Monday, February 28, 2005

Who is this Man?

Tom Atlee Posted by Hello

who is this man. why should you know him?

back in january a friend sent a link to an online mag that she thought we might find interesting. there was an article in it by tom atlee. he spoke of meeting conservatives who agreed to some liberal positions but felt constrained about voicing such positions publicly. i posted an intemperate but not rude comment critical of him for not urging them to stand up publicly for what they admit to privately. tom sent me a very gracious reply pointing out the political realities of finding common ground with skeptics before confronting them. so i googled him, as i most certainly should have done before mouthing off. nice website. great work. the picture above. doesn't he look like a nice guy? he is. we exchanged e-mails. i even sent him a picture of myself at his request.

he added me to his mailing list. i get well-written and very informative missives on an irregular schedule. he definitely "walks the walk" as we say in clicheland. when i asked him if i could use his picture and plug his work this was his reply:

I'm moved by all this and want you to feel free to use anything I
send (including my email correspondence) or anything on my site in
any life-benefiting way you choose. That's what it's for.

here is his biography. and here is a sample of his writing.

Dear friends,

I was not going to write you this morning, but this article about British autistic savant Daniel Tammet was too provocative. I found myself identifying with aspects of his mix of extreme abilities and extreme disabilities. Then I found
myself thinking of other people in my life whose social skills are very limited but who have remarkable gifts in other areas of their lives that outshine my own and many other people's.

I suspect most human capacities follow a bell curve: For each capacity, we would probably find that very few people have virtually none of it, and very few people have an extreme amount. Most of us are somewhere in a well-populated middle range, with a bit more or less of it.

We dream of creating geniuses at everything -- or of becoming such geniuses ourselves -- or, most seductive of all, of designing or training our children for such perfection. The prospects are tantalizing. What if we could use "the other 90 percent of our brains" like Einstein, or all be
as compassionate as the Dalai Lama?

I'm not sure it works like that. I think that extreme capacity requires certain tendencies -- biological, social, spiritual, mental, etc. -- which draw gigantic amounts of our attention and life energy towards and into the area of genius,impoverishing other areas of our lives. Genius often entails some disability, if only being seen as "the absent-minded professor."

we are lucky to have such an eloquent man working at improving democracy. go read some more of his prose and about his work. click on articles.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Why Does Richard Pombo Hate America?

Richard Pombo (R) California Posted by Hello

Since the Dharma Bums started this blog, we've scoured the internets for news and ideas that readers might find interesting. In that pursuit, we've come across the name Richard Pombo more than once. So, who is Richard Pombo, and why does he have any say about what lands will become National Parks, or what is an acceptable level of mercury in your fish? Well, he's the Republican chair of the House Resources Committee, and he's never seen a piece of wilderness that needed protection, nor a coal producing power plant that didn't. On March 15th the Bush EPA is legally required to finalize its rule determining how rigorously the toxic pollutant mercury will be regulated, and Richard Pombo has cooked up some fishy science in a report titled "Mercury in Perspective: Fact and Fiction About the Debate Over Mercury."

We were going to summarize a article about the heavy metals that the republicans think is okay to have in our air and food, but decided against it. It's more important to summarize the republican position on everything:

They are not interested in you, your children, or your aging parents. They don't care if the fish you eat has mercury, if the air you breathe is full of deadly pollutants, if the water your drink is toxic. The earth is here for their exploitation, to make themselves and their friends as rich as possible, to amuse and entertain them when they are out on a photo op, and to be a receptacle for their refuse. They want your vote, and then they want you to shut the fuck up, watch the news, be afraid of terrorists and Democrats, and attend church.

Richard Pombo represents the waste-tire capitol of Tracy, California. It is the state's dumping ground for some 31 million discarded tires-- enough to form a ring half way around the earth. What does Richard Pombo care about the environment? Absolutely nothing.

Friday, February 25, 2005

A Psychedelic Revival

Early Clinical Trial of DMT Posted by Hello

It used to be said: "what goes around comes around," or maybe it's "deja vu all over again." Whatever works best for announcing that LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, DMT, and ayahuasca have been approved for new clinical trials. Only this time there won't be a Timothy Leary-like "turn on, tune in, drop out" guru to tout the "trip" of these psychedelics, or call them the hotline to spiritual enlightenment. These clinical trials are being undertaken in an attempt to find relief for people who are drug abusers, alcoholics, cluster headache sufferers, and cancer patients facing death.

It is widely known that by the late 1960s psychedelics had been outlawed in the US, Canada, and Europe. Few people know that in the mid-1960s, more than 1000 peer-reviewed papers had been published describing the treatment of more than 40,000 patients for schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism and other disorders using psychedelic interventions. Now after more than 30 years, new scientific efforts are being spearheaded by people like John Halpern of Harvard, Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in Sarasota, Florida, psychiatrist Charles Grob at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, psychiatrist Francisco Moreno of the University of Arizona, Tucson and physician Michael Mithoefer of Charleston, South Carolina to revive research into psychedelic medicine.

Halpern, an associate director of substance abuse research at Harvard University's McLean Hospital recently received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give late-stage cancer patients the psychedelic drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy. He is also laying the groundwork for testing LSD as a treatment for dreaded super-migraines known as cluster headaches, as well as having completed research into the safety of repeated peyote use among the members of the Native American Church.

Doblin, who wrote his dissertation at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government on the federal regulation of psychedelics, is working to get psychedelics legally recognized as medicines. But he also hopes that someday healthy people may take these substances for psychological or spiritual purposes. A practice most Americans are familiar with, "as Prozac and Viagra are already prescribed not just to heal the ill, but to enhance the lives of the healthy." (The Dharma Bums are inclined to give a thumbs-down on this comparison, as it casts psychedelics in the wrong light.)

Since 2001, psychiatrist Francisco Moreno has been testing psilocybin as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychotherapy and antidepressants such as Prozac help many patients, but some have such severe symptoms and are so resistant to treatment that they turn to electroshock therapy and even brain surgery. As with the work on cluster headaches, Moreno's study was motivated by reports from people with OCD that psilocybin relieves their symptoms. So far, Moreno has given both sub-psychedelic and psychedelic doses of pure psilocybin to nine treatment-resistant OCD subjects, in a total of 29 therapy sessions. His preliminary findings suggest firstly that it is safe to ingest psilocybin, which was a primary concern of the trial. Beyond that, Moreno calls his results "promising", but won't discuss them further, since he plans to submit a paper to a peer-reviewed journal this year.

After years struggling to get permits, Charles Grob says he is slowly moving forward with a study into using psilocybin to reduce distress in terminal cancer patients. He points out that studies done in the 1960s suggested that psychedelics can help patients come to terms with their impending death. So far Grob has treated three patients, but he hopes to enroll more subjects shortly.

In Charleston, South Carolina, physician Mithoefer is carrying out a MAPS-sponsored clinical trial of MDMA as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD affects up to 20 per cent of people who experience a traumatic event, and involves distressing symptoms such as nightmares and panic attacks. Conventional treatments typically consist of cognitive therapy and antidepressants, but many patients don't respond to these. In the past year Mithoefer has given "MDMA-assisted" psychotherapy to six treatment-resistant patients, all traumatised by violent crimes; he plans to treat 20 patients in all.

Halpern says of this new resurgence in psychedelic clinical trials, "This gives us the chance to show that we have learned our lessons," because he is anxious to lay to rest the ghost of Leary. "That man screwed it up for so many people." Maybe, just maybe, after more than 30 years in the wilderness, this powerful, misunderstood but potentially mind-healing class of drugs is ready to be rehabilitated.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Paper or Plastic?

Paper Mill

Oil RefineryPosted by Hello

the top picture is of the port townsend paper mill, not far from where i live. it is a major employer here. it has a bit of a smell that drifts our way sometimes. i think that most of the "smoke" is steam. the raw material for the kraft paper it makes and turns into various packaging is sawdust. this mill also uses recycled paper as input. kraft paper is the brown stuff of grocery bags.

the bottom picture is of an oil refinery in california. we pump oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery where it is separated into various constituents: kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel, tar, ?. long string polymers are somehow taken out and processed into several sorts of plastic, including the nearly ubiquitous white plastic grocery bags.

the paper mill at its worst doesn't smell as bad as an oil refinery, nor does it release harmful vapors occasionally. ask the residents of richmond, ca about warnings and alerts for poison in the air. also, petroleum may be getting scarcer. you want that plastic bag or you want gas for your hummer? on the other hand, paper bags are made from trees and we are cutting them down faster than more can grow.

canvas shopping bags are made from cotton, the growing of which has its own problems of intense water use, pesticides, and defoliants. the agricultural drawbacks of cotton are, however, more easily amenable than the pollution of oil production or the deforestation for paper. i know that some cotton growers in central california have switched successfully from chemical defoliants to saltwater. apparently harvesting is easier if the plant has no leaves.

the proper answer to the question should be "no thanks. i have my own canvas bag."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Here There Be Tigers

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With utter disregard for an animal's life, some humans brought a tiger to the Simi Valley hills in southern California. When that poor creature somehow escaped, other humans were brought in to track it down and kill it. This is just one more story that confirms my contempt for humans who believe that all life on the planet is here for their amusement.

Authorities kill tiger that had been roaming Simi Valley hills

MOORPARK, Calif. - Authorities shot and killed a tiger Wednesday that had been roaming the hills near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The cat was shot several hundred yards from school soccer and baseball fields at the edge of a housing development, said Lorna Bernard, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game.

"It's unfortunate that we had to kill it," Bernard said. "It's even more unfortunate that the person who owned it didn't come forward and alert us immediately. We might have been able to capture it."

She said trackers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services had to shoot to kill because a tranquilizer would have taken several minutes to bring down the animal and the hunters or others could have been in danger.

The hunters had been looking for the animal for eight days, using infrared equipment at night. They had set traps with goat meat and chicken.

The hunt began after the discovery of paw prints on a ranch near the library that were far too large for native bobcats or mountain lions.

The size of the tracks indicated the animal weighed as much as 600 pounds.

The area near the ranch has a number of ranches and large estates.

Two weeks ago, authorities removed nearly two dozen large cats, including lions and tigers, from a Moorpark animal sanctuary not far from the library.

Bernard said all the animals that had been kept on that property were accounted for.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The View from Hubble

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Yesterday I looked at pictures taken by Hubble in deep space. Absolutely gorgeous stuff. Contemplating the size of the universe and how time and light bend is really incomprehensible to me. Although, after some wine and talk with DPR last night, I actually asked that "now" question. "Is now really now?" It's hard not to consider it after looking at those photographs and thinking about light years. Who will be gazing at our light a million years hence from some distant galaxy? What romantic notion of time will they have? But I know it really doesn't matter a whit. I know that as much as I know I am more than half way on my way to mingling my dust with cosmos. Allen Ginsberg once noted many years ago-- after scribbling down his intoxicated epiphanies that seemed revelatory at the moment-- that they were pure gibberish in the morning. My attempts at understanding time seem fanciful in the morning light, but cosmological study of the origins of the universe is not gibberish. Looking at these photographs is like peeking at things our ancestors could never even imagine. With NASA poised to let the Hubble fall into disrepair and obsolescence, it is worth looking at what its aging telescopes reveal. If it doesn't make you contemplate the universe and our roles in it, I don't know what will Hubble Photographs

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Human Dental Chaos Theory

This is a piece about one of our most dreaded encounters: the one with the dentist. But it is more than that. It is a personal story, but most of you have no idea who I am, so what is personal to me, is really just a wild, wacky story to you about someone you don't know. But why is my personal dental experience important? Well, maybe it isn't, but here it is anyway. While I was in the dentist's chair the other day, I was wondering why I was there at all with my mouth open, my neck lodged uncomfortably into those padded rests, and dental instruments strewn across my chest. It was the location of the tools that caused the new dentist, who I was seeing for the first time, to deftly leave his hand a moment too long on my left breast. Hey, I've been going to dentists all my life (in an ongoing battle to keep all my teeth in my mouth), and not once, as in NEVER has a dentist inadvertently touched my breasts. And not only did his hand stay a split second over accidental, he apologized. He actually called attention to it-- his hand, my breast. Jeebus. What a jerk. I am never going to see this guy again. But, while I was in the chair I was thinking, what is it with our human dentition, that we end up in these rather vulnerable positions with strangers who not only put their hands in our mouths, but sometimes use the occasion for other fun and frolic. I found this article at Of course, it's all about evolution and the food we cook and eat.

Human 'dental chaos' linked to evolution of cooking

Crooked and disordered teeth may be the result of people having evolved to eat relatively mushy cooked food, suggests new research.

The disarray may have developed because evolutionary pressures affecting the size and shape of both the front teeth and jaw conflict with those influencing the back teeth. This means that there is often not enough space in the human jaw to accommodate all our teeth.

By animal standards, human dentition is extraordinarily disordered, says anthropologist Peter Lucas of George Washington University in Washington DC, US.

"The only body parts requiring regular surgery are the teeth," says Lucas. "It is extraordinary that the normal development of human teeth routinely fails to produce 'ideal' dentition," he says - and no one has yet been able to offer an explanation for this phenomenon.

Mess of a mouth

Human teeth are often spatially disarrayed or "maloccluded", accounting for the huge number of people who seek treatment from orthodontists. This disarray can lead to periodontal and gum disease, because it becomes more difficult to clear food particles from the mouth.

Teeth can also be missing - wisdom teeth simply do not have enough space to fit into the jaw, and sometimes do not form at all. In contrast most other mammals - including our close relatives, the great apes - have very low frequencies of malocclusion, Lucas told New Scientist.

Lucas's theory is that human dentition began to go haywire soon after our early Homo ancestors learnt to chop and process food with simple tools and, later, to cook it. These processes greatly decrease the size and toughness of food. Lucas estimates, for example, that molars can be between 56% and 82% smaller when eating cooked potato rather than raw.

Out of sync

The front teeth and jaws are primarily occupied with reducing food to a small enough size to consume, whereas the molars and premolars at the back of the mouth are used to grind down tough particles.

Lucas, speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, DC, US, on Saturday, presented evidence that since the advent of cooking these two processes have fallen out of sync.

"The size of particles has reduced more rapidly than the rate at which the [toughness] of food has changed," he says. In response the human jaw may have shrunk beyond the point where it can hold all the molars required to successfully chew tough food.

For example, most leafy material, "beyond the youngest bit of lettuce," is now difficult for us to eat, Lucas told New Scientist, but would have presented no problem to more robust ancestors.

"We've evolved to eat mush," agrees paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood also of George Washington University, but not involved in this study.

"We're a pretty puny bunch, really, with small teeth and small jaws," he says. "If we couldn't get the foods we like, and we ever had to adapt quickly, we might be in a terrible mess because our teeth aren't equipped to cope with anything very substantial."

Anthropologists have not been able to agree on when our earliest ancestors started to prepare food. Current estimates place the advent of cooking anywhere between 2 million and 300,000 years ago.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Richard Feynman

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"why should we be concerned with symmetry?.....

It is an interesting fact that nature often exhibits certain kinds of symmetry in the objects we find in the world around us. Perhaps the most symmetrical object imaginable is a sphere, and nature is full of spheres---stars, planets, water droplets in clouds. The crystals found in rocks exhibit many different kinds of symmetry, the study of which tells us some important things about the structure of solids. even the animal and vegetable worlds show some degree of symmetry, although the symmetry of a flower or of a bee is not as perfect or as fundamental as is that of a crystal." from "SIX NOT-SO-EASY PIECES"

Richard P. Feynman also concluded that the symmetrical o-rings in the rocket booster failed and caused the explosion which destroyed Challenger when he was on the commission charged with investigating that disaster. A Nobel laureate, he is generally acknowledged as one of the brightest and most influential physicists ever. He is also noted for a fine sense of humor and an ability to play the bongo drums.

Having listened to some of his recorded lectures, I can attest to his inspirational style. I can hardly read anything on physics now, by anyone, without hearing his voice with its New Jersey accent. His published books include, aside from technical works, "SURELY YOU'RE JOKING MR. FEYNMAN", "WHAT DO YOU CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK" (partly about the Rogers Commission investigation of the Challenger disaster), and "TUVA OR BUST!" There is also a semi-biographical movie about him called "Infinity" with Matthew Broderick playing him, and Alan Alda did a one-man show about Feynman called QED.

A most interesting man. Check him out.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Earth's Hotspots

Hotspots Posted by Hello

The blogosphere is all abuzz with continuing revelations about Jeff Gannon's hotspots, his backdoor entre into the White House, and his partisan hackery questions that finally caused everyone to prick up their ears. And while I do desperately hope this controversy will stick to our President with tenacious ferocity, there are other things happening on our planet still worthy of our attention.

WITH the world facing an unprecedented mass extinction of species, conservationists trying to stem the loss are still struggling to answer some basic questions. Where do most of the world's plants and animals live? And where should we spend our time and money if we are to save as many species as possible?

For many conservation groups, the answer is to focus on so-called biodiversity hotspots - areas where the greatest number of species are under imminent threat. This week, the leading proponents of this approach have published an updated classification of the world's hotspots that will set their conservation priorities for years. But even as they do so, others are saying that the whole idea of hotspots should be discarded.

The hotspot approach was proposed in 1988 by ecologist Norman Myers. To qualify as a hotspot, Myers argued, a region must meet two criteria: it must contain a large number of species that are found nowhere else on Earth, and it must be under threat from human activity.

This makes intuitive sense. Such localised species, known as endemics, tend to be the ones in greatest need of protection. "If we lose them, we can't find them anywhere else. We don't have any other place we can go and save them," points out Michael Hoffmann, a biodiversity analyst for Conservation International, based in Washington DC.

These revisions bring the number of hotspots worldwide to 34. They occupy just 2.3 per cent of the Earth's land surface, yet are the sole home for 50 per cent of vascular plant species and 42 per cent of land vertebrates. "These are the places we need to go first," Hoffmann says.

But some conservationists dispute the value of hotspots. One problem is that they don't provide fine enough resolution, says Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the US. A more useful analysis would be to do away with the broad-brush hotspots approach and focus on smaller ecoregions. WWF has identified 867 of these regions worldwide.

The finer scale of such an analysis can reveal interesting patterns. In an analysis of 140 Indo-Pacific ecoregions published last year, for example, those with the highest proportion of endemics turned out to be islands and mountain tops, which offer a relatively isolated setting in which new species have been able to evolve An "islands and highlands" emphasis should pay conservation dividends, says John Fa, director of conservation at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, Channel Islands, who led the research. "They are easier to protect, because they are smaller areas," he notes. "It's much easier than saving an Amazon basin or a Congo basin." He is quick to point out, however, that these large tracts of wilderness also deserve protection in their own right.

According to Fa and other critics, the hotspots approach focuses too much on the number of endemic species. The species-rich tropics and subtropics get most attention, while less diverse, but no less distinctive, Arctic and temperate regions are overlooked. We should target ecoregions with a high proportion of endemics, he says, even if the absolute number of species is relatively small.

Even hotspot proponents accept that not all our conservation effort should go toward hotspots. "Nobody is saying we should give up on the Serengeti, for instance, which is not in a hotspot," Hoffmann says. "All we are saying is that these are the top, urgent priorities."

In the end, whether hotspots are helpful or not may depend on whether you think it more important to save the largest number of species or the most representative cross-section of the world's biodiversity. "Individual conservation organisations should decide what matters to them. We shouldn't expect them to agree," says David Wilcove, a conservation biologist at Princeton University.

"The fact they have different priorities is not necessarily a bad thing. There are clearly different values out there, and we ought to be respectful of that diversity in the same way we are respectful of the diversity of life on Earth."

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Bums Valentine Snow

the bums wake up to snow Posted by Hello

The Dharma Bums wish you all a happy St. Valentine's day. We know this isn't snow like you have been getting back East. It has been snowing for 2 hours now though.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Lincoln and Darwin

Oh what the sun, moon, and stars conspired to bring us when on February 12, 1809 two of the greatest minds of the 19th century were born: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Their influence is almost immeasurable, but suffice to say that here it is nearly two hundred years after their births and we are still dazzled by the depth and breadth of their reach and grasp.

The sheer number of spellbinding speeches and quotes of Lincoln is enough to make me weep anew that this man was not permitted to complete his presidential journey. What we lost can never be known, and that provokes an ache all its own.

In 1861, on his way to deliver his first inaugural address, Lincoln stopped in Philadelphia on the site where the Declaration of Independence had been signed in Independence Hall and spoke:

I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, Sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from this hall. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.

It is almost hard to imagine that while we were facing the Civil War and the greatest upheaval in our nation's history, Charles Darwin was penning his groundbreaking Origin of Species in 1859-- in a strange concurrence of psychic, spiritual, and social disruption. In the introduction he wrote:

No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he makes due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of all the beings which live around us. Who can explain why one species ranges widely and is very numerous, and why another allied species has a narrow range and is rare? Yet these relations are of the highest importance, for they determine the present welfare, and, as I believe, the future success and modification of every inhabitant of this world. Still less do we know of the mutual relations of the innumerable inhabitants of the world during the many past geological epochs in its history. Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgement of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained — namely, that each species has been independently created — is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main but not exclusive means of modification.

The battles Lincoln and Darwin waged and fought are ever-present with us. We now find the offspring of the secessionists, segregationists and the foes of science in the highest offices of our great nation. And those of us who adhere to the principles of equality and rationality are merely the inheritors of that same battle.

I say, happy birthday and thank you.

San Francisco's Winter of Love

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The Dharma Bums asked their good friends Tara and Nickie to write about their wedding in San Francisco last February. In honor of the historic Winter of Love, here is their story.

Nicole and I met on an internet dating service. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this curious experiment in meeting people would end up the way it did. Our first date was a casual lunch in the lovely garden courtyard of The Crepe Place. We both laughed on the way out, “Hey, that was fun! Not so bad!” We agreed to meet for a movie in a week. I was smitten. She thought I was “real relationship material.” The whirlwind began.

Early on in our dating, Nickie would say, “If marriage were legal for us, I’d marry you in a hot minute!” Never did she ask if I wanted to – she didn’t have to. We can’t even remember how we ended up discussing living together and blending our families. We both just knew. I was feeling seventeen again; flush in love and lust and hanging out together.

We’ve endured the challenge of blending two households together. We take care of business, get the kids fed and out the door in the morning. I’m often surprised at how relatively easy it is to be with her, and how much easier my life is with her in it. Thinking about writing this, I asked her if it’s been easy for her. Typical Nick response, “It sure hasn’t been hard.” I’m the effusive one.

Nicole and I have now been together 5 1/2 years and are coming up on our one-year wedding anniversary. Last year, we had been planning a commitment ceremony for the summertime, when we heard the news that San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. I thought, “This must be a rumor! No way!” When we confirmed the news, it was as if an electric charge was in the air all around us. It was a chance to be married, a chance to make a political statement and be a part of civil rights history.

On Friday February 20 we drove the 90 miles north to San Francisco and joined the line that looped around the large city block that was City Hall. The mood was festive, the people fun, upbeat, loving and silly. It was a 2004 version of a San Francisco Love-In. Folks were driving up in their cars to deliver food, juice, water, flowers and good wishes. Of course, we were assailed by the usual homophobic radical religious folks—holding their signs condemning us to hell. The cops finally made them stop using their bull horns to ‘celebrate’ our special day. We alternately yelled and laughed at them—lots of ex-Catholics in the crowd!

We waited outside City Hall for hours and were moved inside when it began to drizzle rain. City Hall accommodated the hundreds of couples by allowing us to form lines that snaked through the basement labyrinth of the city government. Endless lines. Weary, but determined, we were. At 5 p.m. they had to close City Hall, but many volunteers made sure that each couple had an appointment to return the following week for their wedding.

We came away with an appointment to be married Monday February 23 at noon. Carol and Cate had spent the day with us in line on Friday. They had flown in from Connecticut! We made our appointments together to celebrate our new friendship and to witness for one another.

Our wedding date was too last minute for friends or family to join us, and we didn’t want to wait since no one knew when the state was going to step in and put a stop to issuing the licenses. We drove back to the city on Monday. I was in contact with my sister via cell phone, it was the next best thing. We filed our license, profoundly aware of the personal and political implications of our actions. Talk about pressure! I remember breathing deeply into Nickie’s leather jacket, loving the smell and feeling reassured.

We were introduced to our wedding commissioner and climbed the steps to the upper level of the hall’s rotunda. Across the expanse was the door to Mayor Gavin Newsome’s office. An auspicious location. Cate and Carol married first. Nick and I married next. All four of us were fighting back tears so we could get through our vows. Nick squeezed my hands so tightly I thought I would lose them. I held a bouquet of flowers sent to City Hall by a couple in Illinois -- people from around the US sent flowers and gifts for all of us. We felt our wedding circle grow ever larger. People all across this country, Canada, The Netherlands, Great Britain, were sending their well wishes and love. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Choir was on the steps below us, singing “Going to the Chapel,” their voices magnified in the domed hall.

Afterwards we celebrated with lunch. As we made our way to the restaurant, two obviously very happy couples of women, holding flowers and marriage certificates, people stopped us on the street to say congratulations. Love was in the air! Other wedding parties in the restaurant called out greetings and waved their flowers.

I can’t remember a time when I felt so surrounded by love and good will. It was one of the most profound days of my life, right up there with the birth of my daughter. In the days that followed, I sent our wedding announcement to the newspapers, to our local Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Center, to my family. Old friends and acquaintances came out of the woodwork to say congratulations. Wedding gifts! We got them!

Since then, however, the state has invalidated all of the same-sex licenses issued in the “winter of love,” and the legal issues are pending. All of our legal protections were taken away in one fell swoop. Suddenly we were, once again, second class citizens.

We have faith. We laugh, and call each other “my ex.” I know someday, when the legal arguments finally persuade, I’ll be able to sign another marriage license with her, and maybe then our grandchildren will come to the wedding.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Good News: Gardens and Silver Linings

garden Posted by Hello

The Best in Show gold medal winner in this year's 2005 Northwest Flower and Garden Show is the Seattle Youth Garden Work, a non-profit that turns homeless and impoverished kids into accomplished gardeners. The Seattle Post Intelligencer described the win this way: "In the horticulture world, it's the equivalent of the Everett AquaSox beating the New York Yankees."

The Garden Works annually accepts 60 people between 14 and 22 years old who have had problems with poverty and homelessness. The youths are taught to work in the growing, marketing and selling of the plants cultivated by the organization.

Three judges (one from England, one from the East Coasts, and one from the West) considered several criteria in assessing the competing gardens, including: design, color palette, health of plants and quality of the overall horticulture. Before judging none of the gardens' creators was identified.

The winning garden won on merit alone. The theme of the garden was Urban Land Use and Food Security.

One infinitesimal sliver of a silver lining after the Tsunami--

The deadly tsunamis that crashed into southern India have unearthed priceless relics, including two granite lions, buried under sand for centuries, archaeologists say.

The towering waves that killed over 285,000 people throughout Asia also appear to have swept a bronze Buddha to Indian shores from Thailand in a basket attached to a bamboo raft, they say.

Archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have descended on the ancient seaport of Mahabalipuram, famed for its rock carvings dating back to the great Pallava dynasty, to see the objects. "The sea has thrown up evidence of the grandeur of the Pallava dynasty. These have been buried for centuries," the archaeological body's superintending archaeologist, T. Sathiamoorthy, said late on Thursday. "We're all very excited about these finds."

The Hindu dynasty dominated much of South India from as early as the first century BC to eighth century AD and Mahabalipuram is now recognised as the site of some of the greatest architectural and sculptural achievements in India.

Among the tsunami "gifts" found in Mahabalipuram, 70 kilometres south of Madras, are the remnants of a stone house and a half-completed rock elephant, archaeologists say. There are also two giant granite lions, one seated and another poised to charge. The statues are each carved out of a single piece of granite stone, testifying to the carver's skill. The objects were uncovered when the towering waves withdrew from the beach, carrying huge amounts of sand with them.

The archaeologists are also excited about a report from locals that just before the waves struck on December 26, the sea withdrew a great distance baring the seabed on which lay a temple structure and several rock sculptures. "We'll be exploring the seabed to document these Pallava relics," Sathiamoorthy said, adding the Archaeological Survey of India would dispatch a team of marine archaeologists next month to the area.

Experts are examining as well a 15-centimetre tall bronze Buddha found inside a bamboo basket attached to a raft to determine its age and origin. The figure with Myanmarese writing on its back is seated lotus style and holds a begging bowl on his lap.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bush's Hidden Tax Increase

Bonneville Power Dam Posted by Hello

The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Energy. BPA serves the Pacific Northwest through operating an extensive electricity transmission system and marketing wholesale electrical power at cost from federal dams, one non-federal nuclear plant and other nonfederal hydroelectric and wind energy generation facilities. BPA aims to be a national leader in providing high reliability, low rates consistent with sound business principles, responsible environmental stewardship and accountability to the region.
The BPA mission statement:
"The bottom line is to protect the core power and transmission assets of the Federal Columbia River Power System so they can provide benefits to ratepayers and taxpayers well into the future."
In the President's new budget is a provision to raise energy rates to exceed BPA's cost of producing and transmitting power. He proposes to let the market set the rates, and have the federal government make a profit off the sale of the energy. I suppose he thinks it's a good idea to let the free market set the price of power because the energy crisis in California in 2001 was so smart and equitable. The President must be channeling the ever visionary and successful Ken Lay. Raising energy rates will of course have a significant and severe impact on energy costs in six western states, and will be a billion dollar tax increase to those citizens. But the President would never raise taxes, at least not so you'd actually notice.
I don't think that the Pacific Northwest should be paying rates that are significantly less than the rest of the country. I think we should be the exporting our example of how public utilities should be run. Everyone should be paying what it costs to produce energy and nothing more.

Rexroth's Daughter

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Light and Water Vapor


sunset Posted by Hello

A cloud is a visible mass of condensed water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere above Earth's (or another planetary body's) surface.

The condensing water vapor forms small droplets of water or ice crystals that, when surrounded with billions of other droplets or crystals, are visible as clouds. Clouds reflect all visible wavelengths of light equally and are thus white, but they can appear grey or even black if they are so thick or dense that sunlight cannot pass through.

Sunrise, also called sunup in some American English dialects is the time at which the first part of the Sun appears above the horizon in the east. Sunrise should not be confused with dawn, which is the (variously defined) point at which the sky begins to lighten, some time before the sun itself appears, ending twilight.

Because the bending of sunlight causes the sun to be seen after it has dropped below or before it has risen above the horizon, both sunrise and sunset are daily optical illusions.

Sunset, also called sundown in some American English dialects is the time at which the Sun disappears below the horizon in the west. Not to be confused with dusk, which is the point at which darkness falls.

The red hues of the sky at sunset are caused by the Rayleigh scattering of blue light by atmospheric dust. Relatively little red light is scattered in this way, and so the sky often takes on shades of red, orange and yellow. The color of a sunset may be enhanced by atmospheric phenomena

The sunset is often more brightly coloured than the sunrise. The atmosphere responds in a number of ways to expsure to the Sun during daylight hours. In particular, there tends to be more dust in the lower atmosphere at the end of the day than at the beginning. During the day, the Sun heats the surface of the Earth, lowering the relative humidity and increasing wind speed and turbulence, which serves to lift dust into the air. However, differences between sunrise and sunset may in some cases depend more on the geographical particulars of the location from which they are viewed.

Thanks to Wikipedia for info. Thanks to Rexroth's Daughter for running out with the camera at 6 A.M.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Felis Rufus

Bobcat from the window at work.

Closer view. Posted by Hello

I don't really know what to say about what it's like to see a bobcat out the window while sitting at my computer at work. This picture definitely captures what it looks like, but not what it feels like. This bobcat photo was taken outside of the Press Center at UC Santa Cruz on January 27, 2005.
These beautiful, shy, and furtive creatures starting showing up three years ago, when the university undertook some new construction on a different part of the campus.

Rexroth's Daughter

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Mark Morford Wednesday

If we could write half as well as Mark Morford we wouldn't quote him so often, but it would take much longer to prepare a post. Check out his whole rant now. By Friday he'll have another and you'll have to find this one in his archives.

Look. Does America have a responsibility to the world to promote peace and democratic ideals in the world whenever possible? Hell yes. Does the world's richest and most gluttonous superpower have an obligation to intervene when absolutely necessary and help repressed peoples taste freedom and emerge from the shadow of evil dictators? You're damn right.

But not this way. Not at this cost. Not via a staggering and soul-mauling string of lies and misprision and a brutish foreign policies that only alienate and aggravate and inflame. Not through torture tactics and economic plundering and fear stratagems designed to keep the exhausted American populace from asking too many questions about this administration's real motives.

And not by way of a thuggish pre-emptive attack-first policy that goes against everything America has stood for (i.e.; defense, containment, peace) for the past 100 years.

Meanwhile, in related news, an international team of scientists and researchers announced that the world has roughly ten years before the effects of global warming become permanent and irreversible. Before the Gulf Stream is permanently weakened and massive ice shelves melt and the world is plunged more deeply in danger than we could ever imagine.

You really want to protect democracy, Dubya? Ensure its survival? You really want to have a lasting legacy, one not tainted with blood and war and humiliating claims of "mission accomplished?" Here's a tiny reminder: that $80 bil you just asked for to kill more Iraqis is 17 times higher than the EPA's entire budget. Maybe, just maybe, something is just a little off in our nation's priorities? Just, you know, a thought. Go democracy!