March 28th, 2006

Book Cover

Morning Flow!

 

The breath is with me today, as I practice for my experience with the radiation machine.  I need to breathe in evenly, and hold my breath, so that my heart drops and is not radiated along with the breast.   A voice will guide me, as well as a silly pacman face, so I have auditory and visual clues.  Because of this new, expensive machine, I cannot make a mistake.  It will monitor my breath, and shut off if I am inhaling or exhaling at the wrong time.  All of this has me very aware of my breath, so this is what comes this morning. 

 

Rich Breath, Rich Life


Breath,

a bucket I fill with sand,

make sand castles,

to lift,

and texture the beach.

Fairy homes

wash in and out,

cleanse,

 in the life,

of the sea -

 

 

I hone the breath,

pace and meter, texture

with buckets of sand,

fill the sea with the taste of form,

as sand castles

leave the land.

 

I am reminded of a quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  “He lives most life whoever breathes most air,” but this morning I am with the quality of how we breathe, the texture, and how we form and move the air.  I hum and wash in the tone, find the points, and use it like sand to cleanse. 

 

I tie my breath to the moon

tidal as the sea,

leashed on currents,

like the dance of bees.  

 

Book Cover

Jane's poem of this morning!!

Without discussing it, Jane and I both wrote about the breath this morning.  When I spoke with her, she said an old memory had come up.  When I read what I had written, we realized, we were both writing on, focused on, aware of, the breath.  May your day be richly breathed, and your heart, a full gift.

Jane's Poem:



We were on a family car trip through the redwoods.

The motel pool was blue and cold.

I raced my brother, jumped feet first into the deep end.

I was breathless when my toes touched bottom.

Through the dimpled chlorine surface far above my father stood.

His back was turned.

He didn't see me, couldn't save me.

Heart held my breath to surface.

I never told anyone I'd almost drowned.


Book Cover

Here is to relishing each year as we age.

Appreciations
Adwaitya

By VERLYN KLINKENBORG
Published: March 28, 2006

Every now and then, the world marks the death of an exceptionally old human being, like Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. But today we pause to note the death of Adwaitya, an Aldabran tortoise who died last Wednesday at the Calcutta zoo. He is believed to have been about 250, nearly 80 years older than the next-oldest animal, a 176-year-old Galapagos tortoise living in Australia. We are ready simply to marvel at the fact of living to such a great age. But tortoise watchers of an earlier era were more likely to wonder why tortoises lived to such a great age.

The classic statement comes from Gilbert White, the 18th-century naturalist, who had a tortoise of his own to watch. "It is a matter of wonder," he wrote, "to find that Providence should bestow such a profusion of days, such a seeming waste of longevity, on a reptile that appears to relish it so little."

Such a very old tortoise as Adwaitya, which means "the one and only," must have wondered, in turn, why Providence bestows such short lives upon humans. He had lived in the Calcutta zoo since 1875 and was one of four tortoises captured from Aldabra — which one tortoise historian calls a "low coralline atoll ... in a little-visited part of the Indian Ocean about 400 kilometers north of Madagascar" — and presented to Lord Robert Clive, who was the architect, if that is the word, of the British empire in India. If Adwaitya was truly 250, he was born in the same year as Mozart.

No species really understands the life span of another species. We are as puzzled by the brevity of a mayfly's life as we are by the longevity of Adwaitya's. But what puzzles us isn't the chronology of these lives — the way they stretch, or don't stretch, across the calendar. It's the thought of being in them. What makes it all the harder to imagine is the very difference in the way that humans and tortoises age. A woman who has lived to be 122 is merely a husk of herself. At 122, Adwaitya was still a comparative youth, with more than half his life to go. We will suppose that he relished it right up to the end.
Book Cover

Unraveling the spin!

from the NY Times:

Op-Ed Contributor
Enemy of Our Enemy


By PETER BERGEN
Published: March 28, 2006

Washington

BUSH administration defenders, right-wing bloggers and neoconservative publications are crowing about Iraqi documents newly released by the Pentagon that, they say, prove that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were in league.

Even though the 9/11 commission found no "collaborative relationship" between the ultrafundamentalist Osama bin Laden and the secular Saddam Hussein, the administration's reiterations of a supposed connection — Vice President Dick Cheney has argued that the evidence for such an alliance was "overwhelming" — have convinced two out of three Americans that they had "strong" links.

Some administration supporters have drawn an analogy to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, in which Stalin and Hitler put aside ideology in favor of pragmatic goals (carving up the Baltic states, Poland and Finland). But history is not a good guide here: not only was the ideological divide between Al Qaeda and Baathist Iraq far greater than that between the two 20th-century dictators, but unlike Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the two sides had nothing practical to gain by working together.

What do the new documents establish? According to ABC News's translation of one of the most credible documents, in early 1995 Mr. bin Laden — then living in Sudan — met with an Iraqi government representative and discussed "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. The document also noted that the "development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties" was "to be left according to what's open [in the future] based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation."

The results of this meeting were ... nothing. Two subsequent attacks against American forces in Saudi Arabia — a car bombing that year and the Khobar Towers attack in 1996 — were carried out, respectively, by locals who said they were influenced by Mr. bin Laden and by the Saudi branch of Hezbollah, a Shiite group aided by Iranian government officials.

As for the other new documents, there is one dated Sept. 15, 2001, that outlines contacts between Mr. bin Laden and Iraq, but it is based on an Afghan informant discussing a conversation with another Afghan. It is third-hand hearsay.

And, strangely, another document, dated Aug. 17, 2002, from Iraq's intelligence service explains there is "information from a reliable source" that two Al Qaeda figures were in Iraq and that agents should "search the tourist sites (hotels, residential apartments and rented houses)" for them. If Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda had a relationship, why was it necessary for Iraqi intelligence to be scouring the country looking for members of the terrorist organization?

Another striking feature about the supposed Qaeda-Iraq connection is that since the fall of the Taliban, not one of the thousands of documents found in Afghanistan substantiate such an alliance, even though Al Qaeda was a highly bureaucratic organization that required potential recruits to fill out application forms.

All this goes to the central problem faced by proponents of the Qaeda-Iraq connection. It's long been known that Iraqi officials were playing footsie with Al Qaeda in the mid-1990's, but these desultory contacts never yielded any cooperation. And why should they have? Al Qaeda was able to carry out the embassy attacks in Africa in 1998, the bombing of the destroyer Cole in 2000 and 9/11 with no help from Iraq. The Iraqi intelligence services, for their part, could handle by themselves low-level jobs like bumping off Iraqi dissidents abroad. And after the botched attempt to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush in Kuwait in 1993, Saddam Hussein never attempted terrorism against an American target again.

We know, too, that Mr. bin Laden had long distrusted Saddam Hussein; months before the Kuwait invasion in 1990 he angrily warned colleagues that Iraq had designs on Persian Gulf states. He even offered his own fighters to the Saudis in that war, making it clear that he yearned for the "infidel" dictator to be overthrown.

If there was a method to Saddam Hussein's madness, it was that he wanted to remain in power. Al Qaeda, however, wanted theocratic regime change across the Middle East. In the end, their goals and worldviews were diametrically opposed, and no number of sketchy intelligence documents is going to bring them closer.

Peter Bergen, a fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda's Leader."
Book Cover

Dan Neil on SUV's -

This is an excellent article, with important information that we need to keep at the forefront of our heads, like lights and bumpers and things like that.



Mercedes GL450 -- exemplary, excessive SUV
Outstanding delivery truck for those who need to haul 7 and tow a 30-foot boat
Dan Neil, Los Angeles Times

Friday, March 24, 2006



There's something peculiarly egregious, something antagonizing about the 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL, the company's new full-size, 15-mpg sport utility vehicle. For one thing, it goes to show that, even though the full-size SUV market has fallen off dramatically in the last year, there are still sufficient numbers of selfish rotters out there to constitute an appealing market segment.

Mercedes-Benz executives offer this wholly meritless defense: Many of its customers leave the brand because the company does not offer a full-size SUV that meets their needs, which is to say, a seven-passenger, 17-foot 4x4 with a 9,300-pound towing capacity. At this point in the presentation in Napa Valley last week, execs showed slides of the GL pulling a 30-foot boat. So there you have it: Mercedes' audience of water-skiers is underserved.

Needs? Did the man say needs? OK, then. I propose needs testing for the purchase of such a vehicle. You must have a Chris-Craft and three or more school-age children in the yard to qualify. Your vehicle must do double-duty as, um, a bookmobile.

Need has very little to do with it. This segment is about want, naked and unquenchable. It's well established that the vast majority of these vehicles never touch gravel, never carry more than a couple of people, and never tow anything heavier than the weight of their owner's childhood traumas.

Most people who buy the GL won't know a Class IV hitch from a Mark 48 torpedo. And I, for one, am not going to congratulate some Bel-Air singleton for his wise vehicle purchase when it is so patently purblind and morally retrograde.

Plainly, I'm disappointed that Mercedes-Benz -- the company of Gullwings and 500Es, of elegant engineering and F1 cars -- has decided to get into the delivery van business. And yet I cannot fairly blame the company, which being a corporation is doing what corporations do in the absence of governance: Making as much money as is within its ken to do.

The case for the GL was compelling: As one of three products to come out of the company's newly enlarged Alabama factory -- the others are the redesigned M-class and the new R-class luxury van -- the GL's development and production costs are shared. The power train, suspension, electronics and auxiliary systems are common with the M-class.

Purely as a piece of machinery, the GL is exemplary. With a unit-body chassis of high-strength steel, four-wheel independent air suspension with automatic damping, all-wheel drive, a powerful 4.6-liter V8 and seven-speed automatic transmission, and a full complement of safety and convenience features, the GL is a mighty, mellow dreadnaught, roomy, comfortable and -- compared with its Iowa-class competitors -- reasonably light. Its curb weight of 5,249 pounds is several hundred pounds lighter than the Escalade, Infiniti QX56, Lexus LX470 and the Lincoln Navigator.

And, while the full-size SUV segment was a lot more tempting five years ago (when the GL was planned), it is still surprisingly robust. Early returns on the new Chevy Tahoe and Escalade look good for GM. Audi just launched its own seven-passenger full-sizer, the Q7, and BMW is in the midst of taffy-stretching its X5 for the 2007 model year.

Why, in the midst of a slow-rolling energy crisis, an unpopular war in a region of the world made strategic only by its oil, and the globe's climbing mercury, should precisely the wrong kinds of vehicles remain so popular?

One reason is surely the tax breaks associated with 3-ton SUVs: Business owners get a $25,000 tax break on the purchase of full-size SUVs (scaled back from $100,000 in 2004) and a five-year depreciation schedule. For people taking advantage of this cozy corner of Section 179, the GL -- with a base price anticipated to be about $60,000 -- will be virtually free. That makes your $4,000 hybrid tax break look pretty punk, doesn't it?

The tax code is the most obvious point of inflection between vehicle choice and public policy. Another knee point is CAFE -- that's Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, in case you forgot, and who could blame you?

Last year, the Bush administration proposed raising the light-truck standard -- long frozen at about 20 mpg -- to 24 mpg by 2011, an incrementalism that is marvelously measured, to say the least. Meanwhile, the administration plans to scrap the current CAFE structure in favor of a size-based regime co-written by the automakers, with larger vehicles required to achieve lower mileage.

Incidentally, some SUVs are so large that they transcend fuel-economy standards altogether. Vehicles with a gross-vehicle-weight rating over 10,000 pounds -- such as the Hummer H2 and the heavy-duty version of the Chevy Suburban -- are not counted among fleet ratings that automakers need to hit.

We have been told recently that we are addicted to oil, but we seem to be unable to do much about it. California's clean-air bureaus are trying to regulate carbon emissions from vehicles and are being sued by manufacturers and the federal government for their trouble.

Raising fuel taxes cannot be accomplished, no matter the mood of national urgency and no matter the obscenity of oil companies' profits. Fuel taxes are doubly problematic: For one thing, they are regressive, hurting lower-income consumers; for another, buyers of luxury vehicles are less likely to be dissuaded from their giant purchases.

What about all the alternative vehicle technologies we've been promised? Thanks to a decade-long stonewalling by Big Oil and the trucking industry, it has taken until this year to phase in clean-diesel requirements that will give automakers the slightest hope of meeting 50-state emissions requirements (diesel-powered vehicles can be 25 percent to 40 percent more fuel-efficient than gas-powered vehicles). Other technologies -- bio-diesel, hybrids, ethanol, plug-ins, fuel-cells -- can in the near term only nibble at the edges of our 20 million barrels per day of oil consumption.

If we were serious about oil dependence, we would dramatically raise fuel economy standards, impose gas-guzzler taxes on noncommercial light trucks and lower the national speed limit.

None of that is going to happen.

So, in the face of this enormous governmental and regulatory inaction, this paralysis and denial, a curious new market equilibrium has arisen. Call it the marketplace of shame.

SUV owners are mocked. Late-night comics have become scolds. Evangelicals have enlisted Jesus Christ himself in the "What Would Jesus Drive" campaign. The crass and criminal Sopranos -- Tony and Carmela -- drive an Escalade and a Porsche Cayenne Turbo. If you don't think their characters are defined by these vehicle choices, think again.

The cultural opprobrium that afflicts SUV owners -- often overheated, occasionally misdirected, frequently ignored -- is virtually the only disincentive in the market, the only defense the rest of us have from these rolling hot tubs of avarice. People feel slightly embarrassed, even a little ashamed. Good.

It's having an effect. Sales of these vehicles are declining, and it's possible that one day they will align with actual customer need -- after all, if people truly need a full-size 4x4, they should be able to have them. Meanwhile, the carmakers are finding ways to give people the utility and all-weather agility they want without the massive steel edifice.

One day, to describe a vehicle like the Mercedes-Benz GL as a very good full-size SUV -- which it is, by the way -- will be a contradiction in terms.
Book Cover

Freud speaks!!

"Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility."

-- Sigmund Freud

Let us not be "most people." Smile. We're not! We love freedom and responsibility. Let's hop!
Book Cover

Checking in -

Well, three more medical visits today, all ensuring that I begin radiation on Thursday. I have a floating schedule at this point, so each day will be different. I do feel exhausted, mainly from the waiting, I suppose, and running through the rain. It is so cold and windy today that I had to hold onto my wool, fitted hat or it would have blown right off my head.

Also, there was a woman at radiation today, a young, pretty one, with just the softest coating of hair on her head. She said it was her first day out without her scarf and she felt naked. She had only four chemo treatments, instead of the eight I had, and her last one was January 3rd, so I was disappointed to see how long the hair takes to grow back. I had my last chemo treatment on March 7th, so if I am on her schedule, I won't begin to get hair until I am into June. I am very disappointed. I was hoping hair would start sprouting right away. It is very hard not to have hair on one's head, and, so it is. I am very tired of hats.
Book Cover

Gratitude!

I realized today that though a mammogram is not pleasant, I am grateful to have two breasts to check. Also, I made a big dent in my book group book this month while waiting for appointments. We are reading Joan Didion's "Slouching Toward Bethlehem," a series of essays she wrote in the 60's. They are fascinating to read.
Book Cover

another note -

I had said I was eating soy products to make up for the cutting off of my estrogen. Someone questioned that, and so I asked today. No soy! No tofu! No estrogen! And so it is!
Book Cover

Osho -

"Relate with others, but relate with yourself also.
    Love others, but love yourself also.
    Go out! - the world is beautiful, adventurous;
    it is a challenge, it enriches.
    Go out fearlessly - there is nothing to lose,
    there is everything to gain."

            Osho, 1931-1990
                Indian Spiritual Teacher
Book Cover

Evening thoughts -

Steve and I went to the Buckeye for a celebratory dinner. I have to laugh.  Before, I was content to live. That was enough. Now, I want to live and  have hair. I find it funny tonight.

I sent this to a friend. She suggested I share it with more than just her, so I place it here as I sent it to her.  I hope it makes sense.

    I realized today when I looked into the eyes of this woman with her newly growing hair, and she looked into my eyes - I realized that we don't smile - those of us who are so obviously "in" it. It is like the communication is on a different level. It is the strangest thing, and it isn't with everyone, but I have caught it with some. It is like we are taking each other in whole, in some way. It is so interesting. It is like we are caught in each other's eyes, and there is no trace of, or need, for a smile. The level is different than that.


I read my own words over and try and find a way to better explain, and I can't.  I just feel it when I meet it, someone who knows.  There are no words there.  We are caught in one space.  I realize now it is the way babies and young children look at another baby or child.  There is some way of communion, of recognition, of oneness.  I feel it, and there are no words.  The head is bare.