Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kilts and Parrots Day

Full day today for the FM and Madam. Noon is the start of a friend's "Highland Games" which means I get to dress up in my ancestral duds and try and remember to keep my knees together when I sit down. This friend has a big piece of property just north of here and each year throws his own Scottish games for a large group of friends. While only a few of us have the traditional dress it is still a good time. All of the "games" are wimped so that all us oldies can participate. There is a big buffet of traditional Scottish food but no haggis. Looks to be a glorious day and this will be a nice way to spend a fall afternoon.

Tonight is a fund raiser for a local historic home and this year the theme is "Cheeseburgers in Paradise". I have my Hawaiian shirt and white bucks all ready to go. I may even have a margarita with that cheeseburger. The event is held on the grounds of Bulloch Hall here in Roswell which this time of year means we will all have to be on the alert for falling Osage Oranges that are all over. They are big fruit and when falling from the height of these trees can put your lights out. Never have had an explanation as to why they were planted all over as the fruit is inedible and a mess. I have heard that they repel mosquitoes but I am not sure if that doubtful positive is worth the downside.

So it is a costume and party day for the FM. Tough job but someone has to have the fun.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Good Old 1980

My late mother in law, bless her heart, was big into gold as an alternative to cash money. When gold started to return to "normal" levels I, rather hard heartedly, pointed out that all of the hard money economics were full of crap. I, of course, was speaking before I actually understood the problem. I dumped all of her gold investments when she passed away and Madam Monk(only child) got them all. I am such a financial wizard it takes one's breath away! BTW we are not talking chump change here.

Gold rose on Friday to the highest level since 1980 as the U.S. dollar scavenged new lows against the euro and oil prices headed near record territory.

Commodities were set to end the third quarter with substantial gains, despite a bumpy ride through August when concerns about the availability of credit roiled financial markets. Crude prices rose on Friday, while industrial metals and agriculture futures traded mixed.

Meanwhile, gold breached $750 an ounce as investors sought shelter in precious metals from the inflationary signs of rising oil prices and a weakening dollar. The dollar's decline against the euro has been precipitous this week, as the greenback has slid to a fresh low for seven straight trading days. On Friday, the European currency purchased a record $1.4207.

We have two obligatory weddings in the UK next year, April and September, if things on the exchange rate front don't improve it is going to be to mean very lean trips to the UK next year. One of the weddings is going to require a couple of nights in a hotel but the September one should be staying with the mother and father of the bride and basically free. Anyhow, the exchange rate is going to be very painful.


It is really sort of funny, in a sad but ironic way, that so much time is being spent in the MSM trying to understand or justify, if you will, why the GOP front runners failed to show up at the recent debate in front of a minority audience.
Hello, Hello! Isn't it pretty obvious by now that your average Republican is a racist? When in doubt the simplest answer is usually the best. You can "chicken dance" around the facts all day but the "bottom line" is that they(GOP) are racist. See that wasn't so hard, was it?

Getting Hungrier

Those on fixed incomes, food stamps, or just on a tight budget because the wages aren't keeping up with prices are in for more pain. America spends a relatively low percentage of its disposable income on food compared to other developed countries. From what I have read a third as much as the average Italian and about half of what the average Frenchman does. This is changing very rapidly though and not for the reasons we might think. The French and Italians insist on fresher, higher quality food and preferably sourced locally and they are willing to pay for it. It is virtually impossible, in my experience, to find a frozen chicken in a market in France. Americans are, in many cases, not so much focused on quality and freshness but on convenience and price.

Americans are beginning to spend a greater percentage of disposable income on food because the fundamental sources of our food are rising in price. Corn, wheat and milk have all experienced double digit price increases in the last twelve months. This drives the price of bread, meat, and many other products higher as well. We also have the rising cost of fuel adding to the price pressure on food since very little of the food in American supermarkets is local and depending on the season comes from completely around the world and burning fuel to do so.

Couple these rising prices for fundamental products that are also contributing to price increases for the products which contain them and it is an ugly picture looming for the lower economic strata in this country and also for millions and millions around the world.

This from the Wall Street Journal

The reversal of a long-term trend toward lower grain prices could have profound effects on the world’s ability to feed its poor. Global grain stockpiles are being drawn down to their tightest levels in three decades, leaving the world vulnerable to shocks brought on by bad harvests. And it’s far from clear how much more land could be brought into production or to what extent advances in biotechnology might increase crop yields in the future.

American families, which spend 9.9% of their disposable income on food, are facing the fastest-rising food prices in 17 years. The consumer’s cost for everything from yogurt and popcorn to breakfast cereal and fast-food french fries is climbing. In U.S. cities last month, the average retail price of a pound loaf of whole-wheat bread was up 24% from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Whole milk hit $3.807 a gallon, up 26%.

Similar increases are showing up abroad. Italian shoppers are protesting soaring pasta prices, and Mexican authorities have capped the price of corn tortillas. Pakistan is curbing wheat exports to counter rising food-price inflation while Russian authorities, worried about rising bread prices, are considering a similar clampdown.

Food companies are struggling to figure out how to pass on higher costs to supermarkets and restaurant chains, which have gotten bigger and thus gained clout since the last prolonged rise in food prices in the 1970s.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” says Christopher Fraleigh, chief executive of the food and beverage division of Sara Lee Corp., which earlier this month raised its bread prices 5%.

Here in the Southeast we are suffering the worst drought on record and climatologists are predicting that this is not just a one off event. A couple of years of this kind of drought and we might all have trouble finding a loaf of bread we can afford.

A Mother's Advice

Jiun, a Shingon master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When he was young he used to deliver lectures to his brother students.

His mother heard about this and wrote him a letter:

"Son, I do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to turn into a walking dictionary for others. There is no end to information and commentation, glory and honor. I wish you would stop this lecture business. Shut yourself up in a little temple in a remote part of the mountain. Devote your time to meditation and in this way attain true realization."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Phony Soldiers

You've probably heard by now that Rush Limbaugh has adopted the position that any soldier who believes we should get out of Iraq is a "phony soldier." VoteVets' Jon Soltz has already responded to that nonsense.

Are you surprised?. The GOP has always had a love-hate relationship with the active military. They only like you if you agree with them. Whether you're active duty or a veteran, the moment you step out of line with the Republican talking points you are are nothing more than a traitor an are stripped of all honor and respect.

Remember the treatment of Viet Nam war hero John Kerry? How about multiple amputee
Max Cleland? Don't overlook the treatment that Silver Star recipient Jack Murtha received when he had the temerity to challenge the Bush war.

Even Republicans aren't immune... Chuck Hagel was called "Senator Betray Us," by Rush Limbaugh recently.

I don't think it is a good idea to hold your breath waiting for a resolution in Congress condemning Rush's comments like there was for MoveOn and their hint that Patraeus was lying to us. You just need to remember one thing...there is no service member nor any veteran anywhere whose service will shield them from Republican wrath if they have the temerity to question a single facet of the Iraq debacle.

End of America?

Naomi Wolf has a post up at Firedoglake

Blackwater: Are You Scared Yet?

that I suggest you read. Here are the first two paragraphs but you should read the rest.

The New York Times reported today that Blackwater, the infamous organization that has been accused of killing civilians in Iraq, “has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms.” A mercenary firm in Iraq with an itchy trigger finger is bad enough. But it now appears that Blackwater’s activities may be massively expanded — and not in Iraq.

In little noticed news, Blackwater, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Arinc were recently awarded a collective $15 billion — yes, billion — from the Pentagon to conduct global counter-narcotics operations. This means that Blackwater can be deployed to engage with citizens on a whole new level of intimacy anywhere around the world — including here at home. What is scarier than scary is that Blackwater’s overall plans are to do more and more of its armed and dangerous ‘security’ operations on U.S. soil.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tell Me it Isn't So

H/t to Susie

Interesting essay by Arthur Silber. It is very provocative and challenging of our currently accepted "truths". I do however sympathize with the premise and cannot reject it out of hand. Let's just say it has me thinking. Read it and then share with the rest of us if whether you think he is right.

It may be, as he says, that the truth about the Dems and the ruling elite in general is that they are completely different from us and they actually don't care what we think. No matter how pissed we are with them today over something, when it comes down to it they know that in the next election we will vote for them anyway. Their only concern is power, gaining more of it and holding on to what they get.

Need a Bridge?

While all of the media in the country was focused on our visitor from Iran it seems at least one other newsworthy story got shuffled out of the way. It seems that the report on what happened with those nukes getting on the plane from Minot to Barksdale was released.

No need to worry it was just a simple mistake! Larry Johnson at No Quarter calls bullshit on this: Simple Error My Ass!

Read the whole post to get a sense of what total bullshit the excuses are. See if, after reading it, you don't come to the same conclusion as I did.

The missiles were moved to Barksdale on purpose for use in the Middle East in the very near future.

If you trust Occam's Razor then this is the only thing that makes sense.

Deep Guacamole

Oh this really sucks and I mean really, really sucks
By a vote 76-22, the Senate passed the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, which threatens to “combat, contain and [stop]” Iran via “military instruments.” Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) called the amendment “Cheney’s fondest pipe dream” and said it could “read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action.”
At least this time 22 Democrats voted against it but Hillary and Reid voted for it. Why? Someone needs to explain why this belligerent call to war even came up for a vote. The last time Lieberman wanted to tickle Bush and Cheney's egos the "Let's Screw with Iran" amendment was 97 - 0. Is that progress and should I feel comforted knowing that not everyone in the Senate is an insane, bloodthirsty cretin?

Should I feel OK with this since they took out paragraphs three and four?

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and [stop] the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.

Should I be excited and relieved that they added the following paragraph?
“Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated on September 16, 2007 that “I think that the administration believes at this point that continuing to try and deal with the Iranian threat, the Iranian challenge, through diplomatic and economic means is by the preferable approach. That the one we are using. We always say all options are on the table, but clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one that we are pursuing.”
I must be a little too cynical since none if the changes make me feel like something positive happened on the floor of the Senate today. If you are interested here are the only suspected sane people in the Senate who all voted NO:

Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Feingold (D-WI)
Hagel (R-NE)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Sanders (I-VT)
Tester (D-MT)
Webb (D-VA)
Wyden (D-OR)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I haven't posted a recipe in a while and with all the crap circling I thought something in the comfort food category would be appropriate. This recipe for Hermits is from Cooks Illustrated and is the best one I have found. Hermits are an old New England recipe and are a luscious cookie/cake that Madam Monk is addicted to. Newman's sells a version which are nice but homemade is always better. You get an added bonus with these in that the smell in the kitchen while they are baking is pretty close to heaven. This is a real simple recipe that everyone can enjoy. I made a batch last Sunday and trust me that they gain something after a few days of rest. The theory is that they are called Hermits because they are better after a few days of hiding. BTW I don't dust mine as Madam likes them without. It really doesn't add much and it does make them messy.

Makes about 16 cookies
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 large eggs , 1 whole and 1 separated, white lightly beaten
1/2 cup molasses (light or dark), about 6 ounces
1 1/2 cups raisins
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar (optional)

1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together in another medium bowl until just combined. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, and molasses and whisk thoroughly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the molasses mixture until combined. Stir in the raisins. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Using a rubber spatula, form the dough into two logs on the prepared pan, the logs should be about two inches in diameter when you finish. Brush the logs with the beaten egg white.

5. Bake until the tops of the logs have browned and spring back when touched, 20 to 25 minutes. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Using two spatulas, transfer the log to a cutting board, and slice them into 1 inch cookies. When the cookies have completely cooled, dust with confectioners' sugar if you want. Store them in an airtight container and they will keep for a week or so. They are actually better after a couple of days of 'rest'.

The First Principle

When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words "The First Principle". The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a masterpiece. They were drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.

When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which the workmen made the large carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticize his master's work.

"That is not good," he told Kosen after his first effort.

"How is this one?"

"Poor. Worse than before," pronounced the pupil.

Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.

Then when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: "Now this is my chance to escape his keen eye," and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from distraction: "The First Principle."

"A masterpiece," pronounced the pupil.

New Standard for Bad Taste

As many people have suspected, folks that support Giuliani for the GOP nomination are at best marginally insane. They have confirmed this in their latest quest for funds.

From the AP via Huffpo

WASHINGTON — A supporter of Rudy Giuliani's is throwing a party that aims to raise $9.11 per person for the Republican's presidential campaign.
I don't know about you but I would venture to say that this sets a new standard of some sort for bad taste.

Newt May be Back

Bummer. Woke up to the news this morning that Newt is seriously thinking about running for President. The article called him a Georgia Republican but he left here a while back and the air improved dramatically. I have actually met him a couple of times and yes I shook his hand and mumbled something non inflammatory. It was in a business situation and the man who signs my paycheck is/was a GOP Bush/Newt supporter and was standing there. Newt has some pretty high negatives...very close to those of Cheney I think. However, you must admit that he is a perfect poster child for everything that makes a perfect Republican. No ethics, checkered past, monstrous ego and no sense of shame. This ought to be fun.

The other bad news is that I have to commute into the office again this morning for a couple of planning meetings. It really irritates me to waste two hours of my day in the round trip to the office. Yeah, I know it is only a 30 mile trip there and back but it takes two hours and that sucks. I think I read somewhere that Atlanta has the second worst traffic in the nation now. If I could take public transportation I would but it just isn't practical as it would take about 3 hours one way. I would have to go in town on MARTA and transfer to Cobb County transit to come back out to the perimeter. There is no direct east-west public transport outside of downtown and it really makes using public transport impossible. A light train that circles just outside the perimeter would be fabulous.

Anyhow, enjoy your Tuesday and I'll try and be back before supper.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Parable

Buddha told a parable in sutra:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

Several Directions

Sorry for the quiet here this afternoon. Network trouble and then blogger wouldn't let me log in. Finally had to do a hard restart on the router???
Anyhoo...the new office brouhaha took way too long for someone who doesn't even have an office or even a phone extension and I didn't escape until lunch. Got home and it dawned on me that all of the green tomatoes I harvested yesterday when I cleaned out the tomato patch needed to be dealt with so I took a couple of hours and made 8 pints of green tomato relish which is now cooling.

That is when I discovered that the network was fubar. I am back on the air now but I am trying to complete my certification exams from last weeks training so it will remain a little quiet for now.

Grand Opening

All of us Atlanta residents are required to be at the grand opening the company's new office this morning at 9am so that is where I will be. I guess they want a big show. Probably have some bagels or something and a few speeches and then everyone gets to tour the new office. I'll be back a little later.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rocks in a Sinkhole

This was president Bush last week, on his handling of the U.S. economy:

"You need to talk to economists [about a possible recession]. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low, and being fiscally responsible with the people's money."

Never mind that it was a "C-", and not a "B." Regardless of the lies abouts grades Bush's claim of fiscal responsibility is a total farce as demonstrated by this:

CHICAGO, Sept. 21 -- The money spent on one day of the Iraq war could buy homes for almost 6,500 families or health care for 423,529 children, or could outfit 1.27 million homes with renewable electricity, according to the American Friends Service Committee, which displayed those statistics on large banners in cities nationwide Thursday and Friday.

The war is costing $720 million a day or $500,000 a minute, according to the group's analysis of the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes.

The estimates made by the group, which opposes the conflict, include not only the immediate costs of war but also ongoing factors such as long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware.

"The wounded are coming home, and many of them have severe brain and spinal injuries, which will require round-the-clock care for the rest of their lives," said Michael McConnell, Great Lakes regional director of the AFSC, a peace group affiliated with the Quaker church.

The $720 million figure breaks down into $280 million a day from Iraq war supplementary funding bills passed by Congress, plus $440 million daily in incurred, but unpaid, long-term costs.

It has dawned on many of us in the last week or so the Iraq War is effectively a permanent war. We have looked for a way to end it and hoped against hope that it would. We have failed at every turn to make an impact and there are now more American troops there than ever.

There is no exit plan, there is no clear mission, and there is no attainable objective other than getting control of the Iraqi oil. Many of us are now facing the reality that this disastrous war is going to continue to drain billions and billions of dollars from the U.S. economy for years. It is also going to continue to kill and maim tens of thousands men, women and children both American and Iraqi.

I have been resisting this acknowledgment for quite some time but as each week goes by with no progress in ending this fiasco I lose a little more hope. Maybe something will happen next week to change the trend...heres to hope.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, Friday

As I mentioned in an earlier post this has been a tough week all around but I have finished my training and while I resent having to absorb about 10 days worth of material in 4 I am glad I got a chance to spend some time exploring the new product. It is definitely cutting edge and even though it is "technically" not GA(not officially released) we are already implementing at two very large 'marquee' type clients. One of these clients was in the middle of implementing a competitor's product(one that has been in the space for 12 years or more) when we announced we were entering the market and demoed the prototype. It is always nice to replace the competition...especially in a highly visible account and potentially global account. Our new product is really slick technically with integrations to Google Earth and some other internet services like traffic and weather. With all the maps and other stuff it is impressive. I am going to have to readjust my thinking to 'real-time' instead of batch which might be tough.

Anyhow, going to take the afternoon off and do something besides work. We are moving our office this weekend and the network and all associated stuff like email is down. I might even leave my 'Crackberry' at home! See you guys later.

Zen Joke

It's Friday and it has been a busy week. It has also been a bad week for humans rights with our failure to restore Habeas Corpus and an even worse week for our soldiers with the failure of the Webb amendment. Therefore it is time for a Zen joke.

Q. What did the Zen master say to the hotdog vendor?
A. "Make me one with everything."

Have a good Friday.

Stingy inTeaching

A young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda met a college friend who had been studying Zen. The young doctor asked him what Zen was.

"I cannot tell you what it is," the friend replied, "but one thing is certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die."

"That's fine," said Kusuda. "I will try it. Where can I find a teacher?"

"Go to the master Nan-in," the friend told him.

So Kusuda went to call on Nan-in. He carried a dagger nine and a half inches long to determine whether or not the teacher was afraid to die.

When Nan-in saw Kusuda he exclaimed: "Hello, friend. How are you? We haven't seen each other for a long time!"

This perplexed Kusuda, who replied: "We have never met before."

"That's right," answered Nan-in. "I mistook you for another physician who is receiving instruction here."

With such a begining, Kusuda lost his chance to test the master, so reluctantly he asked if he might receive instruction.

Nan-in said: "Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness. That is Zen."

Kusuda visited Nan-in three times. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. "A phsisician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of your patients."

It was not clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death. So on the forth visit he complained: "My friend told me that when one learns Zen one loses his fear of death. Each time I come here you tell me to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called Zen, I am not going to visit you anymore."

Nan-in smiled and patted the doctor. "I have been too strict with you. Let me give you a koan." He presented Kusuda with Joshu's Mu to work over, which is the first mind-enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless Gate.

Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher commented: "You are not in yet."

Kusuda continued in concentration for another year and a half. His mind became placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern of life and death.

Then he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just One

Why didn't just one Senator(Dem or GOP) stand up yesterday and object to allowing the Webb amendment to fail even though it had a majority? All it would have taken would be one objection to force the Republicans to actually have to stand up and filibuster. Today we would have read in the papers that the GOP filibustered the amendment instead of that it failed. Why are the Democrats allowing the GOP all of these painless filibusters? Why are the Democrats not forcing the Republicans to go on record not supporting the troops?

Makes me very mad.

Here is a more detailed discussion by KagroX at KOS

National Day of Mourning

This Friday, tomorrow September 21, tens of thousands of people, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will participate in the first Iraq Moratorium, a national day of locally organized opposition to the disastrous war and occupation of Iraq.

It is modeled after the great Vietnam Moratorium of October 15, 1969, when individuals in small groups and large, in cities small and large, joined millions of their fellow Americans across the nation to challenge a government policy of lies and delusion that had brought devastation and slaughter to Southeast Asia and the greatest turmoil at home since the Civil War.

You can do a much or as little as you feel necessary from civil disobedience to writing your local newspaper or posting something on your blog. If you do nothing else, wear a black armband to school, to work or wherever you go on Friday as silent testimony to your opposition to the war and occupation, to your mourning of its consequences and to your determination to help end it.

Friday the 21st is also the International Day of Peace which makes it doubly important that we do something positive to mark our opposition to the unjust war in Iraq.

If you have any good ideas for Friday please note them in the comments and regardless let us all know in the comments how you plan to join in the Iraq Moratorium and the International Day of Peace.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Paul Krugman Blog

Someplace that might be worth checking in on periodically. Paul Krugman introduces his blog: The Conscience of a Liberal. Another voice and a good one. Welcome to the pool Paul.

Not Far From Buddhahood

One of my favorites...

A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: "Have you ever read the Christian Bible?"

"No, read it to me," said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew: "And why take ye thought for rainment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these... Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."

Gasan said: "Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man."

The student continued reading: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."

Gasan remarked: "That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood."

John Answers Hillary

Here is what John Edwards has to say about Hillary's healthcare plan.

The lesson Senator Clinton seems to have learned from her experience with health care is, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ I learned a very different lesson from decades of fighting powerful interests - you can never join ‘em, you just have to beat ‘em.

If you’re going to negotiate universal health care with the same powerful interests that killed it before, your proposal isn’t a plan, it’s a starting point. I’d like to know what a principled compromise looks like on universal health care. When you cut the deal on universal, who gets left out? And if you don’t compromise on the universal part, does that mean you compromise on the health care part? Lower quality? Higher costs? I don’t believe in it.

In the America I believe in, we don’t compromise our principles. I will not compromise on universal health care - not on coverage, not on quality, not on cost. I’ll fight for it with everything I’ve got.

And to show Congress just how serious I am, on the first day of my administration, I will submit legislation that ends health care coverage for the president, all members of Congress, and all senior political appointees in both branches of government on July 20th, 2009 - unless we have passed universal health care reform.

There are four principles that have to be met: it must be truly universal. Anyone who has health care must be able to keep it, but they should pay less for it. Anyone who doesn’t have health care must get it, with help if they can’t afford it. Doctors and patients, not insurance companies and HMOs, must have control of health care decisions.

The American people have waited long enough. Six months will be hard, but we can do it. Six months to universal health care. Six months to real change. Without compromise.

Millions of Americans live without health care every day. It’s time for Washington to understand that health care reform isn’t a political issue - it’s a moral issue. If they do, we’ll finally have universal health care.


Daily Bread

First it was corn prices moving up because of the demand caused by ethanol and some shortages due to weather. Now it looks like wheat is the next victim. For a lot of us a few pennies here and there on the cost of a "Twinkie" or a bagel is no big deal but for people already pinched by gas prices and other food prices going up this is going to hurt.

Wheat futures hit a record of $8.87 a bushel in Chicago trading last week before retreating to $8.75 on Monday. Still, that's a huge jump from $3.95 a year ago.
Oh, and never mind that Global Warming thing Bush.

Free Stuff

This should be interesting....

Resuming an old rivalry, International Business Machines Corp. is launching a software giveaway that takes aim at Microsoft Corp. on the office desktop.

Today, IBM plans to post on the Internet a package of its own software with applications that square off against components of Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite -- a word processor to rival Word, a spreadsheet to go up against Excel and business-presentation software as an alternative to PowerPoint.

Never have been much of a fan of Symphony and I absolutely hate Lotus Notes but for some this might be better than shelling out the price for MS Home Office. There will, of course, be loads of compatibility issues.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not Universal Health Care Hillary

Traffic wasn't as bad as usual so I have a few minutes to comment on Hillary's so called Universal Health Care Plan unveiled yesterday. It should properly be labeled Universal Health Insurance and is a long cry from an actual proposal for Universal Health Care.

Universal Health care means a single payer health care system where everybody as free access to healthcare...end of discussion. It is like the systems in most of the other civilized countries of the world. This is not it.

I can see the fingerprints of the greed driven health insurance companies and big pharma all over this proposal and I for one don't like it. Yes, I know I haven't been able to study it in depth but I have seen enough of it to know it stinks.

I don't think I will be alone in this assessment.

Shoun and His Mother

Running behind this morning so I just have time for this morning's koan. Off to face the Atlanta traffic and another day in the classroom. Everyone have a great day.

Shoun became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.

Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not live with the monks. So he would built a little house and cared for her there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses, and in this manner receive a few coins for food.

When Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His mother, however, was hurt to see others laugh at her son. Finally she told Shoun: "I think I will become a nun. I can be vegetarian too." She did, and they studied together.

Shoun was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together. One night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the house of a woman of the streets.

One day Shoun left for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known where to reach him, so the funeral was in progress.

Shoun walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. "Mother, your son has returned," he said.

"I am glad to see you have returned, son," he answered for his mother.

"Yes, I am glad too," Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people about him: "The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body."

When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem:

For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.

His disciples gathered around him, reciting sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Training This Week

May be a little quiet around here this week. I was informed over the weekend that I am going to be trained in a new product this week. Should be interesting as the new product is fully integrated with Google maps, internet weather and traffic information. All of this is used to schedule and route service technicians the most efficient way and still keep them within the limits imposed by service contracts. It integrates with the old product in helping bring a needed replacement part to the appropriate technician so it really an extension of what I already do. It runs of the same database and even uses the same UI just with additional screens. Looking forward to learning some the new geeky web stuff.

Probably won't hear much from me except at lunch or in the evening. Yes, I have to fight traffic as well this week. Arrgh! I do like getting up and walking down the hall to work.

Muddy Road

More about Tanzan .

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl" said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Instilling Failure

This is really interesting from the Washington Post in what it doesn't say.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday he would recommend a veto of a Senate proposal that would give troops more rest between deployments in Iraq, branding it a dangerous "backdoor way" to draw down forces.

Democrats pledged to push ahead with the plan by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and expressed confidence they could round up the votes to pass it, although perhaps not by the margin to override a veto.

Gates was asked in broadcast interviews about recommending a veto to Bush should the proposal pass. "Yes I would," the Pentagon chief said.

"If it were enacted, we would have force management problems that would be extremely difficult and, in fact, affect combat effectiveness and perhaps pose greater risk to our troops," he said.

I really don't have a problem with that. It's always been understood that Bush would oppose operating within the realistic framework military commanders thought necessary and that made the Webb proposal the preferred minimum requirements. Giving service members the rest and training time the military command thinks they need outside of combat zones would limit Bush's ability to kill troops as fast as the politics demanded and not take credit for it.

Bush will veto any measure with even the suggestion that service men and women will end up spending equal time in and out of combat. Goddess forbid! They simply must spend more time under fire...I mean Christ, we are paying them for combat!

What I do have a problem with is the subtle idea implied in the article that, all of a sudden, 60 out of a hundred is the "new" majority in the Senate.

Supporters of Webb's proposal say it has at least 57 of the 60 votes needed for passage. It would need 67 votes to override a veto.

This is not sloppy writing, this is intentional. The "60 votes needed for passage" actually refers to the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on a Republican filibuster, so that the Senate can vote on the measure. The reality is that you still need only 51 votes to pass a a measure in the Senate. It is only when the minority party pulls the filibuster gag that you need 60 votes.

This isn't just bad writing or poor reporting...this is intentionally framing the notion that everything brought to a vote in the Senate will automatically be subject to a filibuster. Why is this important? It is important because it makes Republican obstructionism less obvious.

This is wrong on several levels but most importantly the Senate has been creating unanimous consent agreements that actually codify the process of filibuster. By agreeing with both sides ahead of time that 60 votes actually will be required to pass certain legislation the Democrats are codifying failure into everything they do. In case you don't want to think this through...what this does is allow the minority to build a pain-free filibuster into almost any bill. If I were a Democrat( I am) I might find this a little self defeating. Allowing a "pain free filibuster" especially on funding the Iraq disaster should be very painful for the Republicans. In the current process they get a free ride since people are led to believe that 60 votes are the rule and not the exception. The Democrats need to make sure that they are not letting an "invisible filibuster" take away the pain for the Republicans(and Smoking Joe).

Come on guys, we accept the occasional failure and we recognize the difficulties but Jeebus H Christ quit reloading so fast and don't hand your loaded weapons to the other guys.

No Slack

Alan Greenspan comes out with his book tomorrow but already the guts are on the street. What I want to know is how a major enabler of Bush and of everything that has gone wrong in the last 6 years gets off writing a book that blames everyone else? Greenspan enabled the tax cuts that sent the economy into a deficit of historic dimensions. Greenspan remained silent when the war for Iraqi oil was started. Greenspan had a mighty pulpit, he could move the global financial markets with a whisper and he could have alerted the American people to the financial disaster that Bush was creating. Greenspan should be jeered for his complicity in the nightmare we find ourselves in now, not cheered.

Granted he is evidently not kind to the Bush cabal in the book but he should take some responsibility for what he hath wrought.

Liberal vs Conservative..It's Genetic

I always wondered whether being a Republican/Conservative was a choice or genetic. Now I see that it's genetic... they're born that way. Looks like we are going to have to go after them in the womb or else keep them from breeding in the first place.

From the LA Times:
In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.

The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Buddha

In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha's precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o'clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept.

One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.

"Hello, brother," Tanzan greeted him. "Won't you have a drink?"

"I never drink!" exclaimed Unsho solemnly.

"One who does not drink is not even human," said Tanzan.

"Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!" exclaimed Unsho in anger. "Then if I am not human, what am I?"

"A Buddha," answered Tanzan.

Trying Mexican

Updated below:

I hope everyone's weekend is charging right along. Don't forget that today starts a weeklong series of events protesting the war in Iraq. Big march scheduled for Washington, DC and a "die in" as well. Probably going to be some arrests for that. It will be interesting to see what the MSM does with it. Enigma4ever at Watergate Summer suggests a light in a window to show support and that seems like a good idea.

I decided yesterday that one area of my cooking skills that was lacking was in traditional Mexican so I am going to do something about it. We have quite a large Hispanic population here in Roswell (something that is driving all the wingnut Republicans here absolutely insane BTW) and as such we are lucky enough to have a big grocery market that is basically completely Mexican. Mercado Del Pueblo is in an ex Publix spot and it is packed with everything Mexican.
I scored a very nice tortilla press for 14 bucks, a big bag of Masa harina (corn flour), lard, canned chipotles in adobo sauce and a few other essentials like corn husks and I am going to get some good Mexican fundamentals under my belt before the weekend is out. We are catching the tail end of Humberto here so there is not going to be much outdoor stuff happening.

Last night was homemade corn tortilla time and while the first few were shaky I began to get the hang of it. At first my dough was too wet and I couldn't get the tortillas to separate from the plastic after pressing and I was also pressing them too thin. The end result was good enough for Madam and I to have some fajitas. Fresh tortillas definitely make a difference. A few more batches and I will have the hang of it. It is surprising quick. Two cups of Masa harina and a dash of salt mixed with a cup and a quarter of water. Mix the dough and then roll golf ball size balls and press them between two plastic sheets in the tortilla press to make 6 inch tortillas. Cook them on an ungreased medium hot griddle or cast iron pan for about a minute on each side and voila!

Today is tomales day. I have a chuck roast stewing away right now to make the chili con carne filling and the corn husks soaking. I am also going to make some just stuffed with a roasted red pepper mixture. Later today we will see if I can master the batter/dough and the formation process. I have seen it done but actually making the tomales may be the challenge. Steam them for a couple of hours and we shall see. I adore tomales and will be very happy if I can learn to make a big batch that can be frozen for later. It's a lot of work but I am expecting a might reward.

I haven't decided on tomorrow's challenge but I am leaning toward refried beans and/or maybe some enchiladas with homemade tortillas.

You'd think being married to a Texas girl would save me from the trial and error method here but no...her excuse is she left too early to learn and besides she is German. You can bet, however, she will be the first to tell me if my efforts are up to snuff. Tomales report forthcoming.

Update on the tamales: Taste was good but not visually very pretty though not awful. It is clear however that I need a lesson on exactly the best way to form them.

Saturday Reading

The boys over at Adgitadiaries MandT have an excellent post up today that is a nice read. Go on over and say hi! They don't publish something everyday but when they do it is always rewarding. By the way there are a couple of good jokes to be had today as well.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Not A Good Sign

FRANKFURT Finance ministers and central bankers have long fretted that at some point, the rest of the world would lose its willingness to finance the United States' proclivity to consume far more than it produces - and that a potentially disastrous free-fall in the dollar's value would result.

But for longer than most economists would have been willing to predict a decade ago, the world has been a willing partner in American excess - until a new and home-grown financial crisis this summer rattled confidence in the country, the world's largest economy.

On Thursday, the dollar briefly fell to another low against the euro of $1.3927, as a slow decline that has been under way for months picked up steam this past week.

"This is all pointing to a greatly increased risk of a fast unwinding of the U.S. current account deficit and a serious decline of the dollar," said Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and an expert on exchange rates. "We could finally see the big kahuna hit."

Return On Success?

I am too disgusted with Bush's speech(stretching a description) to even comment on the content. All I can say is that it is obvious the "sloganeers" on the Bush team are getting as tired as the rest of us over the war in Iraq. They have gone from "Operation Together Forward" to the "New Way Forward," and now we’ve gotten "Return on Success."

I think I'll go back to "Fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here." It at least carried some veiled threat.

I should mention that I did like John Edward's two minute ad. "No Timeline. No Funding. No Excuses."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy Chinaman

Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha.

This Hotei lived in the T'ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.

Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: "Give me one penny." And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: "Give me one penny."

Once he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: "What is the significance of Zen?"

Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.

"Then," asked the other, "what is the actualization of Zen?"

At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.


Sorry been MIA today. I had a last minute gift of a premium ticket to the Tour Championship today at Eastlake CC in Atlanta. Premium meant access to the corporate tents and the buffets and open bars. Who am I to say no? Nice while it lasted but the thunderstorms shut it down about half past two and while I waited around and enjoyed some of the hospitality for a while I bailed about 330p and headed home. Even though I only live 35 miles from downtown Atlanta it took me 2 hours to make it home. I spent more time in the car today than actually watching professional golf. It was worth the try though and I would do it again tomorrow if I had another $150 ticket.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ass-kissing Little Chickenshit

Admiral Fallon seems like my kind of guy...

In sharp contrast to the lionization of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the U.S. Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

That extraordinarily contentious start of Fallon's mission to Baghdad led to more meetings marked by acute tension between the two commanders. Fallon went on develop his own alternative to Petraeus's recommendation for continued high levels of U.S. troops in Iraq during the summer.

The enmity between the two commanders became public knowledge when the Washington Post reported Sep. 9 on intense conflict within the administration over Iraq. The story quoted a senior official as saying that referring to "bad relations" between them is "the understatement of the century"
When someone like Admiral Fallon calls you a "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" to your face you can pretty much be assured that your only option is to increase the level of ass kissing and try and protect your retirement as best you can. Kissing Bush's ass is the only upside Patraeus has and we should recognize that.

The Story of Shunkai

The exquisite Shunkai whose other name was Suzu was compelled to marry against her wishes when she was quite young. Later, after this marriage had ended, she attended the university, where she studied philosophy.

To see Shunkai was to fall in love with her. Moreover, wherever she went, she herself fell in love with others. Love was with her at the university, and afterwards when philosophy did not satisfy her and she visited the temple to learn about Zen, the Zen students fell in love with her. Shunkai's whole life was saturated with love.

At last in Kyoto she became a real student of Zen. Her brothers in the sub-temple of Kennin praised her sincerity. One of them proved to be a congenial spirit and assisted her in the mastery of Zen.

The abbot of Kennin, Mokurai, Silent Thunder, was severe. He kept the precepts himself and expected the priests to do so. In modern Japan whatever zeal these priests have lost for Buddhism they seemed to have gained for having wives. Mokurai used to take a broom and chase the women away when he found them in any of his temples, but the more wives he swept out, the more seemed to come back.

In this particular temple the wife of the head priest had become jealous of Shunkai's earnestness and beauty. Hearing the students praise her serious Zen made this wife squirm and itch. Finally she spread a rumor about that Shunkai and the young man who was her friend. As a consequence he was expelled and Shunkai was removed from the temple.

"I may have made the mistake of love," thought Shunkai, "but the priest's wife shall not remain in the temple either if my friend is to be treated so unjustly."

Shunkai the same night with a can of kerosene set fire to the five-hundred-year-old temple and burned it to the ground. In the morning she found herself in the hands of the police.

A young lawyer became interested in her and endeavoured to make her sentance lighter. "Do not help me." she told him. "I might decide to do something else which will only imprison me again."

At last a sentance of seven years was completed, and Shunkai was released from the prison, where the sixty-year-old warden also had become enamored of her.

But now everyone looked upon her as a "jailbird". No one would associate with her. Even the Zen people, who are supposed to believe in enlightenment in this life and with this body, shunned her. Zen, Shunkai found, was one thing and the followers of Zen quite another. Her relatives would have nothing to do with her. She grew sick, poor, and weak.

She met a Shinshu priest who taught her the name of the Buddha of Love, and in this Shunkai found some solace and peace of mind. She passed away when she was still exquisitely beautiful and hardly thirty years old.

She wrote her own story in a futile endeavour to support herself and some of it she told to a women writer. So it reached the Japanese people. Those who rejected Shunkai, those who slandered and hated her, now read of her life with tears of remorse.

What Troop Reduction?

Updated below

In the following extract from the NY SUN note that the media is already parroting the lie that Patraeus and Bush are going to draw down troops by next year. This is a lie. The troops that made up the surge are and have always been due to rotate out next spring and we don't have the resources to replace them. The media is allowing the White House to scam the public with this lie...shameful.

Democratic leaders this month have hinted that they will not seek a withdrawal date as a condition of the temporary funding bills that expire this month. This may be in part because the White House already has agreed to withdraw some 30,000 soldiers by next summer, leaving 130,000, or the pre-surge troop levels, for the height of next year's political season. President Bush will address the nation tomorrow and is expected to endorse the withdrawal strategy previewed this week by General Petraeus on Capitol Hill.

Update: Even the Associated Press is help foster the lie.
WASHINGTON — President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.
At least Anderson Cooper and CNN are telling it straight:

CNN's Anderson Cooper is in Iraq, reporting live from there this week as the Iraq debate here at home intensifies. This exchange is from yesterday's show:

COOPER: Michael Ware, Petraeus said that as many as 30,000 troops could leave by the beginning of next summer. It was sort of presented as though that was an operational decision.

In truth, it is really an operational necessity. The U.S. can't maintain these current troop levels, without putting even more strain on the -- on our already strained troops. Is that correct?

WARE: Yes, that is correct, Anderson. In fact, I'm struck by the way people are regarding General Petraeus' discussion of -- of those troop levels until July of next year. People are acting like he has just announced some sort of phased withdrawal. Well, no, not at all. That was the timeline for the so-called surge in the beginning.

Indeed, it wasn't a surge. It was a one-year escalation of U.S. forces. And the clock was due to run out on that escalation in the summer of next year anyway. So, that is not a revelation at all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Last Poem of Hoshin

The Zen Master Hoshin lived in China many years. Then he returned to the northeastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China. This is the story:

One year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to his disciples: "I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should treat me well this year."

The pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.

On the eve of the new year, Tokufu concluded: "You have been good to me. I shall leave tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped."

The disciples laughed, thinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and the next day they did not find their teacher about. They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.

Hoshin, who related this story, told his disciples: "It is not necessary for a Zen master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can."

"Can you?" someone asked.

"Yes," answered Hoshin. "I will show you what I can do seven days from now."

None of the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin called them together.

"Seven days ago," he remarked, "I said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither a poet or a calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words."

His followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write.

"Are you ready?" Hoshin asked.

"Yes sir," replied the writer.

Then Hoshin dictated:

I came from brillancy
And return to brillancy.
What is this?

This line was one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: "Master, we are one line short."

Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted "Kaa!" and was gone.

Could Have Done Better

Gary Kamiya has a very good article today in Salon about 9/11, and how America has responded, it is worth the read . Here is how it ends:

Like a vibration that causes a bridge to collapse, the 9/11 attacks exposed grave weaknesses in our nation's defenses, our national institutions and ultimately our national character. Many more Americans have now died in a needless war in Iraq than were killed in the terror attacks, and tens of thousands more grievously wounded. Billions of dollars have been wasted. America's moral authority, more precious than gold, has been tarnished by torture and lies and the erosion of our liberties. The world despises us to an unprecedented degree. An entire country has been wrecked. The Middle East is ready to explode. And the threat of terrorism, which the war was intended to remove, is much greater than it was.

All of this flowed from our response to 9/11. And so, six years later, we need to do more than mourn the dead. We need to acknowledge the blindness and bigotry that drove our response. Until we do, not only will the stalemate over Iraq persist, but our entire Middle Eastern policy will continue down the road to ruin.

Exit Strategy

Watching all the "kibuki" with Patraeus and Crocker I can't help but conclude that the White House has somehow managed to fight the "withdraw now crowd" to some kind of draw and a draw at this point in the game means that Bush will see his "exit strategy" through to the end. His strategy is, of course, to kick the ball down the field and keep a large military presence in Iraq through the end of his term and let the next and Democratic president suffer the what will be a painful and bloody withdrawal.

Sooner or later we are going to have to leave, if for no other reason than we run out of bullets and soldiers. When we do the violence will escalate and a lot of people will die and something will happen to the country we now know as Iraq. Most likely it will devolve into three or four sub countries controlled by a single religious sect. Bush doesn't want to admit his mistake and defeat and will leave the onerous chore to his successor.

Unless something big happens to push a lot of congress persons over the "get out now line' I am not seeing the political will to do anything but to keep funding this mess. I hope I am wrong but it looks more and more like more death for Americans and Iraqis.

Of course, it goes without saying that the longer we sustain the violence in Iraq with our presence the entire region is at risk of breaking out into war and the risk of us doing something in Iran gets more and more likely. We are at the point where we are being left with nothing but bad options and having to chose what we hope will be the least bad. Not a good position to be in.

Back At the Ranch

While you were listening to Patraeus and Crocker pump sunshine up your kilt...

BAGHDAD - Nine American soldiers died in Iraq on Monday — all but one killed in vehicle accidents in and around Baghdad, the military said.

The deadliest of the vehicle accidents, in western Baghdad, killed seven Multi-National Division — Baghdad soldiers and wounded 11, and left two detainees dead and a third injured. The cause of the accident was under investigation, the military said.

In a separate accident, east of Baghdad, an American soldier was killed and two injured when their vehicle flipped and caught fire. A ninth soldier died of injuries sustained Sunday while on patrol in the Kirkuk area of northern Iraq....

In the north, a suicide car bomber killed eight people and injured 20 others in an attack near an Iraqi army headquarters near Tal Afar, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, the local mayor Najim Abdullah said.

Also Monday, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed three civilians during a raid in Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City, police and residents said.

Monday, September 10, 2007

One FU To Go...Hold The Lies

I have been trying to catch some of the Patraeus "testimony" before Congress this afternoon between actually trying to accomplish something constructive. I as far as I have been able to tell the gist of what he is saying is...

"The greatest military force in the world is sort of winning against a disorganized rabble of low life scum of the earth and while, yes, it has taken us over four years to be able to report perceptible progress (even though some would argue about progress at all) I really need another six months and 100 billion dollars and 600 or 700 more American lives and another 10,000 or so Iraqi lives to be able to decide how many more years and thousand of lives it will take to extricate ourselves from this clusterfuck created by Mr. Mission Accomplished Bring 'em On." (Mr. MABEO)

In other words...bend over and kiss your asses good bye 'cause we are in hell to stay and the Democratic Congress hasn't got enough balls to do anything about it. Pa-dum-pum!

The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Number Nine...Very appropriate on a day when another thief will attempt to steal some more of our future.

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Not A Milestone

Updated below:

It's not a milestone birthday but today I turn 58. Nothing big planned. Looking back to 1967 when I turned 18 I never thought the world would be what it is today and I surely didn't think America would be where it is today. I and my peers were facing Viet Nam and even then I was thinking that this surely would be the last time young Americans would be faced with dying in a foreign land for nothing. I thought that the spiritual awakening I was experiencing personally and seeing in my generation would carry through and become a permanent part of the world. I guess I am still trying to figure out exactly where we went wrong. I suppose there is always the possibility that a turn toward compassion and love on a global scale will happen but it surely does try one's faith when we look at the world around us today. Nothing to do but to keep on trying to light the flame. There are some positive signs.


Update: Had a very nice birthday dinner at my daughter's house in Gainesville. Son in law did his usual good job with the grilled fish and veggies and we had some lovely tiny yellow potatoes roasted in the oven. I contributed a rustic apple tart in lieu of a cake and it too was pretty good. A very nice birthday indeed. Madam even surprised me with two stemless Riedel wine glasses which are exquisitely thin and sensuous. I even bought myself a birthday present in an antique shop near my daughter...a hand carved hardwood wooden dough bowl which I will christen tomorrow morning with buttermilk biscuits. All in all a good birthday.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Great Waves

Number Eight

In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

"Great Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land."

The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said. "You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you."

The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

Whole Wheat Bread

Cook's Illustrated recently did a taste taste of commercially available Whole Wheat Breads and since I pay the annual fee for the subscription I thought I would share the top three brands they tested. If you don't bake your own whole wheat bread, he said smugly, then you might use these recommendations to save having to try some less than stellar product especially those with High Fructose Corn Syrup which is poison. ( I actually went through all my cabinets and fridge last week and threw out anything with HFCS.) If I am traveling and don't have time to bake, I usually buy the Rudi's(it is organic) which is available at Whole Foods...I can't remember trying the Pepperidge Farm but I will just for comparison sake(though it is not organic). My homemade bread is not technically organic either since I don't use organic yeast or honey.

Many manufacturers add chemical preservatives that inhibit the growth of microbes and mold. The six lowest-rated brands all contain preservatives; the three winners do not-instead they rely on vinegar to perform this function. According to our science editor, the preservatives can lend a slight off-flavor to the breads, which our tasters detected in several of the low-rated brands.

To mask those off-flavors, most of these low-rated breads use high-fructose corn syrup as their primary sweetener; the corn syrup is powerfully sweet and can make off-flavors-as well as desirable wheat flavor-less apparent. Our top three brands do not contain high-fructose corn syrup (instead they rely on white and brown sugars, raisin juice, honey, and molasses), and tasters praised them for stronger wheat flavor.

As for texture, our tasters liked breads that were heartier, chewier, and more dense than white bread. The breads are listed below, with tasters' comments, in order of preference.

Highly Recommended

1. PEPPERIDGE FARM 100% Natural Whole Wheat Bread $3.39 for 24 ounces
Comments: This bread, which had a low level of sugars and no corn syrup,
was praised for its "whole-grain, earthy flavor" and "nuttiness." The
"dense, chewy" texture was lauded as being "grainy but moist."


2. RUDI'S ORGANIC BAKERY Honey Sweet Whole Wheat Bread $3.79 for 22 ounces
Comments: This bread earned high marks for its "dense and wholesome" texture. It also had the lowest total sugars of any brand in the lineup. "Closest to traditional wheat bread in taste and texture," said one taster.

3. ARNOLD Natural 100% Whole Wheat Bread $2.50 for 20 ounces
Comments: "Nutty and wheaty," said tasters, who appreciated this bread's "complex" and "strong, healthy" flavor. Its texture was praised as "hearty." A few panelists complained about a "bitter" aftertaste.

Whistle a Happpy Tune

Don't fall for all the happy talk coming later this month...

(Fortune Magazine) -- There will be lots of celebrating in Washington next month when the Treasury announces that the federal budget deficit for fiscal 2007, which ends September 30, will have dropped to a mere $158 billion, give or take a few bucks.

That will be $90 billion below the reported 2006 deficit and will be toasted by the White House and Treasury as a great accomplishment.


We'll start with Social Security, which will take in about $78 billion more in payroll and income taxes than it shells out. The Treasury takes that cash, gives the trust fund IOUs for it, and spends it. That $78 billion isn't in the stated deficit.

Wait, there's more. The Treasury will fork over $108 billion of interest on the trust fund's $2.2 trillion of Treasurys - but will give the trust fund IOUs, not cash. They won't count in the deficit either. Add that $186 billion to the stated budget deficit, and it more than doubles, to $344 billion.


Now, let's move on. We end up with a total deficit of more than $400 billion by undoing another piece of WAAP ledger-demain: the $97 billion increase in Treasury securities held by "other government accounts," such as federal employee pension funds.

You can see the details if you want at the web link above.

Come On Dems, Get With the Program

I could paraphrase but it would lose something.


Here’s what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he’ll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq — as long as you don’t count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.

Here’s what I’m afraid will happen: Democrats will look at Gen. Petraeus’s uniform and medals and fall into their usual cringe. They won’t ask hard questions out of fear that someone might accuse them of attacking the military. After the testimony, they’ll desperately try to get Republicans to agree to a resolution that politely asks President Bush to maybe, possibly, withdraw some troops, if he feels like it.

There are five things I hope Democrats in Congress will remember.

First, no independent assessment has concluded that violence in Iraq is down. On the contrary, estimates based on morgue, hospital and police records suggest that the daily number of civilian deaths is almost twice its average pace from last year. And a recent assessment by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found no decline in the average number of daily attacks.

So how can the military be claiming otherwise? Apparently, the Pentagon has a double super secret formula that it uses to distinguish sectarian killings (bad) from other deaths (not important); according to press reports, all deaths from car bombs are excluded, and one intelligence analyst told The Washington Post that “if a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian. If it went through the front, it’s criminal.” So the number of dead is down, as long as you only count certain kinds of dead people.

Oh, and by the way: Baghdad is undergoing ethnic cleansing, with Shiite militias driving Sunnis out of much of the city. And guess what? When a Sunni enclave is eliminated and the death toll in that district falls because there’s nobody left to kill, that counts as progress by the Pentagon’s metric.

Second, Gen. Petraeus has a history of making wildly overoptimistic assessments of progress in Iraq that happen to be convenient for his political masters.

I’ve written before about the op-ed article Gen. Petraeus published six weeks before the 2004 election, claiming “tangible progress” in Iraq. Specifically, he declared that “Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt,” that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward” and that “there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security.” A year later, he declared that “there has been enormous progress with the Iraqi security forces.”

But now two more years have passed, and the independent commission of retired military officers appointed by Congress to assess Iraqi security forces has recommended that the national police force, which is riddled with corruption and sectarian influence, be disbanded, while Iraqi military forces “will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months.”

Third, any plan that depends on the White House recognizing reality is an idle fantasy. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, on Tuesday Mr. Bush told Australia’s deputy prime minister that “we’re kicking ass” in Iraq. Enough said.

Fourth, the lesson of the past six years is that Republicans will accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic no matter what the Democrats do. Democrats gave Mr. Bush everything he wanted in 2002; their reward was an ad attacking Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, that featured images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Finally, the public hates this war and wants to see it ended. Voters are exasperated with the Democrats, not because they think Congressional leaders are too liberal, but because they don’t see Congress doing anything to stop the war.

In light of all this, you have to wonder what Democrats, who according to The New York Times are considering a compromise that sets a “goal” for withdrawal rather than a timetable, are thinking. All such a compromise would accomplish would be to give Republicans who like to sound moderate — but who always vote with the Bush administration when it matters — political cover.

And six or seven months from now it will be the same thing all over again. Mr. Bush will stage another photo op at Camp Cupcake, the Marine nickname for the giant air base he never left on his recent visit to Iraq. The administration will move the goal posts again, and the military will come up with new ways to cook the books and claim success.

One thing is for sure: like 2004, 2008 will be a “khaki election” in which Republicans insist that a vote for the Democrats is a vote against the troops. The only question is whether they can also, once again, claim that the Democrats are flip-floppers who can’t make up their minds.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The more I see the more I like. Now is not the time to stand back and let the Democrats "chicken dance" around some half-assed compromise on the way forward. John Edwards is stepping out and putting his position in clear terms. Other than Dodd none of the other Democratic candidates have made their position crystal clear.

John Edwards:

In 2006, the American people elected a Democratic Congress to change course and end this war. It's the whole reason the American people voted for change. Yet, 10 months after the election, we still have the status quo and Congress has still failed to do the people's will. That might be the way they do it inside the Beltway, but it's not the American way. It's time to stand up for the American people and against President Bush's failed, stubborn policy. Without a firm deadline, a small withdrawal of only some of the surge troops won't cut it—that's not a solution, it's an excuse. Congress must not send President Bush any funding bill without a timeline to end this war. No timeline, no funding. No excuses.

How long will it take Obama and Clinton to step out of the shadows and show some leadership and help craft a real solution to this disastrous war?


Lucky 7

Tanzan wrote sixty postal cards on the last day of his life, and asked an attendant to mail them. Then he passed away.

The cards read:

I am departing from this world.

This is my last announcement.


July 27, 1892

Bush Knew There Were No WMD in Iraq

Sidney Blumenthal's latest article in Salon confirms what many of us suspected and or inferred. Bush was briefed that Saddam did not have WMD well before we invaded by George Tenet and that this information was deliberately kept from Congress.
On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.
It is interesting to note the timing of Blumenthal's piece. It is released just after Bush biographer Robert Draper reports that Bush still claims to have believed--in April 2006--that Iraq had WMD. It is also interesting that it comes on the eve of General Pratraeus' presentation to Congress where we already know he will be lying.

It says a lot about the type of person George Tenet is. Letting our country go to war knowing that it was all based on lies. We already know that Bush is a liar and that he and Cheney were going to "kick Saddam's ass" no matter what the intelligence said but it takes a real bastard like Tenet to let it happen when he could have so easily stopped it all. There is an eternity of blood on his hands just as there is on Bush and Cheney's.

I just hop some the information coming out will finally convince enough of Congress to pull the plug on this misbegotten war once and for all and to quash any possibility that Bush and Cheney can pull the same stunt with Iran.

A Great Voice Gone

RIP to a great voice, Lucianno Pavarotti has passed away. While I am not his biggest fan no one can argue that his wasn't a great voice and this performance from Puccini’s Nessun Dorma (YouTube) is an example of why the world of music has suffered another great loss this year after losing Beverly Sills earlier.

While very commercial the "Three Tenors" is one of my favorite CD's and another is Pavorotti's CD of his favorite pieces from a couple of dozen operas.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

23 Years-An Ice Free Arctic

This is not "cheery" news. This is another of those "Oh Shit!" things.
From The Guardian:
The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at a record low, scientists said last night. Experts said they were "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as Britain disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the north-west passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the north-east passage along Russia's Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.

Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver which released the figures, said: "It's amazing. It's simply fallen off a cliff and we're still losing ice." The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.

No Loving-Kindness

Number Six

There was an old woman in China who had supported a monk for over twenty years. She had built a little hut for him and fed him while he was meditating. Finally she wondered just what progress he had made in all this time.

To find out, she obtained the help of a girl rich in desire. "Go and embrace him," she told her, "and then ask him suddenly: 'What now?'"

The girl called upon the monk and without much ado caressed him, asking him what he was going to do about it.

"An old tree grows on a cold rock in winter," replied the monk somewhat poetically. "Nowhere is there any warmth."

The girl returned and related what he had said.

"To think I fed that fellow for twenty years!" exclaimed the old woman in anger. "He showed no consideration for your needs, no disposition to explain your condition. He need not have responded to passion, but at least he should have evidenced some compassion."

She at once went to the hut of the monk and burned it down.

Battle Tomato

I lost the battle today. The 8 tomato plants I have in the back finally, in the last week, produced more tomatoes than I could consume before they went bad. I had to break down this morning and can some. I peeled and seeded a pile and they are now cooling in jars. Though not the same as fresh I will still get to enjoy them later when all the fresh tomatoes are nothing but a memory.

The evolution did bring back some memories of my grandmother putting up quart after quart of tomatoes, peaches, beans, jellies and jams and all of her glorious pickles. There were always bread&butter, dills, sweet relish, chow-chow, pickled okra, dill green beans, pickled hot peppers and her famous icicle pickles. Some years there was also pickled water melon rind. By the end of the season there were hundreds of jars lined up in the basement all carefully labeled and ready for winter. I can still see her in the kitchen surrounded by jars and produce with the steam rolling out of the water bath canner and the pressure canner whistling away.

Not only did my grandfather put in a big garden every year but Mrs. LaRue would show up in her old Chevy pick-up with bushel baskets of garden truck on a regular basis. She and her family had a small farm up the creek and put the rich bottom land to good use. In addition, she would bring a few dozen fresh eggs that had just been gathered, fresh country butter and the occasional jar of honey from her bees. The people up in the hills of Virginia didn't eat fancy but what they had was fresh and plentiful and many times organic because they didn't have the money for expensive fertilizer and pesticides. Most of them had lived through the depression and made sure to preserve everything they could for leaner times plus they were frugal as well.

You can still eat close to the land in most of Europe or for that matter the rest of the world, but it is a big challenge here in the U.S. to do so and we are the poorer for it.