March 18th, 2006

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Good Morning!!

I am looking out on a clear, blue sky. Mandu is spiffy and vocally well, and resting his head on the keyboard.

My book group met last night, and Marlene hosted in my place. I got there early, and warmed in watching her prepare our meal, a meal of communion, great taste, and grace. It is so lovely to gather and feed. We feasted on pasta with chicken and artichokes, salad, and warm bread.

Perhaps, the tone was set by an email from the husband of one of our members who died two and a half years ago. She died so quickly, and the loss stunned her husband and two daughters, but they are doing reasonably well now. He feels Sally is here with him, and he has met someone with two children of her own. He is amazed that his heart is so huge it can hold both grief and love. Again, we were fed by knowing he is doing well. He was so devastated and we wanted to help, but, of course, what could we really do. We were not Sally. I am so happy to know he has found love and peace in his grief.

We are all concerned about this country. Two answers to the Two Cents queation, "How has the war changed you?" were discussed.

Chuck Fleischer, Corte Madera
I am no longer a registered Republican. I spent my 30-year military career trying to make friends and engender close ties with other people. Most of my efforts have been dashed by the Bush camp. I am looking forward to a regime change in '08, and we should begin this November.

Tina Martin, San Francisco
It's changed my perception of Germans as an anomaly. I'm sure they chose to believe that the reports of torture and murder were exaggerated or "isolated incidents" because they knew their country was a good country, and it would have been unpatriotic not to support their troops.

My friend Annemarie had to leave Nazi Germany. She has been appalled watching Bush and his cronies, their antics and tactics, and, of course, we know there is someone pulling the strings behind the throne, but this is how it begins. When will we notice we are being judged? Will we be judged as harshly as the German people? Will we stop the spin?
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Ah, some good news. Breathe clean air!!

From the NY Times today -

Judges Overturn Bush Bid to Ease Pollution Rules

Published: March 18, 2006

WASHINGTON, March 17 — A federal appeals court on Friday overturned a clean-air regulation issued by the Bush administration that would have let many power plants, refineries and factories avoid installing costly new pollution controls to help offset any increased emissions caused by repairs and replacements of equipment.

Ruling in favor of a coalition of states and environmental advocacy groups, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the "plain language" of the law required a stricter approach. The court has primary jurisdiction in challenges to federal regulations.

The article continues. This will probably be challenged, but it is a start, and a reason to celebrate today.
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The New Yorker!!

The New Yorker this week has a glowing, and I mean glowing, review of the architect and the new De Young museum in San Francisco. I almost had to put on my sunglasses to shield my eyes from the blaze of praise. The members of my book group have an array of opinions on the building, so we will go as a group, and again, check it out. The one who most liked it has a strategy which we will utilize. Get in line 20 minutes before the museum opens, and scoot into the elevator so you are lifted into the tower without waiting in line. That ensures you are up there with only 6 or 7 other people, rather than the hordes which mean your view is augmented or distracted, depending on how you view art, by other bobbing heads. I still find it suspect that such a tactic is needed to truly appreciate the view, and I am happy to be there at 9:10 to be in line for the opening of the doors.

We discussed how using Swiss architects means we now have a world-class museum. I still feel San Franciscan architects might have better understood the scale of our tiny jewel, and I am happy to return for a new view. As the article by Paul Goldberger explains, the new museum replaced "a grandiose, Spanish-colonial structure." Somehow, I never saw the old one as grandiose, and I loved how I felt inside. As I recall, the Spanish were once here in a way not so beneficial to the natives, so, perhaps, the neutral Swiss are the ones to now make the mark.
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Ah, humor! And perhaps some nausea too!

Editorial in the NY Times today!!

Tomorrow Is Another Campaign

Published: March 18, 2006

Not since Scarlett O'Hara vowed to save Tara has an embattled Southern belle portrayed herself with such pathos. "I'm going to put everything on the line," vowed Congresswoman Katherine Harris, announcing on national television her plans to spend $10 million from a personal inheritance to try to save her floundering Senate campaign. "Everything," Ms. Harris said, choking back tears. "Not just my career and my future, but my father's name."

Her announcement on the "Hannity & Colmes" show — when many political watchers had thought she would quit — guaranteed Ms. Harris, the Florida Republican, a fresh dollop of the celebrity and notoriety that made her a household name during the 2000 presidential recount. As the revered and vilified state official in charge of certifying the disputed vote in Florida, Ms. Harris re-energized her own political career and eventually won a seat in Congress. Her race this year against Senator Bill Nelson, an incumbent Democrat, has been a mesmerizing mix of ambition and melodrama.

Ms. Harris's fellow Florida Republicans, noting her dismal poll ratings, sound no less scathing than the Democrats in wishing she would go away. "Katherine Harris moves in ways so mysterious that the designs of the creator seem transparent by comparison," one G.O.P. consultant said. But it may be premature to count her out. After all, others have spent more than $10 million from a personal fortune to secure a Senate seat. And others have overcome such negatives as a campaign fund investigation for having had dinner with an influence-shopping contributor who turned out to be corrupt. Stranger things have happened in American politics. Alas.
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Feet -

Though I want to keep believing the chemo has washed through, my feet are still tingling, so I see it is still hanging out there for sure, and probably lurking in other places, too, and yet, I feel so much better than I have that I can only view myself not only as twinkle toes, but twinkle feet. Joy to you this lovely Saturday in March.
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Last night, in my book group, we discussed how teachers are viewed in this society. Two of the six of us are working, professional teachers. (I think we all teach in many ways.) One is feeling, perhaps, a bit down about the status of teachers.

I am reminded of this quote. "A wise Roman once remarked that it is unreasonable to expect perfection from a schoolmaster when he is paid for one year what a successful charioteer would earn in an afternoon."

The thing is the teachers I know DO expect perfection of themselves, and DO achieve perfection in what they do. They are in the game, even though yes, they probably make much less in a year than the average football player makes in an afternoon.

Anyway, I wake, wondering how I can let the teachers I know and love, understand how much I appreciate the work they do.

I walk slowly and mindfully down to Starbucks. The state of my feet really allows me to take to heart the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, "Peace is every step." Without that, I might not make it. My feet are still amazingly tender and sore, but we got there at a most mindful pace.

These are the words that greet me on my latte cup.

"The human catalysts for "dreamers" are the teachers and encouragers that "dreamers" encounter throughout their lives. They are invaluable in the quest to turn ideas into reality. So here's a special thanks to all of the teachers - especially my teacher, Miz Lane!!"

--- Kevin Carroll -
"Katalyst" and author of "Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life's Work."

When I walked slowly home, I saw young children outside playing, enjoying this wonderfully fragrant day. I thought of all these children and the teachers they will have throughout the years. I hope they get teachers like the wonderful ones I am privileged to know.

So, tell a teacher today how much you admire and appreciate their work. Let's make every day Teacher Appreciation Day, and let's each honor the teaching role, and make sure what we pass on is stimulating, peaceful, and bold.
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Quotes by Cullen Hightower

Talk is cheap - except when Congress does it.
Cullen Hightower

Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else's can shorten it.
Cullen Hightower

Those who agree with us may not be right, but we admire their astuteness.
Cullen Hightower

We may not imagine how our lives could be more frustrating and complex--but Congress can.
Cullen Hightower

Wisdom is what's left after we've run out of personal opinions.
Cullen Hightower

There's too much said for the sake of argument and too little said for the sake of agreement.
Cullen Hightower
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The sun has moved across the sky -

Of course, we and the earth have turned, but it certainly looks like the sun has moved across the sky, and note, there is a sun today with which to notice movement. Last night, there were stars, and a not-yet risen moon when I looked. The rain brought the sky tappingly close, and it is fun to have a place for the eyes to pull out and rest. My eyes right now feel like clouds, floating on waves in the sky.

I noticed today how much a helicopter blade tears up the air. I'm not sure how healthy it is for the air, and when I feel better plan to protest helicopters flying over Muir Woods for tours. Trees need their rest and sleep, like me.

For example, today, I sat down with a book and fell asleep for three hours. I had a deep dream of driving in mud, fog, and darkness. I could not see where I was going. Occasionally I got a glimpse, but I found myself realizing I would just have to trust. The rain was pouring down in the dream, and there was no way to get off the curving road. I just had to keep going. Hmmmm! Sounds like life, so I will keep navigating the way I was in the dream, on trust, the only way to go.

The book I am reading, which really is good enough, in normal times, not to put me to sleep is Rebecca Solnit's "wanderlust - A History of Walking." I recommend it. She says, "Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains." Here is to that!! Enjoy!!
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On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled
By Brian Bennett and Al Jallam
Time Magazine

Friday 17 March 2006

Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing.

Four Black Hawk helicopters landed in a wheat field and dropped off a television crew, three photographers, three print reporters and three Iraqi government officials right into the middle of Operation Swarmer. Iraqi soldiers in newly painted humvees, green and red Iraqi flags stenciled on the tailgates, had just finished searching the farm populated by a half-dozen skinny cows and a woman kneading freshly risen dough and slapping it to the walls of a mud oven.

The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and US Army commanders who explained that the "largest air assault since 2003" in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and US troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released. The area, explained the officials, has long been suspected of being used as a base for insurgents operating in and around Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the bombing of a sacred shrine recently sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no air strikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What's more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the US and Iraqi commanders.

The operation, which doubled the population of the flat farmland in one single airlift, was initiated by intelligence from Iraq security forces, says Lt Col Skip Johnson commander of the 187 Battalion, 3rd Combat Brigade of the 101st Airborne. "They have the lead," he said to reporters at the second stop of the tour. But by Friday afternoon, the major targets seemed to have slipped through their fingers. Iraqi Army General Abdul Jabar says that Samarra-based insurgent leader Hamad el Taki of Mohammad's Army was thought to be in the area, and Iraqi intelligence officers were still working to compare known voice recordings and photographs with the prisoners in custody.

With the Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion, the soldiers had found some 300 individual pieces of weaponry like mortars, rockets and plastic explosives in six different locations inside the sparsely populated farming community of over 50 square miles and about 1,500 residents. The raids also uncovered high-powered cordless telephones used as detonators in homemade bombs, medical supplies and insurgent training manuals.

Before loading up into the helicopters for a return trip to Baghdad, Iraqi and American soldiers and some reporters helped themselves to the woman's freshly baked bread, tearing bits off and chewing it as they wandered among the cows. For most of them, it was the only thing worthwhile they'd found all day.
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I knew it had been wet. Marin has had 51 inches of rain this year compared to 45 inches last year. San Francisco usually gets 25 inches a year. More rain is predicted this next week, but tomorrow, Sunday, is predicted to be sunny. Yay!