Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sequoia Gigantea

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This living flowing land
is all there is, forever

We are it
it sings through us-........."
Gary Snyder, from "By Frazier Creek Falls" in "Turtle Island"

This picture was taken in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite national Park. Below are enlarged details showing people for scale. The building and the people are about 30 feet further from the camera than the tree. The first BRANCH on some of these trees is six feet in diameter.
About these big trees, in the matter of longetivity they are undoubtedly one of the oldest living things on the planet. They range in age from 900 to 2100 years and in not a few cases some attain an age of 3000 years. The age of one tree logged had been determined with close approximate accuracy as 3148 years.

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Friday, January 28, 2005


In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. ... Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism."

This sounds familiar. We are SO beyond 1984 and it's "up is down" and "black is white." Are we stuck in a strange loop? Repeating our mistakes until we get it right ala Bill Murry in "Groundhog Day?"

I am indebted to Jon Carroll at the San Francisco Chronicle for this quote and his commentary on it. I recommend him quite highly, also Mark Morford at the same paper. Both are available online, look under columnists (no registration required).

Cliches crowd my mind.

"its later than you think"

"the price of liberty is eternal vigilance"

"hey now, what's that sound,
everybody look what's goin' down"

I like the idea, proposed elsewhere in the blogosphere at Bouphonia, of good news friday. I didn't find any good news, so I'll close with more cliches.

"hope springs eternal"

"its always darkest before the dawn"

dread pirate roberts

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


There were so many things I started to write about today. Things that really matter, and shape the world we live in. Even little things that don't matter to a lot of people, but matter to me. I thought I should comment on how the Bush administration has changed its mind about the word "private" for describing the accounts that will undo Social Security. Now the word "private" has been declared a pejorative, and must not be used by the media. (See Talking Points Memo for the best analysis of the current battle.) I thought I should comment on the list of dietary guidelines released by the government today. Oh I could go on and on about trying to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, how the vegetable should be the center of the meal, and the protein portion its co-star, but most people won't change their diets. We've had lists like this before. I thought I should write about Richard Pombo, the chairman of the House Resources Committee, who thinks that wilderness designations can only be applied to lands that have been untouched by humans. A rather daunting standard to meet, because it means that even a logging road in a National Forest will disqualify an area from protection. Pombo's philosophy can be summed up this way, if we have already intruded on the lush sanctity of the tall trees, why bother to restore it to its grandeur? I thought I could even add a photo of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest area, so readers could see where the new Wild Sky wilderness area is being proposed. But then, I thought I should write about the devastating news that 31 soldiers died today in Iraq, or how Sy Hersh said that Iran was next on our list for war. But maybe I need to say something about the senate vote today on Condoleeza Rice. There's enough angst in that for me to bury my head and weep. And then of course, there's Alberto Gonzales, our own torture master who will likely be confirmed, as well.
I don't even want to talk about why I find it hard to read Atrios anymore. I see the number of comments can reach over 500 in two hours. The echo chamber is reverberating, reverberating, reverberating. What are we saying to each other? I don't know anymore. But I'm sure it's all very important. I think I'll leave it up to be far better minds than mine to sort it all out.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sex, Science, and Spring

A friend emailed and said she had read this blog and wondered why it was filled with so much doom and gloom. I didn’t think it was, and when I reread the posts, I still don’t. But here are a few things I read in various online venues today that made me happy—

From William Saletan in Slate:

Sex is easily the biggest physical difference within a species. Men and women, unlike blacks and whites, have different organs and body designs. The inferable difference in genomes between two people of visibly different races is one hundredth of 1 percent. The gap between the sexes vastly exceeds that. A year and a half ago, after completing a study of the Y chromosome, MIT biologist David Page calculated that male and female human genomes differed by 1 percent to 2 percent—"the same as the difference between a man and a male chimpanzee or between a woman and a female chimpanzee," according to a paraphrase in the New York Times. "We all recite the mantra that we are 99 percent identical and take political comfort in it," Page said. "But the reality is that the genetic difference between males and females absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the human genome."

Wow, there’s just as much genetic difference between men and women as there are between humans and chimpanzees. I swear this makes me giddy.

From the NY Times Op-Ed by Olivia Judson

“HYPOTHESIS: males and females are typically indistinguishable on the basis of their behaviors and intellectual abilities.

This is not true for elephants. Females have big vocabularies and hang out in herds; males tend to live in solitary splendor, and insofar as they speak at all, their conversation appears mostly to consist of elephant for "I'm in the mood, I'm in the mood..."

The hypothesis is not true for zebra finches. Males sing elaborate songs. Females can't sing at all. A zebra finch opera would have to have males in all the singing roles.

And it's not true for green spoon worms. This animal, which lives on the sea floor, has one of the largest known size differences between male and female: the male is 200,000 times smaller. He spends his whole life in her reproductive tract, fertilizing eggs by regurgitating sperm through his mouth. He's so different from his mate that when he was first discovered by science, he was not recognized as being a green spoon worm; instead, he was thought to be a parasite.

Is it ridiculous to suppose that the hypothesis might not be true for humans either?”

It is pure ecstasy to consider the differences between men and women and not assign, ascribe, attribute, nor concoct any socio-psychological meaning to it. Just the raw data of genes that connects us to every living thing.

From the NY Times editorial on why Intelligent Design should NOT be taught in public schools:

“Districts around the country are pondering whether to inject intelligent design into science classes, and the constitutional problems are underscored by practical issues. There is little enough time to discuss mainstream evolution in most schools; the Dover students get two 90-minute classes devoted to the subject. Before installing intelligent design in the already jam-packed science curriculum, school boards and citizens need to be aware that it is not a recognized field of science. There is no body of research to support its claims nor even a real plan to conduct such research. In 2002, more than a decade after the movement began, a pioneer of intelligent design lamented that the movement had many sympathizers but few research workers, no biology texts and no sustained curriculum to offer educators. Another leading expositor told a Christian magazine last year that the field had no theory of biological design to guide research, just "a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions." If evolution is derided as "only a theory," intelligent design needs to be recognized as "not even a theory" or "not yet a theory." It should not be taught or even described as a scientific alternative to one of the crowning theories of modern science.”

Ha ha ha. This just makes my heart sing.

From Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle on how to handle the next four Bush years:

“Know that this is not you. Know that you do not have to kowtow and you do not have to succumb and you do not have to bury your head and merely endure. Know that you have this one humble and luminous choice, always and always and every single day: no matter if it's dark energy or light, low vibration or high, raw intimate self-defined sensual divinity or dumbed-down numbed-out force-fed conservative sanctimony, you can either trust that truth and follow your own hot moral compass, or allow it to be stained and warped and doused in fear and led wide, wide astray. It's not about them. It's about you. Make your choice now. Grip it like a baseball bat.

Then, the good news. No longer will you have to ask how to survive. No longer will you ask how you can possibly endure the next four miserable, homophobic, warmongering, Earth-bashing years without daily weeping and clenching and rending of karmic flesh.

That truth of yours won't just set you free; it will lay you open and feed the universe and allow you to laugh at the mad circus of it all, ultimately morphing that sad resigned news-fatigue nausea back into outrage and ire and healthy intellectual fire. And you will, by default and almost automatically, get your fine ass back in the game.”

Why do these things make me happy? Because as surely as these first green shoots of spring have poked their life-affirming leaves through the winter soil—I am filled with hope that wide-open minds will triumph over narrow-thinking.

Rexroth’s Daughter

Spring in January Posted by Hello

Friday, January 21, 2005

Fungi Friday

amanita muscaria

amanita muscaria

coprinus comatus

The red mushroom is also known as fly agaric. It was proposed by the ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson as the soma of ancient India. Nowadays everyone labels it poisonous. DON'T EAT IT!. Info here.

The white (ish) mushroom is also known as Shaggy Mane. That is my footgear, put there for scale. Shaggy manes are edible, delicious and easy to identify. Don't rely on me. Get a good mushroom book. I recommend "All that the Rain Promises and More..." by David Arora. It has an easy to use key (identification method). A more technical but still easy to read book is "The New Savory Wild Mushroom" by Margaret McKenny and Daniel E. Stuntz. Both books have recipes.

Its getting late, so this may be Science Saturday as well.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Class Warfare

one of the lenses through which to view history that i find instructive and informative, if not perfectly nuanced, is that of the tension between the peasantry and the nobility and its often cyclical nature. the peasants struggled to survive despite the oppression of taxes and such quaint practices as the "right of the lord of the manor to the bridenight." the nobles, in their arrogance, tended to squeeze out ever more taxes from the peasants and to treat them with increasing cruelty. when the peasants were sufficiently desperate they took up cudgels and pitchforks, stormed the castle, and killed as many nobles as possible. the nobles in turn sent out their army, comprised mainly of the strongest and most brutal peasants forced and bribed into service, to kill as many peasants as possible. the easy example is the french revolution.

it usually worked out badly if either side scored too decisive a victory. the peasants, though not stupid, may not have learned to organize quickly enough to defend against takeover by a neighboring nobility. the local nobility, lacking a sufficient peasant base, may have been forced to capitulate to a stronger neighbor. either way the peasants were bound to suffer the most. if a rough balance was struck, before the country was too much laid waste, life went on and the nobility may have learned to limit their oppression of the peasants. there have been and are now countries where sufficient of the noble (modern noble=$) class understand the full implications of noblesse oblige for their own lives, both morally and selfishly. the nobility of some countries were slow learners, thus another cycle was acted out, or those countries are gone. do you remember bohemia or dalmatia?

today the tension is played out between the haves and the have-nots, the owners and the renters. in european countries many of the haves are still the inherited nobility. china has a new dynasty, and the communist party leaders are the nobility and the larger population are still both literally peasants and have-nots. in those countries that have survived several of these cycles, mostly europe, the haves seem to have learned that they can maintain their opulent, even decadent, lifestyle if they allow the have-nots to become have-somes. the disparity between the highest paid and lowest paid in the usa is some ten times the disparity in europe. workers in europe routinely get six weeks of vacation, while the standard in the usa is two weeks or less. most industrialized countries have universal health care--not so in the usa.

while we still have a large middle-class in our country, they do seem oblivious to the sizable chunks falling off the bottom of lower-middle into poverty, creating more have-nots. our president was infamously caught on video telling a gathering of supporters "you're my base--the haves and the have-mores." we have seen the largest tax cuts benefit the very rich while we go to war. in response to a major attack on our country the president says "go shopping." we hear the lie that social security is in "crisis." something like 5% of our population owns somewhere over 75% of everything. the rich are so comfortable that they don't care if our government makes an unholy alliance with a radically fundamental christian minority, letting them dictate public morals in return for political support, as long as the rich can get richer. the wealthy can send their daughters to morally lax europe for abortions. how many "upper-crust" young men and women enter the "all volunteer" armed forces? inside walled and gated communities there are private police and fire departments, while outside, more and more cities small and large face budget problems necessitating cuts in police, fire, and public health services. whole states face bankruptcy. on the international front our "king" is depleting our treasury of blood and money to support his insane drive to dominate the ENTIRE PLANET. the smarmy little man, shilling for the oil barons, is spending the rent money, the nest egg, the seed corn, and not just incidentally trashing our good name.

are the peasants desperate enough to take up cudgels and pitchforks? well, not this peasant. not quite yet. i do despair, and i do see the fuzzy outlines of the velvet coup d'etat engineered by the guys in the smoke-filled room; the new, oh so discreet, nobility of the owners of it all, but the bigger population has inertia. the new world order has not yet congealed into reality. "it's a hard rain gonna fall" for sure. i am a pessimist, but i swear i see the current madness fraying around the edges. the stark economic reality of continuing deficit spending and imbalance of trade will hit with bad effect. it will creep in like the tsunami did in places, just a bit higher than most waves at first, then a chunk more, then a double high wave and on and on. how much sacrifice must our military endure? how many VA hospitals will close? we may not quite get, as a whole, what's really happening in iraq in our name, but we will notice when we see more homeless people, when our adjustable mortgages are adjusted up every chance, when we know lots of laid off people, when none of our schools has a library, when the dow jones tanks to 600, when inflation eats up every gain we've made for forty years.

the machinery of our governance is sore tried by rabid people on all sides poisoning the well of public discourse. we do not have to join in that foul endeavor. do not be shy to be honest and open. be aggressively ethical. be insistently civil. the reality-based community has an implacable ally---reality. keep pointing at actual events and economic facts.

i read and enjoy a lot of blogs and comments for information, opinion, humor and ideas. i would recommend and thank two of my favorites bloggers for challenging me to think deeply about our current political and moral situation. please go read cervantes and robert m jeffers .

dread pirate roberts

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Not so Sound

Puget Sound

The top picture is from the train heading south out of Tacoma. Train travel is great (highly recommended). The other picture is looking at Port Townsend and the Olympic Mountains from the ferry from Whidbey Island. The ferry is a great ride (Also highly recommended).

We are fortunate to live in a beautiful place, but best not look too closely at the water itself, nor peek underneath the surface. Puget Sound suffers from the same malady that plagues all too many shorelines and waterways. Agricultural runoff, improperly installed and maintained septic systems, inadequate sewage treatment, rain washing car crap and other junk into waterways into lakes, bays, sounds, and oceans. An article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives a short description of the problems and some solutions.

I think the following quote from the article illustrates part of the problem. "Stormwater regulations are getting out of hand," said Tim Harris, a lawyer with the Building Industry Association of Washington. "They're absolutely ridiculous. It's overregulation providing very little positive impact." I guess he never heard of "the tragedy of the commons."

More info here and here here

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Forty Dozen Eggs

Here are 40 dozen eggs. 
What’s the significance of 40 dozen eggs? 
Well, they comprise the full accounting of my reproductive life. 
My entire adult life, as the conservative right and David Brooks see me. 
Forty dozen eggs. 
Each dozen represents one year of fertility. 
That’s it. Seriously, according to some—this is the most important thing about me. 
Do you know me from these eggs? 
During the 3rd dozen, the war in Viet Nam was raging. 
The 4th dozen, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered. 
The 5th dozen I went to Woodstock! 
The 8th dozen I voted for George McGovern. 
The 10th dozen, Richard Nixon resigned. This was a happy dozen. 
The 12th dozen, 
I bought 10 acres of land in Oregon and built a cabin. 
The 15th dozen, I married my first husband. 
I immersed myself in Kerouac and the beats. 
I went to college over the next 4 dozen eggs. The re-entry student dozens. 
The 16th dozen Ronald Reagan is elected. 
The next eight dozen weep. 
These dozens go to grad school, and divorce my first husband. 
The 24th dozen George HW Bush is elected. 
The 25th dozen I marry Roger. 
The 40th dozen posts on a blog. 
By choice, by design none of these eggs produced another human. 
Never a day of regret. Not one. 
You get the picture? 
 Robin Andrea in her 52nd year. 

Saturday, January 15, 2005

birdwatching in comfort Posted by Hello

Science Saturday

"In 1906, J.J. Thompson had received the Nobel Prize for proving that electrons are particles; in 1937 he saw his son awarded the Nobel Prize for proving that electrons are waves." I find this simply amazing. This is from John Gribbin's book "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat." He goes on to say that both views are merited. I am indebted to Gribbin for providing a simplified version of the awards' bases, and I hope he is reasonably accurate, as the references I found list the 1906 award as "in recognition of the great merits of his theoretical and experimental investigations on the conduction of electricity by gases" and the 1937 award as "for their experimental discovery of the diffraction of electrons by crystals." My own feeble understanding is that if one looks for waves, waves will be found and if one looks for particles, particles it will be, and the results are complementary views of the same "thing."

The classic "double slit experiment" in which the smallest units, or quanta, of light, photons, are aimed thru two slits at a screen which records the place of impact, seems to show that each succeeding photon "knows" where the previous photons landed, so that the pattern produced by many photons is that of a wave phenomenon. How do they do that? No one knows. Gribbin quotes Richard Feynman saying this is "a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery....the basic peculiarities of all quantum mechanics." I recommend "Six Easy Pieces" by Feynman for much better explanation of the experiment and its implications, and other essays on basic physics.

I also drew for the above upon "Schrodinger's Rabbits" by Colin Bruce and "The Mind of God" by Paul Davies, as well as Gribbin's sequel "Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality." I like to listen to the audio recordings I have of Feynman's lectures, even though it is harder for me to follow a spoken voice than the written word, because I love his voice.

dread pirate roberts

Friday, January 14, 2005

Now and Then

the yard in winter Posted by Hello

Friday critter blogging from our yard

the hawk cafeteria, taken through the window with the screen Posted by Hello

bent horn and friends Posted by Hello

coyote cruising for cherries in the orchard Posted by Hello

bird by the little waterfall Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"surviving this mad shocking circus"

How could God let this happen? I've read that question a few times, seen that query posed, by adults no less, which is just a bit sad, if not bewildering. As if God really was some sort of bearded and angry old puppeteer yanking strings and wreaking random havoc across the world for mad, inexplicable reasons all while favoring Republicans and evangelical Christians and war, a childish and simple kind of God conceptualized mostly by 5-year-olds and fundamentalist Bush supporters and Mel Gibson.

As if God were not, actually, a raw and deeply pulsing energy force, a vibration, the ambisexual gender-free love-torn luminosity of all things that we as a species can relish and contribute to and celebrate and drink from but that, instead, we seem to be trying very very hard to beat the living crap out of, every single day. You know?

Don't ask why God let this happen. Maybe ask, instead, why the vibration of the world and our treatment of the environment is so low and ugly and un-God-like right now that these things seem more inevitable than ever. Maybe there's a hint in there somewhere. Earth as living organism. Earth as dynamic barometer of our progress and awareness. Earth shuddering at our mad lurches toward war and overdevelopment and overpopulation. You think?

This is from Mark Morford. Read the whole piece here. (ok I just found that my link goes to his CURRENT rant, and the tsunami thing was current when I posted and is no longer so. I love his command of words and style. Check his archives for the tsunami piece.) God does not cause tsunamis

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Power of mind Project

Sometime on Inauguration Day----pray, meditate, conjure, do what you will with your will, take a second, take a deep breath, reach for the core of your being, ground yourself, dismiss for a second your cynicism, and hope that our country wakes up to reality.


torture in our name.

our DEATH SQUADS in Iraq

1300 of our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends, relations, neighbors dead.

20,000 injured.

8,000 of the injured severely disabled.

100,000 iraqi CIVILIANS dead from shock and awe.

Afghanistan the world leader in heroin production.

malnutrition and poverty increasing in our country, to say nothing of the rest of the world.


Don't forget "Don't give a damn dime Day"

Saturday, January 08, 2005


"What one person has to offer to another is their own being, nothin more, nothing less." Ram Dass, nee Richard Alpert Posted by Hello

Not so mensch

after the attack on 9/11-----

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" Jerry Falwell, nee The Antichrist Posted by Hello

Friday, January 07, 2005

The sorrow

"The 'sorrow' is affecting us all. A lot like nuclear fallout. It's carried on the jet stream of our hearts."

from our dear friend Jill, abed with pneumonia, and stricken with despair of our nation's moral collapse.

definitely a maine coon, with a maine coon attitude Posted by Hello

must get string

cat blogging Posted by Hello

the eyes have it Posted by Hello

the universe in a glass of wine

"A poet once said, 'The whole universe is in a glass of wine.' We will probably never know in what sense he meant it, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflection in the glass, and our imagination adds atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth's rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe's age, and the evolution of stars. What strange array of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization; all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Louis Pasteur, the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts--physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on--remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure; drink it and forget it all!"

from Six Easy Pieces, by Richard Feynman

Thursday, January 06, 2005

oh what a tangled web we weave...... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


I remember from somewhere the story of the student of a buddhist monk who found his master weeping. He asked why his master was crying. When his master replied that a child had died, the student asked "but master, is not all an illusion?" His master said "yes, but a child's death is the cruelest illusion of all." The death of 150,000 must indeed qualify as a cruel illusion.

If I can't thank Ram Dass for this story, I can certainly thank him for his life's influence on me.