Rising in Beauty

Rising in Beauty
Sky over North Park

Just Learning

Just Learning
Kitchen Studio

Friday, December 21, 2007


At the start of my happy visit with relatives this month, I stumbled and fell down. As in many California homes, the floor level changed a few inches at a doorway. The floor tiling at one level was a rich, dark earth color, and the wood floor in the next room blended well. I just didn't see that there was a difference in depth. I fell through a dizzy world of deep browns and reds and then I was on the floor of a beautiful room. My family was aghast, but I recovered in a few minutes.

Just two years ago, I might have stumbled, but I would not have fallen. I would have caught myself, shifted weight, possibly twisted my ankle. Lately, my left leg gives way at times. The muscles are sore. I try not to limp, but my gait has changed. I walk more stiffly, more gingerly, less fluidly. Maybe gentle balancing exercises will help.

It turned out that other members of my family fall down. One exquisite woman has been tripping over her own feet most of her life, and usually has the bruises to prove it. An older relative melts to the floor now, and just finds herself there. It gives us something unexpected in common.

Wouldn't you know, the next day I had forgotten all about it, and fell at the same spot, twisting onto my knees and clutching a chair. I'm grateful I sustained only a big bruise.

I want to be the tree that bends and springs back, not the one that's stiff and gets blown down by a big wind.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Idea of Alaska

My Dad always said he was going to retire to Alaska. It symbolized freedom, outdoors, nature, renewal. My townbred stepmother wasn't enthusiastic.

By the time Dad retired, he needed heat. He enjoyed soaking up Florida sun, albeit in a cap and long-sleeved shirt and slacks. Dad grew up in Redding, Connecticut when it was rural, with some summer homes of literary people from New York. He worked in a brickyard in New Hampshire as a teenager, and shipped out very young with the US Navy.

Jon King's linking of integrity with the ideal of Alaska interests me. It links up with the idea that we aren't here forever, that our time is short, in some ways, that what we acquire or nest in serves temporary needs, that one day we will be free indeed, free from things, free from our bodies, free from Earth.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Autumn in New York

"Autumn in New York, It's good to live it again."

Thanksgiving in New York meant going home, spending lots of time with my son and my future daughter-in-law, enjoying my new in-laws, breathing cool, damp air, walking beside the East River, riding buses past familiar cityscapes. I had a massage at the Om Yoga Center, near the Strand book store. That gave me the opportunity to retrace the steps of a pilgrimage that was part of my childhood. My mother would pay the electric bill at the Con Edison building on 14th Street. We would go around the corner to Horn & Hardat's for chicken pot pie. Then we would walk along Irving Place to 17th Street, stand in front of the Washington Irving High School and look across the street at the two small buildings that were boarding houses in the 1930's. There my mother met my father. Like the other residents, they were attending the Night School after work, with the intent to gain their high school diplomas. Instead, they married. Later things went wrong, but once there was a love story among hopeful people. That matters to me.

Monday, December 3, 2007


The movie of Beowulf is worth seeing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Nature, in the form of wind and wildfire, certainly has our attention here in Southern California. I read now about "wild land - urban interface." Millions of Americans have built homes in the piney woods and picturesque hills of sage and brush. Wildfires form part of our local ecology. Unfortunately, there are now so many homes and other buildings that a natural process becomes a human disaster. Evacuating 500,000 people is a precaution. I think about 4,000 homes are considered threatened, some of them are already gone. It does look like the aftermath of a war.

I'm not immediately affected, except by the poor air quality. I live in the coastal part of the city, on the first wide ridge or plateau up from the Pacific. Fires are burning inland, past the first line of hills that run north and south. Roads have been closed and reopened. We're all being advised to stay home if we can, conserve electricity, yet turn on air conditioners part of the time to filter what we're breathing. A lot of schools and businesses are closed. Many schools are evacuation centers. The local NBC TV station ran breaking fire news and video at least 48 hours in a row. Evacuees were sitting in Qualcomm Stadium with their water bottles watching those big screens, trying to see if their homes were spared. A lot of them must still be doing that. Everybody who isn't immediately affected has a family member or friend who is. The scam artists and identity thieves are busy, but so are the everyday heroes and helpers.

I'm OK. The dry Santa Ana weather always causes bleeding sinuses and respiratory problems. The ash makes breathing more difficult. I've been out for a few hours at a time for groceries or post office. Small urban businesses, especially eating places, are open. Everywhere people are filling in for employees who can't get through closed roads, or are living on the floor of a stadium entry with their families, or are totally distracted by the danger to, or loss, of their homes. Some people's quality of life will be rock bottom for the foreseeable future. So many repetitions of, "We're alive. We're together. That's all that matters."

Sunday, October 14, 2007


In autumn, the midday sun on my sore shoulders is a blessing.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Blogspot recommends PostSecret which is a strange and interesting project. People send a secret, anonymously, with a postcard or index card that has artwork. You just have to see it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pot Scrubber

Jon King's October 5th post on The Effective Life is titled "Oh, pot scrubber, my hero." He pays attention to the unnoticed people and objects that support our lives.

The title instantly reminded me of Brother Laurence, the saint of small tasks well done. He is famous for washing the bottoms of the wooden trenchers used as plates at his monastery, when no one else thought the undersides mattered.

I picture him looking a little like Ziggy, straining to reach over the edge of a huge restaurant sized metal sink filled with trenchers. Wait a minute. They didn't have running water. Water was fetched in a pail, and precious. You wouldn't throw wooden plates in to soak, anyhow. They'd warp.

Change the picture. Zig - uh - Brother Laurence - seated beside a big pile of trenchers, say 200 of them. He's as likely to be outdoors as inside, and he has clean sand to scrub the plates. There is probably very little food left on the plates, maybe a little grease or a sodden bit of bread. When you clean two or three metal plates with sand on a camping trip, you just wipe the sand off your hands, on your jeans. Does scrubbing 200 trenchers with sand hurt your hands? Do you have a scrub brush to help? Cleaning the undersides means twice the work, twice the time. Did he try to polish them? Not much finish left after hundreds of scorings with knives, I suppose. At the time, people didn't know about bacteria that could lurk unseen on imperfectly cleaned plates, e.coli, for instance. Unwittingly, by cleaning trenchers carefully, the kitchen assistant may have saved lives, or at least some very unpleasant illnesses.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Missa Luba

This fabulous recording of a Congolese boys' choir came out in 1965. I used to play it over and over. I hadn't heard it for decades until I ran across a copy in great condition recently. One side is the Mass in Latin, sung to Congolese rhythms and drums. The other side has popular and folk songs in Congolese.

A new acquaintance had just returned from Senegal, where he studied drumming while others in the group studied art and textiles. Rick has a record player, and was glad to listen with me to this marvelous music. He then played some records pressed in Africa, including a woman who sings lush music in Twee.

I'm giving the record to my son, who plans to send me a version on CD.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Quotables 1

"Why pray when you can worry?"

Credit to vibenergy at eBay under Art. Her accompanying cat caricatures are a hoot - or is that a yowl?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Way With Words

The lively and literate radio program A Way With Words which challenged and enlightened KPBS radio in San Diego has returned to the air waves via podcast and online. Grant Barrett recently edited The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English. Martha Barnette is a distinguished editor. The two make an entertaining team, answering listener questions about words. Warning: The puns and word play may induce fits of laughter.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NextFest Glows Green

"That is awesome, dude! That is so cool!"

The thin young man in black T-shirt with student backpack was staring in delight at a small man in a lab coat. The researcher was framed by two tall glass vials that reached above his head. They were glowing green, illuminated by fluorescent grow lights, and their contents slowly rose and bubbled, like a cross between a lava lamp and a potion for Dr. Jekyll. The scientist, Pengcheng (Patrick)Fu, PhD, was making fuel out of water, sunlight or grow light, carbon dioxide, and algae treated with a bacteria he had developed. The result was a small amount of ethanol.

Let me say that again: Dr. Fu was making fuel by photosynthesis.

Pond scum rules!

This sight stirred my sense of wonder. The young man seemed to me to experience not only wonder, but hope -- the real possibility that he might not be condemned to live in a dystopia of fossil fuel emissions and their exhaustion -- that earth-friendly energy might be within human grasp.

Pengcheng (Patrick) Fu, Sunnol Biotechnology LLC, 3636 Kanaina Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815, USA, email pcfu_2000@yahoo.com. My attempt to look at his website was complicated by the fact that it's in Chinese.

I saw other energy adaptations. Solar energy collectors on the hood and roof of an electric car kept it recharged. (At night the garage needs a big grow light.) Indoor lights nourished hanging plants that absorbed toxins from the air. Sculptural whirling vertical semi-helices made an urban wind turbine, ready now to attach to a roof and provide part of a family's energy needs.

NextFest inspired me with a sense that where there is a will to find clean and cheap sources of fuel and electricity, there is a way. The will to save the environment expresses itself through politics, as well as through personal recycling and conservation. Everyone can help.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kids Today are A-OK

"Gen Y = new learning curve for employers," headlines an article by Barbara Ross of the Chicago Tribune, published in the San Diego Union Tribune September 10, 2007.

"...Lewis is part of a fast-growing group of workers in their late teens and 20s who are having a wide-ranging effect on the way organizations try to engage employees and teach them how to do their jobs."
The article goes on to describe applications of computer simulations and games, videos and vlogs to work with Gen Y, or Millenials, born between the late 1970s and late 1990s.
"Having grown up online with instant messaging, they type as easily as they talk. They're impatient with long explanations. They want immediate rewards. They're willing to do grunt work if it's clear what they get in return and how their job relates to the bigger picture."
"Programmed by their parents for success before they learn to walk, they expect deeply involved bosses. They're used to being told they're winners, even when they lose."
"New employees (at one company) go through several hours of computer-based training with quizzes in addition to person-to-person instruction. Each of the lessons is less than eight minutes, McWenie said, adding, 'They need information in really short bursts.'"
The article notes that in a short quiz the employees answered 50 questions and did well.
Why am I so pleased? After years of frowning shaking of the heads of pundits in the centuries-long tradition of "What's the matter with kids today?," finally we hear from people who accept the kids as they are, see their strong points, and adapt in a rational manner to bringing out their skills. Maybe civilization will survive!

The Well

From Snow and Summer, 1975,
by Solveig von Schoultz

Early in the morning I go to my well
sometimes so early that the pail fills with stars
sometimes in the night I go to my well
lift high the handle,
lower the pail
down into invisible blackness
down into unseen coolness.
The well is deep.
Each morning I've time to fear
that the water has sunk down into misty darkness,
and the chain will be swallowed by thirsty walls,
throat go dry,
heart shrink

pail hit bottom.

Monday, September 10, 2007


It's almost time for NextFest. Check it out at www.wirednextfest.com.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


No, not a newly discovered movie by Alfred Hitchcock!

Compulsion is betrayal from within a person. It usually seems to be coming from outside a person, from some other will or force. It's very frightening.

A saying: "First the man takes a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes the man."

Substitute any behavior for "takes a drink." Cut-throat business dealing. Seduction. Stealing. Overeating. Binging and purging. Gambling. Behavior repeatedly carried to an extreme that endangers or destroys self or others, alienates family and friends, causes loss of jobs. Behavior a person hides from those who are not part of it. Behavior a person hides from his or her own consciousness. Behavior a person has decided to change, then finds he or she does it again, against reason, against self-interest, against self-respect.

People experience compulsion in less dramatic ways, of course. The milk goes on the left side of the top shelf in a refrigerator. Always put both socks on before putting on a shoe. Habits make life convenient, saving the effort of perpetual decision-making. Habit has moved into compulsion when minor adaptations make us very uneasy; when finding the milk in the "wrong" spot can trigger a family argument.

Compulsion can be overcome with help.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

At the Zoo

Overheard at the San Diego Zoo: Dad: "Look, look, the baby siamang did a flip!"
Unimpressed 7 year old boy: "I can do that."

A three year old asked why two orangutans had paper bags on their heads: "Well, maybe those are party hats," says a parent. "They're having a birthday party!"

The Absolutely Apes area with its shade trees and brooks was pleasant for people as well as apes. The orangs munched fresh romaine lettuce. Josephine evaded the frolicsome baby siamang and crossed the area stiffly, eating lettuce. She has arthritis and at 47 is elderly for an orang. She found a cool spot in the little dell and curled up with a paper bag over her head.

I enjoy the visitors as much as the animals. I left smiling.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

They Fall Out of the Sky

Oh! They fall out of the sky
One of a thousand parts has failed
Rotors which rivalled the dragonfly
Suddenly lethal, scythes
in the hand of the Reaper
My beautiful machine that
conquered distance in air
Now tons of metal sitting in the sky
Rush back to earth
Burrow back into earth
Bringing rags of flesh with them.

Make It Rhyme

These are some old writing warmup exercises I did:

Legs strengthen
Steps lengthen
Not long
Still strong
Leap the hedge
Pull the sedge
Make a wedge

Eyes guaging
Tears assauging
Coming home
Coming home

Greasy garage
Needs lavage
Oily water
Hadn't oughter
Sludge down pipes
And reach the beach

The judge
Ate fudge
Held a grudge
Wouldn't budge

Warriors clank
Rank on rank
Lift sword
Pause, awed,
Tigris banks
Full of tanks
Tanks full of Yanks
Gas masks
Sergeant Asks -
Elephant totem?
Scratches scrotum
Squints at light;
"On! We fight!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Why did the chicken cross the road?

Painted Threads

Painted Threads is Judy Perez's blog on creative process, quilting, painting, kids. The exciting photos of her work inspire me to want to make something, right now.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Farmer's Market

Yesterday my neighbor and I went to the Farmer's Market in North Park. Supper last night was a chocolate crepe shared with my neighbor, then sharp cheddar, crackers, a red, red, sweet tomato, salty black olives, and garlic stuffed olives, while gazing at a single spray of purple orchids in my favorite vase.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wedding in View

My son and his girl friend announced they are getting married!

What's more, she's good enough for him, and he for her.

Life can be very good.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Scapegoat II

A scapegoat, according to Leviticus 16, carries the sins and transgressions of the people, and is let go in the wilderness. A second goat is slaughtered as a sin offering. The scapegoat is a domestic animal, incapable of sin, incapable of breaking laws. The high priest transfers the guilt of that year's confessed transgressions onto the goat. A person is appointed to lead the goat to the desert or lonely mountains, the wilderness, and release it. Presumably the goat will be eaten by a predator. Thus the sins of the people are consumed, destroyed.

How long this custom was followed, and where, and with what result, I do not know.

Yearly, symbolic eradication of sin has been practiced by many cultures. Some indigenous Mexican and Andean groups gather around a fire to speak their responsibility for harm to others. Apology, restitution and forgiveness allow the group to stay together for the benefit of all. Sometimes, just before Lent, my congregations would write on slips of paper their regrets, resentments, failings. We put them, folded and unread, into a hibachi, burned them, and used the ashes on Ash Wednesday. New Year's celebrations carry a theme of death and rebirth, of starting afresh, leaving last year's negative baggage behind. This can support the courage to tackle life's problems and injustices again, and to change our behavior for the better.

Today, a scapegoat is a person or group who bears the blame for others. Often this means blaming the victim; for instance, a person who feels guilty for inappropriate sexual feelings or behavior, even sexual assault, may blame the person desired. The psychic mechanism of projection is involved. People project their own guilty desires onto an ethnic or racial group, and mistreat or punish members of the other group. They blame others for their own lack of success. Scapegoating has been used deliberately and cynically as a political or economic tool to consolidate power or distract from one's own misdoings. There can be no restitution, no rebirth, no clearing of the air and refocusing of effort accomplished by scapegoating.

I think lying is a different matter. "I didn't do it...He did it," is not projection, but self protection, an attempt to escape from responsibility or punishment. It may at times express malice. The person knows what's true. Scapegoating involves lying to one's self. Being scapegoated can make a person very insecure and angry at the same time. It's destructive to individuals and to society. At its worst, scapegoating leads to genocide.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I recommend History on Trial. Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. I haven't read her book yet: History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving [Ecco 2005]. David Irving had sued the professor for libel, for calling him a holocaust denier. She won. I'm sorry to say that I didn't recognize either name. My reaction to newspaper stories about people denying that the Holocaust ever happened has been a bafflement. I dismiss them as nuts. That does not stop the damage they can do.

In the book I liked so much by May Sarton, The Education of Harriet Hatfield, some people in the neighborhood react to her new bookstore with a lot of grumbling about "pornography" and "lesbians" and "we don't want her kind here." This quickly escalates to vandalism, threats, and violence. The atmosphere of permission to hate and harm promotes criminal action. Harriet's standing her ground wins respect, and helps others.

"...When they came for the Jews, we did nothing.....When they came for us, there was no one left to do anything."

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Two sets of my photos are now posted on Flickr.com under the name morphit1941, which refers to making changes in shape (No, not dieting. I wish!)and to my date of birth. You can view them now. To make comments or download, you sign up for a free Yahoo account. To comment on THIS blog, you accept a free gmail account. This gives you ID and passwords.

Cool Water

Today I ventured into the small, kidney-shaped pool in the patio. Coolness surrounded me, under a bright sun. I love to watch the shadows of ripples moving on the green-blue pool bottom. I move slowly, stretching, walking, swirling, finally floating. I feel so secure when water holds me up, cool on my skin while the sun is warm on my face.

Of course, it is lovely to float at the shore, far more dynamic, sometimes getting an unwelcome splash of salty wavelet up my nose. Noisier, too. Exciting.

I've just finished reading The Education of Harriet Hatfield, by May Sarton. A 60 year old woman opens a bookstore and learns a lot about herself and other people. When the story ended, I felt cool and secure, as I did in the pool. New life can arise out of familiar elements.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Berries and Angelcake

Hot summer days suddenly mean ripe berries - very ripe berries. The local supermarket has been unloading the best, ripest strawberries I've ever seen at the lowest price I've ever seen. Big, crimson and deeeep red strawberries that taste wonderful.

A friend has been nagging me to approach a neighbor about gathering some of the black mulberries that are just falling all over the sidewalk. We got permission, and picked some today. We should have worn raincoats. Black mulberries grow on a tree with low, spreading branches. I reached up to pick a beauty, and brilliant red-purple juice flowed down my hand and arm. It was like picking blackberries as a little kid, eating two for every one that made it into the container, giggling and making a glorious mess. Black mulberries taste a little like concord grapes. They're almost a sweet wine when they're as ripe as this.

So then I went back to the supermarket and bought more strawberries, and angelcake. Nuff said.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wind Power

Windmills in the sky, "Flying Windmills," have been demonstrated by Australian professor Bryan Roberts to be practical.

"When the United States realizes that high altitude wind energy is capable of being its most economical energy source, market forces will lead to its gradually supplanting oil and to energy independence - as well as end the debate on global warming - because its most economical energy source will produce no greenhouse gases."

What a wonderful promise that is. My first thought was that a tethered high altitude "windmill," actually a kind of four-rotor helicopter, would interfere with airplane flights. However, the amount of restricted air space required is not that vast. Balloons are already tethered as high as 15,000 feet to detect drug flights, according to David Shephard, president of Sky WindPower Corporation, based in San Diego.

Wind farms exist now. There's an American Wind Energy Association, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Department of Energy project called Wind Powering America.

A couple of years ago, I heard a spokesman for a tribe in the Dakotas that was building a wind farm to make electricity for themselves, and to sell. He said, "The federal government was generous enough 100 years ago to set aside for us land that has a great deal of the natural resource, wind."


Imaginary conversation:

"You shouldn't dwell on the past. What's done is done. Forget about it."

"Tell that to Marcel Proust."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the Thirteenth

So far, Friday the Thirteenth has been a good day. My family is well. I got in touch with two old friends. I took part in a self-help meeting. I ate cantaloupe, Kashi, and yogurt. Because it's warm, dry weather, yesterday and today I drank a gallon of water each. I like four parts cold water with one part concentrated iced tea and the juice of half a key lime. Another good one is four parts water with one part orange juice. Stay hydrated, friends.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Family History

Family history enlivens the past, enlightens the present.

Everyone shares the family history of humankind. Personal family history includes the decisions, actions and attitudes in the recent past, and the present, of people who influence our own ways of being. Some of these people are biological relatives, some adopted, whether formally or informally. A parent's close friend, or hot enemy, may have as much impact on a family as kin. Public figures that were or are much admired tell us of family aspirations and ideals. The early loss of a parent, the loss or gain of a job, or the management of a business can impact several generations. So can the effect of an era, such as the Great Depression of the 1930's, or the counter-culture movements of the 1960's.

Nature and nurture work together in each person's development. Humans are social beings, generalists, extremely adaptable. They are also loners, specialists, and rigid.

We are not limited by our genetic and social givens, but they do give a structure on which we build a life by our choices today.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Power of Free?

In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson says, "Understand the power of free...one of the most powerful features of digital markets is that they put free within reach; because their costs are near zero, their prices can be, too. Already, one of the most common business models on the Internet, from Skype to Yahoo! Mail, is to attract lots of users with a free service and convince some of them to upgrade to a subscription-based 'premium' service that adds higher quality or better features. Because digital services are so cheap to offer, the free customers cost the company so little that it can afford to convert only a tiny fraction of them to paying customers." (p. 223)

I think that the costs can be near zero only after considerable investment in startup for labor and advertising. Startup can take months and years, so there must be money to support the effort for some time. Alternatively, the labor can be unpaid and the equipment can be the personal property of the entrepeneurs, who keep their day jobs.

Internet services can stimulate physical services. Buying and selling on eBay has caused an explosion in mail and parcel delivery services. eBay always charged fees to sellers, but this has proved affordable for quite a few businesses and individuals. I wonder, what is the proportion of successful to unsuccessful sellers?

Returning to the theme of free services, I used to check SciFi.com regularly to read new and classic SF stories at no cost. The site is connected to a television channel, and its reviews of films, books and other products stimulates sales of those items. I'm more likely now to check recent interviews with authors, as well as reviews. I might base a decision to see a movie partly on SciFi's review, or be reminded of a book and look on Amazon or ExLibris or Abebooks for an inexpensive copy. Multiply my modest spending by a million viewers, add the big spenders, and the free service deserves to be paid by advertisers.

The wonderful world of the Web and the Internet is not exactly without cost. Where is all this electricity coming from? Mostly from oil and coal, I find. What does it contribute to environmental challenges? Lots and lots of heat, damming of streams, noxious minerals in discarded electronic equipment.

I think rejection of Anderson's economics of abundance arises from misunderstanding. It cannot be extended to all of the existing global economics.

What can be extended globally is free access to information and communication. That goal requires social and political implementation.

Monday, July 2, 2007

WIRED NextFest September 14-16, Los Angeles

Oh, my God! I'm going to NextFest again. Check it out at www.wirednextfest.com. People bring their robots from Japan and from North Carolina. Electric cars, fuel cell cars, systems to grow food inexpensively in sub-Saharan Africa, the vehicle in which the first private space flight was made, little kids drawing on the wall with light -- and that was last year!

I'm ecstatic.

Have you looked up www.robothalloffame.org? Gort, Robbie and C3P10 rule.


Grandpa, William Edgar Grumman, was a schoolteacher, writer and librarian. I never met him, as he died long before I was born. He was old enough to remember the War Between the States, and the older brother who never came back. He loved justice, politics, and education. When Mark Twain donated books to start a library in Redding, CT, Grandpa was in charge of organizing the library, and was its first head. In this photo, circa 1880, his energy and humor show.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Mighty Heart

A Mighty Heart, written by Mariane Pearl, is a film that tells the story of the death of her husband, journalist Daniel Pearl, who worked for the Wall Street Journal. Mariane, who is French, is also a journalist. Together they covered the 2001-2002 retaliation by the United States toward Al Queda in Afghanistan, after the destruction of the World Trade Center and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

Daniel and Mariane stayed in Karachi, Pakistan longer than most journalists, and were about to go home, when Daniel followed up one last lead. It led to his capture and horrible death.

The film follows Mariane through the agonizing month of her husband's captivity, and details some of the actions of Karachi police and military, U.S. Security, terrorists, the Journal's staff, U.S. military,the families of Daniel and Mariane, and families in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan who had a son or brother involved in the kidnapping.

This is the most humanist of films. Ultimately Mariane derives, at least partly from practice of Buddhism, a breathtaking perspective. The film shows how deeply Daniel and Mariane love each other, how happy in her pregnancy they were. Mariane believes and feels that others love, that others lose, that her personal tragedy is part of a great human tragedy.

You have not failed, she says to the people who tried to rescue Daniel, and have gone through this terrible time with her. The terrorists want to terrorize people, and they have failed. I am not terrorized, and you must not be terrorized, either.

In the final frame of the film, we see Mariane with her now four-year-old son, Adam, walking down a narrow street in a Paris neighborhood.

The final word: This film is for Adam.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Photo Fun

Old photos never die; they just get digitized.

Recently a friend gave me a used scanner. The photo on the right, Pebbles, was taken ten years ago. The first group I scanned were taken at Pt. Loma Tidal Pool. I was so excited to put the images on my computer. I love cropping them and generally tinkering with them on Photoshop. I went so far as to join Flickr and put the images up there, with captions and descriptions. You can see them on www.flickr.com under morphit, or Pt. Loma Tidal Pool. Critiques accepted.

Some photos do fade away. I'll see how the 100-year-old photo of my grandfather looks on the computer this week. I can try to sharpen and re-contrast.

I've always used point-and-shoot cameras, sometimes disposable ones, and have been pleasantly surprised sometimes by the photo quality. I take awful pictures of people, but have better luck with natural objects. Looking at Jon King's site, www.theeffectivelife.wordpress.com, I'm enthused again about textures.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bees of Canada

Beekeepers in Ontario are keeping a wary eye on the bee problem now named "colony collapse disorder." The Honey Board has allocated $13,000 to look into a solution, in case U.S.ers export their bee woes. Or maybe they're arming, just in case desperation leads to cross-border raids and bee wars. I don't think they've allocated enough.

It's interesting to me that Canada does not share the bee dieoff. It makes me think there is something contagious involved, or maybe there are new mites parasiting.

Some Ontarian beekeepers blamed the long distance hauling of hives, pollinating crops in many locations. "That's no life for a bee." Others blame pesticides and too much gene-tinkering with crops.

Reports on the subject always seem to include the phrase, "We don't find piles of dead bees." That's creepy. I guess they found lots of dead bees during epidemics and infestations. That phrase makes me look over my shoulder uneasily. Is that Rod Serling behind that tree? Are we in --- The Twilight Zone?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Identity and Violence: 2nd Post

Amartya Sen's book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, Chapters One and Two.

The illusion of destiny is the fallacy that our lives are determined by identity with a particular group. Sen argues that there is always a choice. The role of choosing, making a decision, can be obscured by taking the false position that one and only one aspect of identity is all-important. Gender, class, religion, language, neighborhood, nation, vocation, arts, sports, and more become aspects of identity.

To divide the world into monolithic "civilizations," such as Western civilization, Islamic civilization, Hindu civilization, Buddhist civilization, and then to behave in politics and person as though every member of a "civilization" is the same, ignores our intimate knowledge that the members of our own "civilization" are very, very different.

Such language is part of the ascription of identity onto someone by other people. This may be benign, or simply lack of thought, but it is also part of covert and violent racism, and all the other "isms" that bring injustice and destruction to relations among peoples.

Remember all those movies in which brother is pitted against brother in the American Civil War? It is agony to choose between identity as a brother, and identity as a soldier for a cause. Drama calls for confrontation. Either one brother kills the other, or refuses to shoot and is court martialed. Another favorite scene in the movies of my childhood: during WWI or II, a Britisher or an American dives into a bomb crater to escape artillery barrages, finds a German soldier already taking shelter, and after a tense moment, they both let each other alone. I guess that one is "Identity: Human."

More later.

Monday, June 11, 2007


An Oompala is a tuba-shaped antelope with an extremely resonant bleat. It has been developed by breeding impala for large size and large voice. An oompala, like all God's critters, has a place in the choir. Sometimes it has to be coaxed. However, it likes to show off and can be depended upon to blaat and bloomp rhythmically for any reindeer parade.

The above nonsensical entry is provoked by a blog called WordImperfect.blogspot.com

WordImperfect offers obscure words from a dictionary and invites readers to make up definitions. I enjoy reading the responses and making up my own definitions.

Still, I love words that are entirely made up and almost mean something, as in Charles Dodson's immortal ode beginning,

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gymbal in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe.

After all, every word we have was made up by somebody, somewhere, sometime.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Nutrition After Exercise

Today's missive from NewsTarget.com included a short article on nutrition and exercise by Mike Adams. He says that exercisers lose most of the benefit of exercise if they do not get adequate amounts of all the vitamins and minerals and other elements of nutrition.

This sentence particularly caught my attention:
"The exercise stimulates your body, but it is the adaptation and recovery period after exercise that ultimately makes you healthier."

Post-exertional malaise and fatigue are the signature of chronic fatigue syndrome. People DON'T recover after exercise. Putting it in these words makes me more hopeful that the nutritional supplements and digestive aids suggested by various sources may, in fact, ultimately help my health.

It's still a bewildering and daunting task, trial and error, quite expensive. It's not just ingesting the nutrients, it's having the body absorb them and put them to use. Well, the supplements most commonly advocated for chronic fatigue make a good start. I'm taking betaine to help digest food, calcium with zinc and magnesium for the bones, Omega-3 which seems to help with energy, and the usual vitamins. QC-10 is rather expensive, but this enzyme is highly recommended. For the rest, I'm making progress toward a normally healthy diet that anyone can use.

If this subject interests you, I recommend ProHealth.com, which sells supplements and maintains archives of relevant articles and abstracts on chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Getting Better

Between December and June, three of my close relatives had major operations. It's been a time of pain, anxiety, decisions, intimations of mortality, and also a time of joy, relief, regaining lost abilities, and buoyancy.

The families seem closer to each other, and I think we all appreciate life more. Yesterday I was able to enjoy walking around Balboa Park on a fine afternoon. Sometimes we do see the world in a grain of sand, and the universe in a flower.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Like Minds

Like Minds is a short story by Robert Reed, published in the Oct/Nov 2003 issue of the SF magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The story is set in the near future. It posits the existence of alternate universes, in which small differences may have sent history in many different directions. Humans have access to all the technologies of unlimited versions of Earth and its history, through an artifact of unknown origin that was found out in space. On our Earth, this has resulted in providing everyone with the means to live comfortably. People don't have to work.

Faced with dizzying choice, many have stayed with something familiar: themselves. They want to find out what other versions of themselves have done in other universes. Since the possibilities are endless, then everything that possibly can happen, has happened, somewhere. So our protagonist, Josh, can obtain a video of himself having sex with the girl of his dreams, as long as she also has signed up for the program. Later in life, he wants to see a book he has written in another life. Each time he requests something, he has to give something that will then be available for someone else. Trading one of his term papers for a Pulitzer Prizewinning book certainly strikes me as trading up.

Josh, like most people who make this choice, doesn't do much with his life in his own universe. He does mature, and eventually he believes that all the versions of Josh are one soul, and perhaps that everything that exists is one soul. This somehow leads him to try to destroy the artifact that gives access to the alternate universes.

The story strikes me as a retelling of the story of Buddha, whose enlightenment includes the futility of all desires. It also reminds me of a Hindu/Buddhist concept of Maya, the world of appearances, and the necessity to be reborn and lead many different lives until one's soul is whole, at which point one's soul merges with the world-soul. The references to quantum physics theories may provide another metaphor.

There is much less interesting parallel character, The Divine One, a bloodthirsty, capricious, amoral god who is also a version of Josh. When last seen, he is beginning to take an interest in someone besides himself.

Robert Reed is an excellent storyteller and writer whose work often revolves around strong conflicts in ethics, and struggles for identity. Like Minds doesn't quite hold together as a story, but it certainly made me think.

Monday, May 28, 2007


This energetic site is new to me. It's all about books, and games based on books. There are sections where kids give their opinions. Some teachers get into it, too.

I read about it in the San Diego Union Tribune, under Surfing With Kids, by c. Barbara Feldman at barbara.feldman@surfnetkids.com.

Featured on kidsreads.com is Harry Potter, with lots of games and quizzes.

She mentioned other sites: http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com, and mugglenet.com

If I had kids under 30, I would definitely use this site with them.

Bees Over Bournemouth

Reuters reports that a plane flew into an enormous swarm of bees over Bournemouth, UK today. The plane malfunctioned, and the pilot took it back to the Bournemouth airport. The pilot thinks the engine was clogged with bees. I suppose the bees blew out on the way down.

Bees are disappearing in the USA, yet thriving in the UK. Clouds of bees have been sighted over Bournemouth this year. Is life better for bees in Britain?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Pink Hat

Happy after a week-long visit with my son, I just had to buy this pink hat.

Celebrating parenthood...Happy Spring and Summer to you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Robot Hall of Fame

Since I saw the robots at WIRED's fair last October, I have been more interested in the subject. So when I found out about the Robot Hall of Fame (www.robothalloffame.org) I looked it up right away. If they didn't have the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still, I planned to nominate it.

Happily, Gort had been inducted in 2006, along with David from AI: Artificial Intelligence, and Maria from Metropolis. These were inspired choices. R2D2 and C3PO were inducted in previous years.

The Hall of Fame equally honors the robots that exist in the flesh - uh - in the real world - uh - you know - and I was happy to see the one from SONY that looks like the marshmallow man on a diet, wearing a spacesuit. The version we saw last fall had a very realistic head, modeled on Albert Einstein. Even with a very benign expression, this was kind of spooky.

Another Hall of Famer is the very first robot arm ever used on an assembly line. Think of that.

From "Deep Thoughts"

I wish I had a kryptonite cross, because then you could keep both Dracula AND Superman away.
by Jack Handey

Monday, May 14, 2007

Identity and Violence

Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, by Amartya Sen, W. W. Norton Company, New York and London, 2006.

Part of a series, Issues of Our Times, Series Editor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The writer, Amartya Sen, is a Nobel prize winner in economics.

I've just begun the book. A witness of violence between Hindus and Muslims at the partition of India, Sen seeks ways to overcome the way rigid standards of identity and solidarity often result in demonizing people outside that identity.

Us and them: Too much US, can lead to trying to destroy THEM.

Sen invokes the many ways we identify ourselves, the many circles we belong to, as a clue to seeing each other as complex, struggling, loving human beings rather than as radical Others.

I'll post as I go along. Hope you'll read with me.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bees Worse and Better

This week a TV newsmagazine (Brian Williams, I think) indicated that not 25 percent, but 60 percent, of commercial honeybee hives have collapsed.

Honeybees, said the news show, pollinate 30 percent of crops in the United States, mostly fruits.

A friend, who used to keep a few hives for honey and wax, wondered if this would be an opportunity for indigenous bees. The honeybees were imported, and drove out native species. Sure enough, the reporter interviewed a biological worker in a field of wildflowers. An effort to increase the population of wild bees is being made, by sowing lots of their favorite flowering plants along streams and in areas not used for crops. Having many types of bees can lower the risk of having them all collapse at the same time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Genetic Pre Depositions

The notion that humanity will evolve further, or be changed by genetic or surgical manipulation, fascinated science fiction writers all through the 20th century. Biological sciences were getting closer in the 1990's, when Nancy Kress wrote a trilogy, Beggars in Spain, Beggars and Choosers, and Beggar's Ride. She explores ethical and sociological possibilities, that is, the impact on people and society of biological change. Today a person might feel he would have done better in life if his parents had been able to pay to send him to a better school. In Kress' stories, a person might feel bitter and handicapped because her parents had not been able to pay for genetic modification of her IQ and her facial bone structure when she was a foetus.

The stories extend today's concerns with the gap between rich and poor, with some ironic twists.

Some people exploit the science, producing humans with extra limbs or internal organs for the illegal transplant trade, or modified for the illegal sex trade. This is a small step from today's purchase of a kidney or an eye from a living person who is very poor, or the tricking or forcing of women and children into the sex trades.

With a good plot and interesting characters, science fiction writers can lead us to think ahead. SF may not so much predict the future as goad us to think about choices in the present.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Re SF Dictionary and Slang Dictionary

I own and love each of the dictionaries reviewed below:

From www.jeffprucher.com
"The Publicity Machine has already begun its work
Language Hat listed BNW as one of his favorite books of 2006, before it was even published, which is, if not a first, surely pretty unusual, and quite a high compliment. (No, he doesn't, to my knowledge, have a time machine but he was the copyreader on Brave New World...)"
posted by jeff @ March 06, 2007 12:06 AM

"The Millions (A Blog About Books)

December 10, 2006

A Year in Reading: Languagehat
Languagehat is a deep repository of interesting linguistic tidbits. An essential blog for those with an interest in language, Languagehat is also engaging enough to make regulars out of a monolingual like me. "Hat" was nice enough to share some of his favorite books from this year:

Jeff Prucher's Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction isn't even out yet, but as a copyeditor I've had the opportunity to read the whole thing, and it's definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Yes, I got paid money to read it, but anyone who knows me at all knows that lexicography and science fiction are two of my favorite things, and to have them combined in a glorious package is a thrill that has nothing to do with a paycheck. If someone had told me forty years ago that the people who put out the OED would one day apply their scholarly talents to my favorite field, I would have been even more impatient for the future to arrive. It's got etymologies, citations going back to the Renaissance and right up to 2006, fan terms going back to the purple-stained days of hectographs... Anyone who loves both words and sf will love this book. FIAWOL (= Fandom Is a Way of Life)!

Grant Barrett's The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English is another amazing lexicographical performance that does something that would have been impossible until the advent of the Internet: applies the full panoply of scholarly resources to new or marginal words that do not appear in other dictionaries. Grant's website Double-Tongued Word Wrester has been tracking such words since 2004, and he's put the best of them into this book. One of my favorites is vuzvuz 'a derogatory name for an Ashkenazic Jew... This term is usually used within the religion, especially by Sephardic Jews.' A few entries in succession: AMW "a (pretty) woman whose career derives in some way from her appearance' (from Actress, Model, Whatever); area boy 'a hoodlum or street thug' (a Nigerian term); armchair pilot 'a person who talks about, studies, or directs airplane flying, but is not qualified to, or does not, handle the controls' (a military term), and Asbo 'a court order designed to curtail unwanted public behavior' (UK, from "anti-social behaviour order"). I can splash around in it for hours."

Some of my favorites from Unofficial English (this is Irene speaking again) are: sleeve v. to decorate an arm with tattoos; and Bangalored adj. having been relocated to India; having lost business or employment due to such a relocation.

Unofficial English has lots of neologisms, that is, newly coined words,and existing words applied to new circumstances.

Brave New Words presents terms used in science fiction, fantasy or horror genres for at least ten years, or in the literary criticism or fandom thereof. Slideway n. a moving sidewalk or walkway is cited from 1942. How long ago did they arrive in our airplane terminals?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bees Lose Their Way

Many worker bees have lost their sense of direction, and are not returning to their hives with nectar. This week it is front page news. The bees that normally pollinate our crops have disappeared in such numbers that twenty-five percent of commercially kept hives in the United States have collapsed. This is doomsday count news. What do we eat if plants can't grow? Maybe farmers could blow pollen over the fields by machine. Bees bring pollen on their legs into the deep cups where nectar forms. Can you see millions of people in sunhats using tweezers to fertilize plants one flower at a time?

Some blame radio wave towers for cell phones. Others point to pesticides banned in Europe, which permeate the plants and are ingested by insects. These pesticides contain high fructose corn syrup, which has little nutritional value and in the human body goes straight to fat. I inspect labels carefully to avoid this form of sweetening. High fructose corn syrup is also used in the travel food fed to bees when their hives are loaded into huge semis, and their owners drive around looking for pollination work. Who knew? I didn't know there were itinerant pollinators. I never thought about needing industrial numbers of beehives to pollinate acres and miles of crops.

The article I read said that bee die-offs have occurred before, but this one is a lot bigger. I guess I'm assuming that "they," the Department of Agriculture, I suppose, will find out what's harming the bees and do something about it. Or perhaps I should assume that the authorities knew very well what might happen and were pressured into taking a chance that something profitable could be allowed and might not become a threat to our food supply. As for our nutrition supply, even a lot of fresh produce lacks the nutrition it used to have.

Save the bees.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Enclosure and Expansion

"Encounters with the Invisible: Unseen Illness, Controversy, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," by Dorothy Wall, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 2005.

"I'm restless, caught in a kind of family quarrel between my body's need for a calm, gestational enclosure and the self's need for stimulation, engagement, expansion." pp 80-81.

This blog gives an outlet for expansion.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Could It Have Been Prevented?

The young man who killed himself and so many of his fellows at Virginia Tech this week had been sent for psychiatric evaluation several times during his almost four years at the school, according to the head of the school's counseling service. At least twice, he had been labeled a danger to himself and others.

He wouldn't accept counseling, and you can't make him.

He did not violate the school's code of behavior, according to the dean. Two women students complained to the dean about letters Cho sent them. Apparently that blew over. He didn't commit any crimes. Although it's reported that some students were so upset by him that they dropped out of classes if he was also enrolled, you can't expel someone for being weird. If you could even define that. Some students were reportedly afraid of him. But he didn't step over the line in behavior.

He was due to graduate in a few weeks. Apparently he kept up his marks.

His writings for his English classes often described violence, murder, suicide. So did the writings of his classmates. English teachers teach writing, and they expect their students to grapple with the conditions of society. Cho was a Korean-American, living here since the age of eight, and educated here entirely.

Can a student be expelled for his thoughts, for being a loner, for being unpopular, for flat affect, for mental ill health? Not in the absence of behaviors that meet certain criteria. Can a person be incarcerated or committed because he might someday hurt himself or others? Not in the absence of behaviors that meet certain criteria.

Interventions are often made by schools, family and friends to convince a troubled person that he or she needs help. Many people do accept help. Others may drop out of the school, may stay out of the way of authorities. They may or may not fashion lives of happiness and work.

I want to believe that this terrible thing could have been prevented. Our nation will be analyzing the circumstances for years, along with similar horrors, to try to prevent future slaughter. In the past, society has sometimes multiplied horror in the effort to prevent it, by means such as involuntary sterilization, castration, lobotomy, internment camps, and prisons that increase crime. I hope at least one good thing can come out of this.

The governor of Virginia says it is time now to be with the survivors in grief.

In sorrow.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Brave New Words

"Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction," edited by Jeff Prucher, Introduction by Gene Wolfe. Oxford University Press 2007. It arrived today!

Yes, the first thing I did was to look for my name. There it is, among a couple of hundred science fiction writers, critics, fans, and word obsessed nobodies.

How I enjoyed taking part in this open project. I bought a couple of hundred science fiction paperbacks and magazines from thrift stores over the course of two years. I sent in citations for terms that were sought and also sent in suggestions for terms to research. One of my suggestions was "disaster novel," which I found in J.J. Pierce, "Great Themes of Science Fiction 143," from the San Diego Library. Jeff was dubious about posting it, but soon had cites from several more sources.

My contribution to "post-apocalypse," and several other cites, came from B.Searles et al., "Readers' Guide to Science Fiction," 1979, which I found as a battered, brown-paged old paperback for 35 cents at a favorite thrift shop. Ah the thrill of the chase, ah the joy of an intellectual pursuit that cost mostly time, not a lot of money.

Sending and discussing cites involved e-conversation with Jeff Prucher and Malcolm Farmer, two bright, enthusiastic lexiphiles.

I started in the love of words, and their etymologies, as a small child. I received the greatest impetus at Cathedral High, or Archbishop Hughes Memorial High School. In 1955-1958, Jeannette Doronzo, Veronica Mezey, Rosa Lopez and I competed with city-wide teams in contests of Latin translation, and also in contests on the Latin basis of many words in English. We had an inspiring, exacting coach, a Dominican nun whose name I can't believe I could ever have forgotten. Our school was mostly run by Sisters of Charity.

I love words for themselves, for communication, for helping to express emotion and meaning, even though we can only approximate such things. I also love their histories, and the changes thay have gone through. When I studied preaching, I loved heuristics, the study of interpretation, especially following histories of how certain bible passages were interpreted differently at different times in the same cultures, and how other cultures interpreted them at the same times. I barely scratched the surface.

Recommendation: Find a copy of "The Women's Bible," edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and read Genesis.

Oh, frabjous day, Calloo, Callay,
"Brave New Words," has won the day.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Self Worth Supported

Thanks for your email responses! One friend said I did indeed have a right to be here, and he was glad I am here. Another said she put my blog on her favorites list, and several cheered me on. I hadn't realized that I would get more news of friends' lives and interests. Cool.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Self Worth Continued

That last sounds as though self worth depends on planning. I don't really mean that any impulsive or desperate action destroys worth.

Perhaps I'm saying that self worth and self respect are not the same. One might be intrinsic, the other might be built on one's actions in life, how one deals within the givens, the limitations and resources available.

I like the Desiderata, especially the line that says You have as much right to be here as a rock or a tree.

Self worth supports survival. Self respect supports thriving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pondering Self Worth

The "Aw, shucks, 'tweren't nothin'" response to praise is an iconic American attitude, just as much as, "Yes, sir, I can whip my weight in wildcats!"
"'tweren't nothin'" may express modesty, or shyness. It may express discomfort, when the deed-doer isn't sure of her motivation, or is struggling to make her own judgment about the action.
Such seemed to be the state of mind of Michael Weisskopf in the part of his book, Blood Brothers, where he receives the Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism. Michael lost his right hand when he picked up and tried to toss away a grenade that had landed in the Humvee in which he rode while covering the Iraq war. His action saved the lives of the soldiers in the vehicle, as well as his own life. But the journalist couldn't remember the details of that life-changing moment, and he did not feel at all brave.
He writes that Marianne Pearl helped him find meaning in his action. "She linked the loss of my hand to a principled cause: freedom of speech...I did stand for more than myself at that moment. I represented the principle of inquiry into matters of importance...Even if I inhabited a world of self-interest, I acted on a larger stage with consequences reaching far beyond me. I didn't have to be altruistic to have done something good."
(pages 187-189)
I am fascinated by this journalist's struggle to judge himself. He is appalled that he risked leaving his wife a widow and his children fatherless, by going to a war zone. He didn't have to go. He says he was motivated largely by the adventure of it. War journalists have a mystique. He agonizes over his motivation.
That strikes a chord in me. Having the right motive was more important than the effect of an action, according to my take on the moral education I received in Catholic schools. Our legal system also makes distinctions based on motive, or intent.
"I meant well," is often taken into account in personal, social, employment or legal contexts. Yet ignorance is no excuse, where the means of learning is available.
So, I come to an aspect of being able to respect myself: Did I act carelessly, or did I prepare as best I knew how, using the resources available to guide right decision and right action? Beyond that, outcomes are rarely in our control.