauge that's easier to read, or the tire valve caps which show when your tires need inflation by color change. Think about buying a small compressor ($20 or so) to make refilling your tires quicker (and therefore more likely to do). Most tires are underinflated, and that not only costs you more $$ in gas but also makes the care less safe.
2. Plan your trips into one large expedition instead of several small trips.
3. Drive a little slower, as wind resistance is proportional to the square of your speed. Watch the cars around you as you enter the highway, and see where they are a few miles later. You'll see the cars which push to be at the head of the pack are often just a few car lengths away from you many miles down the road. Instead of pushing, coast a little when you see a light ahead that's yellow or red, as rolling starts are more efficient than dead starts.
4. Change the oil & air filter more often so your engine's more efficient.
5. Take off the roof rack and roof carriers to decrease drag.
6. Roll up the windows over 40mph and use the vent fan or A/C instead.
7. Empty your trunk and truck bed of stuff you don't need (but leave your Disaster Preparedness kit in).
8. Tighten the gas cap so fumes don't evaporate out.
9. Turn your engine off if you will be waiting for more than a minute in a drive-up window line (or maybe, park and get out, if the line inside's shorter than the line outside).
10. And, to offset higher pump prices, shop for insurance, for insurance is a higher chunk of the cost of car ownership than gas is, and it's easy to shop for rates.

Long term:
* Don't turn purple when folks talk about nuclear power. Ne designs are radically safer, and since there are no 'hydrogen wells' (except for the ones we already are pumping for gasoline and natural gas', we have to get energy from somewhere. China's nuclear power initiative is well underway, and there's no reason to keep burning dead dinosaurs we will need for plastics feedstock.
* Support the space program. Japan's already testing solar power satellite components. SPS will beam power back to earth, safely; one receiving antenna 150% the size of Forest Park could provide five gigawatts of no-emissions, no-pollution power; and, the land underneath can be used for solar sells, thermanl solar or even grazing, for the receiving antenna is just a wire net on stakes above the ground.

And, by all means, keep the politicians out of gas price controls. Eastern states are barring the Costcos and other discounters from offering gas cheaper. Don't let that happen here.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Battle of the Dining Guides

Just a wee bit punchy from the all-day most-of-the-right training drill (which continues tomorrow, oh, noooo!!!!!!!) which got real interesting, when Life Imitated Art and severe thunderstorms appeared in the middle of our severe-thunderstorms-morph-into-tornados practice exercise scenario.

Anyway, stumbled across a possibly useful link which takes you to a search-by-area-and-cuisine finder at Oregonlive, as well as their newly updated restaurant guide.

Willy Week has a similar finder, as well as a recently revised review compendium and a Cheap Eats column, so you pack your Rolaids and you takes your chances.

Don't get me wrong, I still trust the alt.portland.or.us guide more, but alt.portland can't cover it all.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

'Web Bugs' on tax return sites illegal?

This San Francisco Chronicle follow-on article to the Internet privacy violation story I reported last week suggests H&R Block, Intuit/Quicken/TurboTax and others violated CA state law by tracking Internet use when you file a tax return through them.

Guess you're better off by filing your taxes with somebody local, who has a soul.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Click - Buzz - Click, Part Three

Last week, I'd described how I carefully picked a hot tub repair company, and the preliminary results.

Well, since Friday, when the tech completed the repair, the hot tub has had an internal breaker trip once, but otherwise has worked well. One additional component which was visibly failing (a pressure switch, a safety mechanism in the control pack to keep from burning out the heater element if the water ain't flowing) also needed repair, which the tech handled on the spot (good; dripping water into the electrics is generally seen as bad).

So, I'm reasonably certain the job was done well, and without the complication of the unanticipated failed part (which could not be tested for, until the pump was replaced), it would have been under the estimate cost. So, one Attaboy to Hot Water Doctors / Spa Outlet.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Trivial, but entertaining



Your Linguistic Profile:



50% Dixie

25% General American English

15% Yankee

5% Midwestern

5% Upper Midwestern




A: 1 3 6 7 8 10 11 13 15 18 20
c: 5 12

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Marketing Companies Get Your Private Tax Information

The San Francisco Chronicle reports H&R Block and Intuit (publisher of the Quicken and Turbo Tax programs) use third-party marketing companies to track where you go on the web, and there's no controls on what those companies could do with your data.
"We could capture your name, your Social Security number or any other information that you willingly pass to a Web site," acknowledged Matt Belkin, who serves as vice president of best practices for Utah marketing giant Omniture, which tracks the online activities of people using Intuit's TurboTax.
An IRS spokesdroid gave the reporter the mechanic's shrug before stating
"The IRS is aware that there are many commercial companies that use Web tracking tools in conjunction with their Web sites," he said. "The IRS does not take a position on Web tracking tools."

Of course, Intuit is not the only tax prep firm on line... there are others (with whom I have no connection).
But, whatever you do, keep working for Tax Freedom Day ain't until Sunday. And, after that, you have to keep paying for Governor Molester and his cronies.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Click - Buzz - Click, Part Two

Left a message for Spa Outlet, Saturday, but no callback from service on Monday.

I call them Monday, and they knew of the message (but why not call back?)

They send out a tech (let's call him 'D') who arrives shortly before 4PM and diagnoses problem as a stuck pump, and can't clear it on the spot. He says completion would depend on part availability, which he can't determine that day, and that he'll call me back next day shortly after his 9:30 meeting completes.

Well, the next day (today), he doesn't call back, so I call shortly at 10:53 AM... and get voice mail (!). Call again at 11:16 AM, get a woman I'll call 'K', who takes a message.

'D' calls back at 11:58 AM, and says he's sorry for not calling back. He says he does have the part, but does not know he he can get here today, and promises to have the scheduler call back. She does not, so I call at 4:14PM, and get 'K' again. She sounds exasperated at me (the customer) for calling, and says 'D' only told her about an hour ago of his promise to have her call.

She wants to book a return visit Wednesday afternoon, and when I start to explain my schedule will not permit it, interrupts me to tell me to explain (?) I do explain I'd been up front several times about what days would work and what would not, starting with Saturday's call, so she says she'll 'keep the call open' until I can call back with a better time.

I call back, and book the next appointment for Friday afternoon at 3:30. Stay tuned....

UPDATE Thursday

"K" calls back and confirms the appointment, in a professional manner. There May Be Hope, After All. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Misunderestimating

The official press release detailing 43's visit to Florida seems somewhat at odds with the version reported in Doonesbury. How does one reconcile the difference?

43 was addressing the issue of Social Security, yet the problem seems very small, when compared to Medicare's funding woes, and of other real threats to the American People. Just take a look at this calculator to see what the current plans for change would do for you.

Meanwhile, Discovery Channel debuts an excellent documentary on Mt. St. Helens & Mt. Ranier today, as well as another good doc on tsunamis. Those are real and present dangers, which are horribly underfunded, as is North American border security.

When you visit the Oregon Coast, make sure to keep your eyes open for the evacuation route signs, or, better yet, plan your escape route with those maps before you leave home, and maybe even pick your place to stay based on its safety in the event of.... because if you need evacuation plan knowledge, you'll need it in a hurry, right?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Click - Buzz - Click, Part One

Go to the hot tub to turn it on.

Click - Buzz - Click. No joy.

Hmmm. Power's going through the control pack (the box with the electronics, relays and other controls) to the pump, so likely it's the pump. I can repair interocitiers and flux capacitors, but stooping down in a Jeffries tube to deal with pumps ain't my metier.

So, how do you pick a hot tub mechanic, on a hot tub not bought locally? Went to USENET as is my wont, and found only one experience, positive or negative, for Portland or Oregon hot tub or spa repair in seven years of search.

So, then, I hied off to the OR-WA Better Business Bureau. I quickly found four spa repair firms who are BBB members. Called them all, found actual human beings at three of them on a Saturday afternoon (!) and am waiting for callback from techs at all of them. Stay tuned for more info.

All the firms met these OR-WA BBB specs:
All participate in the Membership Identification Program and agrees to use mediation and/or arbitration if necessary to resolve disputes.

To have a Satisfactory Record with the Bureau, a company must be in business for at least 12 months, properly and promptly address matters referred to it by the Bureau, and be free from an unusual volume or pattern of complaints and law enforcement action involving its marketplace conduct. In addition, the Bureau must have a clear understanding of the company's business and no concerns about its industry.

Reports as of April 9, 2005.


Classic Pool & Spa Distributors Inc 503-656-0021 17875 SE 82nd Dr, Gladstone
Original Business Start Date: 12/79
Incorporated (OR): 12/79
File Open Date: 1/80
BBB Member since 1/03.
One complaint has been processed by the bureau in its three-year reporting period. Although the customer disputed the company's response, based on BBB experience the company properly addressed all the issues of the complaint.
Booked out a week in advance, so I tried Spa Outlet.


Spa Outlet 503-655-2900 10560 SE Hwy 212, Clackamas
Additional DBA Names: The Hot Water Doctors Inc, The Spa Outlet
Original Business Start Date: 4/94
Incorporated (OR): 1/94
File Open Date: September 1997
BBB member since 9/04.
Complaints processed by the Bureau in its three-year reporting period have been resolved. The number and type of complaints are not unusual for a company in this industry.
See my post of Tuesday, 12 April.


Neptune Swimming Pool Co. 503-659-1335 13785 SE Ambler Rd, Clackamas
Original Business Start Date: 1/59
File Open Date: 1/70
Principal: Mr Ronald W Nelson, President
BBB member since 5/76.
The Bureau has processed no customer complaints on this company in the last three years.
Well, sadly, these folks don't do above-ground hot tubs. They sounded like the most competent of the four.


Pellet Stoves & Spas 503-252-9606 repair 503-632-7674 21553 S Hwy 213, Oregon City
Original Business Start Date: 1/81
File Open Date: 1/81
BBB member since 4/97
The Bureau has processed no customer complaints on this company in the last three years.
Fellow I spoke with sounded nice, but by the time I found him, I'd already booked another one of the service firms.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Well, Portland.Citysearch.Com claims to evaluate local businesses, too.

So I asked for their list of top 15 firms in Spa Repair after reading their fine print (paraphrased for brevity):
Citysearch uses the online popularity of a business to determine an initial index value. We only assign values to the top businesses across the country. Next, and most important, we evaluate the member and editorial recommendations for all businesses. Positive recommendations score a business higher towards 9.9. Negative recommendations score a business lower to 1.0. If a business receives many more negative recommendations than positive, it does not receive an identifier.
• Popular (P)- If a business has lots of online traffic and very few recommendations.
• Recommended (R) - If a business has only a few positives, or has a mix of positive & negative recommendations.
• Highly Recommended (HR) - If a business has an overwhelming positive response from many members & editorial staff.
So, I looked into the current top results for "Pool & Spa Service" in the tri-county area at Citysearch.

None earned 'Recommended' or 'Highly Recommended', so it looks like ratings are all or predominantly popularity-based, which perhaps bespeaks more to the quality of their web designer than their skills at repair. Therefore, I looked up the top two firms from Citysearch in the BBB files, and the results were very interesting:

8.4 Geiger Pools & Spas, 6767 SW Macadam Ave, Portland: BBB reports complaints have been processed by the bureau in its three-year reporting period, & one complaint is unresolved.

8.1 Rose City Pool & Spa Service, 7235 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland: Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to an unanswered complaint.

Gee, is there any other reason to look at the Citysearch lists, when the two top rated firms have unsatisfactory records with the BBB? Well, if you must....

7.6 Northwest Spa Maintenance, 6505 SE Needham St, Milwaukie
7.5 Brightwater Pool & Spa, 15685 SW 116 Ave #101, Portland
7.5 Hot Water Doctors, 10560 SE Hwy 212, Clackamas
7.4 Caldera Spas Service, 3095 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton
7.4 Spa Doctor, 11642 SW Pacific Hwy #B, Tigard
7.2 Algreco Pool & Spa, 1515 SE Claybourne St, Portland
7.2 Carefree Pool & Spa Supply, 14801 NE Airport Way, Portland
7.2 Soak Tubs Spa & Pool Parts, 31544 SE Bluff Rd, Gresham
7.2 Willamette Spa Service, 31100 SW Unger Rd, Cornelius
7.1 Pool & Spa Medic, 29909 S Hawthorne Ln, Colton

Friday, April 08, 2005

If It Matters to Oregon, The Washington Post Says It's In Willamette Week

Robert MacMillan, a Washington Post Tech columnist, acknowledges they got scooped on an Oregon story by Willamette Week (page down to Online: It's Where the News Is), in describing WW getting the first Pulitzer for a story broken on-line (the Governor Molester saga).
Jacquiss and the Willamette Week deserve kudos for recognizing the value of the Web and using it to help ensure that the Willamette Week -- and not the daily Portland Oregonian -- broke the news first.
And, if you just drove up the Five last week, the official slogan of Oregon's newspaper of record is "If it matters to Oregon, it's in the Washington Post", which denotes the peculiarity of a large out-of-town-ownership daily newspaper and its aversion to break important news about Oregon.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ambulance Response slower? Consider an AED

My wife and I are both First Aid/CPR/AED trained, but the sad part is, CPR, even when done properly, is only about 5% effective in dealing with heart attack. Starting CPR before the fire truck gets there doubles the survival rate, but I like to load my dice when it's my life we're talking about.

This gizmo increases the odds significantly for geezers like us; that is, if you'd like to have something to do while waiting for the fire truck. More below, about waiting for the ambulance....

Test Driving a Home Defibrillator
As Heart Devices Become More Accessible, We Try One
Giving 'Matt' a Shock
April 6, 2005; Page D1, Wall Street Journal


When I had a heart attack seven years ago, I arrived, conscious and alert at a hospital emergency room, where the doctors and nurses proceeded to save my life. In many cases, the standard kind of heart attack I suffered doesn't kill instantly, and offers a decent chance of survival if the patient is cared for properly -- partly because the heart, while damaged, is still beating.

But there's another type of heart attack that comes on without warning, leaves the victim unconscious, and kills within minutes if emergency treatment isn't rendered on the spot. It's called sudden cardiac arrest. In sudden cardiac arrest the heart suddenly stops beating, and the patient will die unless it can be started again within a few minutes. According to the American Heart Association, hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year from such cardiac arrest. The main tool for saving these victims is a device called a heart defibrillator, which uses an electric shock to restart the heart's beating.

"Cardiac arrest is reversible in most victims if it's treated within a few minutes with an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. This process is called defibrillation," the association explains on its Web site. "A victim's chances of survival are reduced by seven to 10% with every minute that passes without defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes."

In cardiac-arrest cases, it's crucial to call 911 immediately so emergency medics can speed to the scene. They can use a defibrillator to shock the heart into beating again. But now, you can also buy a simple heart defibrillator meant for home use by average people without medical training. You can use the device to try to restart a stopped heart even before the medics arrive. It even helps you administer Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

This week, my assistant Katie Boehret and I tested this new device, the HeartStart Home Defibrillator from Philips. The HeartStart was designed to be simple enough for anyone to use, regardless of age, technical skill or medical knowledge. It is clearly marked with directional drawings and language, and even has vocal prompts that guide the user through each step.

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And, why is this relevant?

Well, AMR, the ambulance company who operates EMS in most of the county, has gotten an adjustment from the county in its contract. Its response time standard in urban areas has gotten slower by two minutes, on the pretext that the CCFD No. 1 fire truck will arrive quicker, and the fire trucks have paramedics and/or EMTs. AMR is 'rebating' back to the county an adjustment in the cost of the service.

Also on background, here's a little more information about the history of ambulance service in the county.

This does not apply to the Lake Oswego Fire Department (1 ambulance), the Molalla (2 ambulances) and Canby (3 ambulances) Fire Districts, which provide their own ambulance service (all backed up through mutual aid agreements).

Nor does it apply to 'rural' and 'frontier' areas of the county; the latter's arrival time is more than half an hour. CCFD#1 is the second largest fire district in Oregon, with over 170 square miles to cover, BTW, and from what I've seen in a couple of years of repeating involvement, they do an excellent job, but there's only so much they can do with the resources provided.

For reference, back in 2000, AMR met their performance time standard 25% of the time in Lake Oswego, West Linn and other areas west of the Clackamas river, and 90% of the time east of the river.

Would you like to increase your odds? Step away from the cheeseburger, take a walk, and plan for disasters, even the small-scale, personal ones.

BTW, here's contact information for your neighborhood Community Planning Organization, if you have an interest in learning more about watching for such decisions. Also, here's the list of county advisory committee vacancies, and the application form.