Wednesday, August 31, 2005
20 feet of water in the streets of the Vieux Carre
Obviously my hopeful post Monday night proved premature - my home town finally ran out of bullets to dodge. Still defies imagination that a major US city in the 21st century would have to be evacuated for 2-3 months or that a 3 foot shark would be swimming through the streets of New Orleans. Family is thankfully safe, but so frustrating to have so little contact - cell phones from 504 area code are barely working even though family is miles from N.O. now, so only 1 phone conversation since the hurricane.
New Orleans will return of course & presumably with a better levee system for the 2 major canals in town. Read someone in Holland wondering how such a disaster could occur to a city in the West - but we New Orleanians had this mistaken belief that we'd never run out of bullets to dodge. There was plenty of warning of course - 40 years since Betsy & almost 80 since the great flood of 1927 - so reading any bashing of Bush for the city not protecting itself just saddens me. Ultimately the city itself has to take the blame for not improving its defenses.
Have little to add to what's been on the news, but want to leave with at least a partial positive, so here's a post-hurricane eyewitness account of uptown from a Franklin grad
i was able to slip into and out of new orleans yesterday around noon before the police set up their perimeter. the only thing i have to add to the pictures we are all now seeing from the city is that it appears that the uptown area has generally been spared any flooding and with limited exception, widespread devastation. i couldn't get around much because of the massive number of trees, or more accurately, limbs down blocking almost every block of every street, but where i was able to go--from the riverbend area generally down to around nashville--was remarkably dry. i saw one block of one street that always floods with standing water in the street only. by about 2:00 the streets were drying out, and i mean dry to the touch. can't really explain it, although i now understand that new orleans is in fact not a bowl like we've always heard...it is a series of about 13 bowls. seems that the uptown bowl, being further from the lake, didn't flood this time. i suppose that makes some sense. i also saw remarkable little structural damage. my house lost a few roof shingles. i saw around town some siding lost here and there, but really not much in the way of damage. a few trees on houses and cars, but if you didn't have a big tree on the north or west side of your house, you are probably ok from that perspective also.
finally, even if you could now there is really no reason to try to get back into town any time soon. nothing will happen there for a long time.
the devastation elsewhere is really hard to believe. i wouldn't guess that ben franklin would be back next week or maybe the next. just a guess.
if i can get the pictures i took uploaded here, i'll try to forward them along. please feel free to pass this along. i don't have access to my email address book here where i'm currently holed up.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Remembrance of Hurricanes past
Several days later, we visited friends on the west bank & an underpass was still full of water & being used by the residents of Fisher projects were using it as a swimming pool.
Today looking at the images of New Orleans French Quarter on the cable news (pretty amazing that newsmen are so dedicated that they stay in New Orleans throughout the hurricane), it seems that the city has once again dodged a bullet. Hopefully family will be able to return this coming weekend and houses not too damaged.
Well my brother named his first born after Camille, so maybe some other soul will do the same with Katrina (kudos once again to Wikipedia - will have to contribute - for being so au courante even kindly providing a link to WDSU).
Friday, August 26, 2005
Friday Night Dinner Blogging
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Editing down our Emails exchange spurred by Reason's visit to the Creation Mega-Conference:
Was screwing off this morning by delving into your annotated article. Friggin hilarious, but it is deeply disturbing to be reminded how non-rational certain human minds can be. It is one thing to disagree on whether something is factual, but it is an entirely different phenomenon when a human gravitates towards, and clings to some premise simply because he/she finds said premise to be appealing.
I never considered any intrinsic conflict between the idea that evolution put life on this planet.... and the concept of a god and a "will" to create. I still don't. Then again.... concepts such as "the fall" and original sin seem absurd to me.... so no slippery slope concerns on my behalf.
There was a good line in the final article "Instead the conferees were a bunch of decent people trying to make sense of the world and live good lives. The deeply saddening thing is that these decent people have come to believe they have to reject modern science in order to do so."
Some people are able to effectively compartmentalize their irrational thinking, rather than dumping science. I had a quantum physics professor ("intro to quantum physics" class) who told the class he was a christian. I was still searching for a more-conventional (and traditional) world view at that time.... had yet to evolve into my current mode of "non-belief" in anything. His revelation was not at all useful or inspiring for me; subtract ten points.
Non-belief is not equivalent to dis-belief, nor does it equate to skeptical belief (agnostic trap). It's almost functionally equivalent to the buddhist "belief" in the impermanence of all worldly phenomena. I'm not sure that I even endorse the concept of a unified, or collective, reality.
Buddhism also has cause-and-effect as a cornerstone principle, but that causes problems when carried to logical conclusion.
Would classify you as an atheist off this response, though not a devout atheist like the Ginger Haired Yank.
Being a fan of Nietzsche, I somewhat agree with his critique of Buddhism being a laid back anti-life philosophy.
It wouldn't bother me to be classed as an atheist, but I always thought that atheists "believed" that a god does not exist. That would violate my principle of putting a conclusion at the front end of a philosophic inquiry. Dis-belief is equivalent to belief in my book.... and equally undesirable. Perhaps a "devout" atheist has disbelief, and a "jack-atheist" such as myself... has no preference.
My preference is for the jury to remain "out" on virtually every theory. Is that another way of saying that the truth is a function of where you are at on the timeline of existence? Why should reality with a capital "R" remain constant over time?
Whenever you have strong identification with an idea or a theory..... that is a "filter setting" for how information you receive is processed.
Have limited knowledge of Nietzsche.... did have a roommate with a PhD in philosophy, but I forgot those discussions of 35 years ago. The criticism of Buddhism being "non-involved" with life is rather common.... and is applied to other mystical traditions belief systems. If I had to endorse a philosophical doctrine.... Buddhism would be the least onerous for me.
This puts you squarely in the agnostic camp. Didn't think it was possible for anyone to stay agnostic this late in life, but you've proven an exception to my rule.
Is that a good thing, bad thing, or neither.... in your view?
well i had blogged that no one could be an agnostic past their 20's but now that you're a counter example I HAVE to update my thoughts.
Thanks for the link. Seems I had the delusion that "agnostic" only fit those who were uncertain as to the existence of a deity. The definition.com indicated that agnostics can also be comfortably noncommital, or of the opinion that "we can never know for certain..."
Assuming for the sake of discussion that "collective reality" is valid:
To investigate various god and "nature of reality" concepts..... it should be possible to create testable hypotheses and theories. Unless, of course, we have a situation where "god" or gods would not want any life that evolved to sentience to have firm proof of the existence of such a supernatural entity.
And I can even propose several arguments to support that contention. Yup, sounds like we have an agnostic here.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Clean up of old links
This does mean that my one link from an elite blogger is no longer valid, but can't see writing Ted Barlow to go back & make the update for me. Guess there must be some moral to the story like "read the advice of elite bloggers before starting to blog yourself."
Update: fixed all that I could think of & ready to watch Grumpy Old Men with the Ginger Haired Yank - don't hear her laughing at all from the other room.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Having to clean up old links
Sunday, August 21, 2005
7 down - 41 to go
In Clinton's 2nd term the foolish impeachment & effemeral stock market bubble dominated. For Reagan Iran-Contra was the dominant topic for the last half of his 2nd term, but Reagan did have 2 notable achievements in the tax reform act of 1986 (who's benefits have largely though unsurprisingly evaporated since its passage) and the INF treaty. Too young to have memories of Eisenhower, but cannot recall reading of any major accomplishments during either of his terms, and Sherman Adams's mini-scandal was the key topic covered in my Poly Sci class on presidential history for Ike's second term.
Updating my criteria to judge Bush's second term:
- Cutting the budget deficit to 1.8% of GDP. Last estimate I read for fiscal 2005 is $331 Billion which should be ~2.7% of GDP from a high of 3.6% GDP last year. The "conventional wisdom" is that since the Medicare drug benefit will kick in during the calendar year 2006, the deficit should start to increase during the fiscal years 2006-2009 so do not expect the deficit to go below 2.0% of GDP under Bush.
- Approval of the Doha Round. Given how narrow the margin of victory for CAFTA was and the economic insecurity of folks to the Chinese trade deficit and Indian outsourcing, I can't see Bush making a serious attempt at gaining approval the Doha Round. If no serious progress is made before the Hong Kong WTO meeting 4 months from now, then that should sadly be the death knoll for this treaty to pass for years; will not even hazard a guess as to when farm subsidies will decrease to any noticeable degree in the 1st world.
- What can I add to the endless expostulations on Iraq? An average of 79 deaths per month for the past 3 months (May 21 - August 20th). The Iraqi police/military death toll looks to be lower this month than last though still above 200 per month. The constitution is still being negotiated, a difficult effort given that:
"We have a problem here... there is one group who wants a 21st century constitution and there is another group who wants a seventh century constitution," ...."Unfortunately, America is looking at both the groups with the same eye. They just want the draft to be ready on time."
and that the issues still unresolved are: the constitutional role of Islam; women's rights; the distribution of future oil revenues; and the creation of an enormous Shia "superregion" in southern Iraq. (Best 2 commentaries I've read are from the Whiskey bar via TodayinIraq).
Still enjoying the Rusty Nail winnings from my last wager, but will have to nurs my single malt until 2008-2009 when my next wagers come due. Really not sure what would make anyone wager that Osama Bin Laden would be caught, or that the draft will be started anew. Now wagering on troop levels in Iraq being down to 30,000 by 2009 makes more sense, given the lack of popular support for the war. I can easily see Bush declaring victory & cutting our troops to some minimal level, even if I can't tell if the comments about major troop reductions next years are serious or a smokescreen. Have read little to give me confidence that an Iraqi army can maintain security any better than the US army has so far. Only updates on Hillary are Jeanine Pirro's challenge which I expect to be as self-defeating as Rudy's or Vic's.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Friday, August 19, 2005
Friday Night Wine & Rusty Nail Blogging
Enjoying my wager winnings of a bottle of Drambuie & a bottle of 12 year old Balvenine because Air America was still in business on July 27th of this year.
I've never lost a political wager: I know it's a cliché to say "I bet with my head and not my heart" but it's true. A conservative friend wagered that Air America would not be in business a year later; his wager was too late - they had their fiducial problems early on, but by July 27th, 2004 the worst has passed. Also once Bush won the election, that guaranteed enough of a market (hey even Clear Channel gives them a San Diego station) for them to stay in business, so that wager was easy money.
Well the Rusty Nail was fine as was the Raspberry vinaigrette dressing (and the Black Mountain 2003 Zinfandel) on the salad, so hope all out there in the blogosphere are enjoying such a fine meals this evening, and I look forward to winning several political wagers come January 2009!
Vlieland, here I come
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Harry Potter predictions - final year at Hogwarts
- Neville & Luna will start dating. Hadn't seen it coming, but they are the 2 oddball outcasts, so makes sense that they get together.
- Snape will proof to be a good guy after all. Believe Rowling is just fooling us & Snape acted on Dumbledore's orders which is why Dumbledore asked Harry to find Snape & froze Harry on the ramparts. Snape's anger at being called coward was in response to knowing how much will power it took to continue to fool Voldemort & complete his assignment. If not for Buckbeak, he might have told Potter the truth.
- Harry will get to keep snogging Ginny. Was happy that Harry got the girl & the right one this time. By contrast Cho was wimpy & just one of the high school fixations on the wrong girl when the right girl was close out hand.
Funny how fiction will affect you. Remembering being sad that Sharpe's second marriage ended in divorce - though his 3rd marrige finally worked out for him. Now happy that Harry finally got the girl & a bit wistful that his time with Ginny was so short. Can only hope that Harry destroys the horcruxes, kills Voldemort, and ends up with Ginny for a long, happy, and magical life.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
French Laundry was worth it
Part of the fun with meals like this is the expensive. "Hey do you remember when we spent $45 on water? Can you believe our total was over 1G??"
For the food itself - some courses were exquisite & the rest all ranged in the pretty good to good category.
Would never recommend the French Laundry for just a couple - only worthwhile if the experience is shared with friends. Oh, we did all get to keep clothes pins, so guess I can't really say the meal was over priced.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Off on an important mission
Meeting some friends who are taking a 4 day - 6 hour per day wine tasting class from the CIA - made me wonder what you do on break?
Live hard, die young, live a memorable corpse
Enjoyable movie, despite the eulogies to Che in the special features section. One more case of a reputation being helped out by dying young: if Che had survived, he'd probably be viewed as a decrepit relic as Castro presently is.
Perhaps it's unanswerable how a medical student with a social conscience turns into:
Guevara took responsibility for the execution of informers, insubordinates, deserters and spies in the revolutionary army. He personally executed Eutimio Guerra, a suspected Batista informant, with a single shot from his .32(7.65mm) caliber pistol.
Poet and human rights activist Armando Valladares, who was imprisoned at La Cabana, documented Guevara's particular and personal interest in the interrogation, torture, and execution of prisoners.
As a (romantic) icon, Che is more ubiquitous than Castro in Cuba now (per my sister who just returned from a Cuba visit), but if you look back at his accomplishments: he helped a charismatic thug take control of Cuba, mucked around in the Congo accurately recognizing Kabila to be more gold smuggler than revolutionary, and finally died in some half-assed overthrow effort in Bolivia, there's little positive that he accomplished.
By contrast, Alberto Granada is the founder of the Santiago School of Medicine in Cuba so was inspired by his continental trip & leper colony assistance to try to provide improved medical support to the masses, and thus is the true hero of the tale.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging
Just kidding. We're going wine tasting up in Napa this weekend & need to pace ourselves, so tonight we're having Margarita's with Lemon-Lime Kool-Aid!
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Thoughts on dying
Debated whether to post this photos from Will We Ever Arrive At the Good Death? as it's so intrusive. Did not feel comfortable posting the final photo in Suzanne Richardson death series: I realize that she must have given permission to the NYTimes, and millions had to have seen the photo series by now, but some photos are still too private to be shared with the public.
Perhaps it's my 3 surgeries in the past 2 years, but have thought more recently of how I'd like to die and whether I would really take the Maude option if I had a brain tumor or gastric cancer. Easy to say while sitting at the PC blogging and sipping club soda that I'd go up to Oregon and ask for assisted suicide, or husband enough pain pills to help myself along, but can do no more than wonder when not faced directly with a hopeless disease & painful death.
Not sure why, but most of my thoughts have been around where I'd like my ashes spread post-cremation. My home's the road, so what where do my ashes belong. Along Roscomare Road? Off the top of Mt. Whitney? Strewn into the wind just off PCH somewhere between here and San Francisco? Blasted into space to float with Timothy Leary & Gene Roddenbury? Do have the image of my non-existent child hiking somewhere strenuous to shed my ashes as an appropriate ending to my life.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Fine Feel good Oscar winner
Not sure why last year's nominees for best documentary sort of fell in the "feel good" category, while the previous year's nominees were about self-discovery, reflection, and the Vietnam War (2 films riffed off of our war history including the winner). Overall would still rate the 2003 nominees as the best group of documentaries ever, so a tough act to follow for this year's group. Still this film was far more substantive than the other 2 nominees I've seen Weeping Camel (truly a feel good movie) & Super-Size Me (amusing Michael Moore wannabe - seems to be succeeding in that ambition).
This year's winner turned out to be less about "life in the brothels" & more about the narrator's efforts to break the children free of the trap of the brothels - one girl would have been at least the 4th generation prostitute. Didn't keep an exact count, but believe Zara was successful with ½ of the children. Would be curious to do a 7-up style follow up to see how they all turned out.
One thought that did keep coming to mind while looking at the scenes of the poverty in Calcutta & the stacks of papers in some office while the government workers were all typing documents using typewriters was "this is the emerging superpower? We're worried about them stealing our jobs?!?" India still has a long long way to go before they're one of the big boys in the economic playground.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging (Godfather edition)
Francis Coppola presents "Rosso Classic" Cabernet Sauvignon - 2003
It was opening up too much: it need to be a little chilled and now it's perfect - Ginger Haired Yank (post chilling)
This makes up for Finian's Rainbow - Taryl Cabot
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
New New URL
What happened to all the books worth reading?
The latest is Housekeeping which frankly bores me. Saw the movie years again in Seattle & would never have considered reading it if I had not read some outstanding reference in a review of Robinson's latest tome. Just to spoil the film/novel for anyone, the film starts with the narrator's mother's car stuck in the mud. A couple boys help her get unstuck, so she gives them her purse & drives off a cliff. No reason. No background for the character's action, just needed to get her out of the way so the narrator & her sister would end up with their crazy aunt. Only nice touch was the grandfather placing a leaf of a specific type in that page of the dictionary - the narrator's sister turns the book upside down shaking out all the leaves.
Previous disappointments include See Under: Love and Guns, Germs & Steel - oh quit reading The Vulcans book - lots of info about the vulcans in the 70's, but very little insight. Not to mention some cliched military novel that didn't even cut it as a good airplane book. Looking back through previous postings, I see that listening to The Quiet American back in April was the last book I was excited about listening to. Before that....well it was before I started blogging back in December. Damn, have I really read 99.9983% of all the books I want to read? Depressing thought. Almost scared to even start Collapse & be let down once again.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
A bit miffed that the preferred URL "mijmeren" was taken by a blogspotter for 1 entry back in January - damn squatter! Here's hoping that future postings will be worthy of being considered "philosophical musings".
Monday, August 01, 2005
What if Kennedy had lived
So my speculation on how history would have unfolded:
- Kennedy would have fairly easily won re-election against Goldwater - not a good presidential candidate though an honorable man & the country wasn't ready for his conservativism.
- Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam. This of course is why so many are sorry JFK died. Two key differences between Kennedy & Johnson were Kennedy's PT-109 service in the military vs. LBJ's undeserved Silver Star, and the Bay of Pigs invasion. Kennedy proved that he would have been willing to pull the plug quickly if the risks outweighed the rewards.
- Most of the Great Society programs would not have been passed, especially Medicare/Medicaid which are now threatening to bankrupt us. If you look at Kennedy's main accomplishments, they are mostly foreign affairs: Partial Test Ban Treaty, Trade Expansion Act, and Cuban Missile Crises - Kennedy lacked the interest & legislative acumen to push through those programs.
- However I doubt that the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act would have been passed, which must count as LBJ's signature accomplishments.
In the end it comes down to whether the cost of not passing the 14th & 15th amendments into law a second time are balanced by an early withdrawal from Vietnam and the avoidance of expensive government obligations that should never have been undertaken. Considering how costly the Vietnam War was to our nation and how the momentum in our nation was clearly against segregation, I believe that our nation's history would have turned out for the better had Kennedy lived.
Final note - believe Oswald acted alone & view Assassins to be Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece.