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Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanksgiving 2010

BRRR.....Cold and Frosty

But blue sky and plenty of sunshine.  An hour or so of mingling outside in the backyard is part of the Thanksgiving gathering at a friend's house in Palo Alto that I go to.  A wet day would not have allowed that. 

Reading San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Carroll is a ritual I enjoy on Thanksgiving morning. It feels good.  This year he wrote about gratitude and the small things that add up to mean something.
"Gratitude is the antidote. It is a specific against a variety of diseases, from something as vague as the discontents of civilization to something as specific as personal grief - but gratitude is the antidote. Thanksgiving is the holiday of gratitude, and I am always willing to celebrate it.
We are told frequently that "it is what it is." That's a tautology, of course, and an increasingly grating cliche, but it gained prominence because it's a real reminder of a real thing: What happened happened. You can't change the past. All we have is today. See you in the future!
But regret is real. Sorrow and pain and loss - all real.
I sometimes think of civilization or society as a kind of floor, a patchy, rickety floor in constant need of repair. Below the floor is the chasm. Some people know that chasm well - those who have to scrabble to exist in war zones, those who have tried to cope after hurricanes or earthquakes, those who have lost multiple family members simultaneously. For them, the daily comforts of society are of little use. The network of routine, the solace of art, hope for the future - none of it seems real.
Only the chasm seems real.
The chasm is only metaphorical, of course, but sometimes we live our lives entirely within metaphors. Our choice of metaphors is just a matter of taste. There's no right answer on this quiz, kids.
But still we have to get through the day. And, I am convinced, the route through the day is gratitude. Because there is always something to be grateful for, and that something is not in the chasm, floats above the chasm, denies the importance of the chasm.
You choose: sunsets, apples, bedrooms in the morning, Bruce Springsteen, a child's second birthday, the smile on the face of a passing stranger, rivers, mountaintops, cathedrals, Shakespeare, Tina Fey, the curve of a thigh, the curve of a road, the nation of Switzerland, Carl Hiaasen, grass, orange, Bola Sete, jumbo shrimp, Pascal's Theorem, Ockham's razor, clean restrooms, potable water, penguins, French kissing or peanuts.
Can you feel the floor beneath your feet get sturdier? Can you see the holes being patched? For a moment, the bounty of the world overwhelmed you, and you were grateful to be alive at this moment. See? Antidote.
So today, if we are at all lucky, we will gather with family and/or friends and eat food and talk of shared alliances and shared memories. Many Thanksgivings are family gatherings, and family gatherings are often fraught. My suggestion is: Embrace the fraught. You'd miss the fraught if it weren't there."

Scenes from Thanksgivings Past 





Friday, November 19, 2010


The Devils of Wall Street


Rating Agencies - Sleaziness of Corporate Giants

The unholy alliance between large financial institutions, rating agencies, elected officials, and regulatory agencies revealed in fascinating details by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera in  All The Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis

The authors were interviewed 18th by Paul Solomon in PBS Newshour on November 18th.


JOE NOCERA: The astonishing thing about the run-up to the crisis is that this situation was happening all over the country. Lots of people on the ground could see it. And, yet, no one in government, whether it was the Fed, whether it was the regulators, whether it was Congress, was willing to do anything about it. 

And -- and not only that. In some cases, like the bank regulators, they actively pushed back and stopped anybody trying to stop this kind of lending.

PAUL SOLMAN: Is Wall Street any worse than it ever was?

BETHANY MCLEAN: Yes, I think it's worse.

Wall Street, by the very sleaziness and impenetrability of its practices, set up its own run on the bank, because, when push came to shove, there was no transparency. And, even though in -- you can argue that this was a run on the bank, it was a run on the bank created by the way Wall Street did business. So, in the end, they only have themselves to blame.

The Financial Reform Act signed into law by President Obama in June 2010 does very little to restrain the rating agencies from continuing with the sleazy practices.  
Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.
--Edward Gibbon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving * The Political Scene * Wilderness

Just over a week away from Thanksgiving,  a post by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse in 3quarksdaily  caught my attention.

Unlike Halloween, Thanksgiving is a holiday of human significance.  Though it is occasioned by the mythology of Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians, the point of Thanksgiving is not that of rehearsing or commemorating that original event.  In this respect, Thanksgiving differs crucially from other holidays.  The Thanksgiving gathering is not a means to some other end, such as memorializing the signing of a document (July 4th), observing an ancient liberation (Passover), celebrating the birth of a god (Christmas), or honoring the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers in war (Veterans Day).  The point of Thanksgiving is rather to gather with loved ones, to reaffirm social bonds, to enjoy company, and to appreciate the goods one has.  To be sure, the Thanksgiving celebration is focused on a meal, typically involving large portions of turkey and cranberries.  Still, the details of the meal are ultimately incidental.  The aim of the Thanksgiving gathering is not to eat, but to be a gathering.  The coming of people together is the point-- and the whole point-- of Thanksgiving.

 Yes, an unequivocal "Yes".

Return of the Darksiders

They are back. The Bible thumping hypocrites have returned with a bang to take care of their friends in Wall Street and elsewhere.  To be fair,  the last two years have proven that Democratic legislators,too, are in the pockets of lobbyists.  It is a matter of degree. Venality is common among politicians of all parties.   They are creatures of the system.  Still, the fact that Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina failed to win means that Republicans have yet to dominate California.  Certainly reason to rejoice in an otherwise bleak political landscape.


By this time last year, wild mushrooms were emerging everywhere -- the good and the bad (unedible) kinds.  So far, I have not come across any worth picking.  We need rain. There is forecast for rain during the weekend (November 20th/21st).  If we get some heavy rains then chanterelles might begin to appear in December.  In the meantime, walks through the woods are always enjoyable. And we are fortunate to have access to many preserves with miles of trails.

Deer grazing at Montebello
© Musafir
Downhill rider on Canyon Trail, Montebello
© Musafir

Madrone tree at Wunderlich Park, Woodside
© Musafir
Gorgeous Red Maple near Arstradero Preserve
© Musafir
Contrail over eastern sky at sunrise, Nov 16, 2010
© Musafir

The Strong Western Trails
Where Wind Blows Through Empty Limbs
Of Trees Have Tall Tales

---From http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/429464-Haiku-In-The-Wilderness 

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