A Weekend at Colonyhouse

It’s been years since Robin and I have been to the beach. It’s not so far, but it’s difficult to get away, what with our busy and conflicting schedules. But there we were, at one of my favorite spots, Colonyhouse in Rockaway Beach. Colonyhouse is owned by Oregon Writers Colony and is used as a writer’s retreat and a place for small workshops. We were there visiting with OWC president Marlene Howard, her husband, Spud, and Brad and Laurel (whose last names I never learned). The purpose of the gathering was to discuss and prioritize improvements and repairs that could and need to be made on the place.

Robin and I arrived just at noon Saturday, and, after settling in, each of us wandered through the house with notebook and pencil. Then we had a lengthy and lively discussion around the dining table about things we’d like to fix or change. We talked about small things like replacing wall decor and big things like remodeling the kitchen and much in between. In the end we agreed taking care of the kitchen had priority.

Business out of the way, Robin and I took to the beach. We had left Vancouver that morning thinking it would dreary and wet, but once we got into the coast range, the weather cleared. Our walk along the beach, just as the tide was on the ebb, was bright and clear with only a slight breeze.

The evening brought lots of conversation, much of which took place around the dining table. We ate bowls of minestrone, which Spud had prepared in advance (you may have guessed he is a chef), followed by Tillamook ice cream and a heaping bowl of popcorn cooked in lard. I’d never heard of such a thing, but Spud has been making that way since his father taught him how.

The expected rain came in overnight, and the morning was foggy and wet. Robin and I didn’t get up until 9:30, which is the latest we’ve slept in, possibly, for several years. After several cups of coffee and handfuls of left-over popcorn, we headed home.

I joined Oregon Writers Colony in 1984, just a year after it was founded. That year I attended my first-ever writers’ conference, which OWC held at Silver Falls State Park. I became friends with—among many others—co-f0unders Marlene and the late Lola Janes, who were students of Portland writer Don James at Portland State University’s Summer Haystack Program in the Arts.

Since then I’ve been an on-again, off-again member of OWC, as different projects, responsibilities, and life changes influenced how I would spend my time and resources. But every time I reacquaint myself with OWC I’m inspired by being around people who simply love the craft of writing.

In the early days, OWC’s dream was to have a place at the beach where writers could work in solitude or gather with other writers. In 1988, thanks to a bequest from the estate of Lola Janes and a generous gift from Jean Auel, the dream took shape in the form of Colonyhouse.

There may be a more ideal spot for a writer’s retreat, but you’d have to do some searching. Just two hours from Portland, Colonyhouse is situated on a hill between Lake Lytle to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Where else could you find two distinctively different waterfront views? But there is more than the location that makes Colonyhouse a spectacular writer’s retreat. It’s a log house built by  John Steiner, son of Henry Steiner, who together built dozens of exquisit log cabinsin the Mt. Hood area.

The previous owner had covered the outside with aluminum siding, which seems a desecration. But who knows what toll the coastal weather took on the place? The inside, with the exception of the kitchen and bathrooms, are in fabulous shape. The workmanship is exacting. It’s hard to imagine the patience and skill it took assemble the rough-hewn timbers and the massive stones for the fireplace.

Yet OWC has ambitious plans for Colonyhouse. If money were not an object, instead of a few repairs, the ground/basement floor would be extended to the east, with a meeting room, more bedrooms and a large bathroom. Spacious decks would extend east and west, and an elevator would rise from the front parking area to the main floor. Already there are rolls of blueprints to pore over, but until OWC can generate the funds to start, we’ll have to settle for a kitchen upgrade.

End of the World, Take 2 (or 3 or 4 or…)

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the world, for some believers, is in its last week of existence. Friday is Doomsday.

It’s not such a big deal as it was last spring, when Harold Camping and his followers predicted the world would come to a cataclysmic end on May 21. Many of these followers sold sold their belongings and went on crusades of conversion, encouraging repentance as a preparation for judgement day. Camping was wrong, of course, because that day came and went much like every other day. But then again, he insists he’s right. On his Family Radio website, which has gone through an extreme makeover, he explains what really happened on May 21. That the world didn’t come to a violent end was all part of the Plan.

Image from the Family Radio website, two days before the world did not en

“What really happened is that God accomplished exactly what He wanted to happen. That was to warn the whole world that on May 21 God’s salvation program would be finished on that day. For the next five months, except for the elect (the true believers), the whole world is under God’s final judgment. To accomplish this goal God withheld from the true believers the way in which two phrases were to be understood. Had He not done so, the world would never have been shaken in fear as it was.

“…Indeed, on May 21 Christ did come spiritually to put all of the unsaved throughout the world into judgment. But that universal judgment will not be physically seen until the last day of the five month judgment period, on October 21, 2011.

That’s right. Friday is the day. The last day. For good.

Only this time, according to Camping, it will be a quiet event. In a Time magazine newsfeed, Camping states:

“I really am beginning to think as I restudied these matters that there’s going to be no big display of any kind. The end is going to come very, very quietly, probably within the next month. It will happen, that is, by October 21.”

The quote, according to Time, comes from one of Camping’s radio announcements.

Camping, who is ninety, had a stroke in June. Perhaps, for him—not to mention a good deal of others around the world—the end will come quietly on Oct. 21. For the rest of us, however, we all have December 21, 2012 to look forward to—or worry about, depending on your particular beliefs.

Doomsday predictions are as old as the hills, as the saying goes. Here’s a list of 10 failed predictions. It doesn’t include Camping’s bogus 1994 prediction. I’m predicting the Mayan Calendar non-event will make the list in due time.

The Widening Chasm between Wisdom and Delusion

Chasm

Soon, as the weather gets less hospitable and people find the need to get back to their ordinary lives, the Occupy Wall St. movement will come to an end. The 99% will go their way within the system, like it or not. I do hope something positive comes from it all, but in today’s hostile political, social, and economic environments, I doubt the protests will make much difference to those who control the immense flow of money throughout the country and around the world.

Meanwhile, I’ve come across a couple of quotes that illustrate just how wide the chasm is between logic and reason on the one side and delusion on the other. The first is from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who writes:

“The way to understand all of this [the Occupy Wall St. movement] is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.”

The second is from Rush Limbaugh, who states on his website:

“Many of these protestors are bored trust fund kids, obsessed with being something, being somebody, meaningless lives, they want to matter. Others are just showing up for the fun of it to rabble-rouse.”

It doesn’t take much take much consideration to see which of these statements is reasonable and which isn’t; to see which comes from a ground of understanding and which comes from a ground of contempt.

The Limbaugh quote comes from a web page labeled “Pearls of Wisdom.” But there is something wrong here, if not incredibly ironic. Wisdom, by its nature, must be wholesome. Wisdom can never be hateful or divisive. To believe otherwise is delusion.

The chasm between wisdom and ignorance is huge and growing wider by the day as the Internet is used, not always to bring people together, but as a powerful cannon of propaganda aimed to intentionally deceive, manipulate, and divide.

Somewhere, there is an Island of peace, away from hostility and ignorance.

Holding Back on the Praise of Steve Jobs

I’ve been using Apple computers since somewhere around 1987. My first computer was a Kaypro II. After that was no longer usable, I got a DOS machine. When it came time to replace it I got a Macintosh.

I have never owned a Windows machine and have only marginal familiarity with that environment. I don’t foresee every using anything but an Apple computer. “But Macs are so expensive,” some people will say.

Yeah, Macs are expensive. But they work well, are easy to use, and are relatively durable. And they are elegant, both physically and functionally. These qualities have value that’s worth paying for. As Guy Kawasaki writes here in “What I Learned from Steve Jobs”:

“Woe unto you if you decide everything based on price. Even more woe unto you if you compete solely on price. Price is not all that matters—what is important, at least to some people, is value. And value takes into account training, support, and the intrinsic joy of using the best tool that’s made. It’s pretty safe to say that no one buys Apple products because of their low price.”

So I’m an Apple fan.

And like everyone else in the world, I’ve been hearing and reading about what a innovative and visionary genius Steve Jobs was. All over the Internet are stories about and lists of how he changed the way people use computers, communicate, and buy and listen to music.

I wish I could be more like Jobs: innovative, persuasive, brilliant. Don’t you?

Yet there is something unsettling to me about all the praise that has been heaped upon him since he died last Wednesday. It’s unsettling because according to things I’ve heard over the years and especially what I’ve been reading recently (for example here and here), Steve Jobs was not a nice guy. Here’s what Rob Long writes in National Review Online, just two days before Jobs’s death:

“The stories of Steve’s temper are passed around Silicon Valley like business cards. Steve tossing a chair when a prototype wasn’t thin enough. Steve firing an engineer in an elevator when the engineer told him about the battery life of a new iPhone. Steve scrapping an entire product line because it wasn’t perfect, and had no hope of becoming perfect. Steve demanding more features. Steve insisting on better syncing. Steve shouting for thinner. Steve screaming for lighter. Steve terrifying his employees, his vendors, his business partners. Steve, engaged in furious e-mail exchanges with journalists, bloggers, and random customers who happened to e-mail him at the right moment, when he was taking a break from making his employees sweat and from engineering even higher standards.”

So why did employees (those who were not fired) put up with such things? The pay, either in cash or stock options, must have been great. But it was more than that. I think people at Apple knew they were on the edge of something great, and they believed Jobs would take them there. That thinking was part of the culture of Apple. As Kawasaki put it:

“I lived in fear that Steve would tell me that I, or my work, was crap. In public. This fear was a big challenge. Competing with IBM and then Microsoft was a big challenge. Changing the world was a big challenge. I, and Apple employees before me and after me, did our best work because we had to do our best work to meet the big challenges.”

A visionary like Jobs would get nowhere and accomplish nothing unless he could attract very talented people who could tolerate his mercurial behavior for their own gain and convince venture capitalists that his ideas would make them all the wealthier. Perhaps that was his greatest strength.

So, yeah, Jobs had an impact on the world. And he was, until last Wednesday, a living legend. Now he’s ranked with Edison and Einstein and Ford for his accomplishments. Yet I think care should be taken in praising too much a tantrum thrower who treated people so poorly and allowed less-than-ethical business practices when it came to stock options.

I will continue to use Apple products because I, too, believe they great value for the money, both functionally and aesthetically.