05 December 2007

Samidare 五月雨

The raindrops of May
Roll across my roof
Chattering pinecones
.....Doc Rock, Carmel, 1967

04 December 2007

Carmel Bus

Like dried up prunes

They ride the Carmel bus

And talk

about station wagons

and changing banks

and stocks and silks and wealth

and Currier and Ives prints

and Callard and Bowser's treacle

While Death sneaks up.

Doc Rock, Carmel, California, spring 1966

01 December 2007

What has torture done to us? A Nation that Tortures

What have we let the Neo-cons and the Cheney-Bush sickos turn the United States into? In less than eight years they have turned us from a respected beacon of Democratic aspiration--a trusted ally and a role model for national behavior into a nation where tortures that we executed Japanese as war criminals for after WWII are practiced, justified, and idealized?

What we don't do our selves, we outsource to others.

We have reverted into religious bigots, law-perverters, law-ignorers, spying on our own citizens, without moral compass, sense of shame, or scruple. What kind of behaviors will we see crop up increasingly in our own society as a result? Bread cast upon the waters . . . .

29 November 2007

The Uninsured

Quo usque tandem abutere, Congressum, patientia nostra?

Thirty-three years or more you've been grappling, unsuccessfully, with healthcare for all Americans.

My law school graduating kid and his family (including my two year old grandchild) will be uninsured this coming summer while my son prepares for and takes his bar exams before taking up his job in a law firm in the autumn.

My daughter, who will have my second grandchild in March, will be uninsured unless she goes back to work driving a forkift in an un-airconditioned warehouse while her hard-working husband also has no job-related health insurance job. These are all hard-working, tax-paying people like so many other uninsured Americans.

It is a national disgrace, unfortunately, we have lost any sense of shame--especially those on the hill.

27 August 2007

Gonzo: Like Othello, He Loved Too Well

A Song for the Goat

Gonzales: Not that he loved Bush too little, but too well!

21 August 2007

"artificial pig inseminator"

In a promo for his TV show "Dirty Jobs" Mike Rowe describes one dirty job as "artificial pig inseminator." This description raises the questions: Does the job involve inseminating
artificial pigs? Is the inseminator himself artificial?

27 July 2007

Apple Shoes

I left the government in the summer of 1979 to go back to Bloomington, Indiana, and work with Jeff Danielson who had his coffeehouse and bakery, The Runcible Spoon, up and running, to create a restaurant concept and menu and then to set up the restaurant within the business.

Jeff ran the beverage and bakery end of the business and, together with his wife, the administration of the ordering and employee payroll, etc.

Once the basement of the building was renovated and the kitchen equipment was installed, the menu was conceptualized and firmed up, we opened first with breakfasts only.

We got our feet firmly on the ground with breakfasts which centered around three egg omelettes in the French style--Bon Femme [with fried potatoes, bacon, and onions], Edouard [toasted croutons, garlic, and cauliflowers], Ciboulette [chives], etc. Also my Runcible Egg Rounds--two round griddled eggs on open-faced, toasted English muffins with grilled Canadian bacon, topped with a rich Hollandaise made from scratch every morning, were very popular.

Lunches followed next and we served a variety of sandwiches including our very popular Stage Door Deli-style tuna sandwich, a homemade soup du jour, a fresh garden salad, and a feature quiche of the day--my quiches all had an added zip with the addition of my secret ingredient--some zesty Bulgarian feta cheese.

Lastly we started serving dinners featuring two different entrees every day accompanied by appropriate side dishes. My philosophy was that the sides had to be as interesting and excellent as the entrees.

The restaurant was in the basement of the coffeehouse and the first floor was the coffeehouse. The bakery was also on the first floor as was the coffee roaster and the "barista" station as it came to be known later when Starbucks [founded 1971 as a local Seattle coffee roaster and coffee retailer] came on the scene.

One of our "baristas" was a young German woman who was attending Indiana University whose English was a bit spotty and heavily accented. One day when Jeff was not around upstairs, she came bouncing downstairs and somewhat excitedly told me, "Ed! Ve have no apfel shoes!" I was taken aback by her concern, by the strange visions of apples wearing shoes in my head, and by my total ignorance of "apfel shoes," let alone that we should have them.

It took a minute or two of international communication for me to realize that we needed to get some apple juice right away!

Woods Hole Memories

Between my freshman and sophomore year in high school (summer of 1956) , I had the opportunity to spend the summer with my uncle, Dr. Morris Rockstein, and his family at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

I stayed in a small apartment with my uncle, Morris, his wife, Elaine, and my two cousins, Sue and Mady. The building we lived in was owned by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). Upstairs around the corner was the renowed biologist, Julian Huxley [five years later I met Julian's brother, the author, Aldous Huxley , when he gave a lecture at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, California].

One of my uncle's early mentors was the Nobel Laureate, Otto Loewi, who this summer lived nearby. Loewi, a Jew, had been born in Frankfurt, Germany, but was teaching and doing research at the University of Graz in Austria when the Nazi's invaded, arrested him, and seized his assets. He was fortunate to get to the U.S. in 1940 and was teaching at NYU when my uncle met him. He and his wife were warm and welcoming people who could find time for a curious teenager who was fascinated by this brilliant couple.

One day, my uncle introduced me to a very distinguished looking gentleman whose name was
Winterton C. Curtis. It turned out that Mr. Curtis had been one of the scientists called to Dayton, Tennessee, by Clarence Darrow to be one of the expert witnesses for the defense at the Scopes "Monkey Trial," but the judge would not permit their testimony. Mr. Curtis had written an account of the trial which was included in the book D-Day at Dayton. He gave me an autographed off-print of his story, which, unfortunately, has disappeared over the intervening years.

I only met Sir Vincent Wigglesworth, the eminent British entomologist, once at Woods Hole that summer. We ate most of our meals in a large cafeteria-style chow hall that served the laboratory community. One day at breakfast Sir Vincent joined us at the table. On his tray was a stack of three pancakes with three pats of butter. My attention was drawn immediately to his eating as I was unfamiliar with Europeans' tendency to always keep their fork in one hand and their knife in the other, rather than cutting with the right and then taking up the fork with the right. Very soon, however, I became more fascinated by the precision with which he would cut off a precise piece of pancake and then a precise portion of butter from the pat and butter the cut piece. Each time the pat lasted exactly for one pancake. At the end of this prodigious feat, I was tempted to applaud his consummate skill, self-discipline, and precision! I had been hypnotized--I could not not watch him eat his pancakes! Later in life, I purchased Sir Vincent's Principles of Insect Physiology and was once again drawn in.

There was an evening lecture series at the MBL during the summer. One of the lectures I really enjoyed was by George Gamow, the physicist and author of 1,2,3 Infinity. Gamow picked a small topic, "The Origin and Evolution of the Universe." I was a bit "shocked" by his first slide, the Origin of the Milky Way (click the link to see the slide). This was my first exposure to cosmology, but it was presented in a very interesting and entertaining way just like his 1,2,3 Infinity, a mathematical sojourn into physics.

Another interesting (and influential for me) lecture was presented by George Wald, the discoverer of Vitamin A and later to be Nobel Laureate, who spoke on the "Origin & Evolution of Life." I learned about the Urey-Miller experiments to recreate the conditions of the primordial soup that lead to the chemical evolution of life. It was heady stuff for a soon-to-be high school sophomore who would be starting biology the coming fall.

On July 25, 1956, the Italian ocean liner the SS Andrea Doria was struck by the Swedish-America Line's SS Stockholm off Nantucket and sank. For much of the rest of that summer various bits and pieces of the items carried on the Andrea Doria washed up on the shores of Cape Cod.
Cape Cod, Woods Hole, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the whole gestalt were a wonderful eye opener for young boy from a sleepy town on the Delaware River in South Jersey in the 1950's!

More another day

26 July 2007

Playing the Piano by Ear

About 1947 or 1948 (around 60 years ago) when I was in second or third grade, we went from South Jersey up to Long Island to visit my father's youngest sister, Lillian; her husband, Uncle Mike; and my cousins.

I remember their house was much nicer than ours, Uncle Mike was a lawyer. The house had a stone facade and a very interesting (to me) doorbell button, with the image of a crescent moon on it. The house was on the small side, however, and we had to sleep on beds in the basement.

After a lovely dinner and boring (to me) adult conversation, we headed down to the basement to get ready for bed. In the basement near my parent's bed was a floor lamp, the main source of light in that part of the basement, and an old upright piano.

As we got ready for bed, my dad remarked, "Uncle Mike plays the piano by ear."

The next evening when we were in the basement with Uncle Mike tickling the ivories, I watched him very closely with increasing disappointment as his head, let alone his ear, never got close to the piano!

25 July 2007

Mr. Potato Head, Kim Hyok-jin

North Koreans the Irish of the Far East?????????
From the Korean Central News Agency website:

" International Scientific Symposium on Potato Held Pyongyang, July 24 (KCNA) -- An international scientific symposium on potato was held here on Monday and Tuesday. Present at the symposium were Kim Hyok Jin, vice-minister of Agriculture, officials concerned, and scientists, technicians and experts in the field of agriculture and representatives of the International Potato Center and different countries. The symposium discussed the theoretical and practical problems arising in putting the potato farming on a scientific and modern basis, increasing the potato production and widening its use. Ko Kum Hak, vice-president of the Academy of Agricultural Science, made an opening address which was followed by congratulatory speeches by Kim Hyok Jin and Regional Leader of the East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific of the International Potato Center Fernando N. Ezeta. The speakers expressed belief that the symposium would provide an opportunity to widely exchange advanced scientific and technological successes and good experience gained in different countries and thus make a great contribution to prosperity and development of each country and each nation and development of human civilization. The participants heard papers entitled "Potato farming and its prospect in the DPRK" and "Potato Research and Development Strategy for East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific." Then followed speeches made by scientists and researchers of the DPRK and other countries on the subjects of cooperation projects for potato cultivation, potato breeding, seed potato production, cultivation and insect pests of potato. A letter to leader Kim Jong Il was adopted at the symposium. "
KCI: Suffer the little potatoes to come unto me

28 January 2007

Kentucky Windage

The big wind blowing out of Kentucky (Sen Mitch "Mr. Parliamentary Procedure" McConnell and from Republicans all over Congress) is that the ingenious Bush "surge" (repeat as mantra: "not an escalation") is giving the Iraqi's their last chance to clean up the mess (which the coven of Bush-Cheney-Rice-Rumsfeld-Bremer made). The Conservative spin machine has taken a new tack of unloading their guilt on the victims of their poor planning and lack of vision.

On the other hand, the lame-duck Bush-Cheney-Rice-Gates cabal is now pushing their old canard that it is unpatriotic for Americans to have the temerity to speak their minds and dare to point out that the administration's war strategy has, as it were, no clothes.

UPDATE on McConnnell's fund-raisers.

27 January 2007

Fire Bear

In the early '70's I was teaching Korean Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. My office was in Goodbody Hall, not to far from main east and west arteries on the south side of the IU campus.

One of my graduate classes just had four students, so we'd meet in my office which had a large desk plus a a good-sized table and four chairs. One day as we were grappling with a translation of a Korean poem, we could hear a fire-engine, with siren going, racing toward the east side of town (where my apartment was). I jokingly remarked, "I hope they're not going to my place!" Famous last words, eh? About two minutes later my office phone rang and it was a neighbor calling to tell me that the firemen couldn't get into my apartment to put out the fire because the door was locked!

I raced home only to find that my landlord had let the firemen in shortly after I had put down the phone.

While the apartment was full of smoke, nothing had burned except for a stuffed bear! The bear was sitting in a window on a polished marble window sill and fortunately it wasn't touching anything else. How had it caught fire?

It was a sunny day and near the bear was a shiny chrome haidryer. Apparently the sun's rays had been magnified by the shiny chrome and set the bear afire!

After this experience you'd think I'd learn to keep my mouth shut, but that lesson still hasn't seeped in, I guess.

Snack! Snack!

I spent the summer of 1968 in Taipei (Taiwan) studying Chinese at the Mandarin Language Center 國語中心 of Taiwan Normal University 台湾師範大學. In those days things were not so expensive there as they are today.
Taipei was a great city for Chinese food since there were many refugees fom all over China who had opened restaurants there. So one could make a trencherman's tour of all the great regional cusines of China in just one city. One of my favorite regional dishes was the southern-style huo guo hot pot with shacha sauce 火鍋沙茶醬.

Right across the alley from where I used to go to get this wonderful dish was a snake place. They had a variety of live snakes in cages. A customer would choose a snake and then the proprietor would grab the snake and with some sort of sharp instrument, while holding the snake near the head, make an incision and quickly skin the live snake in seconds. Then he'd chop it up, put it in a bowl with some sauce, and collect his price for this snake snack. I witnessed this only once and on subsequent visits averted my gaze elsewhere.

While in Taiwan, I met and married my first wife who was Taiwanese. When we were first dating, one day we went to a hotspring resort called Wulai which was famous for its aboriginal village. As we were walking down a long a path to an attraction, I was intent on looking at a map of the area to see what we might see, when she suddenly yelled, "Paper snake!" Thinking I was about to step on the possibly deadly poisonous 'paper snake,' I probably jumped about three feet straight up and only then saw a street vendor peddling paper snakes on a string with a stick for 'control'. I did get a brief thrill out of my encounter with this unfamiliar serpent, while she got a good laugh at my moment of panic.

Several years later when we were living in a small bungalow outside of Bloomington, Indiana, while I was teaching at Indiana University, one day my wife was mowing our big yard (something she liked to do) while I was working inside. Suddenly she appeared at the screen door literally bouncing up and down yelling, "Snack! Snack!" I wondered if she were hungry and thought that if she were, she was unusually animated. She led me outside and showed me a snake in the grass, a pine snake, I think. Then I understood. I started laughing and she got mad, because, not being familiar with North American serpents, she had been scared. This time, several years later, in her excitement, 'snake' had been transmogrified into 'snack.' The worm had turned.

Molson's Ale in Montreal and Chinese Goats

In the summer of 1966 I was studying Chinese at Middlebury College in Vermont when a friend and I decided to drive up to Montreal for a Molson's and to visit some friends at McGill University. I had bought an old red Triumph TR-3A which we drove up. I had met my friend that summer at Middlebury. Not only was he an extremely talented advanced Chinese student (who spoke fluent Mandarin with lovely pronounciation), but he was also a cracker-jack mechanic and that old Triumph was more trouble than it was worth (and I was worthless at keeping it maintained).

Sometime that evening my friend and I, both ex-military, but now bearded, were walking down a street when a young Chinese couple came walking toward us. As the coupled approached us, the young man made a comment in Mandarin to his girlfriend to the effect of, "Look at those two old goats."

Much to his surprise, and, I suspect, embarassment, my friend ran after them and chased them down the block, scolding him in impeccable Mandarin, and asking why he would ever dream of calling nice 'foreigners' like us, goats!

I imagine that he became more circumspect about talking about non-Asians in Chinese for a good while!

Kennedy Toppers

My freshman year in college at Rutgers I lived in a dormitory that had a broad spectrum of students, many unlike people I had ever met before. Among these were two chubby young guys who seemed inseparable and who always wore suits and ties. No sooner did they get there than they enrolled in the Young Conservatives. (I don't know if there was a Young Log Cabin Republicans Club there)

When Kennedy, at an earlier Democratic National Convention, had broken with tradition and campaigned actively for the Vice-Presidential nomination, I was working in my uncle's lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, as a lab factotum and bottle washer. I listened to the convention on the radio in rapt attention whenever I could.

So when Kennedy was running for the presidency in a later election, I was inspired to join his supporters and, informed by the Conservative gold dust twins' example, I looked for a Young Democrats Club on campus.

I look back fondly to those days, especially raising money for the campaign by selling Kennedy Toppers, the straw boaters such as pictured above, which were a vibrant symbol of this youthful campaign.

Years later I worked actively in the campaigns of Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh, both for the Senate from Indiana as well as the early campaign of Frank McCloskey for Mayor of Bloomington, Indiana, before he ran successfully to become a member of the US House.

Later, I worked in the US Government for 30 years and was prevented from working for my candidates actively by the Hatch Act. The Bush Administration has perniciously rendered the Hatch Act meaningless by so politicizing the bureaucracy that the Hatch Act should be scrapped immediately!

24 January 2007

State of the Union 2007: "Whatever you voted for, You Didn't Vote for Failure!"

What many people voted for was to avoid being tarred with the brush of unpatriotism and to prevent Bush-Cheney fantasy WMD's from being turned on Americans.

23 January 2007

Pinhead and Foodini

When Pinhead speaks it is with the voice of the great Svengali, Foodini. Pinhead hasn't had an original thought since Lucky was a Pup. It isn't a Bunin hand up inside of Pinhead moving his lips on the state of things, but rather Chenini supported by the wingnut vanity presses at the conservative intellectual brothels like the A E I and so many other tax-returned conservative spin merchants. Like the undynamic duo of old TV, our modern day Pinhead and Foodini are after riches, too. Their latest exploit is to keep US troops in Iraq as long as possible to ensure the continuing outflow of tax payer bucks to their 100,000+ crony capitalist buddies from KBR (read Halliburton) and elsewhere while hoping to yet take advantage of the special oil breaks they had built into the Iraqi constitution to steal from the Iraqi's and give to the oil giants.