Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Margin Notes: Burgers, Water, Steam

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON - For the first time in memory, I had the opportunity to eat at In-N-Out Burger (in Rancho Cordova, California) and Burgerville (in Portland, Oregon) within a few days of one another recently. The two chains, both heavily identified with their local regions and fresh ingredients, make for an interesting comparison. I have to say that I prefer In-N-Out's french fries, but Burgerville makes a tastier burger. I suppose it should, considering that their prices are significantly higher than In-N-Out--I paid less than $7 in California for what cost nearly $10 in Oregon. Burgerville also should receive credit for a very tasty chocolate hazelnut shake.

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Neither burger establishment serves doughnuts. I doubt there would be any policemen at In-N-Out anyway, as in the Sacramento area they all seem to be downtown. Maybe I'm just unlucky, but it seems to me that whenever I have walked around the "Sacramento Valley" railroad station and the state capitol building, I run into at least two police cars driving with their lights on, and my recent experience was no different. I didn't think Sacramento had a reputation as a center of crime, but I've not seen the density of police activity in any other city I've visited in recent years.

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Lookout Point Reservoir east of Eugene, Oregon was quite low in level on 12-December-2009

I was in Sacramento to catch Amtrak's Coast Starlight for the trip north to Portland. The train reaches Klamath Falls, Oregon by morning and then passes over the Cascade Mountains between Chemult and Eugene. The snow at high elevations was to be expected this time of year, but I was a little surprised to find Lookout Point Reservoir to be so low in December--taking the Starlight north was once my routine during my undergraduate years and I don't recall it being anywhere near this low in December.

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This unusual sign was located at Oaks Park in Portland, Oregon--next to the location where the steam locomotives left the station for "Holiday Express" runs--on 13-December-2009

They cannot be to blame for low reservoir levels, but steam locomotives need water to turn it into steam. When departing after a long stop, they have to "blow off" steam, which creates a nice show for observers some distance away, but also means that in this day of lawyer-induced liability concerns, volunteers had to be stationed to keep people from being surprised by steam in their face during the "Holiday Express" event, and leading to the very unusual sign above posted where the "blow off" would occur at Oaks Park in Portland, Oregon.

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As always when passing through town, I sampled the Portland, Oregon radio dial. KEX surprised me somewhat by still maintaining its full hour of news at noon--a rarity on newstalk stations these days--but the real stand-out was KPOJ. The "Power of Justice" progressive talk station actually feels like a local station by having a full local morning show and then local news inserts throughout the day on syndicated programming. I can't think of another left-wing talk station that operates this way--it's not hard to see how it is a rare major (well, #23) market success in a left-leaning station, most of which barely appear in the ratings at all. With Thom Hartmann filling in on its morning show and doing his national show afterward back-to-back on Monday, it was a bit of Thom overkill, but it was still quite listenable for talk radio, something I could not say for Lars Larson on KXL.

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