Archive for November, 2006

061129 – Wednesday – guilt and summer

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Well, I am experiencing just a bit of guilt here. I’m in sunny and warm New Zealand banging away on my keyboard and my biggest problem at the moment is what time’s lunch.

Meanwhile, back home in the US in western Washington State, the snow has been falling steadily and making everyone’s lives difficult. It’s very hard to imagine when I look out and see the trees here stirring in the gentle breeze.

For the curious, here’s the weather news from home:


Washington state snowed under, iced over

SEATTLE, Washington (AP) — A storm that dumped as much as 2 feet of snow on some parts of Washington state turned freeways and city streets into icy gridlock and left thousands of people without power.

The snowfall capped off a month of heavy rain in Seattle — which was edging closer to a wettest-single-month record.

As of 10 p.m. Monday, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where official measurements are kept, had received 15.26 inches of precipitation — just .07 inches short of the 15.33 inches recorded in downtown Seattle in December 1933.

“It’s kind of ironic that after all that rain we could be breaking the record with snow,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Danny Mercer in Seattle. “It doesn’t happen this way very often.”

In central Washington, which received as much as 7 inches of snow, a Bridgeport woman and her two sons died in a two-vehicle crash near Orondo on Sunday evening.

Roads were a mess by the Monday evening commute, with cars sliding off Interstate 405.

“There’s cars in the ditches all up and down the road,” said Don Bowman, who drove 20 miles to buy tire chains after he was unable to find any still available in his hometown of Blaine.


Islamists debate rape law moves

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

– The following article is about certain cultural practices which I believe are destructive to humanity’s future. But, before I get into the article itself, I want to discuss the conjunction of environmentalism, multiculturalism and tolerance that this article draws us to consider.

– There’s been a debate for some time between myself and some of the folks I correspond with over the subject of multiculturalism. In general, I have no objection to the idea and I believe that we should respect and preserve all the world’s cultures. But, I would qualify that by saying, “within reason

– There are two obvious questions that follow a statement like that The first is, “What exactly do you mean, ‘within reason'”, and, “Who will decide such things, if you are suggesting limits?”

– Good questions and tough questions, both. To understand what I mean by ‘within reason’, you must understand first that I strongly believe humanity should adopt a new, conscious and intentional number one priority for itself if it intends to survive here without destroying itself and the biosphere. It is:

Humanity should adopt, as its number one priority, the goal of getting into a steady-state non-destructive balance with the biosphere so that we (and the other members of the planet’s biosphere) can survive here on Earth indefinitely.

– An associated and relevant idea is that basic logic tells us that we cannot have have two or more number one priorities.

– Therefore, when something comes into conflict with our chosen number one priority, we must choose against it.

– To make some crude but effective examples, if Abdul wants to wear a funny hat (funny to my eyes, perhaps) and decorate his camel with flowers and lead it in circles under the full moon chanting loves songs to his ancestors – I have no objections so long as none of it is destructive to our shared biosphere. But if Juan, in the Amazon rain forest, wants to slash and burn three square acres of forest, plant it and harvest crops on it for several years until the soil is depleted and then move on to the next patch of forest, then I say, “No, sorry, that’s just not consistent with what’s best for our joint survival – you are going to have to stop.”

– Of course, the problem arises when we ask the natural follow-on question, “Well, who is going to make these decisions about which cultural practices are benign and which are toxic to our joint futures?” And I wish I had a good answer but I don’t.

– I can tell you that the democratic process is breaking down here. The majority of people, either through lack of education or lack of intelligence, don’t care about such remote and abstract ideas so in those societies (which many of us consider to be our best societies) where our joint directions are suppose to be decided by democratic processes, it is obvious that not much is going to happen any time soon – to all of our detriments.

– Now with regard to this article, I believe that men and women are fundamentally equal and that any culture which practices discrimination against women is damaging to us all. But, aside from the obvious unfairness of such discrimination, it has been clearly shown that women with less education, with less economic power and with less control over their reproductive decisions contribute inordinately to the planet’s population problems which is itself a major driving force behind much of the coming Perfect Storm.

Imagine – requiring a woman reporting a rape to have to come up with four male witnesses to the crime, or face prosecution for adultery.

Press on dear readers … you comments are welcome.


Pakistan’s six-party opposition Islamic alliance is threatening a campaign of countrywide protests over amendments to the country’s strict rape laws.

The MMA alliance says its members will resign from national and provincial assemblies after MPs voted that rape should no longer fall under Sharia law.

President Pervez Musharraf in a television speech said the Islamists were isolated on the issue.

The Sharia laws have been widely criticised by human rights groups.

The lower house of the parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to amend the controversial Sharia law that dates back to 1979.Until now, rape cases were dealt with in Sharia courts. Victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime – if not, they faced prosecution for adultery.More…

Climate Change Worsening Biodiversity

Monday, November 27th, 2006

The effects of the gathering Perfect Storm are appearing in the fabric of our world like cracks spreading slowly through glass. We can look through them, we can deny them, but they are there becoming more visible day by day.  Perfect music to consider all of this by: Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerard – Progeny

NAIROBI (AFP)—Climate change is having an alarming impact on whales, dolphins, turtles and birds and other rare species that migrate over long distances, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has said.

Rising temperatures are already having a dramatic effect on many of these species’ food, habitat, health and reproduction, UNEP said Thursday in a report coinciding with UN talks on climate change in the Kenyan capital.

Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said evidence was mounting that when a migratory species dwindled or an exotic species showed up in places where previously it was absent, global warming was to blame.

“The consequences of habitat change–changes in temperature, food–will, and is already beginning to, fundamentally affect the ability of species to survive,” Steiner said.


061128 – Tuesday – Aotearoa – about those dates?

Monday, November 27th, 2006

If you’ll notice, the title indicates I wrote this on 061128 (Tuesday, November 28th, 2006) but just under my date, it indicates that the post was actually created on the 27th of November. Why?

The BlueHost server that this blog runs on is physically in Utah in the United States but I’m writing these posts from New Zealand. And New Zealand is on the other side of the International Date Line so when it is noon on Monday in Utah (mountain time) on the November 27th, it is also 8 Am here in New Zealand on Tuesday, the 28th of November.  Got that?   Yup, I find it confusing as well.

Flying here from the States, you take off on the 14th and you land on the 16th and there never was, so far as you are concerned, a 15th.  Ya sure, ya betcha! as they say in Ballard and Minnesota.

So, about the dates?  Just don’t worry about and you’ll feel better.

061128 – Tuesday – Aotearoa

Monday, November 27th, 2006

I’m back, as they say, in the saddle this morning. I’ve got a half a dozen or so articles I’ve culled from the web to put up. As usual, these bear, mostly, on the Perfect Storm theme which is the central point of the website/blog.

Before I jump into all of that, however, I want to discuss some thoughts and experiences I’ve had recently.

Information permeability – in my opinion, people are either open to new information, indifferent to it or resistant to it.

Those who are open to new information by intention realize that new information is what allows them to grow and shed earlier points of view for newer ones with more to recommend them.  Intentional openness is a form of self-creativity.

I consider myself intentionally open to new information and, of late, I’ve gotten a fair bit which I’m integrating and processing.

Seeing something you’ve been looking at for a long time from a new POV, can expand your horizons.   I consider myself a liberal and, as such, I’ve been inundated with theories about what the Neocons, the Religious Right, the Conservatives and everyone of an even vaguely Republican flavor are doing as they try to take over our hearts and our minds, take away our freedoms and generally drag the world into a new dark ages.  Most of my friends share my views and stories like this pass among us as common currency.

Recently, I was corresponding with a good friend of mine, C., about a conspiracy theory and he related the following to me:

Reading this article immediately reminded me of over-hearing a phone conversation of my right-wing brother, N., the other night with one of his like-minded friends. He completely attributed the Democratic take-over of House and Senate, and the exit of Rumsfeld as manifestations of the vast, surreptitious, media-driven conspiracy by the Left to “take America back down the road to Socialism”. As in this article, my brother considers Bush a dupe (though well-intentioned), being out-maneuvered by sinister, determined, behind-the-scene forces who thwart the American people’s desire for a traditional, family-oriented government through their control of the media, and their manipulation of “weak-minded and weak-willed” “so-called moderate Republicans”. He ENTIRELY blames the Mark Foley incident on House Democrats and mainstream media that held off publishing the scandal until just before the November election (when, actually, Democratic Party operatives had been trying for most of the year to get the press to cover the story, yet it is known that 13 Republican Members or staffers knew about Foley’s e-mails to pages — while no Dem Members or staffers are alleged to have known: the Dem operatives found out from investigating media and/or from Republicans). Since the President, Executive Administration (i.e. the West Wing), Supreme Court, and both Houses of Congress are still (until 2007) under Republican control, and talk-show radio is dominated by the Far Right, my brother and his buddies attribute leadership of the Leftist Conspiracy to “the liberal media”, and believe that it is not at all loose, but tightly coordinated, massively funded, and utterly morally bankrupt.

Sound familiar?

Sorry, I just don’t buy any of these conspiracy
theories (which is not to say that I don’t believe
there are wanna-be conspirators out there). As J.notes, the theories are more convoluted than the
conspiracies they postulate, and all of them are
incompatible with Occam’s razor.

C. makes his living in the political world and has insights into what goes on out in the Beltway that most of us can only read about from a distance so I value his insights greatly.   He is a Democrat and he is quite liberal in his orientation but he is definitely not persuaded by most conspiracy theories and his comments here have given me a lot of food for thought.

I think conspiracy theories ‘work’ for many of us mentally, because they give us what we believe to be a plausible explanation for what we see going on around us.  And it is human nature to prefer understanding over confusion, to prefer apparent clarity over cognitive dissonance.   But, it’s a road too easily taken in most cases because the world is seldom so simple.

Years ago, I read a lot of material, and saw even more on TV, about the Roswell Incident.  It was all fascinating stuff but later, after I mulled it over, I asked myself what was the probability that the hundreds of military people who supposedly participated in the clean up and the cover up would have not spoken out over the following 60 years?  Imagine someone is in his 80’s now and near the end of his time.   If he didn’t agree with the imposed code of silence, what would keep him from speaking now?  What are they going to do to him at this point – kill him?   And imagine the hundreds of folks who would have been out there picking up every scrap of alien debris – that not one of them would have been able to squirrel away a memento, a piece of something so unique and amazing?   And that now, after 60 years, not one such verifiable piece of alien technologyhas come forward?

Conspiracy theorists would have us believe that the governmental spooks do have such incredible control but I’m strongly doubting it.   This is, after all, the same organization that tried to keep the bombing of Cambodia secret and failed, the same people who bungled Watergate and brought a government down and the same folks who throught they could get away with ContraGate only to find it splashed across the world’s newspapers.  No, when they try to do large scale clandestine stuff, very often, someone lets the curtain fall by accident and then we are looking at what appears to be the Keystone Cops.

So, conspiracy theories may make us feel good and give us a nice explanation of who’s good and who’s bad but I think they are usually vast oversimplifications and as such their adoption blocks us from further and deeper insights into what’s really happening.

I’m going to discuss one more interesting insight I’ve had lately and then we’ll begin to post some of today’s news.

A correspondent of mine, Kevin, who publishes the Cryptogon blog,  hails from Irvine in Southern California. He used to work in the financial industry there but he moved about a year ago to a remote area in New Zealand to create a new life for himself as a permaculture farmer.  I had to laugh some months ago when I read a scathing piece he’d written about why he left Irvine.  He said that the ‘plasticness’ of the place was getting to him and he related how he’d seen a sign posted over a small plot of grass amid all of the concrete and the sign said, “Grass under renovation”.

A few weeks ago, on my way here to New Zealand, I spent a week with my son and his family who live in Aliso Viejo which isn’t far from Irvine and I found myself remembering Kevin’s comment.   All of this area is intimately familiar to me as I lived there myself for many years.  If anything, Aliso Viejo is Irvine in spades.  It is a brand new city built over what was, 15 years ago, just empty rolling hills.   Today, it is a complete city – fully filled in with shopping centers,  housing developments, businesses, and roads.   Everything is new and I dare say that virtually ever bit of greenery one sees there, outside of a few nature preserves, was placed there intentionally by the builders of the city.

I left Orange County and Southern California 16 years ago myself and moved to a semi-rural area about 40 miles northwest of the City of Seattle in Washington State in the US.   My opinions about Orange County are nowhere as strong as Kevin’s are.  I enjoy it and its weather and beauty when I’m there but I also easily acknowledge that I’m glad I don’t live there anymore.  It is just too big, too crowded, too fast paced and too artificial for me as well.

All of this came together for me in the form of a small revelation one night over a beer with my son, Dan, while I was visiting.  We were talking about our family history, the amount of luck we’ve both had in our lives and the major events that have shaped them and he said that in his life one of the things that he was most grateful for was that in spite of the fact that he came from a broken home and that both of his parents (myself and my first wife, Rose) had ended up living outside of California, that we’d been kind enough to drop him in the middle of the best and most affluent place on the face of the earth.  I knew that he liked where he lived but now I got that he really loves it passionately and fully intends to live there all of his life – he’s deeply bonded to it.

So, here we have one place and several different views of it.  It all reminds me deeply of the idea that for any given set of facts, there can be many possible explanations that all seem to explain those facts equally well. Each of us makes sense of things in different ways and each of us typically thinks that our way of making sense is the right way.

And beneath it all, the situations we’re all trying to make sense of don’t really give a hang about any of what we think.

Well, that’s enough time up on the soapbox today.

061125 – Saturday in Godzone

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Our Apartment building

Well, a week ago, I said I’d post again and catch up with what’s been happening since I arrived here in New Zealand. Today’s the day. I really need to get to it because enough time has passed that I’ll begin forgetting important things.

For those who don’t know, Godzone is how Kiwis often refer to NZ. It’s a contraction of “God’s own” – referring to this beautiful land. You’ll also see me (and many others) use another term, Aotearoa, which is a Maori word and it is their name for NZ. Translated, it means “The Land of the Long White Cloud“.

As I sit typing, it is 6 PM and the sun is blazing in the front window-doors of my apartment and just across the street in Christchurch’s Hagley Park, people have been assembling all day for a huge show which is going to be put on this evening. It’s called “Christmas in the Park” and I’ve heard that as many as 100,000 people may show up. I’d be amazed if that many do since that would be 10% of the South Island’s population – but we’ll see. last night, when I went out for a run, they were doing a rehearsal and I stopped and listened to two or three numbers and it was pretty good stuff. The space they’ve laid out is HUGE so they are expecting a lot of folks.

Well, when I first arrived here back on November 16th, I had a cold and it stayed with me for about five days and made everything a bit of an uphill struggle – as colds do. The other major thing that happened right away when I arrived and checked into my room at the guest house i was staying at was that I discovered that the wireless Internet service they were providing wasn’t up to what I needed to do with it.

So, even on that first day, I began looking for other accommodations. But, it wasn’t easy because I needed to find a furnished place for just a month and if it didn’t already have Internet, I was going to have Telecom wire it in.

One place I looked at on Thursday looked good but we couldn’t get the Internet to do everything I needed (like Skype).

I had another idea that I thought might work and I gave it a try on Friday. And that was to take a bus out by the University and see if I could find a room for rent out there. College is out this time of the year so rooms that would normally be occupied by students might be setting free – and who more than college students would need the Internet?

I got there just as it started to rain lightly. And then I discovered the problem with my plan. Friday’s a big holiday here in the Canterbury area of New Zealand. Its called Show Day in honor of the huge once a year County Fair-like show they hold at this time of the year. I originally was going to go to the show but after I arrived, I thought finding a place was a higher priority. I had no idea they’d created a holiday for it.

So, the upshot was that essentially the University was closed. I did find a fellow in the security complex and he said that they did have such ads for rooms in the library building but that I’d have to come back on Monday to see at them. because the building was locked up.

Someone else told me that students often placed ads in a big store on the other side of the U and showed me where it was on my map. It was quite a walk but I decided to go for it. now, it started raining in earnest. And my nose? Oh yeah, it was being rude rude rude and my head was a brick.

When I was almost to the store, I came across a big complex of student housing called College House and decided to go on in and see what the possibilities where. The place was pretty empty but I found four people sitting in their cafeteria talking over coffee and tea and I told them of my quest. They were great people and a lot of fun to talk to but the bottom line was that they weren’t the decision makers and I’d have to wait and call in on Monday. Ah well.

I went on to the store and the ads there were no help so I just had some sushi there for lunch and bussed back to my room at the guest house.

On Saturdays and Wednesdays, The Press newspaper here in Christchurch runs all of the houses and rooms for rent ads. So, on Saturday I bought a copy and went through it closely. I made a number of calls and just missed a nice studio apartment that I think would have worked. But, most of my calls were in vain because in spite of the fact that the ads come out on Saturday, most folks here aren’t interested in messing with all of that on the weekends or they are professional property management types who are off for the weekend. In the end, I concluded that most of the ads from the paper would have to wait for Monday.

I was pushing pretty hard to get my housing problem resolved but, in the end,it was looking like nothing was really going to happen until Monday – no matter how hard I pushed.

Sunday, I walked and looked at things but with no results. I walked so much in these few days that I got a good sized blister on the ball of my left foot. But, I actually think I preferred being really busy like this with a cold rather than sitting around waiting for it to depart. I think the time passed quicker.

On Monday, I called the leasing manager at the Park Terrace Apartments where we’re buying our apartment and he gave me some good news! The tenants in out apartment, who have a legal right to stay until December 31st, if they want, had decided that December 18th would be their last night there.

That was very good news indeed because our real estate deal is set to close on the 20th of December *and* even better, my real estate agent had earlier offered me the option of leasing another apartment he owned in the same Park Terrace complex. The rub was that I had to be out of his unit by the 22nd of December because he had it rented after that. I’d declined his offer earlier thinking that I needed a place to stay through December 31st. Now, suddenly, this option worked! I called him and it was still free. Yahoo!! I met him there and we shook hands on it and I began to call the power folks to switch the power into my name and the Telecom folks to get the telephone and Internet broadband connected. We agreed to meet there at noon on Tuesday and sign the lease papers and transfer the keys.

Tuesday, we met at noon and signed stuff and I moved in. Man, was it nice to finally unpack my suitcases. I’d been living out of them since I left home for Dan’s place in Southern California on November 9th – and this was now the 21st.



Since then, things have gone well. My cold lifted for the most part the day I moved in. The telephone was on the first day I was there and the DSL broadband modem arrived the next morning on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening, a Kiwi friend, Bob, came and picked me up mid-afternoon and took me out to his place for dinner with him, his wife and her mother and their kids. They live in the Harewood area not far from the airport on five or 10 acres. Bob and I met some time back on the Internet because we share deeply held convictions about the way mankind’s history is working itself rapidly into a nasty corner. It was nice seeing him and his family again. They’d had Sharon and I out for dinner as well on our previous trip back in August. Very nice people.

The last few days, I’ve been settling in here and getting my computer systems working like I want them to. Telecom gives their customers a modem/router with only one port to connect your computer to. I wanted to link to the Internet with both my laptops and one or more of my PDAs wirelessly so I spent a lot of time working out how to stack my WRT54G router up behind their DSL-502T router and get a multi-way Internet setup like I wanted. Eventually, it all came together.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I made it over to Dick Smith’s Electronics Store (New Zealand’s equivalent of America’s Radio Shack) and bought myself a small laser printer for $150 NZD. I also went to Office Max and got a high intensity lamp and a ream of paper for the printer.

On Friday, the 24th, I met with a fellow who knows New Zealand tax law pretty well so I could find out what the implications are for Sharon and I now that we are official New Zealand residents. I was a bit scared because I’d read that once you become a NZ resident, all of your world-wide income becomes taxable under NZ law. But, on the other hand, NZ and the US have a reciprocal tax law to prevent double taxation. I just wanted to see how it was all going to shake out.

Jamie, the tax expert, was really a pleasure to talk to and even if I hadn’t come away with good news, I would have been very happy to have made his acquaintance.

The good news would appear to be that:

(1) any money I move to NZ is tax free there so long as I’ve already paid US taxes on it and

(2) If I take a job here, my employer will take out all the necessary taxes so I won’t have to file income taxes at year end.

So, it looks like the only time I’ll be entangled with New Zealand’s tax people is if I employ people here and/or start a business here. Jamie’s still confirming the details on this.

Life with the Internet here at the new place hasn’t been all roses and kisses. Internet here in NZ can be problematic. The government is still working its way through the recognition that easy, fast and dependable access to the Internet is a grease that makes everything run better in a society from human rights to business deals. They’ve had a near monopoly here and only recently has the government forced the company sitting on top of things (complaining loudly that they couldn’t so any better) to ‘unbundle the loop’ and let some others onto the physical network structure to see if they could spur competition and improve quality, services and prices. It is all still a work in progress.

Here at Park Terrace, I sit 1.5 km from the switching station so with that distance (according to their tech types), I should have a good, fast and reliable signal. I signed up for Telecom’s new “Go Large” plan for $49.95/mo NZD. This plan is New Zealand’s first to offer the public a plan with unlimited throughput. All previous plans have had 1 GB or 5 GB limits per month on usage. I’m close to the station, I’m in a new building – you’d think this should work well?

Well, it does work and it’s at DSL speeds. The problem is that in any 30 minute period of time, I’m likely to lose my connection for 30 seconds to a minute at a time. Then, it reappears, magically. It’s been a minor annoyance and thus far, they’ve been unable to resolve it. In fact, I’ve been all through the first level of tech support and they’ve had me try various things and have finally escalated my case (#12933084, if you are interested – who knows, maybe a Telecom executive is reading this) up to the second level. These 2nd level folks will ‘watch’ my line for three days and then contact me by phone. It’s Sunday here and I’m hoping to hear from them on Monday.

Yesterday, on Saturday, at noon, I walked to the Art Center here in Christchurch. They’ve given an entire city block in the CBD (Central Business District) to art and things associated. They have an arts and crafts fair there on most weekends and I walked down to see what it was like and it was fun.

Then, last night, when I began typing this, the city was having a huge party across the street at Hagley Park. Many tens of thousands showed up for a big Christmas show. At one point, I stopped typing and went over and just walked through the crowds as they were pouring in and getting places for themselves on the grass.

Christmas Party in the Park celebration crowd..The Main Stage and Christmas Tree

The lost chirdren beacon..A band of roving ... clowns?

It felt good and relaxed unlike many such large gatherings in the US. I saw no groups of sullen hoodlum youths prowling like sharks. Just people out having a great time at a big event. I’m going to post a few photos here later today if I can figure out how to make the WordPress blog software put photos into the text that people can click on to see a larger image. The big show ended at 10 PM with a large burst of fireworks which I walked out onto the grass in front of this apartment to watch. Very nice.

Today’s Sunday. The weather’s shifted into light rain and I plan to resume blogging and post some environmentally related articles here on this blog later today. I’ll also be posting more recaps of my experiences here in New Zealand as I go along.

I can sum up my thoughts about it so far, however. I haven’t seen anything yet to make me doubt my opinions about this beautiful little country. It truly is a haven in an increasingly insane world.

061119 – Sunday – in New Zealand

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

Golly-gee, Batman, but a lot has happened since the last time I updated this blog. Today’s Sunday here in New Zealand and I arrived last Thursday so this is my fourth day here. But, before I go into all that has happened since I arrived here, I want to go back and deal with all that happened before I left the States.

My last post was about the big storm that hit Western Washington State in the days just before I left. To say it was huge would be an understatement. It broke records left, right and center and caused an awful lot of folks heartache and grief. Sharon and I just saw one small part of what happened but thousands of other folks all had their adventures and trials as well. Sharon told me that the local newspaper in our town had an entire issue primarily dedicated to the storm. if you want to get some sense of just how big all of this was, you can link to the paper on-line here. As I write this, the current issue has the story but, if you read this later and access the link, you will want the 14Nov06 edition.

I left Washington on November 9th bound for a five day visit to Southern California with my son and his family before continuing on to New Zealand.

Amazingly, the storms kept coming even after the one that broke all the records. The last I heard from my wife, they’ve continued to come one after the other with barely a day of decent weather between them. The weather folks are saying that all of this activity is part of a larger pattern which is setting up as the result of a new El Nino forming in the eastern Pacific. The last time we had a big El Nino like this was in 1990 and I remember the storms that year in Western Washington were ferocious as well.

My visit to my son’s place was great. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen them last and in that time, they’ve had another child, a little girl named Eden. And their first, a boy named Cody, has grown up into a three year-old full of love and questions and curiosity.

Cody Daniel Gallagher- Age 3Eden Estelle Gallagher - Age 9 mo.Dan and EdenDan and Ann's place in Aliso Viejo, California

We did so many things during the five days, it’s becoming hard to remember them all. I worked with Dan two days on a patio reconstruction project he’s doing for his boss in Dana Point. I went with him into his office where he works as a loan officer. We went out to Silverado Canyon where Larry Branham lives and saw his place and talked with folks from the Warriors Mountain Bike Club which both dan and Larry are members of.

Some of the Warriors Mountain Bike Club in SilveradoThat old Warrior Lare-dog BranhamFrom the left - Dan, Cody, Myself and Lare-dog at Silverado

Dan tends bar at a one-of-a-kind bar named the Swallow’s Inn in San Juan Capistrano and I went in there on Friday night after having a great sushi dinner with one of my wife’s dearest friends and had a few beers and just watched the action until almost closing. The Swallow’s Inn is a piece of true and remarkable Americana. I told Dan that someone ought to take a video camera in there one afternoon when it is quiet and just go around and slowly film and record the walls. There are more than fifty years of scribbles, posters, nick-nacks, discarded bras, cowboy hats and God knows what else layered there. People put up most whatever they want and stuff rarely comes down. Dan told me that in one place, there’s a note by someone under some later posters scrawled there just before he went off to fight in WWII and then just beside it is the note he wrote when he returned four years later. Someday, the Swallows will be gone and I hope someone goes around and captures it all first. In a world plagued by corporate restaurants pretending to be the genuine article, this is, indeed, one of the last real ones and right there in the midst or Orange County in Southern California which is virtually by definition, one of the most affluent and fastest developing areas in the world.

This story wouldn’t be complete without something about Dan. I’m sure most parents love and cherish their children and I’m no different. But I wonder if many of them respect the man their son has grown up to be as much as I do Dan. He is truly an amazing person. I told him my thoughts about this over dinner one night. I told him that even if he wasn’t my son, I would be immensely proud to know him and call him my friend. I think his wife, Ann, perhaps said it best. She said that when she first met him and had watched him for awhile, that it was his genuineness and the fair and even way he treated everyone that impressed her. I couldn’t agree more. I wish that I thought that a lot of what he turned out to be was because of my input – but the truth is that I don’t think so. His mother, Rose, and I loved him truly but beyond that, I think all the magic and steel was in him from birth. And I see this as yet another example of all the blessings I find here in my life.

I’d asked Dan months before I came down if we could go out to Joshua Tree in the high California desert like we used to when he was a teenager. On Sunday morning, after a big family breakfast, he and I took off and drove out there. It’s about three hours from where he lives in Aliso Viejo. I know that the trips we made when he was young made an impression on him because he’s been back there many many times in the years since and he’s explored and hiked a lot of the remoter parts of the place. I’m and older man now than I was back then and I told him I wouldn’t be up for climbing huge rocks and jumping down off of them and making difficult traverses. Just something that an older fellow in decent shape could expect to do without breaking something on the eve of his departure to new Zealand, I said.

Well, he found a good one. We drove to a place called Split Rock and hiked for about an hour and a half up and over a big ridge to enter a valley behind the ridge where he knew of some old mine shafts and a miner’s cabin built into the rocks. it took us awhile to find the shafts and the cabin since it had been five years since he was last there but we did and it was cool.

Dan driving to Joshua Tree National MonumentWe begin the hikeResting as we climb the ridge1890's miner's cabin built among the rocks

A table/shelfLooking back to the entranceSomeone carried this window in back thenMine shaft to nowhere

After exploring it all, we sat down and opened a can of oysters and put them onto crackers and squirted cheese-in-a-can on them and gobbled them up. I had to laugh. He told me that many people just can’t get past the idea of eating something that looks as gross as an oyster out of a can and so many times when he brings them on hikes or mountain bike rides to eat, there are no takers even though folks are starving.

On the return leg late afternoonNatural cave under Split RockDusk over the Cholla Cactus Garden

Cody’s a trip. For at least a year now, he’s had a near obsession with ‘plugging things in’. So, after making very sure that he knows the difference between and the rules concerning real electrical plug-in and pretend ones, they gave him his own power strip and extension cord which he drags all over the place plugging them in. He really wants to know how things connect together and how they turn on and off. One of the best things he and I did together was to go through my bags slowly. I was carrying lot of computer gear for use in New Zealand and he was intensely curious about it all.

So, each evening, as a aid to getting him to go to bed without a struggle, we promised him to open my bag and take out one more thing and to see what it was and how it worked. It was hugely popular and before the week was out, he’d seen every bit of computer gear I had and checked out what could and could not plug into it.

On Tuesday the 14th around noon, I left Dan’s and headed north towards Los Angeles to meet Charles, whom I’ve known since college in the early seventies. My flight to new Zealand didn’t take off until 8:30 PM so we had a lot of time to have a late lunch. He lives in a nice area just north of LAX called Culver City. it seems to be undergoing a renaissance and many of the big Hollywood movie studios are establishing themselves there and it’s a vibrant place.

Charles and I have had a running thirty-year philosophical discussion and even if I haven’t see him for years, we always seem to pick it up again and wade in once more better armed than the previous time with all the stuff we’ve learned, experienced and thought in the mean time. This was no exception and I found it as much of a pleasure as I always do. Charles is a brilliant man and I take it as a compliment that he deigns to talk with me. Whereas I pursued natural science in college, he pursued the liberal arts and our careers have diverged wildly. He works these days as the chief political strategist for a California US Congresswoman and he is the one person I know that actually has some real and direct knowledge of what goes on inside the Beltway.

If I had to sum up our afternoon’s philosophical output, it would be that (A) The existence or non-existence of an omnipotent God can neither be proven nor disproven and that therefore we each are free to make an a-priori choice in the matter and none can gainsay us and (B) that now that we’re older men, we find that our weenies have significantly less influence over what we are thinking or doing at any given time and this is not bad.

After lunch, Charles took me around to meet several of his extended family members who all seem to live within just a few miles of his place. I have to say that Charles has one of the most amazing and diverse extended family structures I’ve ever seen and from what’s he’s told me, it all seems to work. It would take several very long paragraphs to try to describe what I know about his family and I think I’ll just leave it at that for now. Everyone I met seemed exceptionally bright and I am not surprised.

This has grown exceptionally long so I’m going to cut it loose now and my next piece will describe what happened after I left Charles and journeyed on to Aotearoa – the land of the Long White Cloud – New Zealand.

061106 – Monday – Major Storm – More…

Monday, November 6th, 2006

It wasn’t so many hours ago that I’d told some friends of mine that I was off to get an Eggnog Latte and go out for a ride to see the big November storm. Well, an awful lot has happened since then.

After my wife and I got our lattes, we went down to see the river on the south side of Monroe. It was awesome. I’d just been down to see it a few hours earlier and since then, it was way up. Partially out of its banks, moving fast and carrying huge trees and debris of all kinds. Amazing.

DSCN7724.JPGRiver at flood 1River at flood 2

We drove south then towards Duvall and many of the fields on either side were lakes. When we came back, we took a smaller road on the south side of the Tualco Valley and, after we turned north and crossed the bridge over the river near the old prison farm, we came to a place where a brand new branch of the river was sweeping over the road. The car before us had just made it through so I went for it. But about halfway across, I realized that while we were probably going to make it, it was going to be a lot closer issue than I’d imagined when I’d brashly started. I could feel the water dragging hard on our wheels trying to sweep my truck off the side of the road. Once we were across, I decided we weren’t going back that way unless we had no choice.

We got back on the main road, Highway 203, and drove back into Monroe and then went east out of town on Highway 2 towards Sultan. Along this road, a friend of ours, Bob Wolf, owns a business called Monroe Water Gardens and collects animals of all kinds. We were wondering what was happening at his place. Three or four years ago, in a previous flood, he’d lost many animals when the river had come up and they couldn’t move them in time.

When his place came into view, it was obvious he was having major flooding problems again. This storm, its strength and the subsequent flood warnings had come up this time very quickly and the entire nursery portion of his business was underwater and the various demonstration ponds and waterfall displays had vanished beneath the encroaching river. We could see, also, that traffic was stopped on the highway ahead and that people were turning around just beyond where you turned into his driveway on the right. It looked like there was an accident ahead or the authorities were closing Highway 2 east of his place.

We looked at his parking lot and it was full of vehicles and trailers all parked helter skelter and we realized they must all be trying to move the animals again. We pulled in to see if we could help.

The first thing we saw was Bob, a big Marlborough Man cowboy type, obviously injured, in the midst of a crowd of people. His leg was lame and hurt and he had several serious abrasions on the side of his face and he was definitely in pain and struggling to think clearly as he was asking various folks to do one thing and another to move animals. It was a wild scene. I recognized a few of the people but most of them were new to me. Some were trying to load horses, others were discussing loading the cattle. Bob asked us to go into a large greenhouse and see if we could arrange things so that the birds in cages at floor level could be placed up higher somehow so they wouldn’t drown if the water continued to rise.

We went in and worked on this for awhile and then someone came with a trailer that we could put many of the small bird cages in. So, we moved them out into the trailer and then made sure that all the other cages were either raised up or were tall cages with cross bars high up so the birds could remain above the water. Of course, no one knew how high the water might get.

I went outside to have a look around at what else was going on. Bob’s place sits to the south side of the highway and running parallel to the highway is a train track up on a high berm which cuts through his place and divides it into two major portions; the strip which is between the road and the tracks and the part on the other side between the tracks and the river, which is a fair ways off, usually. His nursery business, his pond displays, his office and his parking lot are all in the strip by the highway. But, if you drive up and over the railroad berm, you can see the various greenhouses and animal enclosures in the back side as well.

I walked to the top of the berm and looked out and everything all the way to the river’s normal location was underwater and the water was moving swiftly from left to right. At this point, Bob and Mike were down in the water, which was chest and armpit high, working among the bird enclosures cutting them open and trying to free the remaining birds to prevent them from drowning.

Bob and Mike rescuing birds

It was all they could do to stand against the current so there was no question of capturing and bringing the birds out. Releasing them was the only option.

Monroe Water Gardens Flooded

I decided to give Sharon all my electronics and perishables (PDA, cell phone, short range radio, wallet and etc.) and go in and help. And while we were making the exchange, one of the folks that works for Bob, David Burgdorf, mentioned that there were several large birds still trapped in enclosures on the nursery side and that the water there was also rising – so he and I went to try to rescue them instead.

It was easier work in the strip than where Bob was working because there wasn’t much current since the area between the highway and the railway berm acts as a holding pond when the river floods. The water comes into the area through large culverts under the railway berm. But, never-the-less the water was cold and the footing was unpredictable at best. There were four large birds, Swans, I think, in two large enclosures. When these two enclosures, which were each probably 40 feet on a side, weren’t underwater, they had ponds of their own in their middle sections.

We took two nets with us and waded in. As we got closer to the enclosures, the water got higher and as we entered them, it was probably at mid-chest level (and did I mention cold?). David went in first and grabbed a Swan right off. He made it look easy and he carried it off to where a trailer had been backed up to the edge of the water. I stayed behind and went in pursuit of the second Swan. Well, it had seen what happens to the unwary and trusting Swan and it wasn’t having any of me. I slogged after it discovering that some parts, where the original pond had been, were much deeper than others and also finding a lot of odd and unpredictable objects under the water to stumble over. After several minutes of pursuit, I decided to go to the other enclosure and try my luck there. It was about the same.

David came back and he grabbed one the nets we’d brought. It’s a circular net about 2 feet in diameter on the end of a 8 foot or so aluminum pole. And, he just went over and plunked it over the solo bird and boop, that was done.

Much encouraged, I took a net and waded in and before long, I had a bird of my own. These birds are big and someone said they can be quite nasty to grapple with but it wasn’t so. Once you grabbed them around the neck (gently) and wrapped your arm around their body, you pretty much had them and there wasn’t much struggle at all. David came back and I handed my bird off to him and went back and caught the last one and carried it out to the trailer myself.

At this point, several of us went back up on the berm and looked down on the bird enclosures on the river side. There were a few birds still trapped but it was 4:30 PM now and getting dusky and the water was definitely higher now than when Bob had been in earlier. Bob stands 6’4″ or so and he’d been having trouble then. I’m only 5’11”. I came to the conclusion that it was too risky to try it.

David told me then that there were three big geese that had been put into the office earlier and we should move them to trailer with the others. So, we went in and grabbed them. They acted pretty fierce squatting down and hissing like your death was near but once you grabbed them, they were the same pussycat birds as the others.

Out again in the parking lot. The cattle were gone and all the horses too, but one, and he was resisting being led into a trailer. People were beginning to get into the end game. Most of what could be done was done and it was dusk and most of us were cold and wet. And the water was still rising and it was still raining.

Sharon came and told me that we were going to take Bob to the hospital. He was in a far worse way than I’d realized earlier. He’d had his leg and face injured hours before when he was dragged by Zebras through the water and had stumbled on an unseen something under the water. Since then, he’d been in the river hour after hour rescuing animals and equipment and getting more and more hypothermic and weak from not eating or drinking anything all day. Now, as they half carried and half walked him over to my truck, I could see his leg was giving him a lot of pain and that he was seriously cold and talking slowly. They partially undressed him and wrapped him in dry horse blankets and we took off with him shivering deeply and Sharon hugging him as best she could.

At Valley General, his temperature was 96 degrees so they wrapped him up good in heated blankets to warm him. While this was going on, I ran home and back in 30 minutes during which time, I jumped into and out of the shower, put on dry clothes and grabbed my cell phone.

When I returned, they’d taken X-rays of his right knee to see what the damages were. Apparently, he’d twisted it badly but nothing was broken and after an hour or so, his temperature came back up to 98.6 or whatever the norm is and they said he could be discharged into his friend, Drew’s, care. Drew (still very wet from the river) arrived about this time. Since we’d left the nursery, he’d been transporting animals and feed to the fair grounds where people were looking after hundreds of not thousands of animals displaced up and down the Sky Valley by the flooding. Then he’d had to run some of the people who’d helped at the nursery home and then, finally, he caught up with us.

We got Bob a prescription at the pharmacy and loaded him into Drew’s truck and Sharon and I went home.

After a beer and after looking at more weather reports – which say that the rain is continuing and that the Skykomish River by Bob’s place will crest tonight at over four feet above the previous all time record – I thought I’d come up and write this little story. I’m still thinking about all of it and especially about the fact that Bob told me that he didn’t know most of the folks who’d showed up to help when the water started rising – they’d just appeared with trucks and trailers. It’s a good thought to hang onto tonight as I ease back into the cynicism of Election Day 2006.

061106 – Monday – Major Storm

Monday, November 6th, 2006

– We’ve closed the nursery for the balance of the day. There’s a major storm raging here in the US Pacific Northwest. Rivers are at or past flood stage in most of western Washington State and rainfall records are being broken. It’s a great excuse to play hooky. We didn’t have any customers all day except for one landscaper who wanted to come in and recycle used nursery pots. And he clipped and nearly took down one of our front gate posts trying to come in. As it is, the gate and how it swings now is defintely a bit different than it was yesterday.

– When we moved up from Southern California to western Washington back in 1990, we had a storm like this. They called it the 1990 Thanksgiving (November) storm. The weather casters are saying that this one is the same or bigger than that one and that was the worst we’ve seen in terms of flooding in 16 years here.

– Our properties are on high ground so floodings not an issue for us here. I think we’re going to go out and get a latte at our local Starbucks and then go riding around and take a look at the rivers and the flooding. It’ll be a bit of an adventure and it’s a good thing for us to do together as we’re about to be separated for nearly three months while I’m off in New Zealand.

– My prepartions for going, by the way, are coming together nicely now and I think I will be ready and organized come Thursday when I depart. It’ll be quite a change from the winter storms here to the summer sun in Christchurch. Life is interesting.

Significant threads gathered for us

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

The Deconsumption Blog is one of my favorites and I follow it daily.  Steve Lagavulin always has great stuff and commentary.   Recently, he’s outdone himself by publishing what we might call “news strings”.   These are lines or patterns of significance which emerge from the bulk of the news.  In the past week or so, he’s taken the time to string together three of these emerging patterns and they make great reading.   I’m going to go over the top plagerlistically and publish the first of his ‘strings’ here in its entirety and then stop acting badly and clean up my act and simply reference the 2nd and 3rd ones with links to his site.   Thanks, Steve, these are a great service.


News Stringer

I referenced a slew of important news pieces at the News Room yesterday, and in doing so I realized that there were a couple major “lines” of events unfolding in the media, so I thought I’d string one of them together more directly right here. Hopefully I can outline the other one in a day or two, but feel free to visit the news room and browse the recent Iraqi war developments.

Anyway, I’ll start on the economic front, where the following warnings have all surfaced in just the past week ( has bagged most of these already):

Former World Bank Chief Economist Predicts Global Crash

“Former World Bank Vice President, Chief Economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz has predicted a global economic crash within 24 months – unless the current downturn is successfully managed. Asked if the situation was being properly handled Stiglitz emphatically responded “no,” and also drew ominous parallels to the development of the NAFTA Superhighway and the North American Union.”

GAO Chief Warns Economic Disaster Looms

“Walker can talk in public about the nation’s impending fiscal crisis because he has one of the most secure jobs in Washington. As comptroller general of the United States – basically, the government’s chief accountant – he is serving a 15-year term that runs through 2013….But the backbone of his campaign has been the Fiscal Wake-up Tour, a traveling roadshow of economists and budget analysts who share Walker’s concern for the nation’s budgetary future….Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That’s almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today.

And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.”

Of course it’s ludicrous to speak about the current state of affairs continuing for the next “few decades”, but the interesting point is that the GAO Chief has actually come to believe that he must take his show on the road to the moneyed-classes in this country to get his message across. Evidently the people who hire him aren’t listening…

Paulson re-activates secretive support team to prevent markets meltdown

“Judging by their body language, the US authorities believe the roaring bull market this autumn is just a suckers’ rally before the inevitable storm hits.Hank Paulson, the market-wise Treasury Secretary who built a $700m fortune at Goldman Sachs, is re-activating the ‘plunge protection team’ (PPT), a shadowy body with powers to support stock index, currency, and credit futures in a crash.

…Mr Paulson says the group had been allowed to languish over the boom years. [Ed. note: no it hasn’t, that’s a lie]. Henceforth, it will have a command centre at the US Treasury that will track global markets and serve as an operations base in the next crisis.

…Mr Paulson is not the only one preparing for trouble. Days earlier, the SEC said it aims to slash margin requirements for institutions and hedge funds on stocks, options, and futures to as low as 15pc, down from a range of 25pc to 50pc….The move is so odd that conspiracy buffs are already accusing SEC chief Chris Cox of juicing the markets to help stop the implosion of the Bush presidency.”

Lowering the margin rate means giving the huge players LOTS more money to play with, certainly. But it also–perhaps more importantly–means they’ve been given lots more breathing-room on their margin calls.

And I suspect that’s the principle reason for the move. If hedge funds are facing margin calls that means they’re being forced into a position where they have to sell, and time and again that’s the recipe for a market crash, as the margin calls beget selling which begets more margin calls and more selling.

This is absolutely a desperation move, no doubt about it. Coupled with the uncloseting and knighting of the PPT–which is nothing more than an officially sponsored market-manipulation group–it sounds a strong signal that something is very wrong.

What a strange world our markets have become when indexes can hit new highs and there is such wide-eyed desperation in the ranks that they’re resorting to changing the rules to keep things going. Of course, keep in mind that a host of smart people have been saying that the markets have been playing against a “house edge” for several years now, and many old-timers have left the game altogether.

Oh, and speaking of desperation, this piece is my favorite (and double kudos to Keving at for noting it):

Costello seeks orderly $US withdrawal

“[Australian] TREASURER Peter Costello has called on East Asia’s central bankers to “telegraph” their intentions to diversify out of American investments and ensure an orderly adjustment.Central banks in China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong have channelled immense foreign reserves into American government bonds, helping to prop up the US dollar and hold down American interest rates.

Mr Costello said “the strategy had changed” and Chinese central bankers were now looking for alternative investments.

“Of course you can have an orderly adjustment,” he told reporters. “And what I would recommend is that these matters be telegraphed well in advance. I think we should begin preparing ourselves for it.”

I literally had to laugh when I read this again and realized he was serious. It’s not that “telegraphing” moves is any big deal–heck people do it all the time. But they generally do it AFTER they’ve taken or exited a position. Watch CNBC, whose only purpose anymore is to allow money managers to tell people what they want them to do after they themselves have already done it. Or any stock bulletin board for that matter….

No, the real shocker is that the Australian Treasurer is openly admitting that people are getting trigger happy to dump the dollar. He’s asking these Eastern bankers “hey, can’t you just let everyone else in on your monetary plans”. In effect, he seems to be admitting that the US Dollar is a liability, that no one is looking to the US for monetary guidance anymore, and he’s genuflecting before China to call the shots going forward. In fact if you read the piece, he goes on to kiss a lot of butt, saying how Australia is really a lot closer to China than it is to the Western world, respects it’s unique heritage and culture, etc.

Clearly Costello is switching sides out of fear of a US$ collapse, letting everyone know there’s a new tune to dance to. (And the UAE appears eager to hit the dance floor early).

But ultimately in the contest for desperate statements, the brass ring goes to our own President Elect(?):

China saving too much money: Bush

“US President George W. Bush said today that he hoped China would transform from a country where people “hoard the money they have” into one where people buy large amounts of US products.In an interview with conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Mr Bush said China should become “a society in which there’s consumers. Because now they’re a society of too many savers”.

…”If we can encourage China to become a country of consumers, you can imagine what it would mean for US producers and manufacturers to have access to that market,” he said.”

I can’t even explain where such an asinine statement comes from. China will never go that path because they are fundamentally a different people. Shouldn’t a world leader have at least some inkling of essential, varying cultural characteristics? But then I guess if you’re a NeoCon you’re already suffering under the erroneous assumption that everybody else really wants to be what you want them to be….

But even to make a statement like this must cause world leaders everywhere to roll their eyes. I mean the world already knows that Americans are living on borrowed money/time–now we’re advising the Chinese to do so as well, so that we can continue our spree? The Chinese want the US to collapse! They’d just rather have it happen slowly than quickly… And what are we going to sell them? Their own stuff? I mean I know there are Wal-Marts in China, but let’s face it: one day the troops are going to walk into them and escort the small handful of foreign managers out the door and off to the airport (hopefully) and that will be it. A bloodless corporate coup. After all the only thing non-Chinese about them are the financial coffers!

But regardless, for Bush to even make a statement like this is worrisome. Mark my words: Bush, or/and his administration, are headed for some kind of collapse before the next election comes around. I don’t hold much hope for fundamental reform to come out of this week’s elections, and I don’t doubt an Iranian invasion-gambit is on the table….but however that may be, these people have got “implosion” written all over them.


– now, here are two links to his 2nd and 3rd news strings which are also great reading.   Enjoy.

More News Stringing

And Yet More News Stringing