Orange & Black

Shadows of a thousand years
Rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees
"Tonight is Halloween"
Dexter Kozen

I'm really into candy right now. Not in the same way I was in 1968, but that is a completely different story.

I am not going to write about All Hallow's Eve today but about something completely different -- clear, unequivocal statements about relationships, hopes, dreams and the future. For those seeking an orange and black goblin fix, scroll down to the video link at the end.

Here is what I wonder: when someone feels that certain way about someone -- why don't they tell them? I bring this up for two reasons. First, I don't get it; when I want, desire, hope, pray or beg for something I do it explicitly. I mean who wants to miss out on something simply because we were unclear about our intentions. Second, an old girlfriend got in touch recently via one of the social networks; after the exchange of details of our lives over the past 25 years, she told me that she had always regretted that we did not give "a real relationship a try."

Her: "I always wanted that."

Me: "Why didn't you ever say that to me?"

Her: "I did in many little ways."

Me: "How about in english to my face, preceded by the words 'I have something I want you to know.'"

Her: "That's not how love works."

Really! Is this another of those life lessons they taught girls in Home Ed. while the boyz were being shown how to throw a curve ball? That's all I got for now -- Happy Halloween.

Here lies the Video link at the end for cat-lovers, pumpkin-lovers and fans of halloween.

Leading Causes of "The End"

Well it is nearly All Hallows Eve and I have been working on a fairly dark section of my current book project, so I thought today I might ponder a bit about death. Specifically, what are the leading causes of death worldwide and then some specifics about death in the United States.

The best numbers on death worldwide come from the World Health Organization. They divide their data into low, medium and high income countries because the standard of living equates to better or worse access to health care. For that reason malaria appears in the low-income data but not middle or high-income nations. On the other side of the dark coin, Alzheimer's related deaths appear only in the high-income countries. A comprehensive global comparison would run far beyond the scope of a single blog post. So I focused on the U.S. numbers.

Divide the population into 10 segments by age:

First a couple of questions and then a big hint if you need one.

Question 1: Five age groups (1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-24, 25-34) share the same most common cause of death, what is it?
Question 2: What is the most common causes of death overall, it appears in the top ten of every category except infants under one year of age?

Here is your hint, which will answer question #2 and help you on question #1.

Top Ten Most Common Causes of Death in the U.S.
1. Heart Disease 616K
2. Malignant Neoplasms 562K
3. Cerebro-vascular 135K
4. Chronic Low Respiratory Disease 127K
5. Unintentional Injury 123K
6. Alzheimer's Disease 74K
7. Diabetes Melitus 71K
8. Influenza & Pneumonia 52K
9. Nepritis 46K
10. Septicemia 34K

Heart Disease remains the number #1 killer in the U.S. and from that list you probably also figured out that Unintentional Accident tops the list for those over 1 and under 45. And yes a big portion of that number is automobile accidents. Two more questions.

3. What cause of death not in the top ten ranks 2nd for 15-24 year olds, 3rd for 1-4, 10-14 & 25-34, 4th in the 5-9 age group and 6th among 35-44 year olds?
4. What cause of death also not in the top ten ranks 2nd for 25-34 years old, 3rd for 15-24, 4th for 10-14 & 35-44 and 5th for 45-54 and even 8th among 55-64 year olds?

Just a couple of other facts before I answer those two questions. Clearly the 65+ group has the highest numbers in all categories of the top ten. Deaths of those 65 and older account for nearly 70% of the total nationwide. This 70% of deaths number would be 80%+ if the answers to questions 3 & 4 did not exist.

Answer to question #3: Homicide
Answer to question #4: Suicide

If you would like to see this data as a graph.

Bacon, Baklava and Barium

You know the story of the blind but wise persons put into a room and asked to describe the animal in the room with them using only touch to identify the beast. One person touches the elephant's trunk and another the tusk, the tail, the ears etc. We end up with a lot of very different descriptions of the elephant, none of which resemble the actual creature. There are several morals to that tale about insufficient information, anecdotal evidence, knowledge versus description, getting the whole picture, turning water into wine and not cutting babies in half to satisfy competing parents. Teaching parables have been used since dolphins could first communicate.

Imagine this twist in the tale, the wise persons are not blind, they are all put in front of a huge salt water coral reef tank in one of the wonderful aquariums we have built around the world. Their task: describe one of the tropical creatures they see. Of course you would expect to get a wide range of reports with all of the brightly coloured sea life on display. But then I tell you that at least one of the reports came from a man wearing those blu-blocker sunglasses, another from a women who turned her back to the aquarium and described only what she heard murmured by others and finally, one of the reports came from a man paid to describe only the yellow and white, heavily spined pufferfish. What distorted moral would you draw from this tale?

An article this month in The Atlantic suggests that this little fish story is the moral equivalent of medical research today. Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Statistics reports via meta-research that the data being given to doctors and patients about diet, exercise and in particular pharmaceuticals is terrible flawed and potentially bought and paid for by the drug manufacturers.

Here some excerpts:

Can any medical-research studies be trusted?

That question has been central to Ioannidis's career. He's what's known as a meta-researcher, and he's become one of the world's foremost experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team have shown, again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies--conclusions that doctors keep in mind when they prescribe antibiotics or blood-pressure medication, or when they advise us to consume more fiber or less meat, or when they recommend surgery for heart disease or back pain--is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong. He charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed. His work has been widely accepted by the medical community; it has been published in the field's top journals, where it is heavily cited; and his is a big draw at conference. Given this exposure, and the fact that his work broadly targets everyone else's work in medicine, as well as everything that physicians do and all the health advice we get, Ioannidis may be one of the most influential scientists alive. Yet for all his influence, he worries that the filed of medical research is so pervasively flawed, and so riddled with conflicts of interest, that it might be chronically resistant to change--or even to publicly admitting there is a problem.

No here comes the scary part--Dr. Ioannidis is not being scapegoating or attacked, nearly everyone segment of the medical research community agrees with his findings, but they are not sure they should tell--us!

The question of whether the problems with medical research should be broadcast to the public is a sticky one in the meta-research community. Already feeling that they're are fighting to keep patients from turning to alternative medical treatments such as homeopathy, or misdiagnosing themselves on the Internet, or simply neglecting medical treatment altogether, many researchers and physicians aren't eager to provide even more reason to be skeptical of what doctors do--not to mention how public disenchantment with medicine could affect research funding.

I strongly recommend reading the entire article. After I finished it I thought about the several medical newsletters I regularly read online and wondered how much of that information is flawed. Never mind, how much has changed, even completely reversed the health advice we received in the recent past. I thought I would offer up some of my favor current bits of medical wisdom with Dr. Ioannisdis' caveat that it is likely to be flawed, wrong or bought and paid for.

*Hair loss before age 30 is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer later in life, according to a new study that contradicts some earlier research.

*A new study shows foods high in fat and refined sugar can create a cocaine-like addiction that leads to obesity. Persons so addicted should be treated for their addiction before attempting to address the weight issues.

*That daily baby aspirin for heart health, you know the one that suddenly became a full 325 mg tablet a couple of years ago. Well now it may not be such a good idea, particularly if you have a predisposition to stomach bleeds.

*Water--yes water! It seems those eight glasses of water a day are not such a universally good idea. Not only are there kidney issues for some individuals but when you drink the water can have an absorption/dilution effect on many medications including your Flintstone vitamins.

*Sex remains a good outlet for nearly every one. For the very few who might have serious life threatening consequences -- you got a better way to go?

**Yes I know that's a rhinoceros not an elephant, but a cool sculpture none the less.
photo/sculpture: wirelady.com

Link Dump

There's been a lot going on out there on the world wide web. Some of these links come from my own surfin' expeditions and others comes as suggestions from friends and fellow cyber travelers. I absolutely guarantee you won't care for all of them, so I shall add some prose to guide your clicking finger.

The first is a series of color coded maps of racial and ethnic diversity in U.S. cities. These are flickr photos from a gentleman named Eric Fischer. Easy to access and probably more fascinating when you check out the cities you know well. For me two interesting finds: there really is a Chinatown in San Francisco (third row, first map) -- look for the really, really green blob. And Detroit (second row, fourth map), sure there are a lot of racially segregated places all around the country, the original idea behind these maps was to demonstrate "homophily" which is the theory that we group together not because of segregation but because we want to be around those who share our group traits. You decide how that explains your favorite big city or not.

Next a quick science link answering the age old question about the condition of Schrodinger's cat. A good friend and cat lover noted that Schrodinger actually overlooked the fact that the cat is also an observer, dog people don't get that.

On a lighter note, this is came to me entitled Dating 1961, when I forwarded it to my high school friend it most reminded me of, she responded: "I never came home after twenty minutes." Damn, I should have dated her.

Touted as The Best Motivational Video, I suggest you not check it out unless you are a fan of Fight Club. Personally, I think I would take a step back from anyone truly motivated by this but you decide, I've been wrong before. This was sent to me by two friends on the same day, so I took notice.

For those in my generation who never really got it what our parents felt when they saw us listening to Black Sabbath, watching Mick Jagger and growing our hair ever longer... Watch this offering from Evil Boy and feel the generational disconnect. For anyone who started to watch the motivational video above and turned it off -- do not even start watching this one. BTW, there is a 30 second commercial lead-in not part of the video.

Finally for something truly uplifting, if nothing else today has hooked you... try this three minute gymnastic dance video. Even if you are not into modern dance, the gymnastics in this piece are truly spectacular. Wish I could move like that.

Another little Milestone

This is the 160th post of this year on my little blog here, that number equals my output of last year, which was the most prior to today, err tomorrow, I mean the next one, probably Monday. Now I do admit to being a much more prolific poster when I wrote and edited PokerBlog.com. I produced poker content there at a rate of twenty posts a month; but as they say that was then this is not.

Even though I use this here blog as a daily writing exercise to keep me sharp for larger, longer projects; I did sorta have a goal for this year, which was 182.5 posts, you know every other day. It now appears I will exceed that number should I continue at my current pace. I hadn't really thought much about these numbers until I went to one of my good friend's blog the other day and found a post that simply said: Away.

How simple, how clear, how appropriate, just away.

I too wish to be away.

So I think I am going to take a hiatus from blogging . . . but not just yet. I'm thinking the end of the year. I am even considering a complete timeout from cyber-space including email, skype, facebook, twitter and lovely ladies over sixty dot com. I'm thinking of spending a couple of weeks with a short stack of books, just reading with a cat curled by my side. Yes going off grid.

But not yet, I have a mini list of items I have ignored while gazing at the western skies the last couple of weeks; those shall be coming to you soon.

A Doh! Sunset

Just forty-five minutes before sunset the cloud layer lifts and there is the bridge with a light blue and pink sky behind it. This is the sunset that will align perfectly with the bridge, lo and behold this might actually happen!

Slowly the golden streaks of sunlight intensify the overcast holds high above the Bay, even with my meager little camera this could be the event I have been blathering about for weeks. 

Yes! A solar appearance and with this angle of decline the sun will appear to be setting right smack in the middle of the bridge, it will actually be cradled between the two towers. Tolkienian prose leaps to mind.

Wait! What is that large dark bank of clouds. Quick check the weather website. Weekend storm moving in -- marine layer 35 miles off shore. Quick mathematical calculation: marine layer 35 miles away, sun 92,875,414 miles away. Hmm, that is going to cause a juxtapositional problem.

Damn! Foiled again by water vapor.

One Last Weather Post

With the forecast steady for partly cloudy days and evening fog followed by weekend showers, I will make this the last lament about missed sun, moon and bridge observations.
The shot above is from last night just before sunset, framed in that dim pink swath just above the water is the Golden Gate Bridge, trust me. The shot below is from about fifteen minutes later the very faint line across the sun is one of the cables from the bridge. Yes to the naked eye and the binocular assisted view it was a very nice image.

Next post, I shall return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when I blather on about whatever comes to mind, heart, soul or spleen.

Oh and the moonrise was brilliant last night, I was out in North Berkeley and got a perfect view of the gibbous moon slipping in and out of the high clouds but that was far to the east, by the time the moon had swung across the sky to my windowed western view, twas nary a shimmer behind the grey.

Twilight Time, to dream awhile
In veils of deepening gloom
As fantasy strides over colourful skies
The fog disappearing from view
Moody Blues, Twilight
Days of Future Passed

If the Sun Sets in the Darkness . . .

This is the view from my window this morning, which provides you with all the information you need about the moonset early this morning. Unfortunately the weather predictors are not encouraging about our chances for more celestial dazzlement this week. The much anticipated full moon settling over San Francisco will occur this Friday and Saturday, which as you can see below is not apparently going to be prime viewer weather.


Partly Cloudy


Partly Cloudy

Few Showers

Extended Forecast
High: 73°
Low: 51°
High: 69°
Low: 50°
High: 62°
Low: 51°
High: 64°
Low: 51°
High: 65°
Low: 52°

The first sunset through the Golden Gate narrows happened yesterday, you will not notice in my shot below any sort of bridge or the golden opening to the Pacific. A near fifty mile long fog bank crept in during the late afternoon yesterday to fill San Francisco Bay from end to end.

I would mention one final time that I really am fond of this type of weather. The rain and fog are fascinating for me, my spirits are lifting by the damp and chilled weather, it's like be wrapped in a cocoon the size of the universe. Sounds are muffled, perceptions shrink and we are forced to go on internal sensors. Perhaps in the next few days we will get a glimpse of the astronomical workings between the clouds, if not, I shall attempt to entertain and minister from the internal microcosm.

Pinprick holes in a colourless sky
Let insipid figures of light pass by
The mighty light of ten thousand suns
Challenges infinity and is soon gone
Night time, to some a brief interlude
To others the fear of solitude

Brave Helios, wake up your steeds
Bring the warmth the countryside needs
Moody Blues The Day Begins
from Days of Future Passed

A Little Lunar Physics

With my celestial gazing blotted out by the grey weather again last night, I turn to a bit of chat about astronomical angles with some solar/lunar synchronicity tossed in for leavening. As I am sure most of you know, but may not often contemplate, the moon has no light of its own. Earth's satellite is a reflective surface, what we see as the illuminated moon is completely solar energy cast back at us.

So when we see or don't see the new moon, it is because the moon is between the earth and the sun. All the light of the sun is on the far side of the moon, which contrary to what Pink Floyd is thought to have said, is not the dark side of the moon at all. At the other apex of earth/sun/moon alignment, a full moon occurs when the earth is between the sun and the moon with the full illumination of the sun on the earth facing moon countenance. The graphic below illustrates these facts of celestial physics. 

When the earth lines up exactly between the sun and the moon, we get a lunar eclipse and I would be remise if I did not remind you that this year on the winter solstice (Dec. 21st) there will be a total lunar eclipse visible in most of North America.

There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark.
Pink Floyd Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon

Whether San Francisco Weather

Robert Burns

After several autumnal heat waves, true fall weather has arrived here in the Bay area. With the lowering to shivering temperatures comes overcast, undercast, fog banks and assorted sky-sea phenomenon. All of these have combined to make my celestial observations more or less muted the last forty-eight hours. The sun has set into high stacks of clouds the last two evenings, the moonset on Friday was an hour early into a high fog bank and last night there was nary a glow from behind the overcast. Today we awoke to grey with a smattering of gray. I was worried that the full moonset next weekend would be blotted out by the dawn but unless we have another change in weather patterns I will miss this highly anticipated week of solar and lunar settings altogether.

I did manage one shot of the setting sun just north of the golden gate narrows last night, you can clearly make out the Golden Gate Bridge. Hope that was not the last sunset this week.

Beauty I'd always missed
With these eyes before
Just what the truth is
I can't say anymore
Moody Blues
Nights in White Satin

That's Not the Moon

Last night marked the fifth night of close observation of the moon setting into or over San Francisco. One night was done without the aid of my powerful binoculars, I was out and the tripod would have seemed a bit intrusive. Last night was the closest we would get to a perfect quarter moon, it was officially and exactly quartered around 14:30 in the afternoon and our setting time last night over the City was 0:23.

I am a bit disappointed that I have not been able to successfully google pictures that do justice to the visuals I have seen. And I mourn one last time my own shortcomings in the telephoto/nocturnal camera arena. As always I will attempt to paint you a worthy image in words.

I also want to acknowledge my own, previously overlooked, lack of learning in the general area of astronomy. Each and every night I discover another phenomenon that sends me off asurfin' to uncover the physics of the heavens. I won't overburden you with each and every mote of new learning I uncover. I assume some of you know a lot more in this area than I do and many more of you do not want to wade through the formula, azimuths and ephemeris to "know" why the sky is just amazingly fascinating. 

As I said last night was a near perfect quarter moon but the previous evening (also fairly close to a quarter) I could clearly see the other facing quarter of the sphere. Instead of being slightly lighter than the dark sky, last night the dark quarter of the moon was precisely the same pitch as the sky. This meant the moon presented itself as a jagged edged illusion, as if the top half of the moon was not actually there, like the photo above. And while I watched the descent the oranging began. First the white slice became slightly dirty, then a few minutes later a perfectly hued hard taco shell loomed over the Transamerica building. Following the corn flour tan came the slow darkening towards burnt orange, but not without a new visual.

The low clouds over the City created a reflection of some kind, lines of orange would appear below the moon and slowly the two would melt together. At one point the detached line was a bit more red and dancing in the reflected heat of San Francisco. As the two merged it appeared that the lower edge of the setting moon had begun to flame and burn, as if it would need to quench itself in the Pacific.

The final setting was, as it has been for several nights, a complete distortion of the moon's crescent. Last night both the top and bottom tips of the quarter were lost in the over&undercast. Anyone peering through my magic glasses at that moment would have seen a large orange blob just above the buildings of the city. No one would have guessed this was the perfect quarter we had seen twenty minutes before. Finally, instead of descending behind one of San Francisco's many hills, a misty grey cloud rose up and consumed the orange and it was gone again until tonight

Cold hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight
Red is grey and yellow, white
But we decided which is right
               Moody Blues
"Late Lament" from Days of Future Passed
net photo - uncredited

Celestial Views

I'll put the photo credit up top when it's actually me, so yes that is my picture up there. That is the sky I woke to this morning and that sky will be the focus of my next series of posts. With apologies to my olde friend Lee, eastcoat Lee not southwest Lee, but with apologies to him and anyone else who has tired of my sky gazing... the next week or so will be an extended meditation looking out my window. In last Sunday's post (two down the scroll) I wrote about the moon setting into the skyscape of San Francisco last Saturday night; well, of course, it has done something similar but completely different every evening since. Each night the illuminated portion of the moon gets bigger, it was quartered last night. The hills and buildings of the City that are descended thru shift and the atmosphere, clouds and light change the images sliding through my view. 

What with the earth rotating, the moon setting later each night, the cloud cover shifting, the moon becoming fuller -- the show offers new celestial perspectives each and every night. Add to that the sunset continues to march south and has reached the north end of the Golden Gate narrows (and bridge), this all portents some really interesting sky viewing over the next week. 

The moonset timetable will require some late nights and dark mornings but if the last several days have been any indication it will clearly be worth the lost sleep. Besides there are a few sections of my current book that could use some dark of night influenced attention.

So don't call too early, I'm going deep nocturnal for awhile and together we will ponder the skies through my window.

I can see it all
From this great height
I can feel the sun
Slipping out of sight
And the world still goes on
Through the night
          Moody Blues
          "Sunset" from Days of Future Passed

White Bird and other things

One of my faithful readers is also an OCD nit, she likes to track any promises I make and hold me to them or as she says: "I only bug you to follow up on things I am interested in." Apparently one of those things comes from a post last April where I observed a bevy of white birds in my neighborhood. Actually they tend to flock three or four blocks west of here and each time I walked down there after spotting them, they had vanished. This weekend I got a 'white bird' reminder from my friend and avid reader, then this morning there was the brood flying around down the street.

I first watched them wheel about in the area the size of ten or twelve residential blocks, this seemed to me to be the same relative area they had covered when I first noticed them. Either they had taken the summer off or I just haven't been as avian observant lately. First there were five or six birds but soon the rest of the drove rose up to join them. About a dozen in all with at least two thirds of them white as snow. Finally about half of the skein lighted in that same evergreen tree and the others on a double span utility pole. The pole was clearly visible so I peered through my super binoculars and saw six birds (four white) very clearly but what were they? We must have our labels.

I tossed on the sneakers and headed out hoping to catch them. About a block from the house I saw them in flight again but they often liked to double back so I kept after them. Here I was a humanoid on foot chasing birds on wing, next week I chase down roadrunners in Arizona. Just as I was feeling a tad stupid, I came out from under a big olive tree and there was the utility pole with nine birds perched on it. Six were indeed pure white and one of the other ones was clearly a standard, everyday rat-with-wings pigeon (bottom row center in the picture above).

Seeking verification of this congregation, I asked the store clerk on the next corner about the birds, he looked at me like I had asked for live tarantula ala mode. The homeless guy saw me looking up at the multitude and told me they were -- "the birds of peace." This piece of information comes with neither citation or nor corroboration. 

I did a little net research when I got back, here is what I found:

The difference between doves and pigeons is mostly size. Doves are generally sleeker and smaller with pointed tails, while pigeons are larger and stockier with rounded tails. The common urban pigeon is also known as a "Rock Dove." The popular white dove releases at various celebrations are billed as "dove" releases, but ethical companies always use white homing pigeons, as they return home.

Ethical in that they do not release tamed doves into the wild to fend for themselves. Ethical, not so much, in that they can sell them over and over again, well Viva Capitalism! 

By the way, I was unable to use army, assembly, cloud, collection, colony, company, convoy, crowd, crush, drift, drove, gaggle, gathering, group, herd, host, legion, litter, mass, pack, progeny, rout, scores, throng and I would have liked to have worked in an exaltation of larks or an ostentation of peacocks.

A Thousand Words

Angry Red Moon
I apologize that I don't have a high-end camera so that I might show you what I saw last night. These photos lifted from the web are only faint shadows of what I will describe for you. But words are my craft so perhaps it is appropriate that I capture the experience with my digits instead of digitally.

Sunset last night was just north of the Golden Gate, after the sun had set behind the Marin Headlands the sky glowed with an orange/blue layered effect. The horizon grew a brighter and deeper orange and the sky above remained illuminated in shades of blue. Of course, I have quite a view from the apartment, I can see nearly fifty miles of San Francisco Bay coastline on each side of the Bay. The City of San Francisco sparkled in the middle of the tableau. 

It was then that I noticed a thin crescent moon just to the south of the City, I knew the moon was setting and wondered if it would plunge into the cityscape below. As I watched the lunar progress it slid lower and slightly further north on its way to the sea. The moon was indeed going to set right over the towers of downtown San Francisco. As I watched through my Super Giant Astronomical Binoculars I glanced down to see with my naked eyes where the moon might impact the City when I noticed something out of place, something very orange. 

It seems that in celebration of the baseball SF Giants making the MLB playoffs, several landmarks have had their normal lighting changed to Giant orange. Coit Tower was one of those attractions, so last night it glowed brilliantly orange. When I looked up again the white crescent had begun to yellow and I realized that the moon takes on yellow and orange hues as it declines through the atmosphere.

You perhaps can imagine what happened next, in the now black sky, a very orange crescent descended directly over a very orange tower and all of my desires to capture the moment peaked. It was simply visually stunning . . . and just when I thought I was seeing natural perfection linked with man-made construction, the final passage began.

As the moon lowered into the atmosphere of the ocean behind the SF peninsula, it also descended into the heat footprint of the City. In the last ten minutes the sharply defined edges of the crescent began to mottle, the sky and the moon began to blur together, the brilliant orange moon became an organic cantaloupe with bumps and depressions along its leading edge.

I made one more false assumption that the moon would sink behind the City as the sun had sunk beyond the Headlands but instead with the double atmosphere of the Pacific and the City, the lower edge of the crescent moon simply dissolved just as the Cheshire Cat had. Slowly the moon disappeared as the dark below consumed it. As the last third stood just above Telegraph Hill, anyone looking up for the first time might have wondered at the strange triangular cloud dimly orange in the night sky.

Wish you had been here to see it with me.

Shameless Selfless Promotion

Yes it tis a bit early for pumpkins and goblins and yes there will be another orange & black post more appropriately calendaric but today I wanted to offer you a commercial opportunity by pimping the art of one of my good friends. 

Tina Fields is an artist, songtress, contra-dance caller, eco-psychologist with a wickedly dark sense of many things and an abominable taste in men. The image above is hers of which she says: 

A witch flies across the full moon on a broomstick. This is a classic Hallowe’en image; nothing more.
–Or is it?
Note how happy this witch looks. Then look for four entheogenic plants semi-hidden in the design.
Can you identify them?
Some say the use of such plant mixtures is how those witches, our European ancestors, actually went ‘flying.’  The broomstick provided a handy applicator of the “flying ointment” – a.k.a. witches’ brew? – to the mucous membranes.  (I am not making this up!)
My favorite thing about this drawing is the glee she exhibits. I get so tired of seeing witches depicted as evil, scheming, or just grumpy in their warts. I mean, really. When I was a little kid of nine or so, a teacher asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. The book suggested things like “nurse” and “fireman.” I wrote in “Philosopher. And witch.”
Silently flying out of the window at night by moonlight, knowing the world’s unknowable secrets, casting spells, healing people with wild materials free for the taking, talking with ravens?! Yee-haw! It’s good to be a witch.

And now for the commercial portion of our program: this image can be found on t-shirts, cups, throw pillows, trivets and other assorted items for your halloween and year round pleasure at: CafePress

Imagine All the People

Tomorrow -- Saturday October 9, 2010 is John Lennon's 70th birthday. If you use Google today or tomorrow you will see their tribute to him, actually there are several, this one is animated. Push the red arrow and turn up the sound slider.

My own personal meander through the history of the Fab Four continues but I have extended it to cover several more months, can't afford to get involved in something so complex while I am engaged in my current writing project. So expect several Beatles' posts over the remainder of the year. Until then,

"They may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." 

Quote Quagmire

Yesterday several news director felt it "newsworthy" and reportable that Frito-Lay was replacing a recyclable chip bag because of noise complaints from customer. I felt that really was not worthy of reportage until I came across another story about two different groups of cheerleaders, one group was complaining that their uniforms were too revealing -- the other, of course, felt their costumes were too modest, which led to this quotation:
"If nothing else, the two divergent pleas provide an intriguing case study for why establishing national cheerleading uniform standards might be justified."
Please allow for a moment to mull the concept that elected officials at some level might now be spending time, energy and potentially tax dollars pondering national cheerleading uniform standards. And if this comes to pass would the standards be the same throughout this great nation, making them uniform uniform standards?
This, of course, led me to my 'saved quotes' file. I offer these without comment for your appreciation, contemplation and derision:
On the contemplation of life: "Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice invariably says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."
On caring for oneself: "Health food may be good for the conscience, but Haagen Dazs taste a hell of a lot better."
On the difference between men and women: "If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base."
On life, dating and/or something else: "Sometimes it's barely worth chewing through the restraints."
On politics, the Tea Party and jihad: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

On advice and wisdom: "Enjoy life, this is not a dress rehearsal."

Biennial Political Rant

As regular readers know, I reserve the right to regale you with my third party rant every four years. Today I modify that imposition to once every two years. There was a great op-ed piece in the NYTimes about the potential for a third party candidate in 2012. I want to quote extensively from that article but first let me just say to my Tea Party relatives and friends:

"Don't chicken out at the last minute and vote for the republican because the evil democrat is just too far left to even consider having as your representative or senator."

To my left wing, liberal friends and olde college alumni -- ditto. That Palin clone on the right side of your ballot is really no more evil than the long term democrat living in the pockets of lobbyists and blue dog sentiments.

Remember my great and wise friend Bill, who hath said: "We all believe one party is evil and the other is stupid; all we are arguing about is which is which."

It's not too early to step up and say to the two parties: Neither! No! Not Again! And 2010 is a good year to try out the pulling of a third party lever. Just pick the third candidate in a congressional or senate race and give them your vote. It won't hurt that much and you will be sending a message to all your fellow voters that it really is time for a change, a big change. Let's start having the major parties win with 48% of the vote, then 45% then a couple of seats go to third party candidates. Come 2012 we can have a full fledged uprising and a third party candidate in the White House in our lifetime.

“We basically have two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country,” said the Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond. Indeed, our two-party system is ossified; it lacks integrity and creativity and any sense of courage or high-aspiration in confronting our problems. We simply will not be able to do the things we need to do as a country to move forward “with all the vested interests that have accrued around these two parties,” added Diamond. “They cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term anymore because both parties are trapped in short-term, zero-sum calculations,” where each one’s gains are seen as the other’s losses.
We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.
“If competition is good for our economy,” asks Diamond, “why isn’t it good for our politics?”
We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say: “These two parties are lying to you. They can’t tell you the truth because they are each trapped in decades of special interests. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what you need to hear."

Some Kind of Confusion Here

I needed an early morning walk. Our brief flirtation with an overly heated Indian summer is over, at least on the ocean side of the Bay, so I headed out the door on my way to Golden Gate Park just two blocks away. The fog still lingered in the near distance with a grey bank just above tree top level. I was swaddled in layers, hood up, just a meander to clear my mind, no need for human interaction, just movement and today at a slow pace.

My mood was a bit sour, I noticed the far off construction noize and not the chirping birds. A dropped chunk of trash was more annoying than the late season blooms were uplifting. Sour, yep that's a good word.

I angled away from every sound of people. Eventually, I had stumbled a half-circle path back to what passes for civilization. Rather than go directly back into the neighborhood, I stayed in the park and moved east to shorten the distance between park exit and the house. Less development, more green and fewer humans to encounter.

I could hear them from a distance. A couple arguing, a bit drunk, at 7am probably still drunk from a chilly night in the park. Homeless I assumed, fighting over something mundane rather than face their real problems. The words were worn bits of verbal fencing, they had volleyed like this before. 

I could have doubled-back a block and not passed them but I was suddenly tired and wanted the quickest route back to my book and the sofa. I didn't have my wallet but as always I had stuck a twenty in my pocket just in case. I pulled it out with the intention of handing it to them without comment, I couldn't save them from themselves but maybe today could be a little better.

I stepped around the last bush between me and the verbal battle. Wait! she was in an evening dress, he a tux.

"I don't recognize you any more."

"ME! You're going to vote for Palin!"

Were they actually standing next to a limo?

"This is not about politics..."

"No it's about money and you wanting more and more."

Yep, a limo and driver idled thirty feet away at the curb.

I went for the mixed berry scone with a hot chocolate and gave the change to Emma the homeless lady who I have seen in this neighborhood for several years now. I am fairly sure its not about politics or money for her.
art by Andrzej Krauze

Atlas Shrugged

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. 

Please excuse the lame, stale joke set-up but you gotta love the punch line. If you remember I wrote a post about six weeks ago on the subject of the 100 Best Novels; I was shocked and a touch dismayed to find the reader's poll portion of that survey topped by Atlas Shrugged. In fact the top ten reader's choice novels included four Ayn Rand books, three L. Ron Hubbard pieces of gibberish plus To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984 and, of course, The Lord of the Rings.

I stumbled on the quote/joke the same day I heard that several independent film makers have actually banned together and have filmed what they intent to become the Atlas Shrugged trilogy, well at least part I. Paul Johansson is directing and playing the lead as John Galt, which conjures images of Dancing With Wolves. Part I of AS is scheduled for release in 2011.

For years Hollywood has looked for a way to bring Atlas Shrugged to the big screen, thankfully if it was going to happen at least it is being done my independent filmmakers rather than a big studio. I really don't expect much from the attempt, remember the several attempts to make Dune into a motion picture. There is a theme to both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead but will it really take two hours or six to delivered the singular idea that it's everyone for themselves?

Hmm, maybe I am wrong here, big Hollywood studios are really good at taking two hours to make one obvious statement. But enough pummeling on individualism, truth, justice and the Amerikan way as depicted by Hollywood.

I am looking out on a stunning orange sky over the SF Bay and the Pacific beyond. I would like to remind my bay area friends that anyone with a good camera and a decent lens or two is welcome to come by over the next month or so, the sunset is slowly creeping towards the Golden Gate and I would really like to have some decent pictures to share here. I will buy dinner, you like Thai?

opening quote found on kfmonkey.blogs