Cheers — and bravo to Lynn Sjolund, who is embarking on his last season as conductor of the Rogue Valley Chorale. Sjolund created the independent, nonprofit choral group nearly 40 years ago. He came to the Rogue Valley in 1956 to teach music and direct the choir at Medford High School. Now 83, Sjolund has more than earned some time off after leading the chorale toward its 40th anniversary celebration in November of 2013.
Jeers — to backers of two ballot measures that would allow Oregon's first nontribal casino to be developed in the Portland area, for calling it "The Grange," a name that evokes a wholesome, rural community gathering place. Slick promotional materials have been showing up in voters' mailboxes, prompting confusion from those, especially in this part of the state, who aren't following the campaign.
The same Canadian development companies tried two years ago to amend the state Constitution and allow the casino; voters overwhelmingly rejected it. Now they're back, touting their plan to turn a closed dog racing track in Wood Village into a casino, hotel, movie theater and pool.
Needless to say, the National Grange, a fraternal organization that oversees 2,000 local Grange units that perform community service and advocate for rural and agricultural interests, did not take kindly to the use of its name, but have struck a deal with the developers that allows them to use the name until after the election as long as they pay an undisclosed licensing fee and include disclaimers making it clear the national organization is not involved in the casino plans.
Cheers — to local drug investigators who broke up a cocaine and methamphetamine ring that was moving large amounts of the drugs into the Rogue Valley from Salem and Mexico. Estaban Martinez-Manjares, aka "Speedy," was sentenced to 71/2; years in federal prison for his role in the scheme. He will join his boss, Adelma Niebla Cook, known as :The Snow Queen," who was sentenced earlier this year to more than 13 years behind bars.
Cheers — to Voyager 1, the unmanned space probe that is nearing the edge of our solar system 35 years after it was launched, having traveled 11 billion miles. Assuming it makes the transition into interstellar space, it will be the first human-made object to go that far, as it was the first to fly past Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2, launched the same year, has traveled 9.3 billion miles.
The Voyagers carry 1977 technology — computers with 8,000 words of memory and 8-track tape recorders — but have enough fuel and electrical power to continue operating and broadcasting reports back home until at least 2020. By that time Voyager 1 could be 12.4 billion miles away.