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Sunday, March 27, 2011


Spring 2011 - Cherry Blossoms


Cherry Blossoms and a Zebra-striped Camel in San Mateo, CA.

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival began in the nation's capital on Saturday. The pictures in Washington Post made me look out of the window.  The flowering cherry tree in the neighbor's front yard is now bare of the blossoms; they did not survive the  rain storms of the past two weeks. Here are pictures that I took more than a month ago when the blossoms were at their best. 

Parrott Ave, San Mateo, CA, #1
© Musafir 

Parrott Ave, San Mateo, CA, #2
© Musafir 

Parrott Ave/Tournament Dr, San Mateo, CA
© Musafir

Parrott Ave, San Mateo, CA
© Musafir

The Zebra-striped Camel

Made of fiber-glass or some such material, it makes some motorists and passers by stop and take a look. When I took the picture it was still dressed up for Christmas.

Parrott Ave, San Mateo, CA
© Musafir

A week past Spring equinox, the weather still feels wintry.  Unusual.  We have had enough rains to fill the reservoirs and snow packs in the Sierras are at record levels.  There is no longer threat of drought during summer. There were glimpses of blue sky earlier this morning. Now, nearing 11:00 A.M. the sky is a dull gray.  Forecast for next week, however, promises warmer, sunny days.  It would feel good to walk in the woods and look for emerging wild flowers.

 A Rainy Day Poem by William P. Haynes

I wish I had a poem for a rainy day
when the raindrops pelt against the metal
of the AC and the hum of a car's engine is
the only sound breaking the day's silence.

I should be dreaming of sleep or sleeping with
dreams or writing to Olga wondering what types
of stuffed animals she collects.

Maybe rainy days are only wistful things for dreamers
and poets? Maybe I need a Diner in my life and a highway
to leave it near. Life can be mysterious like a sudden phonecall
when you're thinking if Russia is closer than Mars and if parts of
Canada are really south of the United States?

I wish I had a poem that was as blue as your eyes
or as quiet as a raindrop
If not I'm going to have to invent one.

© William P Haynes


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


"Blood Money" - A Bribe By Any Other Name


The Power of Money  

Back room negotiations about CIA employee Raymond Allen Davis resulted in his release by Pakistani Authorities. Reportedly, $2.34 million was the price. Described as "blood money", it was a pittance compared to the money spent to keep Pakistan on our side. No one will know how much was paid to Pakistani officials to grease the skids. The mullahs and their followers will scream. But perhaps they,too, got their share.

Babar Dogar, Associated Press

LAHORE, Pakistan — A CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistani men was freed from prison on Wednesday after the United States paid $2.34 million in "blood money" to the victims' families, Pakistani officials said, defusing a dispute that had strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.

In what appeared to be carefully choreographed end to the diplomatic crisis, the U.S. Embassy said the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the killings on Jan. 27 by Raymond Allen Davis. It thanked the families for "their generosity" in pardoning Davis, but did not mention any money changing hands.


Sunday, March 13, 2011


Automation, and Jobs - The Moving Finger


Garbage Collectors and Bankers

Jobs, jobs, where are the jobs?  The statistics for jobless Americans continue to be depressing.  Not only signs of improvement are few but also reports that some among the current unemployed will never find work.  

Oddly, those who played a major role in the economic slump of 2008 -- the movers and shakers on Wall Street -- are doing fine.  None were punished for manipulating the financial markets. They continue to prosper.

Looking out of the window,  on the weekly garbage collection day I used to see the lumbering trucks go through the neighborhood.  Each truck had an operator and a  helper who positioned the garbage containers alongside the curb so that the grabbing mechanism controlled by the operator could lift and empty them into the cavernous belly of the truck and lower the empty container for the helper to place them back on the curb.

Late last year, garbage collection (waste disposal) contracts were awarded to a large company.  New, highly automated equipment were introduced.  Now, I no longer see helpers;  the operator maneuvers the grabbing mechanism from inside the cabin to access the containers alongside the curb, lifts, empties, and repositions them.  No clue how many trucks are used by the county.  But I assume the helpers lost their jobs.  Since the new contractor now serves counties throughout this area, the helpers are not likely to find work unless they retrain -- easier said than done.  Retrain for what?

In the meantime, garbage collection fee paid by homeowners has been increased.  Interesting item in SJ Mercury News about what happened in Pacifica, CA, when a homeowner fought the system.

Pacifica resident wins settlment against trash hauler

Residents will have the right to protest upcoming trash service fee increases in Pacifica, thanks to a lawsuit settlement won by a local resident who challenged the city's no-bid contract with Recology.
Longtime waste hauler watchdog Lionel Emde complained that trash service ratepayers were getting ripped off when the city approved a 17-year no-bid contract with Recology in February 2010. The waste and recycling company quickly imposed a 5 percent rate hike, and the city got a $100,000 bonus "assignment fee." Pacifica's general fund was guaranteed annual franchise fees amounting to an 11 percent take of Recology's gross income. Pacificans' garbage fees are already among the highest in San Mateo County.

One can think about a price for progress.  In today's world automation has become a fact of life; it increases margins of profit for businesses, and in many instances mean efficient service.  There are exceptions, of course.  Just call customer service department of an utility company when you have a problem and then go through the frustrating, experience of  pushing buttons on the key pad, and long waiting time to speak to a live person.  If you get disconnected during the process, take a deep breath and start from scratch.  How do we measure the effects of lack of human touch? 


Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Death and Taxes


Good Life, Good Death 

This year, the deadline for filing tax returns is April 18th, an additional three days due to April 18th being observed as President Washington's birthday. Bear in mind that the "deadline" is based on the post-mark, not date of receipt by the IRS.

Tax cheaters abound.  Death is unavoidable. But a "Good Death" is experienced by few. For those who live long and become infirm, it is often a slow, degrading process.  Reading about Lucidending made me think of those within my circle of friends friends who died in the past twelve months. I  lost four of them.  Three of them died of cancer, one of whom declined to go through traditional medical procedures. Her decision didn't mean a quick end. Despite drugs for relief of pain and care provided by local hospice, her quality of life drastically deteriorated. She was a resident of the United Kingdom and made it clear that given a choice she would have opted for a quicker, dignified death.

Motto of the now defunct Hemlock Society

Strange, the legal obstacles to let terminally ill people have the choice to call it quits! Citizens of the State of Oregon deserve praise for the landmark legislation -- Death With Dignity Act of 1997 which permits Oregonians to do so. The act survived efforts by the Bush administration to overturn it.

The State of Washington passed an act in 2008, RCW 70.245. Based on the Oregon legislation, it is now under attack from conservatives who have introduced a bill to require that death certificates of those who elect to seek an end to life under the act to include: ".......... cause of death to be recorded as assisted suicide for purposes of the death with dignity act."  It would be interesting to follow developments.  

"In 2009, Montana Supreme Court in Baxter vs. Montana ruled in favor of the plaintiffs to allow terminall ill patients to seek physician's assistance in dying.  Recently, efforts to ban patients from doing so suffered a defeat when  Montana's Senate Judiciary Committee  voted against House Bill 116 ".......which would have restricted competent, terminally ill patients from requesting medication from their physicians to hasten their deaths."

Other states are considering legislation based on the Oregon model.  However, in the face of opposition by ‘right-to -lifers’, religious organizations, and vested interest groups (medical service providers), progress is going to be slow. And enactment of such laws in all 50 states will remain unattainable in the foreseeable future.  


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