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Thursday, January 31, 2008


The War and Its Toll


After the Surge * Suicides

A year after the much debated troop surge took effect, sectarian violence in Iraq is down. American casualties, while still in double digits, show marked reduction. Good news for sure. That does not wipe out the basic wrongness of the war and the lies used by President Bush and members of his administration to bring it about.

Dana Priest's report in The Washington Post today details the high number of suicides among returning veterans.
The Dead of January

Joshua R. Anderson, 24, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 02, 2008
Ryan D. Maseth, 24, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 02, 2008
Thomas J. Casey, 32, Army Captain, Jan 03, 2008
Andrew J. Olmsted, 37, Army Major, Jan 03, 2008
Menelek M. Brown, 24, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, Jan 04, 2008
Jason F. Lemke, 30, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 05, 2008
James D. Gudridge, 20, Army Specialist, Jan 06, 2008
Timothy R. Hanson, 23, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 07, 2008
Todd E. Davis, 22, Army Specialist, Jan 09, 2008
Jonathan Kilian Dozier, 30, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008
Sean M. Gaul, 29, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008
David J. Hart, 22, Army Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008
Zachary W. McBride, 20, Army Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008
Ivan E. Merlo, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 09, 2008
Phillip J. Pannier, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 09, 2008
Matthew I. Pionk, 30, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Jan 09, 2008
Christopher A. Sanders, 22, Army Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008
Curtis A. Christensen Jr., 29, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 11, 2008
Keith E. Lloyd, 26, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 12, 2008
Danny L. Kimme, 27, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 16, 2008
David H. Sharrett II, 27, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 16, 2008
John P. Sigsbee, 21, Army Specialist, Jan 16, 2008
Richard B. Burress, 25, Army Specialist, Jan 19, 2008
Jon M. Schoolcraft III, 26, Army Specialist, Jan 19, 2008
Justin R. Whiting, 27, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 19, 2008
James M. Gluff, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 19, 2008
Michael R. Sturdivant, 20, Army Sergeant, Jan 22, 2008
Tracy Renee Birkman, 41, Army Sergeant, Jan 25, 2008
Duncan Charles Crookston, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 25, 2008
Robert J. Wilson, 28, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 26, 2008
Mikeal W. Miller, 22, Army Sergeant, Jan 27, 2008
Alan G. Rogers, 40, Army Major, Jan 27, 2008
James E. Craig, 26, Army Sergeant, Jan 28, 2008
Gary W. Jeffries, 37, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 28, 2008
Evan A. Marshall, 21, Army Specialist, Jan 28, 2008
Brandon A. Meyer, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 28, 2008
Joshua A. R. Young, 21, Army Private, Jan 28, 2008

As of today, total number of soldiers who lost their lives in Bush's war: 3942

Source: icasualties.org

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Heaven, Nirvana and a Run up Parrott Drive

Musafir as a Runner

Running through the streets is a good way to become familiar with the neighborhood. There are days when it brings unexpected pleasures.

One day last week I took Randall Road to Clearview, turned left on W. Hillsdale, left on CSM and right on Parrott Drive. Going up Parrott I had no clue where it would end. I wanted to loop back to W. Hillsdale and Clearview. There was a guy on the sidewalk heading in the same direction and I asked where would the road take me. He said "What about heaven". I told him that I didn't want to go that far. Then he said "Nirvana?". Well, nirvana is a state of mind. On most days when I run I'm close to it and that is good enough.

The friendly man stopped and gave me detailed instructions about making a loop which would require getting off the street and running on a half-mile long uphill trail ending at CSM (College of San Mateo) parking lot. From there it would be easy to get back to Clearview bypassing W. Hillsdale Blvd. I told him that I would try it another day.

Yesterday there was a break in the weather. So I ran up Parrott, made a right turn on Bel Aire Road, and a hard right on Tournament Drive which dead ends at the bottom of a slope. It was there that I found the gate to the service road and the trail that went uphill. It was muddy and slippery but I had no difficulty getting to the parking lot and paved roads. Not a long run -- approx. a 3-mile loop from my starting point -- but challenging.

As to heaven, think of those who could be there -- people like G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rev. Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwel and other smarmy champions of moral values. Yuck!
"The introduction to the Mass of the Runner", said the Jesuit seated at the living room window overlooking the the ocean and the dunes, "will be from a passage by Amby Burfoot."

The distance runners of every age strewn on chairs and stairs and floor gave a sigh of assent. They conjured up the figure of the stork-like Burfoot as he won the Boston marathon in 1968.

"I run," the non-running Jesuit read , "because I enjoy it--not always, but most of the time. I run because I've always run--not trained but run."

"What do I get ?" The words of Burfoot, a Connecticut Yankee, came in the Boston accent of the priest. "Joy and pain. Good health and injuries. Exhilaration and despair. A feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of waste. The sunrise and the sunset."

--George Sheehan (Dr. Sheehan on Running)

Friday, January 25, 2008


Art Tatum on a Rainy Friday Night

After watching There Will Be Blood and driving home in the rain I needed to unwind. Have been listening to Art Tatum the past few days. So it was Tatum's "In Private" that I again put into the CD player. Wonderful music. Almost blind, Art Tatum "learned to play by copying piano roll recordings his mother owned, playing by ear by the age of three. Tatum would learn both parts of a piece for four hands by feeling the keys depressed on the piano."

Art Tatum (1909-1956)
Photo credit: npr.org

Art Tatum, Solo Piano - Playlist, "In Private"

"These rare and historic recordings were originally made on a private tape at Art Tatum's home, during his time in California at the end of the forties.
  1. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Barris-Koehler-Moll)
  2. Just A-Sittin' And A-Rockin' (Strayhorn-Ellington-Gaines)
  3. You're Drivin' Me Crazy (Walter Donaldson)
  4. Tenderly (Walter Gross-Jack Lawrence)
  5. Over the Rainbow (Arlen-Harburg)
  6. In a Sentimental Mood (Ellington-Mills)
  7. You Took Advantage of Me (Rodgers-Hart)
  8. She's the Talk of the Town (Livingston-Symes-Neiburg)
  9. She's Funny That Way (Moret-Whiting)
  10. I'll Never Be The Same (Malneck-Signorelly-Kahn)
  11. Night and Day (Cole Porter)"
The critics rave about "There Will be Blood". They see something that JHL and I missed. No question about great acting by Daniel Day Lewis but we found it long and boring.
Past 11:00. Time to hit the sack. Tomorrow is Saturday. More rain, not only tomorrow-- if the weather man is right we're not going to see much of the sun in the next 10 days.

Anyone remembers Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning? He was one of Britain's "angry young men". The novel, published in 1958, was made into a movie in 1960.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Walk in the Woods with a Young Forager

Foothills Park, Palo Alto

A buckeye tree in mid-winter. Come spring it would be full of green leaves and white clusters.
© Musafir

Past middle of January. Yesterday, JHL and I hiked the Los Trancos Trail in Foothills Park. Green but not moist. We need more rain. We sat and had our lunch by the creek about 1.5 miles before the bench dedicated to Lynn Torin, and then continuing on the trail and making a U-turn at the bench to return to the parking lot in the meadow. Reached the parking lot just before 5:00. Darkness had not set in -- a sign that we were over the hump....days getting longer.

Chanterelles and an Ultramarathoner

This morning a group of us went hiking with a young boy to introduce him to wild mushrooms, chanterelles no less. Sunny and clear morning when we left Palo Alto to head south, and it remained so all afternoon. It was a rewarding trip for all of us, especially for Nikhil.

Nikhil's first Chanterelle
© Musafir

Another first timer
© Musafir

Lunch break in a grove of trees
© Musafir
When we came out of the forest on Hwy 9, a runner stopped and asked if we had water. His water bottle was empty. We chatted for a while. Ralph Hirt of Crescent City was on a 25-mile run. Said he ran the Western States 100 (Squaw Valley to Auburn) five times and was going to enter again this year. When I mentioned Gayla Johnson, an ultra marathoner I came to know a few years back, Hirt said he knew Gayla. Gayla ran the Western States 100 four times.

This is what I wrote about distance running on December 4, 2005:
  • For me, it is not a "lonely" experience. Far from it. Of course, there are the occasional hazards and physical problems--aches and pains, pulled hamstrings, and such. Yet, loneliness is not part of my world when I am out on a long run. It is mostly a good feeling, especially when I run on trails in fall, muddy patches notwisthstanding. The changing landscape as the foothills turn into a lush green, the smell of bay laurel leaves, the look of the oak, madrone and buckeye trees never fail to give me pleasure. I don't need an electronic device to listen to music or news when I run. I feel close to nature; I feel at peace with the world.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


A New Beginning

San Mateo, California
  • A city in western California southeast of San Francisco. Named by a Spanish expedition in 1776, it was the center of a Mexican colony from 1822 to 1846. Population: 96000 (apprx).
Quite different than the city 25 miles to the south in which I spent the last 13 years. Prettier, scenic; there are more trees. And there are other differences. No cookie cutter housing projects, not in the area where I live. Homes are older, larger. I no longer see students walking to schools. There are children in the neighborhood but they are driven to school and back by their parents. Certainly more quiet. But if one finds that there is no garlic for the pasta sauce there is no need for panic. Less than half a mile down the hill there is a small shopping center that has a Safeway store. It also has a good Chinese (Hunan) restaurant and one of those ubiquitous upscale coffee shops.

Looking east out of my window on a foggy morning
© Musafir

Like the quietness and the scenery but there are certain things about my old neighborhood that I miss. For one, I cannot step out of the door and chat with a neighbor. And I have more friends in that part of the valley who are important in my life. Then there are my daughters and their families. In this part of the world a distance of 15 or 20 miles means nothing and, yet, there is no denying the fact that I am further away from them.

Owners of the house graciously allowed me space in their garden to grow sweet peas and for planters containing herbs that I use for cooking. The netting for sweet pea vines is in place and the seeds are in the ground. Now , if snails can be stopped from destroying the young shoots the flowers will bloom in March. Some years back when I hiked the DalesWay from Ilkley to Inverness in England, I passed a nursery that had a sign which read "Sweet Peas are now ready for planting". It was the middle of May!

Decisions to relocate are hard to make. In my case it was not absolutely necessary but, rightly or wrongly, I decided that it was time to move. The process itself can be very stressful. Good friends came to my aid.

It was a clear, crisp morning, temperature around 60 deg. F (16 deg. C) when I went for the first run from my new quarters. Had run on Crystal Springs Road in the past but not as a resident of San Mateo.

Went down Parrott, turned right on DeAnza, passed the shopping center and I was on Polhemus Road heading east. About two miles further Polhemus meets Crystal Springs Road and one can go right toward El Camino Real or left toward Skyline and the six-mile long Sawyer Trail which meanders along the Crystal Springs Reservoirs. I went left but not all the way to Skyline. On the return leg, going up Parrott was hard but it was a short stretch, less than half a mile.

Researching San Mateo on the web I came across an interesting item.

The Episcopal Church of St. Matthew, Consecrated May 23,1866

Original Episcopal Church of St. Matthew
© Episcopal Church of St. Matthew

© 2006 Steve Whittaker - http://www.episcopalstmatthew.org/

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in San Mateo, California is one of the oldest stone churches west of the Mississippi. Its history begins in 1864 when the village of San Mateo had a population of 150 people, 25 houses, a railway depot, Roman Catholic Church, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and a grocery store. To the north was San Francisco and Grace Church, now Grace Cathedral. There were several Episcopalian families in the area, and the Reverend Giles Alexander Easton arrived from San Francisco to conduct the first Episcopal services on April 24, 1864, in the local schoolhouse.

"Eternity is an infinite extent of time, in which every event is future at one time, present at another, past at another."
-- Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Dagobert D. Runes

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Call for Impeachment by a Former B-24 Pilot

The Bush-Cheney Regime

Excerpts from Washington Post

But what are the facts?

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.

The above is from an opinions column by George S. McGovern. Those of you who are not familiar with George McGovern of S. Dakota, he served two terms in the House of Representatives; he spoke out against the war in Vietnam, and -- unlike Bush and Cheney who avoided Vietnam -- McGovern flew 35 missions in World War II. He was the Democratic Party's nominee in the presidential election of 1972. He lost to Richard Nixon in a landslide. Richard Nixon was forced to leave the presidency in disgrace but that is another story.
It is unlikely that Bush and Cheney will face impeachment proceedings because majority of our elected representatives lack courage and honesty needed to face this issue.

Not a citizen 1972, I could not vote for George McGovern, but I contributed to his campaign. The fact that he received more votes than Nixon in San Francisco County made me feel good.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


American Politics - The Taboo against Tears

Some Americans have a thing about display of emotion by political candidates. To them it is a sign of weakness! The reasoning is that if a person becomes emotional in public then he or she will be not be able to deal with crises and, therefore, unfit to hold political office. It is a load of crock.

The media ran with the story and pictures about Hillary Clinton who became teary on Monday while speaking at a roundtable discussion at a coffee shop in Postmouth, New Hampshire.

She is not my favored candidate but her appearance at the roundtable discussion on Monday certainly did not lower my opinion of her.

Other political candidates were subject to ridicule and criticism in the past for becoming emotional. Edmund Muskie and Pat Schroeder come to mind. One would think that in today's America voters with such Neanderthal attitudes are in the minority. Let's hope so. We do not need more lying bullies like the ones now holding high offices.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


A Sunday Morning in January

Cold and wet. We were wondering if we were going to get enough rain to avoid drought in the summer months. The rains came......and how! Friday, the 4th, was a howler. It rained and it rained.

San Francisco Chronicle
"This was the worst," National Weather Service forecaster Will Pi said of Friday's deluge, which dropped nearly 8 inches of rain on the wettest locations, dumped at least 2 inches on many Bay Area cities and brought 100-mph winds to the most exposed peaks.

"It had better be the worst."

There will be showers Saturday and Sunday, Pi said, and another storm is expected to roll through the Bay Area on Tuesday. None of it will compare to Friday's storm, Pi said, which knocked out power to 1.3 million Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers in Northern California.

The current forecast is for rain and showers the next five days. Bad news for commuters who will have to go back to work on Monday. On the positive side, the streams will be running in force and reservoirs will be full. Walks through the woods will mean negotiating muddy patches, fallen branches of trees, and even mud slides. Two years back part of the Los Trancos Trail in Foothills Park (Palo Alto) got blocked by mud. But dry or muddy, walking on trails is always a pleasant experience.

Presidential Election Campaign

Iowa sent shockwaves through the campaigns of both parties. It was not Obama's victory but third place for Hillary Clinton that surprised many. Personally, I was happy that John Edwards came out second although I doubt that it would take him anywhere. For one thing, he is running out of money.

Those who wrote about Mike Huckabee's growing numbers in Iowa were right. Republican contenders are now taking their gloves off. New Hampshire will be down and dirty. Last chance for John McCain to reclaim lost ground.

Not only Huckabee, the ordained Baptist minister, all Republican candidates will mention God. For them it is de rigeur. And all of them will talk about their qualifications to defend us from evil terrorists. Some people will believe them.

Back in the 70's, a collection of British cartoonist Mel Calman's sketches was published under the title "My God, A look at the day-to-day difficulties of being God". Here is one that I like.

© Mel Calman
Bach and Brubeck

For me Sunday mornings mean music. Bach, of course, and some jazz. Dave Brubeck's Take Five can make it easy to forget the politicians and their empty promises. I have the classic LP issued by Atlantic in 1972 -- The Dave Brubeck Quartet "Last Set at Newport" with Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax, Alan Dawson, drums, Jack Six, bass.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


A New Year Begins

A Heartwarming Movie and A Classic on Video

The celebrations are over. Those who are not sleeping off last nights excesses -- the almost enforced gaieties -- it is time to take stock. For most of us it would be just another year. Nothing wrong with finding pleasure in things that we routinely do. For some there will be momentous events -- falling in or out of love, births, weddings, career changes, and....yes, losses. All very normal as we go through life.

Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

---Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Translated by Edward Fitzgerald)

Juno (2007)

This film by Jason Reitman was an unexpected pleasure. Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff put in a stellar performance. She might not succeed in bagging the Oscar but she will be remembered. Don't miss it.

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Sydney Pollack's film was prescient. That was what I thought while I was watching it on video. Released in 1975, the film brings to life rogue elements in the CIA and their nefarious activities about oil,Middle East and Venezuela.

Think of Bush's war and news stories that have appeared over the last five years. Does not take much of an imagination to picture the neocons dreaming about oil and domination of the Middle East, and the opportunity that fell into their laps when fanatic Islamic jihadis struck us on 9/11. While the country was in shock the neocons ran with it and turned war games into reality. And the CIA helped them do it.

The film was based on James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor". I read the book after watching the film in the 70's. The film script was a vast improvement over the original novel. Robert Redford perfectly fitted the role of Joseph Turner, a low-level CIA analyst who accidentally became the prey of killers let loose by his employers. Faye Dunaway looked toothy and sexy, and the great Max von Sydow very believable as a hired assassin.

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