,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Monday, August 31, 2009


In Afghanistan, A Cruel August for Soldiers

Is TAP or TAPI the real cause for the war * Megrahi * Obama Administration

"August is the Cruelest Month" is the title of a novella by Edna O'Brien. Historically, August has played a role in wars.

As the August of 2009 winds down, reports indicate heavy toll paid by soldiers. Since Americans form largest contingent of NATO forces, more of them have lost their lives (reported to be 47) battling the Taliban. Some call it a war of "liberation". The primary reason was, of course, to crush bin Laden's al Qaeda operating from the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The administration of Hamid Karzai, installed by us as president, is corrupt. Karzai is leading in the recent election but there are allegations of "widespread" fraud. No surprise there, although it is doubtful whether victory of his opponent would mean much of a difference for the people of Afghanistan.

In the meantime, plight of civilians continues to worsen. Fundamentalist Islamic groups are engaged in daily incidents of bombing and killing.

Pakistan, recipient of huge sums of money and weaponry from the United States, is outwardly an ally of America. It,too, has its share of militant Islamic groups who have influence over the populace. The current prime minister, Asif Zardari, was once known as Mr. Ten Percent when his wife, the late Benazir Bhutto, held that position.

The high number of civilians killed in attacks by U.S. drones have not earned us friends.

The NY Times reported on August 27th:
  • Last week, during a visit to Pakistan by Richard C. Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special envoy, Pakistanis told his entourage that America was widely despised in their country because, they said, it was obsessed with finding and killing Osama bin Laden to avenge the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
A mess, and no end in sight. Because of our history of engineering coup d'etats for the benefit of transnational oil companies one cannot shrug off reports about the natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan -- TAPI --being the real cause for America's involvement in Afghanistan. Release of Megrahi as part of a deal between UK and the Libyan Government is a recent example of major powers and the politics of oil.

British Petroleum and Libyan Terrorist Megrahi
  • BP was finally given the go-ahead six weeks after a volte-face by the British government to include Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya under which prisoners could serve out sentences in their home countries. Jack Straw, the justice secretary, revealed this decision in a letter to his Scottish counterpart. He cited “wider negotiations” and the “overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom”.
Jewish Settlements

"U.S. drops demand for Israel building freeze in East Jerusalem" (Haaretz 8-27-09)

Following a now familiar and predictable pattern, the Obama Administration softened its position on construction of settlements by the Israelis.

And so it goes.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Faces in the Line - St. Anthony's Dining Room



"Dining room" is a somewhat grand term but harmless. It sounds good.

It began in San Francisco. Franciscan Fr. Alfred Boeddeker (1903-1994) was the moving spirit behind opening of St. Anthony's Dining Room in 1950.

Now, in addition to San Francisco there is a St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room in Menlo Park. CA 94025, which began serving low-income elderly residents of the Peninsula in 1974 and has grown into a large operation. Monday to Saturday, the door opens at 11:00 AM and meals are served until 1:00 PM to all comers ".....without regard to age, sex, race, religious beliefs, national origin, or disabilities". No questions asked....and no proselytizing.

It has paid staff but depends on volunteers for performance of various duties.

In addition to cash donations from individuals and local businesses, the dining room receives foodstuff from super markets and other stores. St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room has not escaped the fallout from the current state of economy. Cash contributions have suffered as have donations of food items.

But the dining room continues to serve 400-600 people six days a week. It is a clean, bright place. Everyone receives a freshly cooked meal. Service is friendly and courteous.

During my years as a volunteer (since 1992) I have come to know some of the "regulars"; have seen them grow older. Have seen young girls become mothers and come with their children. Inevitably, few of the elderly drop out because of illness or disability; and death takes some of them.

Rieselda, a young Nicaraguan, was one of the regulars. She stood out because she wore colorful berets and she always smiled. She didn't speak English and I don't know Spanish. Didn't matter. It made me happy to see her smiling face in the line. One day she came with an elderly woman and said "Mi Madre". I usually serve the vegetable of the day -- often zucchinis steamed, sprinkled with grated cheese, or in some other form. Not a very popular item. Rieselda was among those who declined it. Then, about two years ago, Rieselda stopped coming to St. Anthony's. I missed her but it was not unusual. And new faces always become a part of the line.

Yesterday, while tending my station at the serving counter I saw a woman wearing a beret in the line. It was Rieselda! Looking older and carrying a baby girl but with her trade-mark smile. I asked where she had been and she said "San Antonio". I was serving zucchinis. The line moved on.
"For double the vision my Eyes do see,
And a double vision is always with me
With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey:
With my outward, a Thistle across my way."
--William Blake

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The End of Summer Feeling

Still a month away but the sense that another summer is rushing past is undeniable. Perhaps it is the re-opening of schools that makes us feel that way....a change in routine, especially for parents with school-going kids. For the first week, or for a few days at least, there is awareness of something different, a yearning for things to stay as they were and then we adjust to the new routine.

Pajaro Dunes, where every August a group of us gathers for a week, was very pleasant. The sun came up every day; it was warm -- unusual. The sky was affected by smoke from the Lockheed fire raging in the Bonny Doon area about 30 miles away. That didn't prevent us from enjoying long walks on the beach or from going out for runs; good food, wine, and conversation. You don't want it to end but, of course, it does.

Building sand castle, Pajaro Dunes, California

Watching shooting stars (Perseid Meteor showers), Pajaro Dunes, California

Cartwheeling, Pajaro Dunes, California

Walkers, Pajaro Dunes, California

Runners, Pajaro Dunes, California

Horseback rider, Pajaro Dunes, California

Sunset over the Pacific, Pajaro Dunes, California

This world--
call it an image
caught in a mirror--
real it is not,
not unreal either

---From Twentyfour Tanka by Minamoto No Sanetomo (1192-1219)
Translated by Hiraoki Sato and Burton Watson, The Country of Eight Islands


Sunday, August 09, 2009


You, Me, and the World in the Evening


Books and Films in the Summer of 2009

"Turning and turning, these summer days, to my regret--think of it, half the year is already gone."
---Fujiwara No Teika (1163-1241) Translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Of course, the late Christopher's Isherwood's "novel The World in the Evening is the source, inspiration, if you will, for the title of this post. Isherwood lived in pre-war Germany for some years and no doubt adapted the name of the newspaper Die Welt Am Abend published by German Communists. A fitting title for Isherwood's book, not as well known as some of his other works. Who can forget Sally Bowles in Goodbye to Berlin which I read long before I came across The World in the Evening.

Now that I am in the evening of my life the name struck a chord. Books are such good companions. Some notable books and films:

The Other by David Guterson
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
An Anthology of Japanese Poetry "From the Country of Eight Islands", Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Movies: Broken Embraces
Nora Ephron's - Julie & Julia

Interesting story, David Guterson's The Other. I liked it but I have a feeling that many readers would not care for the wealthy young man who decided to live in seclusion in a cave....and died there.

Found a review of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in The Guardian (UK) , decided to check it out from the library and got hooked. A friend to whom I recommended the book felt the same way. In Lisbeth Salander, the quirky investigator, Larsson has created a fascinating character. Now there is a sequel -- The Girl Who Played With Fire. It is in demand; it would take a month or so before my name comes up in the library's waiting list. Unfortunately, Stieg Larsson died in 2004 at the age of 50.

Reading An Anthology of Japanese Poems. It is a treasure trove.

Yet to see the movies named above. Nora Ephron's film is in local theaters. Hope to catch it when I return from the coast. I am sure that Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces is not going to disappoint. Together, Almodovar and Penelope Cruz have made great films, and this one has received rave reviews in Europe.

Off to Pajaro Dunes on Tuesday for a week at the beach house that my friend JHL rents every summer. The sun could be absent most of the time but that never prevents us from enjoying ourselves. Long walks on the beach; conversations about politics, food, wine, books, work, families, with the magnificent Pacific only about 50 yards away. One can spend hours just looking out of the window. Plan to run a few times during my stay. As they say "slow as molasses"....that's how I feel on some days when I run. Age catching up. But I always return from a run feeling better than I did when I started out.

Enjoy the waning days of summer, doing whatever that gives you pleasure.

"The years and months, reluctantly parted with at any other time,are cast away in ablutions this summer evening."
---Fujiwara No Teika, translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Buyers Beware - iKitchen.com and Related Sites


Unethical firms: iKitchen.com * homebrands.com * metromarket.com

Duped by iKitchen.com in the summer of 2008 when a Perfex Pepper Mill purchased from iKitchen.com turned out to be defective. Like many others who have had bad experience dealing with this on-line firm, telephone calls and e-mail messages remained unanswered until I received notification that my complaint failed to meet the time limit of 15 days. My first message was sent within a week of receiving the defective product!

Out of curiosity, recently I searched for complaints about this firm and found many. Most of the complaints were about debiting the credit card and then not fulfilling the order.

Before doing business with any of the above-named firms, see the well-researched post by musicom67 in ResellerRatings.com on November 13, 2008

Also check the web site http://www.my3cents.com/productReview.cgi?company=IKitchen.com

Odd that the people involved in running the firm(s) have escaped attention of the NY District Attorney's office. Perhaps considered a small fry, unethical entities like iKitchen.com are not worth the time and efforts required to shut them down.

iKitchen.com and associated companies are aberrations. Majority of the companies that offer products and services on the Internet are reliable.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Stern Grove - Bhangra, Irish Reels and a Musician in Kilt


Kailash Kher * Delhi 2 Dublin

It was a fun afternoon at Stern Grove on Sunday (August 2nd) when the Indian musician Kailash Kher and his group entertained a capacity crowd. Kher's Bollywood version of Sufi music is a far cry from the late maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan but tunes were catchy. The audience loved it and there was good vibration -- a lot of dancing, clapping, and swaying to the music. The weather was just right. We took a picnic lunch and a bottle of red which added to the pleasure.

The Delhi to Dublin quintet performed before Kailash Kher appeared on stage, and did a great job of warming up the crowd. This group of fusion musicians from Vancouver, BC, lived up to the reputation.

Delhi 2 Dublin at Stern Grove

Delhi 2 Dublin

Kailash Kher doing his thing at Stern Grove

A few members from the audience participating on stage

"Music is the universal language"

Music.....it can lift your spirits, help you cope with the daily grind. It can make you tap your heels or get up and dance. It can also make you sad because a certain song can revive memories of a person or place that meant something special.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Back to Yosemite, Jewel of the Sierras


A Hike to the Top of Upper Yosemite Falls

This one is not for those with knee problem. Most of the 2.7 miles trail is built of rocks of different shapes and sizes, hard on the knees both while climbing and descending. Ankles,too, are subject to risk. A twisted ankle halfway up could mean a lot of problems and turn out to be expensive.

Is it worth going up? Yes, especially if you like a challenging hike and great views. If you go, be sure to carry enough drinking water and some food. None available at the top.

A friend invited me to join him on a trip to Yosemite and follow the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail all the way to the top. We did it on Saturday, July 25th.

It took us 4 hours to go up and 3 hours to come down to the valley. Many hikers do it in less time. We started later than we had planned. Earlier start would have allowed us to avoid the mid-day heat. The trail is up and back, not a loop. But for backpackers there are options to continue on to El Capitan and other points from the top of Upper Yosemite Falls.

Great trip except for the crowd. The valley was full of people and cars. The shuttle service is excellent but many visitors drive around and cause traffic congestion looking for parking space at popular sites. It happens every summer. A total restriction on driving inside the valley would be the only solution to this.

Half Dome at sunset from Lower Pines Campground

View of the top of the falls from the starting point

A deer wondering about dumb two-legged creatures

The rocky switchback trail
©Sarbajit Ghosal

Looking down on the lush, green meadow
©Sarbajit Ghosal

Tree line - Nearing the top
©Sarbajit Ghosal

End of the trail -We made it

SG cooling off at a rock pool about 150 yards from the edge

Ready to begin descending

View of Clouds Rest from the trail

Nature's garden alogside the trail near treeline
©Sarbajit Ghosal

Water from the upper falls at the point where the lower part begins
©Sarbajit Ghosal


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