Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ostrich Syndrome

I have a confession to make. I'm not going to watch the State of the Union address tonight. I can't bring myself to do it. I always try to avoid looking at things that will drive me crazy. I'll read the transcript afterwards, but I can't look at the lying puppet's face when he is moving his lips. It is too disturbing. His smirk raises my blood pressure. His disingenuousness often causes me to scream expletives at the TV. It's utterly irrational, I know he can't hear me. Besides my yelling upsets the cat and the pirate.

I never watch violent movies. When I was in my early 20s, I ran out of a movie theater while Day of the Locust* was playing. The astonishing violence at the end literally drove me from my seat, up the aisle, and out the doors. I threw myself down on the concrete, and stared up at the stars. I knew then, as I know now, that there are some images that I simply don't want in my head. I don't know how to forget them.

So, maybe I am suffering from a case of ostrich syndrome, but one thing a person who is sensitive to the emotional violence of deception should never see is George W. Bush delivering his State of the Union address. It's just too horrific.

Do you plan on watching? How do you do it? Throw things at the TV?

*Here's some wild trivia: I was looking up info about Day of the Locust and found that the character Donald Sutherland played was named Homer Simpson.

Hosting the Bird Carnival

The Dharma Bums are hosting the next edition of I and the Bird.
Email your bird-related links to newdharmabums at yahoo.com. Deadline for submissions is Tuesday January 31st at 9:00 pm PST. For additional info please check out 10000 Birds.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rainy Day

we live somewhere close to the center of the weather map below. this is a snapshot and of course the weather moves along. it has been a steady stream of this all day.

i had plans for the day. well, not really plans, but whatever it was it didn't include 3 hours with apple tech support. the support people are great. patient. knowledgeable enough. i called because my new powerbook was freezing now and then, requiring a shutdown and restart. not good for a new machine. we tried various things. no success. the next step would be to reinstall the software from the install cds which came with the machine. oh no! the cd is unreadable. another call to apple. they will ship me new cds. another 2 days. from monday. meanwhile i changed a setting in "energy saver" and the problem went away.

RD upgraded her ibook to the newest os x to have the same as me. part of the time on the phone with tech support was to resolve two problems on her ibook after the upgrade. the apple help program didn't work. problem resolved. the microphone no longer works. problem unresolved. recommendation: backup all data, erase disc, reformat, reinstall everything. we haven't done that yet.

so when our apple laptops work they are great. both have little hiccups now. it is very frustrating to buy a new machine and have it not work correctly. and find the backup disc, that came with the new machine, unreadable. did i mention that i got a new powerbook because the hinge broke on my 3 1/2 year old powerbook? it still worked, but i had to leave the lid open in it's fixed position and move it very carefully, and the screen flickered ominously at times.

later in the day we relaxed in the sauna listening to the rain. a nice antidote to tech support phone time. dinner. posting. and so to bed.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Old Man and the Eagle

We headed out to the walking trail along the bay. It was cold and windy, but we really wanted to walk. There were fewer people on the trail for a dry Saturday than we had expected. While we were briskly walking along with our eyes tearing and noses running, a lovely old gentleman approached us, walking stick in hand, and beamed "A fine, fine day, isn't it?" We agreed. Fine it was, if a bit cold. He says, "I love this air as it comes across the water. So clean, so clean." We nodded. He continued,"Our air just blows in across the pacific with nothing between us and Japan."
Papermill walking trail before the clouds blew away
But then he asks, "have you noticed that the paper plant seems to be burning something that makes your eyes tear up and burn." I say yes, because I had noticed that. He tells us that he knows something about paper mills because he had gotten his PhD in pulp and paper chemistry a long time ago. Most people, he says, think the smoke out of those stacks is bad for them, but it's not. It's just sulphur. It's really good for you like garlic and asparagus. He says, "They must be burning something else. Have you seen the eagles that like to perch in the trees along here?" Oh yes. We've seen them and photographed them. We all love to tell our eagle stories.

The seagulls have been flying all along the bluff during the conversation, but something larger catches my eye, and I look up. I see an eagle approaching. It flies along the water.
It flies away toward the cloudy part of the sky, and I snap pictures as quickly as I can. I find it hard to photograph birds when they are flying. They keep moving in and out of focus.
It comes back to the sunny sky, and flies along the top of the bluff. It circle back and flies directly over us.
The pirate, the old man, and I are having the closest encounter we've ever had with an eagle.
I know that the photograph will be blurry. My hands were shaking with excitement. I show the old man the small picture on the digital camera lcd. He looks at it, and says, well maybe you can blow it up and crop it so you can really see that bird.
We walk on and find the eagle perched in the tree we had just been talking about. I take an easy shot. We remember why we are always glad to walk this trail even on a windy, cold day.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Taking the Time to Walk

The day began with a subtle sunrise. We knew we had to go for a walk. (Please click on photos to enlarge)
Looking east at the still foggy sky
Looking west at the crescent moon in a lavendar sky
We walked out the front door, down the road, to the creek. We found the tide going out for one of the first minus tides we've had during daylight in months.
We love looking upcreek at where we've just been walking. The herons and kingfishers had long since fled. Everything flees at the sound of our footfall.
When we reached the mouth of the creek, we found a meal's worth of mussels, and a few oysters. The pirate filled his pockets with the bounty, while I watched an eagle fly directly towards us. You can barely make out Mt. Baker peeking out behind Indian Island.
We hiked back up the bluffs to head home and see Mt. Baker from a much better vantage point.
We planned a hike for the next day when the tide would be even lower. The sunrise was absolutely cloudless, but before we could head out for a walk the clouds poured in quickly and looked as ominous as a twister.
Later in the day, the darkening clouds were all-encompassing, reminding us to grab the sunny moments when we can.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Care Package from Hawaii

my brother and his wife, who live in far hawaii, read our blog and sent us a care package to give us a lift from enduring all this northwest cloudiness and cold. it's really been fairly mild here but weather is relative and they are on kauai, the garden isle.

you may be able to read some of the letter in the picture. the little jar at the top is orange marmalade with vanilla bean. the baggie contains dried banana. the little jar below the bananas is product my brother makes which he calls "feeling good." it is subtitled chocolate-kava-delight and contains organic kava root, organic cocao, hawaiian honey, and vanilla extract. very tasty, and mildly relaxing. the brownish nutlike things are roasted cacoa beans (chocolate) and the dark ones are roasted coffee. the other thing is a little psychedelic fan, with little lights on one vane. there will be a picture below demonstrating it's use.

my amazing brother grew the coffee and the cacao beans. the bananas are from plants that were there when they moved in. he has managed to turn his interest in growing exotic plants into a business. check out kavakauai. go to "services" on their home page and click on "about us" for a picture of our benefactors

here the pirate gazes intently at the whirling lights, while being refreshed by the gentle breeze.

these are cacao pods. they grow right out of the trunk of the tree.

brother's hand holding cacao beans fresh from the pods.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Choice Blend at the BirdFeeder

For some reason watching these birds reminded me of how woefully ineffectual the democrats in Washington have become.
disappointing dems
need lessons from little birds
how to claim their space

such fearless defense
of the precious platform, on
which their ideals lie
standing firm on hope
shouting down on principle
compelled by hunger

utterly engaged
extend pointed arguments
toward soft bellies

We watch these little birds have more fight, drive, passion, and courage than our senators or representatives. We watch them as they evade the nearly ever-present Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, knowingly intepreting the shadows as they spread across the yard.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Early Tomatoes

love apples!!!!!

this plant was started from seed in early october last year. it caught the last sun to warm the most exposed corner of the greenhouse and we brought it into the house in early november. it's kinda leggy from a lack of sun and only forms flowers after a day or two of all day sun, so there aren't a lot of fruits.

YUM! fresh home grown tomatoes in january. the greenhouse relocation project precluded any lettuce growing, so these greens are from our local coop.

i would take my turn to rant about the dismal state of our country, but huitzil has done such a fine job on chris matthews, while keeping his balance by photographing birds, and cervantes has dared to cite history in an attempt to warn us off a dangerous path, while keeping us well-informed on public health news, so i'll just recommend that you go read what they have to say.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Koufax and an Eagle

Even at this age life can still throw us some fine and funny surprises. Someone sweetly and thoughtfully nominated the Dharma Bums for Best New Blog over at the Koufax awards. It is so flattering and kind to be thought of in that light, we are grateful for that stunning vote of confidence in our work and play. However, it is not in our natures to compete, and in particular something like this where unlike things are compared to each other. I wrote the fine people at Wampum the following email:

Hello Wampum--

Someone very kindly nominated the Dharma Bums for Best New Blog, and while we are surprised and flattered, we would like our name to be removed from the list. If there were a category for Best New Blog for Retired People With Too Much Time on Their Hands, we might have considered competing. But as it is, we are really not so much into competition....

In the immortal words of LBJ-- We shall not seek, and we will not accept the nomination...

RD & dpr

So, while I was talking on the telephone yesterday, and staring out the window as I am wont to do, my mind and eyes wandering, I noticed this eagle soaring over our yard. I grabbed the camera and got this one-handed shot. What a beauty.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Eleven Years Later

i found this picture on the county website. i'm assuming that the date on it is a note by the picture taker, perhaps a county assessor. the assessor's database includes pictures of many properties. the people who built our house, and sold it to us 7 years later, built the "shed" as they call it and lived in the one bedroom unit in the end facing us, with the windows and slider, while the actual house was built. the swings are for their grandchildren. the buildings in the background to the left are the neighbor's. the closest is at least fifty feet away from the shed.

so i went out and took a photo of the same scene. we added the wooden fence on the right, and the deer fence just barely visible on the left(well i can see a steel post just left of the fir tree in the foreground). we also extended the rock edged flower beds and added the straw-mulched strawbberry bed in the center. i'm fairly sure that the builders planted the fancy fir tree in the middle and that the trees in the background on both side of the building are natives left after the area was logged maybe twenty years ago. the dark stuff is bark mulch. good. over black plastic. aaaarrrggg!! gazillions of coreopsis do succed to sprout and grow and blossom in the mulch.

health update: my back is almost normal again. i was active in the yard today. thank you all for your kind words and concern. i did it to myself this time. distracted by looking ahead to using the greenhouse while still working on it, i paid no attention to a proper work stance or the little twinges of stress. doh.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Anecdotal Evidence

earth out of balance
beautiful as it is now
there's hidden danger

point of no return
gaia's author breaks the news
predictably bleak

in a hundred years
for hundred thousand more, what
life on fevered earth

butterflies have warned
permafrosts melt, like glaciers
the new disappeared

osama speaks out
his warning much weightier
than a butterfly's

I had entirely different post about this ready, which now comes after this photo. But I really wanted to sum up my experience in haiku after reading the following material.
We've noticed reading some of our favorite blogs that winter just isn't behaving like winter this year. No snow. Too dry. Too warm. Things blooming early. Bees out looking for nectar in January.

These are all anecdotes of something, but what? What does one unseasonably warm winter mean? Should we extrapolate from these stories to something about global warming? We've seen enough weird winters to just shrug it off, chalk it up to just one of those things and forget about it. Is any of this news?

On Thursday, an Osama bin Laden tape was released, and we were reminded of the terrorist who pulls every string on the planet. Of course, that must be news. Right? Osama bin Laden spoke. We must listen. Maybe even be coaxed to give up our rights. Live in a state of perpetual fear. But on Thursday we also read a piece by David Ignatius in the Washington Post that asked a different question about news:

"One of the puzzles if you're in the news business is figuring out what's 'news.' The fate of your local football team certainly fits the definition. So does a plane crash or a brutal murder. But how about changes in the migratory patterns of butterflies?

Scientists believe that new habitats for butterflies are early effects of global climate change - but that isn't news, by most people's measure. Neither is declining rainfall in the Amazon, or thinner ice in the Arctic. We can't see these changes in our personal lives, and in that sense, they are abstractions. So they don't grab us the way a plane crash would - even though they may be harbingers of a catastrophe that could, quite literally, alter the fundamentals of life on the planet. And because they're not 'news,'the environmental changes don't prompt action, at least not in the United States."
We are living in a time of great ecological and environmental change. Some have suggested that the damage we have inflicted on the planet has finally gone too far, and we have reached the point of no return. We may in fact be staring at the beginning of the end of civilization, as we know it. Steven Tindale from Greenpeace said, "The earth may be doomed. Certainly the news from the natural world over the last year has been unremittingly bad: the oceans acidifying and less able to absorb carbon; the permafrost melting and giving up its methane ... All these things suggest that the positive feedbacks may have kicked in; we may have crossed the threshold." Yet, somehow, this information is not alarming enough to get any real news coverage. How that is possible, I really don't know.
David Ignatius wrote,

"So many of the things that pass for news don't matter in any ultimate sense. But if people are right, we are all but ignoring the biggest story in the history of humankind. Kolbert, from the NY Times concluded her series last year with this shattering thought: 'It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.' She's right. The failure of the United States to get serious about climate change is unforgivable, a human folly beyond imagining."
But wait. There was an Osama bin Laden tape released on Thursday. The news people can't really be expected to talk about butterflies, can they?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

We've Got Nothing

So here's the truth. We're boring, and nothing at all happened on Wednesday. Well, if we were to examine things very closely this is what we could report on:

The Pain
The pirate strained his back in the greenhouse and spent time on ice on the couch.

The Mundane
I did laundry. Brought a photograph to the neighbors of a rainbow over their house. Fed the cat. Cleaned his kitty litter box and wondered how advanced civilizations would view this behavior.

We had a dinner of couscous (*The pirate said it was a heckuva a couscous)

The Inane
We wondered if people still sleep in pajamas. We never do.

The Insane
We tried to determine if our realism had transformed into a kind of nihilism.

We talked about nuclear bombs, Iran, population, resources, Abramoff and Bush.

And no rain
I photographed the sky and realized that the rainshadow actually sends the most stunning clouds our way, as they sail over the Olympics.
Just a quiet day at Chez Bums. It's still winter here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


(Click on photos to enlarge)

Monday, January 16, 2006

War, Warped, and Wrapped

If you have guessed that I'm the dark and brooding half of the Dharma Bums, you have definitely been paying attention. It's true. While the pirate and I are both rather bristly types, he's way more even and easy-going than I am, although that's not to say he doesn't have an explosive side. I don't have good boundaries, and I take on the world. The pirate moves greenhouses, but I push against mountains. Often, I mediate my compulsion through the sweet intervention of music and comedy, gardening and baking. The other day we were listening to the iPod, while we were in the sauna. Yes, we are as slothful as you imagine. We had the speakers turned up when this fine tune by James Taylor came on:

There are rifles buried in the countryside
By the rising of the moon
May they lie there long forgotten
Till they rust away into the ground

Who will bend this ancient hatred
Will the killing to an end
Who will swallow long injustice
Take the devil for a countryman

Who will say, "This far no further, O Lord
If I die today."

Send no weapons, no more money
Send no vengeance across these seas
Just the blessing of forgiveness
For my new countryman and me

Missing brothers, martyred fellows
Silent children in the ground
Could we but hear them would they not tell us
"Time to lay God's rifle down."

The song is called Belfast to Boston, but it could easily have had many other city names. It has a plaintive quality, the kind that you know was written from a deep welling of sorrow, and the cry of the simplest answer.

In the book I am reading for my reading group I came upon this Mahatma Gandhi quote about stopping war, and how we need to begin with ourselves:

I have only three enemies. My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better, is the British Empire. My second enemy, the Indian people, is far more difficult. But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence.
When I hear this music or read this quote I try to find in myself some sense of what it means to be part of how the world changes. It seems like the work I have been doing all of my life. Sometimes, I just try to balance the horror of what is happening in the world in my name, by watching Jon Stewart's Daily Show and now the Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report. I am looking for a little light-hearted sanity. Something to make me laugh about our plight. But I've noticed that during the Colbert show there is one and sometimes two commercials for videos called "Girls Gone Wild."

Yikes folks, isn't this a bit of a warped view of sexuality? Young women bouncing their breasts up and down or sticking their thonged butt-cheeks up into the camera. Wow, that and Viagra ought to really solve the rampant erectile dysfunction that has apparently taken over our country. I am a staunch defender of the First Amendment, and I certainly would never argue about anyone's right to view this crap. But I do argue with the twisted perception of sexuality, the objectification of women's bodies. What is the message? I ask with all sincerity. What is the message about sex in our country? Does it seem as warped to you as it does to me?

Fortunately, there are always things that brighten my otherwise dim outlook. My brother sent me an email the other day about a humpback whale off the Farralone Islands by San Francisco. It had been inadvertently wrapped and wrapped with crab pots and lines. Here's the story:

If you read the front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thusday, 15 Dec 2005, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by 100s of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She had 100s of yards of line (rope) wrapped around her body - her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her - a very dangerous proposition; One slap of the tail could kill a few rescuers. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around - she thanked them... some say it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.
The story reminded me of the one day the whales came into Monterey Bay while the pirate and I were still living in the family beach house. We had the windows open and could hear an unusual sound coming from the water. We went to look, and out on the bay was this amazing spray coming from the blow hole. We ran out to the yard and watched and listened. Their huge whale bodies stayed submerged just beneath the surface, but were still visible. They were right there, like they always are in the seas, even when we don't see them-- breathing. Breathing.
It was a sound that made us wish the world were a healthier and safer haven for all of us.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Film vs Digital

in 1971, or so, i bought a canon ft slr 35 mm camera. it came with a 50mm lens. i soon added a 135 mm lens. i cobbled together a dark room, using an ancient enlarger that someone gave me. i got a bulk film loader and and shot 3 rolls a day of B&W. every evening i developed the day's film and made contact prints. i calculated that i spent a penny per image to get contacts. that's film, chemicals, and paper. i would often scratch my head in puzzlement looking at my contact prints with a magnifying glass. what a jumble of stuff. what was the subject of this picture? after a while i caught on a bit about lighting and composition and depth of field. i used the 135 mm lens for portraits or head shots quite a bit. i'd fool with the camera while sitting with friends and family and after a while i'd be ignored. it was quite satisfying to show my work to someone who swore they never "took" a good picture, and have them like their own image. i have taken thousands of pictures with the camera, pictured below. i took the picture of my old camera with our new digital camera.

i happened to pick up my old camera to find something else and noticed that the camera had an almost full cartridge of film in it. i decided to shoot it up in a comparison with our new digital camera. when i finish the roll i'll compare the film images to the digital images of the same scenes.

the picture below was taken with the film camera long before we had a digital. most likely with the 50 mm lens that came with it. it was shot with color negative film and a print made. i scanned the 3 by 5 print on an older scanner at 1200 dpi for this post on our blog.

Posted by Hello

enlarging the scanned image, i found the people in the picture. i somehow doubt that our new digital camera would provide such detail. we'll find out.

Posted by Hello

update: i should have told you that our digital camera is a panasonic DMC-FZ20PP. it has 5 megapixels. also a 12x zoom telephoto. (and 4x digital) it says "35 mm equiv 36-432 mm."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Day of Sky

Saturday was one of those days where the sky was crazy with light and clouds. It was endlessly changing and beautiful at every turn. (As always with our photographs, please click for the enlarged version.)

The colors here and the flow and shape of these clouds were some of the most unusual I've ever seen. It's the eastern sky with the late sun lighting it from the west.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ten Ways to Tell if Your Cat is in College

Bonsai, considering whether to wake up or not
We started to pay close attention to our cat's behavior and realized that it reminded us of something: College Students. We think Bonsai is in college. What do you think?

1. He runs around the house and parties all night long.

2. He sleeps all day, and actually moans and complains if we try to waken him.

3. When he does awaken at 3:00 he wants to be fed.

4. He never cleans up after himself.

5. He never actually goes to class, but insists that he knows absolutely everything about eveything.

6. He seems to be on the 10-year plan to graduation, and hasn't yet declared a major.

7. He eats catnip whenever he wants to, pretending that the clock always says 4:20 pm.

8. He never gets a job.

9. Everytime he leaves the house, he acts like he's going to be lucky and get laid.

10. He always looks at us as if we are idiots.

Tell us this doesn't sound like a college student.
Bonsai, appalled by something we just said