A little ‘crazy’ is the kind of sanity we need right now

Free Souls bikers enjoy the Grand Floral Parade with families and tourists/Ned Hickson

By Ned Hickson Editor/Siuslaw News

After returning to Florence in 1996, I spent the next 20 years living in Old Town across from the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk. We grew accustomed to the arrival of the Davis Carnival during the annual Rhododendron Festival and living so close that we could practically high-five riders on the Tilt-o-Whirl without leaving the couch.

The banging together of carnival rides late Wednesday night signaled the beginning of four days of craziness that transforms our quiet community of about 8,000 into a beautiful example of controlled chaos shared by upwards of 20,000 diverse visitors.

For those four days I always marvel at how our community transforms into an unlikely concoction of flower enthusiasts, bikers and tourists, all co-mingling over beers, art, carnival rides, fast cars, bacon-wrapped hot dogs and cotton candy.  Continue reading

Why a good ergonomic chair comes a chiropractor

A year ago today I was attacked by an ergonomic chair in our office. The following surveillance photos are proof of how dangerous these chairs can be. Especially if you don’t actually know how to sit in one… 

imageBeing a journalist, I am trained to notice the most subtle signs of something amiss.

A hesitant glance.

A bead of sweat.

A chair that appears to be built backwards.

So, as I walked through our composition department this morning on my way to the news room, I immediately noticed that Peggy’s standard-issue office chair had been replaced with a broken piece of furniture. Who would do this to poor Peggy with the lower back problems? Why not replace her desk with a TV tray while you’re at it? Maybe we could move the copy machine on top of a book shelf so she has to use a ladder!

Poor, poor Peggy.

Then I remembered her mentioning she was getting a new “ergonomic” chair. Using the deductive skills I’ve developed over 16 years as a journalist,  I came to the following conclusion:

This must be her new chair.

I stared at it for a moment, trying to picture how one would ergonomically sit in it. I decided there was only one way to find out — a process that was captured by one of our office’s surveillence cameras…  Continue reading

Things I wish I didn’t overhear at the carnival

imageAs I’ve mentioned, during our town’s annual spring Rhododendron Festival, the carnival sets up across the street from our home.

Literally.

If it were any closer, I could high-five everyone on the tilt-a-whirl without leaving the couch.  So each night after work, I walk two blocks home and pass through the carnival, enjoying the fact that the sound of screaming teenagers — for once — isn’t coming from any of mine. I take time to watch the interactions of people, the motion of the rides, the flashing lights, and take in the carnival-specific aroma of frying corn dogs and sweet cotton candy mixed with freshly spewed vomit from the squirrel cages.

Being a writer, this is a target-rich environment of atmosphere, character and dialogue that I store in my memory to either draw from later or, as in the case of what I’m about to share with you, eventually discuss with my psychiatrist or lawyer.

For example…  Continue reading

My commencement speech (that no one asked for)

imageTo the Class of 2017, faculty members, parents, dignitaries, mis-informed wedding crashers, and Visa/MasterCard representatives who have gathered here today:

I am honored to have the opportunity to address this group of graduating seniors and impart the wisdom I have gained since my own graduation from high school nearly 150 years ago.

Standing before you today, I see the anticipation on your faces as each of you comes to realize what sharing my wisdom with you means: Possibly the shortest commencement speech in school history.

Before long, you will step forward and receive the culmination of 12 — possibly 14 — years of education. You will shake hands with some of those who have helped guide you to this milestone. And unless your last name begins with a “Z,” you will return to your seat as the rest your classmates step forward to receive their diplomas. That’s when you will silently think to yourself, “I really shouldn’t have had that second bottle of Mountain Dew.”  Continue reading

My favorite teacher? The one who flunked me

By Ned Hickson, editor/Siuslaw News

Admittedly, I had a bit of a crush on my College Prep English teacher, Mrs. Fillers, who was young, inventive and extremely encouraging to the only freshman in her class of 25 juniors and seniors.

The first semester was a breeze as she allowed us to explore creative writing with few boundaries. Each week, along with our reading assignments, we were given a new list of 20 vocabulary words — usually with a theme — that we were required to use in a story. Most of my classmates crammed as many of those words into a single sentence as they could (The decrepit, cantankerous, ill-tempered man raised his wrinkled, weathered, sallow fist in a show of furious and frustrated rage over losing his car keys…”)

I, on the other hand, fleshed out 15 to 20 pages of handwritten storyline, usually with the last five to six pages devoid of vocabulary words.

I got good grades but, as you can probably imagine, was rarely asked to read my stories in class due to the time constraints of a 45-minute period.

Continue reading

The cultural dangers of social media without consequence

In the late 1950s, iconic newsman Edward R. Murrow recognized a paradox developing as the advent of television was transforming news reporting from the purely word-driven medium of radio into a much more powerful visual medium available in homes across America.

Murrow understood that news journalism would never be the same. He also recognized the responsibility that accompanies that kind of power.

In 1958, during a Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation dinner where he was the keynote speaker, Murrow spoke of the new television medium and the potential effects it could have on journalism and our society as a whole.  Continue reading

Autism awareness can lower a few raised eyebrows

I knew very little about the autism spectrum back in 2006, when I met the young boy who would become my son. My wife and I had been dating for several months when we decided it was time to introduce each other to our children. She explained that he had Asperger’s Syndrome and likely wouldn’t make eye contact — and to not take it personally if he avoided any physical contact like a firm handshake.

“And whatever you do, don’t tousle his hair,” she instructed with a squeeze of my hand. “He really doesn’t like that.”

Autism is a neurological developmental disability with symptoms generally appearing before age 3, impacting the development of the brain in areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function.  Continue reading

Biggest problem with ‘sanctuary’ is its lack of clarity

March 29, 2017

As a kid playing hide and seek, the concept of “sanctuary” was easy to understand; make it back to a designated spot before being seen and you were safe. Your biggest fear was another neighborhood kid giving up your hiding spot.

Or in my case, our family dog getting out and tracking me down thanks to the Jolly Ranchers I kept in my pocket.

The concept of “sanctuary” has been around for thousands of years and can be traced as far back as the Old Testament, when the Book of Numbers commanded a selection of “six Cities of Refuge” where perpetrators of unintentional harm could claim asylum.

This continued in 392 A.D., when Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius set up sanctuaries under church control — a proclamation that lasted until 1621 A.D., when the general right of sanctuary for churches in England was abolished.

Now, more than 300 years later, it’s a term that has resurfaced within our national dialogue as communities across the nation debate its meaning within the constructs of local, state and federal government as it relates to protecting the rights of those living illegally within the U.S.  Continue reading

Are warning labels impeding the natural selection process?

Folding child stroller copyThere was a time when manufacturers included warnings on their products as a way to provide useful information that could potentially save our lives.

Or, at the very least, our eyebrows and/or stomach lining.

However, at some point, that all changed. As far I can tell, it happened about the same time McDonald’s had to cough-up a McMillion dollars to the lady who didn’t realize that spilling hot coffee on yourself while behind the wheel of a car can lead to a condition commonly known as “The Open-Road Lap Dance.”

Taking a deeper look, that condition is really just an extension of the more common rule known as “cause and effect,” which states:

‘Cause I’m dumb enough to place hot coffee next to the most vulnerable spot on my entire body, I am, in effect, going to do something even dumber by spilling it there. Probably before I leave the drive-thru.

Continue reading

Congress is still asking the wrong healthcare question

                                                             Saturday, March 11, 2017

By Ned Hickson/Siuslaw News

While watching coverage of the debate over healthcare in our nation’s capitol, I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony of knowing that the same people haggling over what health coverage Americans should have access to are the same people who have complete coverage paid for by taxpayer dollars.

It’s no wonder that the real question that members of Congress should be asking has yet to be raised: Why is healthcare so expensive to begin with?

At $3 trillion a year, the cost of healthcare in the U.S. is nearly twice as much as any other developed country. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, if that $3 trillion healthcare sector was its own country, it would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.  Continue reading