Thursday, December 30, 2010

ex-Israeli President convicted of rape

As reprehensible as those acts were, and as good as it is to see him held accountable, let us not forget our own ex-President, who is (admittedly and in his own words) guilty of Crimes against Humanity. Where's the accountability for that?

Oh yes, that goes for Mr. Vice-Prez, too.

Kudos to the State of Israel for following thru, knowing that it stinks. There's courage and principles there, that are sadly lacking here.

Why is that? Is it because (as we are constantly reminded by pious pundits and government figures) "We are the greatest nation in the (history of the) world"?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Peace on Earth!

Sorry, it's never gonna happen, as long as there is Big Money to be made from selling weapons, and the best way to sell weapons is to convince people that they are threatened, and the best way to convince people that they are threatened is to make sure they hate someone.

It's like wishing for a reversal of Gravity. The Fear-and-Hate gene is, sadly, more firmly entrenched in our DNA than the Let's-all-be-Brothers gene.

Still, we need to try. Since there's no way to do a hostile takeover of Bad Media, all we can do is subvert it.

Let's start today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

safe at home

It was a little odd, stepping off the ship in LA this morning, with a totally empty wallet. If I hadn't had my passport, I would have been totally anonymous.

Will start the quest for a new phone tomorrow. Monday, it's ordering new glasses, replacing my driver's license and ATM card, and resuming normal life. Probably won't replace the digital camera or binoculars any time soon.

The Panama Canal sure was neat. Cartegena sure was hot, and we all got plenty sick from the street ceviche!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

back in Cabo San Lucas

I've been here before - I think this is #4.

Got off the ship early and wandered around town, looking for an Internet source. Found it at a coffee place.

Tomorrow is an At Sea day, then we dock in LA on Saturday. It's been a very mixed trip, with some nice sights (we liked La Crucecita the best), some fun ship-board hijinks (Dylan volunteered as a subject for the Comedy Hypnotist twice), and the obvious low-points (the moment I realized that my backpack and its many contents were gone forever, in Costa Rica).

All in all, it was nice to feel some warm sun and see some tropical vegetation, and it's strangely liberating to be traveling without a camera and money.

So, the obvious question for early next week is: should my new phone be iPhone or Android? Any suggestions?

Monday, December 13, 2010

doing better in La Crucecita, Mexico

Docked for the day, and we are enjoying wandering around this little town for the day.

I bought a pair of flipflops to replace the Keene`s that were in my backpack. Fortunately, Karen had brought another pair of reading glasses, so I can still read.

I had some PTSD for the first day or so, now it´s OK. Viva Mexico.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A few hours in Costa Rica

Beautiful day - not too hot, not humid. Sunny and very bright.

Dylan and I walked around Puntarenas, taking in the sights. Alas, the one Internet Cafe that we knew about was closed, so that hoped-for activity was off the schedule.

We walked over to the busy beach, to a basketball court. Dylan wanted to play with his hacky-sack and I wanted to go swimming. I stowed my sandals, shirt and glasses inside my trusty backpack, placed it on the bench next to Dylan's backpack and headed for the beach.

Immediately I wished I had kept my sandals, since the sand was HOT. I danced over to the water and spent a blissful 10 or 15 minutes, keeping my eye on Dylan, a couple of hundred feet away. The water was glorious.

After a bit, I noticed Dylan waving to me. Without my glasses, I couldn't see anything specific, but I left the water and headed toward him. He held up his backpack - just his backpack.

Apparently, we were being watched, and some guy on a bike waited for Dylan to be inattentive and swooped by and grabbed my backpack. He was gone in a flash.

Cell phone, wallet (with about $100 cash, credit and ATM cards, and driver's license), camera (with lots of Panama canal photos that you'll never see), binoculars, my comfortable Keene's sandals and my bifocals.

Dylan was devastated, obviously.

I walked back to the ship and reported everything. The best news was that my passport was safely back on-board. They let me retrieve it, and I left the ship again, where I met the police, who escorted me to the local station, where I sat for an hour, while the voluminous paperwork was prepared.

The ship security folks told me that, had my passport been stolen, I would have had to remain in Costa Rica for at least three days, while the American authorities were alerted.

Credit card and cell phone accounts are disabled, and Karen has a spare credit card.

Could be worse. How do I console my son? I suppose it doesn't help that this will make a great story someday, when we can look back and laugh about it.

The ship departs Costa Rica in another hour. Adios!

Friday, December 10, 2010

the trip so far

We flew all night, Seattle to Miami, arrivng at the questionable hour of 7 am on a Sunday morning.

We took the express bus to the corner of Lincoln road and Washington, in Miami Beach. I had been there before.

In 1960, my grandmother left the snows of Upstate New York and moved to South Miami Beach, into an apartment in the same building already occupied by one of her younger sisters, my Aunt Dora, whom I had never met.

In the summer of 1960, my mother and I flew down there and spent two months living in the funky 3-story hotel across the street from Grandma barcus's place. I was 9 years old, and South Miami Beach was the land of retired European Jews, with the accompanying kosher restaurants and delis.

For the next several years, my family visited Miami Beach once or twice a year, staying in a couple of different hotels. Many good times were had by all. I especially remember the wonderment of leaving icy, snowy Elmira, New York, and, a few hours later, deplaning in the dark humidity of South Florida. I remember the colored lights, fountains, and lush vegetation on the newly-opened Lincoln Road mall, followed usually by the sour pickles and giant sandwiches at Wolfie's, at the corner of Lincoln and Collins.

Back to the present. we stashed our bags at the Ritz carleton, helped ourselves to the horrendously-overpriced breakfast buffet, then went our separate ways, planning to meet up at 11, to then cab to the Cruise Terminal, where we were to meet the rest of our group, currently at a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale.

Dylan went off to stroll around and get away from Karen and me. She went to the beach. I went deep into my memories.

I walked the few blocks to 942 Pennsylvania Ave, where my grandmother had lived, and where my Mom and I had spent that amazing summer, 50 years ago.

It was not hard to find. The building looked the same, but the front hedge was now six feet high, instead of knee-high, and the security gate protected the condos inside. I had last been there in 1976, the summer I drove around the country, looking for the best-place-in-the-US, but that's a different story. At that time, there were still a number of old Jews living in the building, but there had been enough turnover that there was no lingering memory of either my grandmother or Aunt Dora. So it goes.

I stood there for a while, remembering everything. I called my brother in Milwaukie, and we reminisced a bit. I walked across the street, and was pleased to see the hotel we had stayed that summer, now with a 'historic-landmark' plaque out front. Times change.

I made my way back to the Lincoln Road area, stopping at two other hotels where the family used to stay. The Surfcomber is now the DoubleTree Surfcomber, and the lobby slick and hip (as it was not in the old days). I went out to the pool - very familiar. I went up to the sun deck where my brother and I played shuffle-board.

50 years.

Eventually, we three met up, took a cab to the cruise-ship, easily met up with the other three (Karen's 99 year-old mother, her brother, and her cousin. We patiently went thru the elaborate check-in lines, found our cabins on-board (the Norwegian Star, by the way), and it departed Miami at 4, on time.

In Miami Beach, I bought a bottle of wine ($13) to smuggle in my suitcase, and Dylan bought a pint of Jack Daniels, with the same goal. Karen's bag arrived at our cabin - mine didn't. A couple of hours later, I was handed a letter, saying that my bag could be claimed elsewhere on the ship, after they had a look inside. I had been busted.

There were perhaps 20 people in that line, all feeling like the nickle-and-diming for which Norwegian Cruise Lines is famous, had just commenced. They triumphantly found my bottle, which I could reclaim by simply paying a $15 'corkage fee', which I did, making that an $28 wine. As it turns out, there were few wines on the official wine-list that were at that price, and we enjoyed it as best we could a couple of nights later.

Dylan received the same letter, but, rather than play coy, he reached in and pulled out the Jack Daniels. The cruise-guy looked at the bottle, looked at Dylan, and quietly handed it back to him, saying 'just drink it in your room, OK?'. Ah, the fraternity of Youth.

At sea, and on land.

We were at sea for a couple of days, getting familiar with the ship layout, signing up for yoga classes, getting a little exercise, trying not to eat too much, and (sad to say) actually enjoying the nightly entertainments.

On the 3rd day out, we docked at Cartegena, Columbia. It was very hot and muggy. Outside the tourist-trap shop they make you traverse, we were accosted by the taxi drivers, all speaking very fast Spanish. Over the din, I heard an American voice call out "I have a minivan for 6 people", which is exactly what we wanted.

We negotiated with Douglas, very brown-skinned but with the powerful body of an ex-boxer, He was originally from Bethlehem, PA, but has been living in Columbia, with his Columbian wife, for over 20 years. All 7 of us (including Douglas) managed to barely squeeze into his van, and we headed off with about 5 hours before we had to be back at the ship.

He narrated his well-practiced history speech while we threaded our way to the famous Spanish fort, which was a bee-hive of hawkers-of-all-things and blinking tourists. The castillo is pretty impressive - you can look it up. We declined paying the admission to climb up, and instead walked around the base a bit. Two minutes of walking took us entirely away from the frantic activity at the entrance gate, and we had peace and quiet as we marveled at the battlements, remarkably well-preserved.

Next, Doug drove us to a tranquil shaded plaza in the northern part of the Old Town. Dylan stayed with Sylvia while Karen, Eric and I wandered the lovely narrow streets, lined with brilliantly-painted colonial facades and luxurious vegetation. We made our way to the city walls overlooking the ocean, and walked along them for a bit, appreciating the fortifications and views. Julio thought that the city looked a lot like New Orleans. We agreed that Cuba must look like this, too.

Getting hungry, I asked if Douglas knew a good place to get some ceviche and a beer and, of course, he knew just the place("much cheaper and better than the fancy restaurants - trust me"). He pulled up in front of a line of food stalls, in sight of the famous clock tower, and introduced us to his friend, the proprieter, who was already serving ceviche to two other men, who Douglas has known for years. It seemed promising.

We described what we wanted and the owner brought out big bowls of fresh shrimp, conch, oysters, crab, etc. We could have any combination we wanted. We ordered a large serving ($18) to share and a couple of beers. And we sat and waited, while Douglas continued to regale us with many stories, some of which were certainly true.

After a while, it dawned on us that the ceviche was being made from scratch as we waited, rather than sitting there ready to be instantly dished up. When it finally arrived, it was delicious.

Tangy with lemon, sweet with some species of ketchup and onions, and loaded with shrimp and clams.

The beers were good, too. Sylvia and Julio also ordered raw oysters separately. Having had an unpleasant oyster experience back in the 70's (it's a long story), I had a taste of the onions and sauce - no oyster. Everything disappeared quickly.

Back in the van, Douglas drove us to the entrance to the blocked-off part of Old Town, which was car-free that day. A little conversation (and bribe) of the police got the barrier raised (he explained that Sylvia couldn't walk, so they 'had' to let us drive in), and our minivan was the only vehicle we saw, as he drove us around the various plazas, all with historical significance like the former slave market, ironically dominated by a monument to that would-be slave-trader and colonial exploiter, Columbus.

At the Plaza de Bolivar, we parked, and, while Sylvia dozed in the van, the rest of us wandered the streets, appreciating the vibrant building colors, the vibrant native women (with picturesque baskets of fruit balanced on their heads - photos welcomed, for a price), and the upscale shops, full of stuff we didn't want.

Cartegena is charming - there were armed police everywhere, and Douglas told a few stories of how petty criminals are dealt with, by both the vigilant police and other passers-by. Those we believed.

We made it back to ship at the last moment (in fact, we were the last group permitted up one of the two gangways). We were back in luxury-land, and the ship left Cartegena promptly at 3. As simple shore excurisions go, we had a pretty good time.

A Man, a plan, etc.

I woke up at 6 the next morning and quickly dressed in the dark cabin. I grabbed a coffee in the already-busy food area, and found a place on deck. It was just dawn, and we were surrounded by many dozens of ships, including at least a couple big cruisers like ours.

We were at the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal.

The prior evening, I happened to be watching the BBC News in our cabin, when, amoung the usual stories about Republicans bullying Obama into giving them everything they want (don't get me started), the screen suddenly showed a shot of a waterway, with large letters saying 'Panama Canal Closed'. Apparently, for the first time in over 20 years, heavy rainfall had caused the officials to close it down. This was interesting news, since there were few alternatives for the Norwegian Star on this cruise.

Back to the next morning. The captain told us that the canal had indeed been closed, for the first time in history, due to the unreasonably heaviy rain of the prior two days, but one of the two locks at Gatun was operating, and cruise ships were being given priority over freighters. This was a relief.

We approached Gatun around 9, and spent the next 2 hours negotiating the steps up to Gatun Lake. It was amazing, and the most amazing thing of all, to me, was that the engineers of 1900 had designed the thing with such vision that, over 100 years later, it still worked great, with much of the original infrastructure operating daily. Think about it.

We steamed (or whatever) our way across the broad, smooth lake, amid occasional rain squalls and sun-breaks. It was a remarkable thing.

Later in the afternoon, we left the lake and entered the narrow channel whose landslides, disease, and too-primitive engineering had doomed the French. The quiet, green, terraced hillsides gave no evidence of the perpetual noise, frustrating setbacks, and lost lives that accompanied the excavation of this gash in the Continental Divide. If you don't know the story, check it out.

Later, we hit the two remaining lock systems, which eerily lowered us back to sea-level. As we went to dinner, we passed underneath the graceful Pan American Highway bridge, and we were soon in the Pacific. It's all rather incredible.


It's day 6, and at least three of us have varying degrees of intestinal distress. Mine is the least severe. We suspect the raw oysters, as their two primary consumers are down for the day. It's not a pretty sight.

It's a day for reading, writing, and attending to the stricken. We are at sea, bound for Costa Rica.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Portland airport - we're off

To seattle in 20 minutes, then on to miami by 7 am tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

on the foiled Portland bombing

I have heard that the phrase that TSA insiders use to describe their procedures at airports is 'Security Theater'. The whole setup is there to make us (i.e. the sheep) feel like something very profound is being done to keep us safe. Well, at least safe from bombers who have used shoes and underwear, or might be carrying their own water bottles.

The other evening, we were actually watching the local news, that was lovingly carrying a live feed from Pioneer Courthouse Square. At one point earlier in the week, Karen actually said she'd be interested in going down there to see the lights. The actual lighting came off without a hitch, so we, like everyone else, were shocked to hear the 'breaking news', a short time later, and you know the rest.

What we now know, is that the FBI was following and coaching this guy for months, even to the point of making sure that he was not permitted to fly to Alaska last June, to get a job. Nice way to keep the Portland plot going, guys. In fact, it's not a stretch to put this entire program into the 'entrapment' category. Make sure the target stays disaffected and paranoid, so that, when the time is right, he can be exposed as a tribute to the fine work of the FBI, in 'keeping us safe' from the bad guys.

In the meantime, the objective is fulfilled - now us good citizens of Portland have 'the fear'. OMIGOD, I could have been down there in the Square. OMIGOD, I could have seen this entire disaster live on TV, traumatizing me forever. OMIGOD, we came 'this close' to.... Well, you get the idea.

My contention: 'Insecurity Theater'.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

post-Thanksgiving progress

Today we successfully passed thru the turkey-soup phase (it was delicious, I think everyone would agree). At this point, the leftovers are moving into consistently-smaller containers, so all is according to plan.

All the various serving dishes and utensils are now back in the customary places, and the dishwasher is finally empty. Chairs and tables are back to normal. It's all good.

Today we began our long-planned move out of our upstairs bedroom, down into the basement room, which is actually much nicer than your average basement room, especially if you are below average.

We are about to commence a major rennovation of our entire upstairs, that will probably go on for MANY months. Demolition will start in another week - our task now is to move everything out, including stuff that hasn't shifted position in almost 20 years. The shed is beginning to fill up.

The good news is that the Goodwill pile is growing hourly. I am doing a major cleansing, especially of old t-shirts.

Also, we planted our winter garlic crop today - three kinds. We'll see.

Very tired. Oh yes, amid all the other hubbub, Karen and I actually went to Best Buy last night and looked at laptops for her. They were out of stock of the big bargain we wanted, so we came home and bought it online. Tonight, we went to another local store and picked it up. It's a Gateway - this one. Should be able to handle email, craigslist, and Word, eh?

I'm tired, and tomorrow morning I am doing my monthly radio show. You can listen live at (10-11 am PST). Adios for now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

tin-foil hat or coincidence?

So, on the NBC Nightly News, there was a scare-piece about the dangers of contaminated imported seafood. The report made it clear that seafood from Asia is likely full of anti-biotics, sewage contaminants and god-knows whatever other nasty stuff.

Why report this? One part of me says "it's just their way of insuring that folks are informed about potential dangers". The other part of me says "there must have been 'encouragement' from the Gulf seafood industry, so that Americans won't be reminded of the possible oil contamination of our native fisheries."

I obsess on the conspiracy, so that you don't have to.

we used to have a 'funny' saying....

Often spotted in days of yore as grafitti:

"Time is Nature's way of keeping Everything from happening at once."

So there I was, calmly eating my morning cereal, when the cat jumped up on my desk, indicating the desire to go outside immediately. As I walked up the stairs, the following things happened simultaneously:

1) The tea kettle started whistling madly, demanding immediate attention.
2) The cat stood by the door, mewing 'LET ME OUT NOW'.
3) My cell phone rang with a burning question from a client in New Mexico.
4) A shredded-wheat remnant got stuck in my throat.

Suddenly what appeared to be a laid-back mid-week morning became a whirlwind of activity, for approximately 1 minute. Now my heart-rate is back to normal.

Monday, November 15, 2010

as Ronald Reagan said, 'trust, but verify'

He was talking about nuclear disarmament, but it also applies to vacuum-cleaner bags.

I got an email from a mail-order place that we had ordered from before, touting their pre-holiday deals and free shipping. Since we need bags, I thought, "well, this is surely convenient."

I clicked thru the email to their site, found the bags and got ready to place the order. Before clicking submit, though, I thought I'd go to Amazon and see if there's anything cheaper, just for grins.

I found a deal that was $5 cheaper ($10.25 instead of $14.95) and this deal also had free shipping.

Same product. Same vendor.

It's almost enough to make me think that, maybe, not everything that you receive as email may be totally true.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

childhood's end

We are planning a major renovation of our upstairs space, starting with Dylan's old bedroom (he's now living, happily we think, in Ashland). To that end, we have been cleaning out his room, boxing up his books, collections, trophies, drug paraphernalia, stuffed animals, broken video-game controllers, and all the other assorted 'junk' (our term) that accumulated over the course of 18 years.

This morning, we moved a lot of stuff out of the room and into the shed outside. As I stood looking at that pile of boxes, I thought 'there is his childhood'. Someday, when he has the time to poke thru them, he will no doubt have a lot of surprises and memories. For now, though, they wait for him in a dark corner.

An example of his art (and tendency to accumulate bizarre bits of stuff, for later use.

Friday, November 12, 2010

move to the center

Thom Hartmann made a great point on his radio show yesterday.

In 2006, when the Democrats had a major electoral victory to take over Congress, and in 2008, when the Democrats had a historic electoral victory with both the Presidency and the Congress (creating the certainty of their controlling two Supreme Court appointments), does everyone remember the tsunami of media punditry insisting that it was time for the Republicans to recognize the mandate and "move to the center"?


Monday, November 08, 2010

the really bad news

Why, oh why, did the Democratic party not spend any energy in educating 'the 2008 base' that 2010, being a census year, is a reapportionment year? Now, Republican-dominated State legislatures will be redrawing disasterous district boundaries, that we will have to live with for the next 10 years.

Even low-information Democrats *might* have been educated enough to get them to turn out and vote, but no.

It's great that Obama got 2 Supreme Court justices, but that's little comfort for the knowledge that Congress is going to be solidly Republican for a decade.

Why is the Democratic party so freaking poor at the big stuff? Or, for that matter, any stuff?

I'm about done with them.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

missing from pundit-land

Listening to all the wise talking heads, telling us why the election turned out the way it did (that is, an explosion in the membership in the Crazy Caucus).

Lots of blather about Obama and the 'mood of the people', but not a word about the simple fact that MANY votes were cast as the result of deliberate misinformation (i.e. lies), that were very successfully planted into the brains of under-educated, fearful citizens, thru the vast, new power of vast amounts of untraceable corporate money and a corrupt, complicit media.

The winners in this election were Misdirection and Money. Plus, all the millionaire talking heads get to keep their jobs, with benefits.

Monday, November 01, 2010

a half-baked idea

This occurred to me last night - haven't thought it thru but, on the surface, it seems like a stroke of genius.

Of course, I could be wrong. Again.

You know how, during the oil shocks, we considered the notion of a windfall-profits tax on the oil companies? The idea there is that an industry that makes unreasonable profits thru being a beneficiary of other forces ought to fork over some of those gains to the public treasury.

Shouldn't the same thing apply to media conglomerates, who are receiving billions of dollars in political advertising, simply because they are the gate-keepers to the PUBLIC airwaves?

Just asking...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frank Rich in the NY Times - nails it

"What made the Tea Party most useful was that its loud populist message gave the G.O.P. just the cover it needed both to camouflage its corporate patrons and to rebrand itself as a party miraculously antithetical to the despised G.O.P. that gave us George W. Bush and record deficits only yesterday.

The more the Tea Party looks as if it’s calling the shots in the G.O.P., the easier it is to distract attention from those who are actually calling them — namely, those who’ve cashed in and cashed out as ordinary Americans lost their jobs, homes and 401(k)’s."

more twitter-bashing

I love to disrespect Twitter, because I simply don't see how you should care about my 144 character thoughts. On the other hand, this blog present me with the opportunity to expand on my neuroses, and include photos, like the attached one that recently arrived in my mailbox.

Yeah, right. Sam, you've got much better things to do, than to monitor my twice-a-year tweets,

Hint: next one is coming in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, I am off to KBOO shortly to do my pre-election show on the Yiddish Hour.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Today's terror news

The weekend before an election - how surprising!


boats against the current...

We have been talking with friends about a possible trip next year, that would include a few days in Paris. No way of knowing, at this point, if it will happen, but this talk led somewhere.

A few days ago, between books, I absently picked out, from my bookshelf, Hemingway's memoir of his days in Paris, in the 20's. I have read it several times, and am always surprised when I get to the last section, which covers his adventures with Scott Fitzgerald, during the period when Gatsby was just being released (to middling interest).

I have also read that book many times, and picked it up again, a couple of nights ago. Within ten pages, I was again captured, and, a few minutes ago, came once again to the final haunting passage.

It is unquestionably a great book. Not perfect. Every so often, a mystifying word or phrase is tossed in - jarringly odd amid the rest of the narrative.

But, there is the overall sadness of it; the tragedy of the multiple failures; the simple summation of Tom and Daisy as folks who go thru life having their messes cleaned up by others, and, finally, the realization of the ultimate sadness of Fitzgerald's own life.

These things color this Fall afternoon, where the cool late sunshine tries to bring back the warmth of a summer now past. Must pick the remaining tomatoes.

Four days until this election. I fear for this republic.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

just a few days more...

...and the annoying (understatement) political attack ads will go away for another year.

I dunno, but it's sure looking like Germany 1931, with thugs beating up anyone that dares to question the Party-that's-about-to-take-power.

Why is it that, time and time again, a society wills itself into disaster? What genetic marker has evolved that makes humans under stress decide that pitchforks, nooses and pyres are the solution to their troubles?

It is reported that over $3 billion has been spent on this round of elections. I can only conclude that the potential financial gains from purchasing congressfolk far outweigh the cost. Nothing like having puppets, when you've got some specific goals in mind (i.e. finishing the looting that began under Reagan, and reached its moment of perfection in Sept 2008, right on time).

See Olberman's wrap-up of Tea Party puppets. What's wrong with this picture?

By the way, now significant evidence exists to impeach both Roberts ("I have a total respect for judicial precedent") and Thomas ("That woman is lying") for perjury. Remember Clinton, when they said "the only thing that matters is that he lied under oath, and we must do our duty and impeach."?

Hah. That'll be the day.

I remember a line from a Flying Burrito Brothers song of the early 70's: "I'm heading for the nearest northern border. Vancouver may be just my kind of town."

Monday, October 25, 2010

"More luck than brains"

This used to be our motto, years ago. Its truth still holds.

When we left portland saturday, I threw the snow chains into the back of my car, congratulating myself for my foresight.

And, indeed, waking up in K-Falls this morning, we see fresh snow on the hills, and the ODOT road report for OR58 early this morning said 'chains required.'

I went out to the car just now to look at the instructions for the chains, which I bought last year and never used.

I had grabbed the chains for karen's car, not mine.

Fortunately (here's the luck part), conditions are improving and the official status is now 'carry chains'.

By 2 this afternoon, when we leave for portland, it should all be ok. Now, the question becomes: do I confess or let it go?

Sunday, October 24, 2010


In a Shilo Inn, in Klamath Falls. We drove to ashland yesterday, had a superb dinner at Dragonfly, with Dylan, the saw a cute play (She Loves Me).

This morning, did some shopping, then Dylan made us a great lunch at Happy Falafel (pesto shrimp souvlaki - yum!), where appears to be pretty much running the show.

We headed east on OR 66, a twisty but amazingly scenic drive, with abundant fall colors.

We hit K-Falls by 2, and it's very blustery and rainy. We checked into the motel, got settled, got karen set up with high-speed internet so she could do some work, while I headed to the pool.

I lay in the spa, luxuriating in the hot water, watching a tee outside being blown around by wind and rain.

We got chits for 2 free glasses of wine at happy hour, that begins in a few minutes. Karen's hearing is tomorrow late morning, then we drive back to portland.

It's a lot of driving, but it's ok. Nice to be reminded that Oregon is a big, diverse place. With happy hours.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Roger Ebert on the Afterlife

Roger's review of the new Eastwood movie. The New Yorker didn't like it, but this review puts it into an entirely different light. Now I'm intrigued.

But there's much more here:

"We live, we die. That is not a tragedy. The tragedy would be never having been born. The number of possible lives that have never been lived is so large that actual lives represent a vanishingly small number after a decimal point and a great many zeros. We won a cosmic lottery by being not only alive but being self-aware and able to think rationally. That is cause for joy. We should collect our winnings and feel grateful when we die."

I read the above with a warm cat happily nested in my arms. Both of us felt grateful.

Nice way to start a Friday, don't you think?

thoughts on Netflix, Twitter, W, and Juan Williams

First, Netflix.

We were streaming a movie last night when we got the dreaded "your Internet connection has slowed" message. We gave up waiting, after nothing happened for several minutes (while I silently had nasty thoughts about Qwest). This morning, I read this:

"Netflix's streaming service has become so popular that it is now the largest source of U.S. Internet traffic during peak evening hours, according to Sandvine Inc., a Canadian company that supplies traffic-management equipment to Internet service providers.

Streaming by Netflix subscribers accounted for about one-fifth of that peak-time traffic, more than double the volume flowing from Google Inc.'s YouTube, Sandvine said."

Sigh - it was nice for a while. I remember the heady days (circa 1999) when we at Enron Broadband schemed to own the Internet video-streaming universe. Our plan was to divert all that traffic to a private national fiber network, keeping it separate from the 'Internet'. Maybe that was a pretty good model, after all. We'll never know.

Twitter: I was an early adopter, but stopped using it immediately, as I saw it as a total waste of my time. Your mileage may vary, but (see 'Netflix' above) I happened to check Twitter this morning, and all I see is the 'Twitter is over capacity' message. To me, the only Tweet worth following is StephenAtHome.

W in the news. This headline is simply horrifying. Bad ideas never die.

Juan Williams: now has a 2 million dollar contract with Fox News. He's HOME!!!! I have long thought his NPR 'commentaries' were consistently shallow and slanted to the Right - totally infuriating. I agree he should not have been fired for his comments - I have to believe that the pros at Fox suggested this gambit, to get out of his NPR contract. Mission Accomplished.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the first Chilean miner just emerged - me, too

Pretty amazing.

I just emerged from two days of feeling somewhat underground.

It happened yesterday at 12:46 pm. I was running what I thought was the first test of updating the email address on one Salesforce contact record. Imagine my horror when, ten seconds after sending the SQL thru the internet to the Salesforce server, I realized that I had just submitted the command to update EVERY email address, not just the one person's I had intended.

I trembled as I killed the Access process that had issued the command, praying that Salesforce would see that its originator was gone and STOP before too much damage was done, not knowing if it would stop before it had clobbered 35,000 records.

After I convinced myself I had done everything in my power, I logged back in and ran a test. 4100 Contact records now had the same email address, of my test person. Could be worse, but very bad.

I called the client and left voice messages, explaining that I had caused an emergency, and they needed to get everybody out of Salesforce until the backup could be restored. At the worst, I thought, any work done that (Monday) morning would have to be redone.

After some minutes of calling, I connected with a live person. They started making inquiries about a restore.

After a half-hour, it was revealed that the consultant who set up Salesforce for them had neglected to turn on the auto-backup function, and had never told them about its existence.

I drove over to the client, talked about options, grabbed the final version of the database which had supplied Salesforce with its converted data, and came home.

After some exploratory digging, I sadly concluded that writing an automated mass update was problematic, due to the many combinations of old and new data. There was nothing for it but to manually fix as much as possible.

I sat at my computer for the next 10 hours, manually examining each person's data and applying updates. It was horrifyingly slow. By midnight, I had resolved about a thousand cases.

I resumed this morning around 7. By 3 this afternoon, I was down to under 1700 left, and had concluded that it would take 2 more days to resolve the rest, and that the bulk of cases were where the bad email address had overlaid no address, rather than an existing good address.

I built a mass-update pass-thru query, to erase all remaining instances of the bad email address - it ran in about 45 seconds and I was done.

I walked outside, feeling like a miner who had been underground for two days, not to mention two months.

Now I can resume the program I was working on at the time of the catastrophe - which, as folks order trees in the coming months, will correctly update their good email addresses into Salesforce. Over time, the results of my one moment of programming inattention will diminish.

This has been the worst data-bungle of my 38-year career. Prior to that, the worst bungle occurred way back in my 2nd year as a computer programmer, which I may write about someday, as if you cared.

Congratulations to the engineers in Chile, who figured out what needed to be done, and, apparently, are about to deliver a bunch of men from what must have seemed to be, when it occurred, a horrible, silent, death sentence.

Un milagro!

Monday, October 04, 2010

coolest thing on my phone's browser

Don't know why it took so long to find this, but Wikipedia has a 'mobile' interface that breaks each entry up into multiple quick-loading pages. Perfect for random browsing and argument-settling.

URL is

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Home at last

Two busy weeks of traveling now over.

Cloudy and cool at the moment, but should brighten later. Perfect for digging potatoes and dealing with fallen leaves.

Most important - the cats seemed genuinely happy to have us back. Better enjoy it while we can!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

photos from chicago

It's been a busy couple of weeks, hence no postings here. Fear not, dedicated reader (singular intentional) - we return to Portland and normal life tomorrow, after a week in Chicago followed by a few days baking in Pasadena.

In the meantime, here are some Chicago photos. Neither of us had ever spent time there, and we found the city to be fun and fascinating. Aside from the incredible architecture (we took the superb river cruise from the Chicago Architectural Foundation - highly recommended) and the mostly-meaty food specialties (I did get a hot dog, an Italian beef sandwich, a beef-and-sausage sandwich and a deep-dish mini pizza), we loved the high energy.

We began our sightseeing with Millennium Park, and the famous 'Bean' sculpture.

That day, I spent nearly 6 hours at the nearby Art Institute. We have been to famous art museums in many cities, but I have to say that this one had the most astounding collection I've ever seen. The 19th and 20th Century art was amazing, but this place has prime examples of every time and place.

I was not disappointed by 'Nighthawks', which bore a striking resemblance to the Peeps version.
Karen was dazzled by this one: 'Pardon in Brittany', by Gaston la Touche
...and this one: 'Easter Mystery', by Maurice Denis.
I especially like this Chagall Crucifixion, with Jesus as a Jew (duh!), surrounded by scenes of pogroms.

No visit is complete without seeing 'American Gothic' and the famous Seurat. It's really quite large.

We saw a ton of great architecture. Here is the interior of a building called 'The Rookery'. The exterior was kinda neat, but the interior atrium was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and was dazzling.
Stairwell at The Rookery, looking up.
I did the Hop On/Hop Off Trolly, which turned out to be a great deal, since one of the 15 stops was one block from our motel. I hopped off at Navy Pier, which was a major tourist trap. However, my destination at Navy Pier was the free stained-glass museum, which was very cool. I took a bunch of photos - here are some of my favorites:
There were several Tiffany pieces:

I especially liked this one:

After seeing the stained-glass collection, I went outside to join a work-related conference call. Here is my view during that conversation. An hour later, I was on top of the Hancock building (center).

On Friday, I took the Green Line out to Oak Park and walked around the neighborhood where Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked. There are a number of his projects in a small area, side by side with the grand old Victorians.

Japanese tourists at the Frank Lloyd Wright studio:

The showpiece in Oak Park is his Unity Temple, a Unitarian complex that is being restored. Here's the outside - a poured-concrete structure that was daring for 1908.
And the interior. Still used for concerts and other events.
We saw so much more in Chicago, but these are some of the highlights.

Oh yes, in Oak Park I spent a few minutes at Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home, appreciating the scene of serene, large homes and the ghost of the little boy who turned out to be one of the major bullies in literary history. But that's a different story.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

thanks again, John McCain

Why am I not surprised?

wishing everyone a meaningful Yom Kippur. We went to Kol Nidre last night and it was beautifully done, as usual, with wonderful music and those old, old prayers.

Since I've been somewhat sick from food poisoning all week (thanks again, Soji restaurant in Sisters, OR), it will be easier than usual to associate food with revulsion.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur thoughts

It's a troubling time for atheists.

The image of a Supreme Judge who is making decisions about how my life will go in the next year is great for 5 year-olds. I do understand the metaphor, and how it suggests that repentance and charity will make your life better, so you might as well be virtuous and considerate.

Makes sense.

What I can't deny is the power of the ritual. I have had certain Yom Kippurs over the years that were tremendously affecting, especially during the climactic moments at the end. It's the power of crowd psychology mixed with profound hypoglycemia - a potent combination.

Wishing everyone well - may you get something meaningful out of it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

there's a whole lot of giggling going on

Regarding the looney victors of selected primaries yesterday.

Ho, ho, these wackos are certainly amusing, and the consensus seems to be that Democrats will have no trouble steamrolling over them in November.

A lot of Germans laughed at the Nazi clowns in 1933.

Friday, September 10, 2010

end of two weeks of panic

About two weeks ago, a client handed me a challenge that seemed totally overwhelming. I've put in the hours since then, and have scheduled a demo for next Monday, one week before their drop-dead date.

98% of what needs to work is tested and satisfactory to me. The final issues await resolution/assistance from the 3rd-party vendor of a key software component, and they have been totally unresponsive to my calls and emails (which is a little unsettling, to say the least). Not only that, but their 14-day trial period ends next Monday, and their website offers no information on how to buy a license (other than 'call us').

However, with minimal help from the client, no help from their consultants in St. Louis, and little from either the major and minor software vendors, I have a Microsoft Access application that can read and update Salesforce tables, replacing complex logic that formerly updated an internal Access app that was obsoleted by Salesforce.

The client needed me to come in and rescue them, before Sept 20, and I am pretty confident I will deliver. Unfortunately, two other clients have been left hanging while all my attentions were focused.

It's been a whirlwind, but I will stop thinking about it now, and pack my bags in preparation for 3 days at the Sisters Folk Festival. Don't get excited, crooks, our friend Robert will be here at the house watching it and the cats.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

the lesson of 'Rev.' Terry Jones

How interesting to hear that the Germans booted him out of his Cologne church because he was too incendiary for them.

How about this for a simple tactic? Take away his tax-exempt status.

Hey, why stop with him? Think about it. Isn't it time?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

does anyone love the chrome browser?

Ben likes it, and I am trying it, but I miss some familiar features from Firefox.

What's the big benefit? Anyone?

Monday, September 06, 2010

who ya gonna believe?

Two articles:

Samsung: Galaxy Tab has leg up on Apple iPad

Success of Samsung Galaxy Tab Doomed by Carrier Contracts

the media has decided

Obama has failed and the GOP is going to take back the government in November. You hear it everywhere now. They seem gleeful about it.

Mission Accomplished, Fox. Thanks, again, lazy journalists.

Middle-class America (what's left, that is): get ready for the next round of thievery. Not that much left to loot anymore, but I'm sure they'll come up with something. (Hint: Social Security).

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Time to hit the Deck!

Loyal readers of this blog (i.e. both of you) may remember last 4th of July, when we had a work party to build the base and frame of our new backyard deck. Today, the decking went on! Come with me, as I relive the events of the past two days....

We ordered the decking last week, and it was delivered Friday morning. Here it is, in two stacks. I spent about 45 minutes just pulling out the damn staples.

After the staple-pulling, I applied a coat of waterseal to all surfaces. That took a long time Friday, and, by the middle of the afternoon, I was hot and ready for a cold beer, which, come to think of it, was really quite enjoyable, especially after the emergency visit to take Ben to get a tetanus shot, after he was bit on the finger by a mouse.

But that's a different story. Here are all the sealed pieces, laid out for Saturday's fun.

Our construction guru, Robert Perron, brought his great tools, boundless patience, and in-depth experience. Here he is, getting everything set up.

It took a while for us to get into the rhythm of laying out the boards, measuring the gaps, clamping everything down, drilling the holes, and screwing in the deck screws. The first few boards were painfully slow to set, and I was wondering how we were ever going to make real progress. Most of the boards in this picture are just laying there, as we checked positioning.

Amazingly, the momentum built quickly, and, by lunch time, we were about half-way across the 12x12 expanse. It was beginning to look pretty good.

Ben arrived and, incredibly, had a steady hand and saved the day, with his precision screwing, so to speak. He worked hard and his cheerful attitude was welcomed. Zack the neighbor came over to talk politics for a while. He's not sure about Kitzhaber. We are - Go Kitz!

By around 3:30 we were all getting mighty tired, but Ben kept at it. Karen made all the precision cuts for the four corners, and they were all perfect!

We finished tacking down the last board around 4:30. We cleaned up all the gear, covered it with tarps and went to Fuddruckers for burgers!

There are still many pounds of screws to be applied, but all cutting and measuring is done. Now, it's just the brute force of a couple hundred more deck screws, and nailing back the temporary facia boards. Whew!

Next year - the roof!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday morning thoughts

Cloudy and cool, with the possibility of rain tomorrow. Just finished my coffee, in a quiet house.

Saw Garrison Keillor at the zoo last night. Sadly, most of his voice-crew was not with him, so it was mostly a msic show, but the band, as usual, was great.

The News from Lake Wobegon segment was a very familiar rehash of long-told stories - nothing new for veteran listeners. Still, it was nice seeing him in person, and, unlike any other zoo concert, he wandered out into the crowd.

But that's not what's on my mind this morning.

I just read a web piece about 'why americans mistrust Islam'. All I can think about is how it was for Jews throughout history, when you never knew if the non-Jew you just met would be a bigot when your identity came up.

Same with blacks - would the next casual encounter be hostile? Now it is Muslims.

They are the Feared Outsider of these times. Perpetually on guard for the sudden insult or ignorant stereotype.

And Glenn Beck's crowd wants to 'restore honor'. I can think of several areas where this clan could begin.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

garden update

Picking zucchini and the first tomatoes are turning orange (finally).

Also, I began digging potatoes. Here is the potato patch back in March, with the seed potatoes laid out.

Here is the plot now - I dug out the first 3 feet (of a 12 foot patch).

Here are some of the potatoes, and the onions that I dug out yesterday. Lots more potatoes to come.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

hint: rhymes with 'Reason'

Those who are whipping up the masses into anti-Islamic hysteria, and those who are really into it (with signs, marches, and indignant, sanctimonious speeches) are providing convincing video to the manipulators on the other side, who now have great material for their recruiting posters, 'proving' that Americans are indeed at war with Islam.

So, in a twisted way, can't we state that the anti-NYC cultural center (I refuse to call it by its 'Death Panel' moniker) folks are giving 'aid and comfort to the enemy'? Ironic, no?

Once again, our profound national ignorance plays right into Osama's hands, and this time, they didn't even have to have any planning meetings - it just happened.

By the way, NPR reports this morning a new poll showing that a giant rise in the % of Amurikans now either believe the President is a Muslim, or are 'not sure'. Very sad.

Maybe, next year, Truth in Advertising rules will require them to change the name of the show to 'Are you smarter than a 2nd Grader?'.

UPDATE: for example

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

George W Bush - just a coward or something more sinister?

So Bush's people say he has 'no comment' on the Imam at the center of the phony NYC Islamic Center nonsense. If he had any intellectual honesty....wait, what was I thinking?

For those of you not keeping score, that Imam was picked by the Bush administration to be a moderate force in dealing with other islamic groups, and, under Bush, he had full FBI clearance.

One can only assume that his handlers suggested he stay out of the fracas, in order to let events play out the way they are already trending (i.e. 'Some People Say that Allah hates Jesus').

Monday, August 16, 2010

I am so frickin' frustrated


Once again, they have let the right-wing fog-machine determine the national discourse, and manipulate the meme to make Democrats bend to a totally-manufactured 'national outrage'.

This, from the 'Read the Constitution' folks.

I give up.

There is no hope.

Our Republic is doomed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Close to mexico

Sitting in the El Paso airport, waiting to board the first flight, to 110 degree Phoenix.

I am looking out the window to the south, where I clearly see the barrios of Juarez, going up the hills on the Other Side of the pretty narrow Rio Grande.

On the freeway coming in from the north, you come quite close to the modest river, with at least one stretch guarded by an industrial-strength metal fence.

Just a quick plane-change in Phoenix, then on to 98 degree Portland, where KG, friends, music and a cold beer wait.

Friday, August 13, 2010

three hours later...

I found El Comedor without any problem, after taking a quick look at the historic Mesilla plaza, which I visited some years ago (it hadn't changed much). Unfortunately, I had hoped to have a look inside the church, but, alas, it was locked.

As I mentioned, El Comedor was reviewed pretty favorably by TripAdvisor. It certainly had the feel of a small, family place. The service was very quick, and the menu presented many tempting things. I wanted to sample several things, so I had to order the combination plate.

There was a Taco de Pastor, an enchilada de pollo, a chili rellano, a serving of chili verde, the expected beans and rice, and a big flour tortilla (I barely touched the salsa and home-made chips).

Everything was pretty good, and it was a challenge to finish it all (I rise to all challenges). The clear winner: the chili verde. It was spicy and very flavorful. I could have made a meal just with that.

There was also a beer. Total: about $15.

Now, I am back in my motel room for one more night, watching Rachel on MSNBC. Maybe I'll see if there's a movie on TV. The swimming pool is still open for another hour. So many choices.

Heading home tomorrow. No complaints.

Does it get any better?

I finished my three days of intensive work with my two project teams here in Las Cruces, and am now back in the Ramada, enjoying my $3 margarita.

The work week is over. It was very good.

I did some web research, and believe I will soon head to a restaurant that TripAdvisor says is the best Mexican in town. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

amazing desert lightning in New Mexico

Finished my 2nd day of meetings, down here in Las Cruces. It's all going very well, with lots of decisions being made and my To-Do list growing hourly.

I stepped out of the motel to walk over to the burger place across the street (WhatABurger) to get a chocolate shake. There were dramatic clouds and setting sun, with frequent, classic, forked lightning flashes illuminating the sky to the south.

Not sure I'd love to live here, but it sure is different from western Oregon, and I can see the appeal!

Tomorrow is the final day of meetings with my project teams, then back home on Saturday.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

having it both ways

So the teabaggers keep saying they just want to 'return to the Constitution'. I even saw a bumper-sticker the other day, that said 'I vote the Constitution.'

I assume that's a euphemism for 'Obama is not the President.'

Well, with all the right-wing blather about 'activist judges' interpreting the Constitution, instead of simply following its straightforward language, I have to laugh (uncomfortably) at their recent jibes at the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to anyone born here.

You can't have it both ways - either we follow the literal sacred words of the Founding Fathers (where the amendment is clear) or you admit that times change and interpretation is necessary, to adjust to current realities (which demolishes their pathetic argument that 'the Constitution does not address Gay Marriage').

Of course, intellectual consistency is for oxymorons.

Best wishes to Christopher Hitchens, as he nears the End.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

transition days

spent yesterday with Karen and guests working in the yard, weeding, mowing, pruning, and picking.

then out to dinner at Seasons and Regions. Could not finish the 2nd pint of IPA.

will visit a local client tomorrow, then pack for Tuesday departure.

Lying in bed this morning before getting up - missing my dog.

Friday, August 06, 2010

back from the beach

two weeks in Manzanita with friends and family just went by.

now to pick up the pieces of my Portland life, before flying to New Mexico on Tuesday.

what did you expect?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

not much to say these days

Tomatoes are enormous; beans coming along; peas mostly done; squashes getting big.

Watching the steady march of the Tea Party brown-shirts. Everything is right on schedule, according to the time-honored progression of Republics into Empires into Fascist right-wing lunacy, as the unsuspecting masses have had their pockets successfully picked by the bankers, and their emotions successfully inflamed by the man-behind-the-curtain.

Happens every time, as predictable as out-of-control squash plants.

Happy summer, everyone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

fooled again


When will they ever learn?

Monday, July 12, 2010

stuff that makes software developers salivate

Over the past few years, I have developed a couple of applications that run under Windows CE, using various Microsoft tools. Since I use a Windows smartphone (and am VERY happy with it), this has been cool.

With the advent of the iPhone and the precipitous decline of Windows Mobile, I have felt like I am locked out of future meaningful development on the phone platform.

Now I see this. It tells me that Android is the way to go, since it does not have the locked-in restrictions of Steve Jobs Universe. Can't wait until this is released.

Will it be enough to have me abandone my trusty HTC Tilt? Hard to say, since I will miss the built-in Word and Excel (which I actually use on the phone). Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

this will blow your mind


Also, I'd be remiss if I failed to send Happy Birthday greetings to Ringo Starr, 70 today.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The July 3rd deck project happened!

Today is the Glorious Fourth. I have fond memories, as a kid, of making the drive with family from Elmira to Ithaca, where we watched, every year, the best fireworks display in the world, at the Cornell football stadium. It was a ritual.

As you left the stadium at the end of the show, there were barrels at all the exits. Folks tossed in some cash, whatever they wanted, and some company used the proceeds to spend the next 364 days building next year's show. It was self-supporting for many years. Now, that's Democracy.

We spent yesterday building the framework for the deck in our back-yard, that has been in the planning stage for a couple of years. Thanks to the engineering vision of our friend Robert Perron, the master carpentry of our cousin Rion, and the labor and amazing chop-saw of our cousin Steven, it all came together in about 8 hours. Good thing I dug the six holes for the pier blocks the other day - that saved a lot of time.

After we leveled the square concrete slabs in the holes with gravel, placed the pier-blocks in the holes, and laid the beams in the pier-blocks, came the tedious, necessary task of setting levels.

Steven cut little posts, to raise the beams to the proper heights. This took a while.
Check and re-check all heights.
Are the posts right? Maybe we should shave off another inch?
This took a long time, but had to be right.
OK - looking good. Let's lay out the first joists and make sure they're level, too. They were!
Laying out all the 12 foot joists - we had to fabricate one from a 10-foot piece.
And a couple of hours later, all joists are screwed to the beams! Note the nice indented corners! Next year, the posts for the roof will go there. Rion was an amazing help.
End of the afternoon. There is temporary facia around the entire perimeter, with lovely, precise 45 degree cuts on all corners.
Another view. Next up - decking in a few weeks!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

amazing Civil War photos


Mouse over photos to see caption (file name) at bottom of browser. Some truly amazing scenes, plus portraits of most of the major figures.

See Lincoln at the 2nd Innaugural, with, apparently, Booth in the photo, in the crowd above him.

Lots of scenes from Antietam and Gettysburg - places I am familiar with, having both studied the battles and visited the fields.

Also noteworthy: the under-construction Capitol and Washington Monument. Check it out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I don't mean to mess up your day, but...........

Lots of folks are linking to this OpEd.

Basically, there is a growing possibility that the Deepwater Horizon oil-volcano really is the pivotal event of our lifetimes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

why am I not surprised

it all makes sense. it's always all about the pillage opportunities.

can there be any doubt?

The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is the defining event of our times. Even the Texas schoolbooks of the future will be obligated to mention it (probably in connection with a sin of some sort).

The developing scenario is reaching the Pandora's Box realm of released evils. For a truly frightening assessment, from someone who appears to know of what he speaks, try this blog post. Yes, it's very long, but it explains the physical forces at work here, and the slim chances for human engineering to control it.

What we have, folks, is a disaster movie, worthy of the great distopian disaster movies of all times. Unfortunately, Bruce Willis is not going to save everything in the final 15 minutes.

Where did America go wrong? Very simply, I believe there can be no doubt that the election of 1980 set the course which lead us to this day. The folks who brought you the Reagan Revolution set it all in motion, and the most-rotten of the rotters, present at every rotten, slimy, greedy point, is KBR/Halliburton.

Just sayin'.

Friday, June 11, 2010

what a world

This morning, our steady Mexican laborer, Rolando, appeared at our house around 7:30, as Karen was leaving for work. Normally he comes by on weekends, and we always have work for him to do, and he does it well.

He does yard-work for several folks in our neighborhood, and he was desperate to find someone with cable, to watch the Mexico vs. South Africa World Cup game.

I told him we don't have cable, but I may be able to find a free stream on the internet. While he nervously watched, I spent several minutes trying several sites, before, magically, I found one, where the commentators were either Russian or Polish.

So, we sat in my kitchen - I made him coffee and toast - one American and one Mexican watching as teams from Mexico and South Africa played soccer, with the audio and video coming from half a world away, on a wireless connection to an old laptop. It's the modern world!

Rolando's joy when Mexico tied it 1-1 was great to see - he stood up and was almost dancing around the room. In the final minutes, he had to get up from his chair and pace nervously. When it was over (1-1), he smiled broadly and left, to go on his way.

I felt lucky to share in his excitement, and am glad I don't have to watch any more soccer for the time being.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

on israel

Great piece in the NY Review of Books - you should read it. It echoes what I've been thinking all along, that the sweet, innocent Israel of my youth (50's and 60's) is long gone.

It discusses the demographics that today's American Jewish youth are largely ambivalent to the Zionist passions that affected so many in my generation.

The split between the older defend-Israel-always attitude and the but-wait-aren't-they-really-oppressors sensibility was brought home to me a few days ago, during a casual conversation with one of the older guys who sings with the chorus at the Jewish Assisted Living home (where I have been playing piano weekly for several years).

Refering to the current tensions between Israel and Turkey (and knowing that Karen and I were in Turkey a couple of years ago), he asked, "do you have relatives in Turkey?" I said, no, we were just tourists. That seemed to be an invitation to discuss the current bad stuff and I made a comment along the lines of "I just knew when Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister that he would be a disaster."

My friend bristled and said, "what do you mean, he's exactly the kind of tough leader that we need, unlike that Obama."

We changed the subject soon thereafter.

I grew up in a home where the UJA 'pushke' (those little blue boxes with the map of Israel on the front and a coin slot on top) was always present, and I was always encouraged to 'put a penny in the pushke'. I was active in Young Judaea all thru high-school and was even in an (shudders to think about it) Israeli folk-dancing group.

But this Israeli government, and a large segment of Israeli society, seems on the wrong side of history and the quest for Human Rights - you know, the one that began when we were slaves in Egypt.

Friday, June 04, 2010

children become domesticated eventually

Ben's favorite holiday has always been Thanksgiving. As readers here may know, he moved into his own house last February, and the first milestone was a brunch he organized, a couple of months ago, for about 6 people. It was a smashing success (homemade bagels, champagne, etc).

Next Sunday, he is hosting (and doing most of the planning for) what he's calling 'Half-Thanksgiving', with an 18 pound turkey and (at last count) 15 guests (including us). I was over there yesterday, delivering cloth napkins, roasting pan, etc, and helping him set up the tables and chairs.

He's really into it, which is both amusing and gratifying. Dylan is expected to come up from Ashland for the weekend, which will be nice, too.

There's more shopping to be done, but, this morning, I made a gluten-free cornbread for the stuffing (which is my contribution). Must get busy...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

back from an abbreviated camping weekend

We drove out to Cove Palisades Saturday morning. It was raining hard in Portland, but, by the time we approached Madras, clearing nicely.

Got set up at the campground, then Karen and I went for a bike ride along the rim road, with turnouts to the magnificent views of the Crooked and Deschutes canyons.

Dinner and campfire with the group was fun Saturday night, and Sunday dawned sunny and clear.

Four of us went for a hike up to an incredible viewpoint, overlooking the canyons. There were a ton of colorful wildflowers and lots of birdlife. Here's a photo, from my cell phone, of the flowers, rocks and cliffs. We hiked to the highest point you see, on the left-end of the rim.

It was still sunny and warm as we finished the 4-hour hike, but, around 3 pm, the clouds descended and the rain commenced.

Dinner was cooked and eaten in the rain, and, as everyone prepared for a damp, chilly night, Karen and I decided to bail. We tossed our gear into the car, said our goodbyes to the group, and drove back to Portland, arriving home around 11:00 pm.

Spent Monday doing yard-work and other chores. All in all, a mixed bag, made somewhat sad by both the weather and the fact that this was our first camping trip without a dog in many years.

It's been a week since Zacky left us, and we are adjusting to his absence. Not easy.

Couple of music gigs coming up in the next few days - a welcome distraction.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I don't understand

Yes, I should be grieving for my dog, but the knowledge that he is released from his growing infirmity is some comfort.

So, I thought I'd hit Google News, to see what's the news on the Gulf oil disaster (which, I sense, is THE pivotal event of our times). Amazingly, there is no trace of this story:

Lindsay Lohan and Dancing with the Stars? Yes.

Ecological nightmare, not so important...

dog gone

Friday, May 21, 2010

the Owyhee trip

I left Portland around 3 am last Friday morning (after about 2 hours of restless sleep), and headed east on I-84, stopping every once in a while to add gas, delete pee, and add munchies, eventually arriving in Rome, OR (via western Idaho) around 11:30 am.

It was a beautiful ride, going past several places last traveled/viewed on Cycle Oregon in 2003.

Eric and David arrived in Rome (from Santa Cruz) around 1 and Ann (and her dog) arrived (from far-northern CA) around 2. We rigged up the boats and organized food and gear for a couple of hours. By the time we were ready to launch, it was after 4 pm, and we decided to spend the night at the boat launch in Rome, rather than hit the river with all of us tired and brain-dead.

It was a wise choice. We had pretty-good sandwiches at the Rome cafe (wifi available), and Friday night in Rome was peaceful, with a zillion stars visible. Saturday morning, we had a quick breakfast and headed down the Owyhee, Eric and David in one boat and Ann, Lamu-the-dog, and me in the other.

The first few miles are a gentle float thru farmland, gliding by occasionally-interesting formations. Here's a photo from about mile 4:

Since we had a very early start, we planned on a big-mileage day for Saturday. It was very hot and sunny.

We stopped for lunch and a brief swim (brrrrr) in one of the first big canyons we encountered, then continued down to 'Weeping Wall', where we camped for the first night (about 18 river miles). Very peaceful, totally nice, and Eric's dinner of charcoal-broiled tuna steaks (Trader Joe's), (instant) mashed potatoes, and salad was just right.

Sunday morning, we continued thru varied scenery. The formations grew more eroded and exposed, sort of similar to Bryce Canyon formations of sedimentary rock. We camped at the base of Pruitt's Castle, a formidable formation of multi-colored and fancifully-eroded, crumbly mud and rock.

After setting up camp, I went for a walk up to the castle, taking lots of photos and wandering around under the towers. It was pretty darn cool. Here's a photo of Lambert Rocks, just downstream from Pruitt's Castle - typical of the formation.

I was on for dinner Sunday night, and my menu was a big pot of Cajun Red Beans and Rice (with added canned diced green chiles and canned tomatoes) and a frying pan full of sauteed onion and green beans, with Trader Joe's seafood mix (shrimp, scallops, and calmari) tossed in, at the last 2 minutes. Everyone seemed to be pleased with the results.

Did I mention that there was beer, too?

After dinner, the 4 of us walked back up to the Castle, where we took more photos and climbed around on the hills, getting great views up and down the river. It was pretty wonderful.

Back in camp, I broke out the Trader Joe's (see the recurring theme here?) Lemon Bars, which were pronounced very fine.

Today's river mileage: I think just about 6.

Monday morning: a hearty breakfast at Pruitt's Castle (scrambled eggs with veggies and leftover beans-and-rice folded in flour tortillas, and lots of coffee), before we pushed off.

Great rock formations (see the above close-up of Lambert Rocks), a variety of cliffs and canyons, and a few nice rapids. We stopped for lunch at a cave that Ann had remembered, just immediately upstream from Green Dragon Canyon.

This canyon is astonishing - thousand-foot cliffs rising up from the narrow, rushing river. I took lots of photos. Here's one - really, this canyon was the most-impressive one of the entire run.

We found a campsite in the heart of the Green Dragon and set up camp. It had been a sunny, warm day and, after pitching my tent, I went for a 5 minute swim in the pretty-cold-to-start Owyhee, emerging totally refreshed and happy.

About an hour later, the wind came up, and it started to rain a little. Then a lot. We all retreated to our tents as the gale increased to a wild level. The wind-gusts were so strong that I was actually holding down the floor of the tent, and hoping that the water leakage would be minimal.

This went on for maybe 45 minutes before the storm abated enough for everyone to emerge and compare notes. We all agreed that it was quite a storm, and hoped that the evening would be a little more calm.

It was still windy, though, with dark clouds visible in the slit of sky that we could see (remember, we are at the bottom of a very deep, narrow canyon). We decided to try to cook some dinner, and Eric did a great job, under the circumstances, delivering some instant kim-chee, rice, and a veggie stir-fry (onion, mushroom, eggplant, etc) with both tofu and tempeh. It was hearty and satisfying, as the evening came on, dim, still a little windy, and still threatening more rain.

We went for a brief walk after dinner, then had dessert (Trader Joe's creme brules, served, without plates or utensils, directly onto our outstretched palms - it was a unique approach to camp-dining!).

It did rain a bit more during the night - nothing too major - and Tuesday dawned, chilly and cloudy.

After a mile or so, we emerged from Green Dragon Canyon into a wide-open section, still with high cliffs on either side, but no longer deep in a narrow, enclosed space. The day was improving.

A few more riffles and rapids. We stopped for lunch in Jackson Hole, a broad valley with long vistas in all directions. It was turning into a nice day. One of the maps promised a couple of petroglyphs in that area and we found a couple of small ones.

Later in the afternoon, we pulled over at a sandy beach on river-left, based on Ann's intuition that there was something there, and found an amazing group of petroglyphs - the largest collection I had ever seen - a couple of dozen at least. Here's one group - pretty darn cool to be visualizing the ancient people, bent over these boulders, and publishing the news of the day.

It was time to pick our final campsite. Looking at the map, we saw a marked camp at the base of a formation called "Devil's Tower". It was impossible to miss Devil's Tower, and we stopped at a camp-site that was probably not the one on the map, but having a great view of the Tower and surrounding hills.

We set up camp, and it turned out to be the best one of the trip. The afternoon was warm and delightful, and the scenery was wonderful, as the late-afternoon sun and clouds bathed the surrounding hills with shifting shadows and highlights.

Here we are getting ready for dinner. That's Devil's Tower on the left (only a passing resemblance to the real one, in Wyoming). Can you find the wine bottle?

It was my turn for dinner, and my menu was (after appetizers of smoked oysters and other leftover veggies and dips) cheese tortellini (with a sauce of fresh spinach, two kinds of pesto, and Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread, with eggplant and garlic) and the rest of the steamed green beans. There was wine. There was joy in camp.

After dinner and scenery appreciation, we all went for a walk on the expansive sagebrush plateau directly behind the camp. It was lovely and peaceful.

Then, it was back to camp for my dessert (which I had made a couple of hours earlier and placed in the cooler): Jell-O No-bake cherry cheesecake. It turned out great - how could you go wrong?

We went to bed. It had been the last full day of rafting, and everyone agreed that it had been pretty good.

Wednesday morning, we packed up the last camp and headed to the take-out - about 5 miles.

We stopped briefly at the hot springs at Greeley Bar, then continued on. It was a hot, sunny day. I took lots of photos. Here's one from the final stretch - can you see the white raft (it's pretty small)?

We got to the take-out, at Birch Creek, around noon, and packed everything up in the two vehicles that had been shuttled there from Rome. We left Birch Creek around 1:30 and, as we were told it would be, it took an hour and a half of steep, twisty, bumpy dirt-road to get to highway 95, just north of Jordan Valley.

We had a minimal lunch at the JV Cafe (we were looking a tad grubby, after 5 days), then drove on to Rome, where my trusty Subaru had been waiting for my return. I threw my dirty, disorderly gear into the back, we said our good-byes, and I took off. It was around 4 pm.

Great trip, eh?

I drove the long, straight miles, north and west, towards Burns. It was a lovely afternoon and the endless miles were mostly deserted. I saw roads I had last traveled on Cycle Oregon 2001 - September 11, 2001, to be exact. That was eerie.

Got gas and a sandwich in Burns (where I finally found cell-phone coverage and could call Karen). I headed west towards Bend, arriving there around 7:30. I stopped for more gas and then decided there was no way I had the energy to drive all the way to Portland.

I stopped in Sisters and got a motel room. First hot shower in almost a week. Clean sheets. Good.

Woke up early Thursday morning - there was a dusting of snow on my car and the motel roof. I grabbed an indifferent breakfast in Sisters and headed home.

It began to snow hard just outside of town, and there was a blizzed blowing as I ascended Santiam Pass. Traffic was slow, but that was OK.

Eventually descended into the familiar, green Willamette Valley, and drove up to Karen's office around 10:30. Arrived in our lush, beautiful yard around 11 - said hello to the dog - unpacked a few things - went to bed.

There's no place like Home, and there's no place like the Owyhee.