February 22nd, 2009

alan - spring flowers

Good Afternoon!

Chris and I enjoyed brunch at Piatti this morning and it continues to rain, delightfully so.  It is like the good old days with rain and wind whipping around and freshening the air.  I am so excited and now am happily tucked inside, viewing rain through the window after enjoying the thrill of getting thoroughly soaking wet.  It is a lovely tap awake. 

Yesterday I listened to a friend who is a therapist at the VA speak about the physical and emotional traumas with which our veterans return.  

I have now ordered this book by Aaron Glantz, The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against American's Veterans.  I think it is a must-read.  

I am enchanted with the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann.  It puts our current problems into a bit of perspective.   I find it interesting the Olmec and their successors had the wheel in the Americas for more than 2000 years and yet only used it in toys.  Also curious is this.  The Chinese invented the mold-board plow by the 3rd century B.C.  "Made of cast iron, the plowshare was shaped like a V, with the blade carving into the ground and the two arms arcing away like gull wings.  Because the arms were curved, they turned the earth away from the blade, which both reduced friction and more efficiently plowed the soil."

"The design of the moldboard plow is so obvious that it seems incredible that Europeans never thought of it. Until the Chinese-style plow was imported in the seventeenth century, farmers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and other states labored to shove what amounted to a narrow slab of metal through the earth.  "The increased friction meant that huge multiple teams of oxen were required, whereas Chinese plows could make do with a single ox," Temple explained.  The European failure to think up the moldboard, according to scientific historian Teresi, was "as if Henry Ford designed the car without an accelerator, and you had to put the car in neutral, brake, and go under the hood to change speed.  And then we did this for 2,000 years."

Look around.  What aren't we seeing?  The next innovation might be right before our eyes, might be dancing under our feet.

oregon, willamette, 1 proxy falls

Time for a walk, a book, a nap!

Editorial Notebook

Walking With Henry

Published: February 21, 2009

“You must walk like a camel,” Thoreau writes, and I feel my lower lip drooping and a hunch coming into my back. This isn’t what he means, of course. He means that I must ruminate while walking. The temperature is in the 30s, the wind has settled, the snow gone from the corn stubble. I admit that I set my thoughts aside for a few minutes on the uphill leg of this walk. But they are back, bringing Thoreau with them.

By his standards, I’m walking all wrong. But then Thoreau is a prig. He is often right, about almost anything. What makes him priggish is the self-rejoicing in his rightness. What saves him is the self-contradiction rampaging through his work. I cannot manage his daily four hours of scrambling through swamps. “If you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs ... then you are ready for a walk,” he writes. Yet I have come out walking anyway.

The river is slapping at the underside of the ice along its edges. A man sits sharpening a chain saw, cutting firewood from the debris piled up on the banks. Not long ago, there was a wind-driven cornice of snow on that bank. Now, I smell the earth, not the upsprung smell of full spring, but a dank scent.

And still Thoreau is with me, like a border collie nipping at my heels. He is terribly hard on any self-satisfaction but his own. We are all, I suppose, one of his townsmen, a little mystified that such a stern, practical woodsman has been overlaid with so much philosophical marquetry. “I believe in the forest,” he writes, “and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows,” and this is a kind of ecumenicism, at least among townsmen who believe, mainly, in night-corn.

Thoreau goads me uphill, and he chivies me along the heights, and yet he repents at the turning homeward. For he has just remembered that “a truly good book is something as natural ... as a wild-flower discovered on the prairies of the West.” After this long winter walk, I am going to sate my camel-like thirst, lie back on the couch and read a wild-flower. I wonder what Thoreau has to say about February naps.

ocean waves

Help the creative; dump the losers!!

I think we've done enough to bail out those who got us into this mess, those who seem incapable of any kind of rational and sensible thought beyond planning junkets to reward themselves for the disaster they created and allowed.

Start Up the Risk-Takers

Published: February 21, 2009

Reading the news that General Motors and Chrysler are now lining up for another $20 billion or so in government aid — on top of the billions they’ve already received or requested — leaves me with the sick feeling that we are subsidizing the losers and for only one reason: because they claim that their funerals would cost more than keeping them on life support. Sorry, friends, but this is not the American way. Bailing out the losers is not how we got rich as a country, and it is not how we’ll get out of this crisis.

G.M. has become a giant wealth- destruction machine — possibly the biggest in history — and it is time that it and Chrysler were put into bankruptcy so they can truly start over under new management with new labor agreements and new visions. When it comes to helping companies, precious public money should focus on start-ups, not bailouts.


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