August 19th, 2006

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Foggy morning -

     The kittens have been playing with a cardboard box open at each end.  Occasionally the box collapses, and, lies flat, and then, I bring it back up to three dimensions.  I have it now perched against the table, so it is a bit more stable, but watching it rise and fall, I thought of all the cells within and how sometimes I let them squish, and other times, I pump them up with awareness.   I think the chemo experience was an expanded one in many ways.  Focus was not easily there, and now, focus is returning, and I am learning to better  balance the in and out, and the changing dimensions and perspectives of my life.

    Many of us beat ourselves up about our eating habits, but in the foreword of the book, The China Study, is this statement.  

    "You go to your doctor for health tips.  In the waiting room, you find a glossy 243-page magazine titled Family Doctor: Your Essential Guide to Health and Well-being.  Published by the American Academy of Family Physicians and sent free to the offices of all 50,000 family doctors in the United States in 2004, it's full of glossy full-page color ads for McDonalds, Dr Pepper, chocolate pudding, and Oreo cookies."

    "You pick up an issue of National Geographic Kids, a magazine published by the National Geographic Society "for kids ages six and up," expecting to find wholesome reading for youngsters.  The pages, however, are filled with ads for Twinkies, M&Ms, Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Hostess Cup Cakes and Xtreme Jell-O Pudding Sticks."

    "This is what scientists and food activists at Yale University call a toxic food environment.  It is the environment in which most of us live today."

It is a bit sobering, isn't it, to see how unconsciously, or, perhaps, consciously we are influenced to eat what makes money for a few, and harms the health of the multitudes?

We went to the Anchorage this morning for breakfast.  It is so peaceful, in the early hours, and is filled with classical music.  The owner said today that there are the weekend people, and the during the week people, and they rarely cross over.  I don't know why I find that so intriguing, but I do.   I'm trying to be more aware of my patterns.  I may eat at the Anchorage in the middle of  this next week.  

The wedding of Jeff and Jan is only three weeks away.  I am feeling excited about it.  It is hard to believe it is almost here.  
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thoughts -

   I enjoyed another Pilates session yesterday.  I see how clearly my body twisted to protect.   The right side of my body curled in to armor and keep the left side safe.  The left side is actually very loose in its protected float.  My feet, though pointed straight ahead, turn slightly out on the outer rim, away from the inner ground.  I am working to consciously bring them back in, to use the whole of the support beneath me, while also, trying to understand what I am trying to protect with that outward lean of my feet.  How did I think that would support or protect me through this?  I also see how I twisted my pelvis into what Marion Rosen calls the pose of defiance.  That twists my whole posture out of shape, thrusts my stomach out, and puts pressure on my lower back.

    When I said to Jane this morning, I felt the Pilates woman was a bit like a drill sergeant, and that it felt like physical therapy, she said Pilates began as physical therapy for dancers.  I can't help comparing it to Rosen.  When I would mention to her what I was learning as we worked with my body, she was not interested, and, naturally so, and yet, I feel there is a place, a need for a witness in what we notice, and, so there is Rosen.   Marion Rosen was a physical therapist who noticed what came up for her patients, and, then, she began working with that. 

    This woman, Carol, is great, and she keeps saying I am doing it "Perfectly," and I say, "Perfection is static," and yet, I know what she means.  She is looking for a form, a utilization of my stomach muscles, a place for my  ribs.  The focus is on moving the bones, and not, thinking of pushing or pulling with the muscles.  Move the bones, and all falls easily into place.  

    She also keeps saying how incredibly strong I am, and I feel that, and I also feel how I lost trust of my body.  It is why I stopped moving.  I lost trust, and now, it is coming back, as I feel the spring in support and let go.  I have been holding myself up.  Now, I again trust the support of the table, the ground, the world.  Oddly, I felt very trusting as I went through this, and I see that my left side, the unconscious side of the body, did trust, but the right side, the logical, more masculine side  felt a great need to hold and defend.  I honor both sides of my body today, both and all sides of my life, as I work to balance all ways.

    Here is to balance in this globe of the earth today.   I saw two seals off the coast yesterday.   Hooray!!

    On another note, through a friend, I  met a man yesterday who was at the memorial service for Michael Fajans, who died in a motorcycle accident in June.  He is the fourth person I know who was at the service, and, so, again, I heard how amazing it was from someone with tears in his eyes.  It seems a woman witnessed the accident, and went home and wrote a poem about it.  When her son heard the poem, he asked her if she knew the man was famous.  He suggested she contact his family, and she did, and she read the poem at the memorial. 

    Jane tells me Michael died the day we committed to our book, and switched from writing more poems to going back in and translating what we had written, and speaking of how it is for us now to read what was written then.  We feel Michael as our oracle, our guide.  

    I google Michael, so I can see the wonderful murals I continue to hear about that he did for the Seattle courthouse.  I tried to place his artist's statement here, but it is protected somehow.  You can check him out at:

    He painted Three Sets of Twelve, 12 jurors, real people,  in their professional lives, then, three jurists' chairs a level above that, and then, the twelve people in their jurists' chairs another level up.  The memorial was held in this building.   Check him out, as you consider how the light moves in and out of you today.
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Insanity -

 Major Arms Soar to Twice Pre-9/11 Cost
    By Bryan Bender
    The Boston Globe

    Saturday 19 August 2006

Systems to have little direct role in terror fight.

    Washington - The estimated costs for the development of major weapons systems for the US military have doubled since September 11, 2001, with a trillion-dollar price tag for new planes, ships, and missiles that would have little direct role in the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The soaring cost estimates -- disclosed in a report for the Republican-led Senate Budget Committee -- have led to concerns that supporters of multibillion-dollar weapons programs in Congress, the Pentagon , and the defense industry are using the conflicts and the war on terrorism to fulfill a wish-list of defense expenditures, whether they are needed or not for the war on terrorism.

    The report, based on Defense Department data, concluded that the best way to keep defense spending in check in the coming years lies in "controlling the cost of weaponry," especially those programs that the Pentagon might not necessarily need.

    The projections of what it will cost to acquire "major weapons programs" currently in production or on the drawing board soared from $790 billion in September 2001 to $1.61 trillion in June 2006, according to the congressional analysis of Pentagon data.

    Costs for some of the most expensive new weapon systems -- such as satellite-linked combat vehicles for ground troops; a next-generation fighter plane ; and a cutting-edge, stealth-technology destroyer for the Navy -- are predicted to cost even more by the time they are delivered, because many of them are still in their early phases. In a quarterly report to Congress on weapons costs earlier this month, the Pentagon reported that of the $1.61 trillion it thinks it will need for big-ticket weapons, it has spent more than half so far -- about $909 billion.

    But the huge increase in weapons costs is already placing enormous strain on the federal budget, according to government budget specialists, who predict major increases in defense spending for years to come so that the Pentagon can afford all the weapons it has on the books. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, for example, estimates that between 2012 and 2024 the Pentagon budget will have to grow between 18 percent and 34 percent over what was appropriated this year.

    Overall, annual defense spending has increased by about 11 percent per year since 2001, to about $400 billion this year, not including hundreds of billions of dollars that Congress has set aside to pay for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Military operations and maintenance costs, as well as salaries and health benefits for people in uniform, have all gone up by about 40 percent.

    But the price tag for major weapons has garnered new attention from watchdog groups and government auditors, who contend that many of the arms already on the drawing board don't have much to do with ongoing combat or the war on terrorism.

    In fact, most of the weapon systems being designed, tested , or built had been in the Pentagon's pipeline long before the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite the steep price jump, there has been a relatively modest increase in the number of new weapons projects over the past five years, according to Pentagon figures.

    Still, "only a portion of these increased costs are a result of the war on terror," said Winslow Wheeler , a former congressional budget specialist now at the nonprofit Center for Defense Information in Washington and the author of " The Wastrels of Defense ."

    The weapons projects designated as "major acquisition programs" require at least $365 million in research funding and $2.1 billion is acquisition costs. They include new armored vehicles; two new fighter jets; an advanced Navy destroyer; a package of land, air , and space-based missile defense systems; and sophisticated electronic and intelligence systems such as a new satellite communications network.

    Defense specialists attribute the spiral ing costs to a variety of factors. Some projects have increased in scope, while other weapons systems have taken longer to acquire, adding to the cost. Other projects turned out to be far more expensive than project managers and contractors predicted.

    For example, the Future Combat System, a high-tech fleet of armored combat vehicles being developed by the Army , was forecast to cost $92 billion when its development began in 2003, according to the GOP committee's report. As of December 2005, however, the price tag had skyrocketed to $165 billion, about an 80 percent increase in just two years.

    The Government Accountability Office, the government's nonpartisan audit bureau, warned of "the risks of conducting business as usual," and concluded in a report in November that the major weapons programs are at "high risk" for fraud, waste, abuse , and mismanagement.

    The Department of Defense "has experienced cost overruns, missed deadlines, performance shortfalls, and persistent management problems," the report said. "In light of the serious budget pressures facing the nation, such problems are especially troubling."

    The GOP committee report was blunt about the impact of rising weapons costs on the federal budget, and expressed little confidence that Congress has the political will to reign in spending on weapons that are not critical to the war effort. Noting that "every project has local employment implications," the report said "weapon system politics" will make it extremely difficult to make cuts.

    "Controlling the long-term costs of the Pentagon's arsenal are very nearly as complex as restraining the cost of government entitlements like Social Security and Medicare," the analysis said.

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Sunshine -

We went to see Little Miss Sunshine, to counteract the cold and fog, and we loved it, tears of both kinds.

We picked up the Sunday paper, and I see that Jen Brokaw, daughter of Tom, put her children in a Quaker school though she isn't Quaker.  Reading some of Jen's comments, I see why it might be a good thing for others to consider, especially after seeing Little Miss Sunshine, which, near the end, shows a display of the distortion of American values.

The Quaker spiritual philosophy has kindergarten children sitting in silence and reflection for twenty minutes.  By high school they sit and reflect for up to an hour.

Jen says, "My dad was here and we went to "Monet in Normandy" at the Legion of Honor.  There were 54 paintings in the exhibition.  My two kids at ages 7 and 9 stopped in front of each painting and reflected on it.  My dad couldn't believe it.  I said, "I have to credit their school."

Maybe we should all visit a Quaker school.   Imagine a nation of people capable of sitting quietly to reflect.   I was surprised to read of and see the strong Quaker influence on Nantucket.   Those were different times, and yet, it appears the Quaker values are still holding strong.    Hooray!
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Rights of way -

    Today, I read of wealthy people buying sections of rural Marin, and then, wanting to block off historical access routes for those who walk, bike, and ride horses.  It is quite a fight, with the winner not yet determined.  One obstinate buyer wants to build their home AND a winery.  I wonder how that can be allowed in a county where water is such a premium. Why change our open hills?

    It is certainly a contrast to the article on Bill Bryson walking through England.  As my book group discovered last summer, the walker has rights.  The author of the article on walking in Britain, John Flinn has this to say. 

        "When I looked ahead on the map and saw the the Ridgeway crossed the grounds of Chequers, the country home of every British prime minister since David Lloyd George, I wasn't expecting much.  I figured we'd be separated from the house by a couple of miles of heavily patrolled woods, half a dozen electrified fences with machine gun towers, a kennel-full of attack dogs and a small mountain range or two.  This, after all, is the British equivalent of Camp David, the retreat where Blair comes to escape the pressures of Downing Street and entertain world leaders.  So I was startled when we came out of a little strand of woods and got a close and unobstructed look at the mansion, which stood less than a quarter-mile away across an open field.  If Blair had been looking out his window, we could have seen him."

         "The path ambled through the grounds and crossed a driveway beneath a row of beech trees planted by Winston Churchill, and passed the unblinking eye of a mounted security camera.  What amazed me was that the trail was on the inside of the front gate and security post."

           "Why didn't they move the footpath?" I asked Bryson.

             "It was here first," he said.  "Public rights of way are ferociously guarded in Britain.  This is a concept that goes back to the Middle Ages:  You can't close down a footpath that's been here hundreds - or thousands - of years just because you want to put a house next to it, even if it's for the prime minister."

    Read the article in the Chronicle today, and ask yourself what happened to the land of democracy that fought the land of kings.   Who won?   Who lost?


    The address is not coming up in blue, but the article is by Peter Fimrite so perhaps you can find it in the SF Saturday Chronicle if you are interested.   Some of the initial trails in Marin were Indian paths.  Should they now be blocked off by private ownership?   What happened to easements and public rights of way?   How can people buy land with public access rights, and then, say, they want it to be private?   We are becoming a nation of little dictators, and it is not a pretty thing.  

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from the SF Chronicle -

Letter to the editor today -

Editor -- It's worth noting that the breakup of the British terrorist plot was accomplished without warrantless searches or phone taps. No matter what President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would like you to think, we can fight terrorism effectively without having a president who is above the law.


San Francisco

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Language -

Ellen Melloy in The Landscape of Turquoise has this to say.

    "In an essay about language Earl Shorris describes the world's many dying tongues, most of them the tongues of indigenous peoples.  Although the estimated 6 million descendents of the ancient Maya speak twenty-five languages, a number of them are destined to disappear with the deaths of the last speakers.  The Maya have at least nine words for blue, all with certain attributes, most without translation.  The absence of those words, Shorris says, is far deeper than silence.  "It is not merely a writer's conceit to think that the human world is made of words and to remember that no two words in all the world's languages are alike," he writes.  "Of all the arts and sciences made by man, none equals a language, for only a language in its living entirety can describe a unique and irreplaceable world."

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dreaming -

Freidrich Nietzsche -

     "In the old days people knew how to dream.  They did not have to go to sleep first."

What a perfect day for awakening dreams.   Each year, the autumn feels like the New Year to me.  

Feel the change of air, and breathe so deeply your story lifts in you, like sap in trees.   Then, let it fall, like fluttering, colorful leaves.  
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Mindfulness -

I notice the Naked Ladies are out, those lovely pink bulbs rising without leaves.   They seem to be proliferating all around me.

Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of Walking Meditation.

    "Next time you practice walking meditation, please try visualizing a lotus flower opening as your feet touch the ground, like a newborn Buddha."

     He says,  "All beings, from the near to the far, large and small - from the moon and the stars to the leaves and the caterpillars - will become peaceful as you take your steps."

How empowering to consider that our peaceful steps bring peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh says:

    We are so busy; we don't want to do so many things.  We want to know just one thing that we do to get closer to the happiness we seek every day.  I think that moving around with mindfulness, walking mindfully, may be what we propose as a gift, because we move a lot during our daily life.  If you want to go from here to there, even if you need only to make five or six steps, and if you know how to make those steps mindfully, that can already be helpful.  You walk to the garage, enjoy every step you make.  Don't think of anything else, just enjoy walking.  You walk to the office, to your workplace or to the dining hall:  Every step you make should bring you back to the here and the now so that you can enjoy what is going on.  I think if all people on Earth were to know how to enjoy walking mindfully, that would transform the Earth and society already; because everyone would have the secrets of becoming more mindful, everyone would know how to enjoy each step they make.

To follow the recommendations of Thich Nhat Hanh, walk slowly and notice how many steps you take with each breath.  Count both steps and breaths while maintaining a "half smile" to foster an attitude of calmness and delight.  "After a few hours of serious practice, you will find that the four of them - the breath, the counting, the steps and the half-smile - blend together in a marvelous balance of mindfulness."

His poem:

    Breathing in, I calm my body.
    Breathing out, I smile.
    Dwelling in the present moment
    I know this is a wonderful moment.