Friday, December 31, 2010
Personal History: Remembrances
Charles G. O'Connor
Last day of 2010. It was yesterday morning when the message arrived announcing death of an old friend. It was not unexpected. He was almost 94. Nevertheless, I was saddened by the news. Death of someone close to us reminds us of our own mortality. More than that, it makes us think of others who are suffering from sickness and age-related problems. It is not often that a good life ends in a good death.
I went out for a long walk in the forest. Phleger Estate
was cold; the trails were muddy, churned up in places by horseback riders. A few of them rode past. The creek alongside Miramontes Trail was flowing full and strong. I headed west on Miramontes and thought of the late Charlie O'Connor, master mariner. The years when I worked under him in Kolkata, India, and later of his visits when I had the pleasure of showing him parts of California that I love. Took him to Yosemite National Park and to Lake Tahoe. Did what tourists do in the Monterey Bay area -- the 17-Mile Drive; John Steinbeck's old haunts; drove on Highway 1 to the Central Coast. Stopped to admire Bixby Bridge at Big Sur; took one of the tours at Hearst Castle at San Simeon. And, of course, we walked the streets of San Francisco. Charlie never learned to drive but once he accompanied his brother-in-law on a road trip to the west coast. I remembered that I picked him up at the Burlingame Country Club where they were staying as guests of the Giannini family (founders of the original Bank of America) and brought him home for a few days.
Then I heard voices of children. A group of 8-10 year olds, with two adults, were behind me, chattering happily. I struck up a conversation with one of the supervising adults. He happened to be a resident of San Carlos but originally from Scotland. Said that the trails at Phleger Estate were good for training for the Dipsea
footrace. Told him that I had run the Dipsea and the Double Dipsea. Now there is a Quad Dipsea race! We talked about Lake District in the north of England where I had done some long-distance walking.
We came to the junction of Raymundo and Mount Redondo Trails. They went up Raymundo, and I took Mount Redondo. Soon, I could no longer see or hear the kids. I missed them. The walk made me feel better, lighter.
"And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins."
~ Algernon Charles Swinburne
Sunday, December 12, 2010
WikiLeaks Justified? Yes
The Rush to Stop Exposure of Secrets and Lies
It would be naive to expect that the leaks would stop malfeasance by government authorities. But perhaps those in power who had been glibly lying for years and taking advantage of ignorance of the general public about what goes on behind the scenes would be somewhat restrained in their plotting. Maybe not. To be in a position to abuse power is heady, addictive; hard to give up. We can only hope.
The world has changed, not simply because governments find they are just as vulnerable to the acquisition, copying and distribution of huge amounts of data as the music, publishing and film businesses were, but because we are unlikely to return to the happy ignorance of the past. Knowing Saudi Arabia has urged the bombing of Iran, that Shell maintains an iron grip on the government of Nigeria, that Pfizer hired investigators to disrupt investigations into drugs trials on children, also in Nigeria, that the Pakistan intelligence service, the ISI, is swinging both ways on the Taliban, that China launched a cyber attack on Google, that North Korean has provided nuclear scientists to Burma, that Russia is a virtual mafia state in which security services and gangsters are joined at the hip – and knowing all this in some detail – means we are far more likely to treat the accounts of events we are given in the future with much greater scepticism.
Now wheels are churning at full speed to punish Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. The rape charge is full of holes. Major powers, led by America, are out to stop WikiLeaks from releasing additional data. Chances are that they will succeed, at least to some degree. That would be a shame.
Senator Diane Feinstein (D), California, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, Independent-Democrat, Connecticut, both took strong positions against WikiLeaks. These two senators' exist to protect interests of Isreal. It would have been surprising if they did not support persecution of Julian Assange.
Fall 2010 - Wild Mushrooms - Skyline Ridge
The Elusive Chanterelles
Cannot be lack of rains; we got enough. Perhaps the unusually cold temperature that prevailed in the past three weeks inhibited the emergence of wild mushrooms. In the areas where I do my foraging, the pickings have been meager.
During my walks in the woods I have found oyster mushrooms, a few shaggy manes (delicious), but not a single chanterelle. Last season was bountiful. The first chanterelles appeared before Thanksgiving and they continued to be available in February.
Shaggy Manes need to be cooked as soon as possible. They don't keep. David Arora, in his comprehensive book Mushrooms DeMystified
"Well, it is not a bad idea to melt the butter before picking the shaggy manes."
© David Arora - Mushrooms DeMystified
Big Laughing Jim (Gymnopilus spectabilis)
The underside of a Gymnopilus spectabsilis
Unedible. The clusters of Big Laughing Jims look good. But stay away from eating them. Toxic, hallucinogenic.
Skyline Ridge on a December afternoon
Easily accessible, located 1 mile south of Page Mill/Alpine Road and Skyline Blvd (Hwy 35), Skyline Ridge is another preserve of the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD
). Good hiking trails, not too strenuous. And there are a few picnic tables in a grove of trees overlooking Horseshoe Lake.
Robins on a Pine Tree
Ring-necked ducks in Horseshoe Lake, Skyline Ridge
A bench for weary feet
The plaque on the bench
Deer grazing at Skyline Ridge
Friday, December 10, 2010
The Capitulation of Barack Obama
The Great Yielder
On November 4, 2008, at Grant Park, IL, the president-elect said
"But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you."
The crowd roared. We, who watched the stirring scene on television, felt the high hope and elation.
Now, nearing two years after his inauguration, the elation has evaporated. It did not take long for the alarm signals to appear when the president began to court the conservatives and gave ground on every issue that he once spoke of supporting. And he did so without putting up much of a fight. The Republicans smelled blood on the water and mounted vicious attacks on his agenda. The president still gives great speeches but he turned out to be a hollow man. A friend said that the president was afraid of confronting alpha white males. The final straw was his surrender on the Bush tax cuts. His agreement to extend them for two years is a joke. The way things are going, he will cease to be meaningful by that time.
Does that mean that we, left of center Democrats, would rather see a Republican as president? NO. That would be worse; much worse.