Saturday, February 21, 2009

Snowflakes on the Window

I grew up in Michigan. As the seasons deepened, snow crashed against our windows. I learned that every snowflake has its own unique pattern, one of the miracles in this world of ours.

None of us knows why this is true.

But I know this much. If you happen to be in a place where the snow falls, and if you pay careful attention, you will see what I see.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Emerging Patterns, Disappearing Patterns

Clay, sand, water and wind are locked in a never-ending performance at the edge of this continent. The outcome of their synergy changes daily. So despite the vivid beauty these patterns displayed today, they will be gone, altered, replaced by new patterns tomorrow.

Far overhead, an enormous jumbo jet rode the updraft from the Pacific, ascending tens of thousands of feet on its voyage toward Asia. Closer to the beach a flock of seagulls was cackling. Offshore, a set of the huge waves surfers long for gave way to smaller swells.

The tide was retreating, leaving stones, shells, seaglass, and other gems on the sand. For now the patterns I was photographing were safe.

It is at moments like this that the fragile nature of art and life begins to overwhelm me. There is literally nothing I can do to save any of the beauty I see around me. It all will pass.

My imperfect photos and even more imperfect words will remain for a while until they too dissolve into dust, even as new patterns appear on the beach, and new eyes arrive to worship them.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Five Dollars

Tonight's post violates the spirit of yesterday's, but there you have it. A different day, a different objective.

It was time for my driving student to take to the freeways of the Bay Area and learn how to enter, merge, change lanes, avoid trucks, and exit -- all of which present challenges to a relatively inexperienced driver.

Seemed like every challenge she could have faced did in fact occur. I tried to convince her to head south on 280 but she freaked out, understandably, when upon her first attempt to merge, she found herself in one of those "how the hell do I do this?" situations.

She chose, wisely, to exit, and retreat to a more familiar route we've often taken south, El Camino Real.

We had determined, beforehand, that we were going to eat lunch at an Afghan restaurant. So, upon considering the options, we decided to go across the Bay to Fremont to the fantastic Salang Pass Restaurant.

This is the appetizer we ate: aushuk. Ever since I read Marco Polo's account of his trek to China, the better part of a thousand years ago, which passed through the village where I lived in Afghanistan in the Peace Corps, I have been fascinated by how what the Italians call ravioli and the Chinese call dumplings represent foods along a continuum that runs west to east, with local variations all along the way, including this dish, pictured above.


The good news is that on our way back, my student drove all the way. She successfully merged onto 880, crossed the Bay on the San Mateo Bridge, and drove north on the dreaded 101 all the way to my neighborhood -- merging, changing lanes, exiting -- and finally landing us back exactly where we had begun.

It seemed like years had passed, not hours, and I don't know why. But I do know this much: If you are interested in the history of food, you need to taste aushak.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Four Dollars

Howard Davidowitz, a leading expert on finances, predicted today that the lifestyle Americans have grown used to is undergoing a "permanent" transformation -- downward.

When working at a conventional job, I drove my car, a Saturn, which GM announced yesterday is being orphaned from now on, burning fossil fuels for an hour and a half, and shopped for groceries in supermarkets, often spending $100 at a time, in order to stock up for days at a time.

Now, I am developing a new habit. I walk about as long as I used to drive, and I shop in the little Mexican markets that pepper this part of the city. When you walk, you tend to buy less -- only what you can carry.

It follows that you waste less.

Tonight's haul -- choirizo, baby bok choi, tomatillos, ginger -- cost ~ $4. Other possible parts of the meal -- potatoes, garlic, onions, rice -- I have on hand.

Things that tempted me but I left for another day included okra, Mexican onions, cut cactus, and tiny eggplants.

This is no big deal here, just a tiny personal experiment to reduce my costs and lighten my carbon footprint. It's also fun, supporting my penchant to continue trying new foods.

Slightly further away, in Japantown, along Clement Street, or in the Richmond, there are Asian markets with tons of other locally grown foods. One thing I now have that used to be in short supply is time, so I can go to these neighborhoods and diversify my diet, also for far less money than at the supermarket.

If Mr. Davidowitz is correct, these types of changes should soon become, not optional, but mandatory if we are to stay afloat. Even then, so much more will be necessary. Collective living units; no large cars or trucks; many fewer gadgets.

More on that later.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scientists Predict Where bin-Laden is Hiding

At the end of 2001, the U.S. military briefly had Osama bin-Laden cornered at Tora Bora in Eastern Afghanistan. He got away, and his whereabouts ever since have remained a mystery.

The U.S. government has long had a huge price on his head ($25 million), and every intelligence agent in the employ of the U.S. knows that he or she would be a legend for all time if their work could break this case.

But there has not been any effective hint of bin-Laden's whereabouts for the past seven-plus years. Which is precisely what makes today's news so intriguing.

Recently, scientists whose specialty has been how to pinpoint the movement of wild animals, especially endangered species, used several theories to come up with their hunch as to where bin Laden has been hiding since he fled from Tora Bora.

These scientists say they rely on "two principles used in geography to predict the distribution of wildlife, primarily for the purposes of designing approaches to conservation. The first, known as distance-decay theory, holds that as one travels farther away from a precise location with a specific composition of species — or, in this case, a specific composition of cultural and physical factors —the probability of finding spots with that same specific composition decreases exponentially."

In their study, published online today by the MIT International Review, the geographers report that "simple facts, publicly available satellite imagery and fundamental principles of geography place the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. in one of three buildings in the northwest Pakistan town of Parachinar, in the Kurram tribal region near the border with Afghanistan."

Read a summary of their report here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Greatest Writer in This World Visits Jerusalem (גדולי כותב בעולם הזה ביקור ירושלים)

The great Haruki Murakami, our best living novelist, went to Israel recently to accept yet another literary award. As is customary for him on such occasions, he gave a very, very brief speech. This is not a man who seeks the limelight. But in its brevity his speech contained a wisdom that could change our world.

I hope that Israelis were listening.

So I have come to Jerusalem. I have a come as a novelist, that is - a spinner of lies.

Novelists aren't the only ones who tell lies - politicians do (sorry, Mr. President) - and diplomats, too. But something distinguishes the novelists from the others. We aren't prosecuted for our lies: we are praised. And the bigger the lie, the more praise we get.

The difference between our lies and their lies is that our lies help bring out the truth. It's hard to grasp the truth in its entirety - so we transfer it to the fictional realm. But first, we have to clarify where the truth lies within ourselves.

Today, I will tell the truth. There are only a few days a year when I do not engage in telling lies. Today is one of them.

When I was asked to accept this award, I was warned from coming here because of the fighting in Gaza. I asked myself: Is visiting Israel the proper thing to do? Will I be supporting one side?

I gave it some thought. And I decided to come. Like most novelists, I like to do exactly the opposite of what I'm told. It's in my nature as a novelist. Novelists can't trust anything they haven't seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands. So I chose to see. I chose to speak here rather than say nothing.
So here is what I have come to say.

If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.

Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.

I have only one purpose in writing novels, that is to draw out the unique divinity of the individual. To gratify uniqueness. To keep the system from tangling us. So - I write stories of life, love. Make people laugh and cry.

We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs. We have no hope against the wall: it's too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us - create who we are. It is we who created the system.

I am grateful to you, Israelis, for reading my books. I hope we are sharing something meaningful. You are the biggest reason why I am here.

I love this man, and his writing so much that my prayer is that Isrealis really listen to him and finally tear down the wall to embrace their brother and sister eggs, the Palestinians, once and for all, in peace.

It is thus written, in God's book.


הגדול Haruki מוראקאמי, כמיטב החיים מחבר רומנים, עבר לאחרונה לישראל כדי לקבל עוד פרסים ספרותיים. כפי שנהוג עבור אותו על מקרים כאלה, הוא נתן מאוד, מאוד קצרה בדיבור. זה לא גבר המבקש את אורות הבימה. אבל את קוצר חוכמה כי היה יכול לשנות את העולם.

אני מקווה כי הישראלים היו מקשיב.

Novelists אינם היחידים אשר לספר שקרים - פוליטיקאים עושים (מצטער, מר נשיא) - וכן דיפלומטים, גם. אבל משהו מבחין את novelists של אחרים. אנחנו לא נמצא לדין שלנו: אנחנו משובח. והחלק של שקר גדול יותר, כך שאנו מקבלים לשבח.

ההבדל בין שקרים שלנו ואת שקרים שקרים שלנו היא לעזור להוציא לאור את האמת. קשה לתפוס את האמת במלואה - כדי להעביר לנו את זה בדיוני ממלכה. אבל קודם אנחנו צריכים לברר היכן האמת נמצאת בתוך עצמנו.

היום, אני אגיד את האמת. יש רק כמה ימים בשנה, כאשר אני לא לעסוק לספר שקרים. כיום הוא אחד מהם.

כשהייתי ביקש לקבל את הפרס, הייתי מזהיר מפני מגיע לכאן בגלל הלחימה בעזה. שאלתי את עצמי: האם ראוי לבקר את ישראל לעשות דבר? אקבל תמיכה בצד אחד?

נתתי את זה קצת מחשבה. ואני החלטתי לבוא. בדומה למרבית novelists, אני רוצה לעשות בדיוק ההפך ממה שאני אמר. זה הטבע שלי, כמו מחבר רומנים. Novelists שום דבר לא יכול לסמוך הם לא ראו עם העיניים שלהם או נגע עם הידיים שלהם. אז בחרתי לראות. בחרתי לדבר כאן ולא אומר כלום.
אז הנה מה יש לי לבוא להגיד.

אם יש חזקה, גבוהה ואת הקיר ביצה כי שבירות נגדה, לא משנה עד כמה הזכות הקיר או כיצד לא נכון את הביצה, אני עומד בצד של ביצה.

מדוע? כי כל אחד מאיתנו הוא ביצה, ייחודי הנשמה מגודר בתוך ביצה שביר. כל אחד מאיתנו הוא גבוה מול הקיר. הגבוהים הקיר היא מערכת שבה כוחות לנו לעשות את הדברים שאנחנו לא רואים לנכון לרוב לעשות כפרטים.

יש לי רק מטרה אחת בכתב רומנים, כי היא להוציא את ייחודי תאולוגיה של הפרט. כדי לגרום נחת רוח ייחודי. כדי לשמור על המערכת מפני tangling לנו. אז - אני כותב סיפורי חיים, אהבה. לגרום לאנשים לצחוק או לבכות.

כולנו בני אדם, אנשים, שביר ביצים. אין לנו תקווה כנגד הקיר: זה יותר מדי גבוה, כהה מדי, קר מדי. להילחם על הקיר, אנחנו חייבים להצטרף הנשמות שלנו יחד במשך חמימות, כוח. עלינו לא נתנו לנו את מערכת הבקרה - צור מי שאנחנו. זה אנחנו שיצר את המערכת.

אני מודה לך, הישראלים, על קריאת הספרים שלי. אני מקווה שאנחנו חולקים משהו משמעותי. אתה הכי גדול סיבה למה אני כאן.

אני אוהב את האיש הזה, עם כל כך הרבה כותבים כי התפילה שלי היא כי Isrealis באמת להקשיב לו ולבסוף להרוס את הקיר לאמץ את אחי ואת אחותי ביצים, הפלסטינים, אחת ולתמיד, בשלום.

זה כתוב כך, באלוהים של הספר.

What, you think I don't know Hebrew?

Taking Stock of It (לוקח מניות של זה)

It must be a throwback to when I lived in places that had real storms -- Michigan, Florida, Maryland -- but as soon as there was a break in the rains that have been pummeling us for days now, I went out to buy cans of food.

Large cumulus clouds are usually a rarity hereabouts, but for now, an every day occurrence. The sky's dramatic, dark, foreboding.

I am entirely alone on this day. For two hours, I watched YouTube videos -- Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash -- lots of my old friends.

Then I started working -- posting writings, photos, tweets.

That's right; I finally broke down and joined Twitter. It's fun! Another forum for connecting.

After this blog post, I'm gonna try and finish that book (The Three E's) and publish it. If I succeed, I'll be back to provide a link to it. It will be on sale for $2.85 but I'll make sure you can also read it for free -- that's one beauty of self-publishing.

Wandering through my town today, going into the Dollar Store and a couple Central American markets, I started lusting for papaya. On all of my trips to Mexico and Hawaii, not to mention the South China Sea, I've eaten tropical fruits so delicious that just the memory makes my tongue wet.

Sensuality. The sun crashed through those clouds, illuminating every thought and impulse. A pretty girl, Chinese, handed me change after my purchase.

"Not today?" She was referring to my decision to eschew the papaya, which she had kindly guided me to (it was hiding.)

My mouth started to open but my blue eyes (like those of a "ghost," my Japanese friend tells me, "scary") just gazed into her dark brown ones and I lost my train of thought.

How do some people become so beautiful? Their skin, their hair, their eyes just emit a light that rivals the sun's. But, of course, I am an old man now, and I forget that when they look at me, these young girls feel a mixture of -- what? -- pity, condescension, compassion, regret, disgust, fear?

Certainly not desire.

Not one to be a dirty old man, my thoughts are pure. These angels are like special visitors who populate my inner world for but a few moments, lighting the corners where my voices go.

The voices speak, calming me or making me suddenly urgent. I randomly yet constantly imagine my own death. "Passing away," as they say. "Lift off," I would say if I were a believer.

Hell, maybe I'll rediscover God one of these days. It's not like I don't like the Bible, at least the Old Testament. I've done my share of begetting, haven't I?

So, do you sense what is happening here, dearest reader? Do you recognize the game I am playing, with you, my willing conspirator. I'm avoiding the hard work of editing that book I mentioned above.

Well, it's not much of a book, really. More of a bookie. A little thing, modest in size and scope. But, looked at in a certain light, from a certain vantage, as pretty as the girl in the market, and just as unobtainable, sure to vanish even as the storm resumes.

"The Old Man & the Seaglass" (Who's that to my left? Mini Me.)

מישיגן, פלורידה, מרילנד - אבל ברגע שהיה הפסקה הגשמים כי כבר pummeling לנו עכשיו במשך ימים, יצאתי לקנות פחיות מזון.

תלולית גדולה עננים הם בדרך כלל דבר נדיר hereabouts, אך לעת עתה, על כל יום המופע. הדרמטית של השמים, כהה, חשש מהבאות.

אני לגמרי לבד ביום זה. במשך שעתיים, צפיתי YouTube Videos - Emmylou האריס, Tammy Wynette, ג 'ורג' ג 'ונס, שחרור מבעית, וילי נלסון, דולי Parton, ג' וני מזומן - הרבה חברים שלי.

אז התחלתי לעבוד - פירסום בכתבי, תצלומים, tweets.

That's right, אני סוף סוף התקלקלה והצטרפה לצפצף. זה כיף! פורום נוסף עבור חיבור.

אחרי זה לכתוב בבלוג, אני הולך לנסות לסיים את הספר (של שלושת אי) ולפרסם אותו. אם אני להצליח, אני יהיה בחזרה לספק קישור אליו. זה יהיה על מכירה של 2.85 $ אבל אני יהיה לוודא שאתה יכול גם לקרוא את זה בחינם - זה אחד יופי של פרסום עצמי.

נדודים דרך העיירה שלי היום, הולך לתוך חנות דולר לזוג ו המרכזית האמריקנית שווקים, התחלתי התחשקות עבור פאפאיה. בכל אזור נסיעות מקסיקו ו הוואי, שלא להזכיר את דרום סין ים, אני כבר אכלו פירות טרופיים טעים כל כך, כי רק את הזיכרון שלי עושה לשון רטובה.

חושניות. השמש קרס דרך עננים אלה, illuminating כל מחשבה או דחף. בחורה יפה, סינית, העביר לי את השינוי לאחר הרכישה.

"לא היום?" היא הייתה כוונתי שלי את ההחלטה להמנע פאפאיה, אשר היו לה חביב הדריך אותי (הוא היה מחביא.)

הפה שלי התחיל לפתוח אבל העיניים שלי כחול (כמו אלה של "רוח רפאים", יפנית חבר שלי אומר לי, "מפחיד") רק לה לתוך gazed שחום אלו ואני איבדתי את הרכבת של מחשבה.

כיצד להפוך חלק מהאנשים כל כך יפה? העור שלהם, את השיער, את העיניים רק לפלוט אור כי rivals של השמש. אבל, כמובן, אני איש זקן עכשיו, ואני לשכוח כי כאשר הם מסתכלים עלי, אלו בנות צעירות מרגיש תערובת של - מה? - רחמים, condescension, חמלה, חרטה, בחילה, פחד?

בהחלט לא רוצים.

לא אחד כדי להיות מלוכלך זקן, המחשבות שלי הם מאה אחוז. אלה הם כמו מלאכים מיוחד המבקרים לאכלס את העולם הפנימי, אך עבור מספר דקות, תאורה על פינות שבו הקולות שלי ללכת.

הקולות מדברים, שכיכה אותי או גורם לי פתאום דחוף. אני כל הזמן באופן אקראי עדיין לדמיין את עצמו למוות. "פטירה", כמו שאומרים. "המראה של חללית," אני אומר, אם הייתי מאמין א.

לעזאזל, אולי אני אקח אחד אלוהים מחדש בימים אלה. זה לא כאילו אני לא אוהב את התנ"ך, לפחות התנ"ך. אני כבר סיימתי את חלקה של begetting, לא אני?

אז, את תחושת מה שקורה כאן, dearest הקורא? האם אתם מכירים את המשחק אני משחק, עם אתה, שלי מוכן זומם. אני למנוע את העבודה הקשה של עורך הספר, כי אני המוזכרים לעיל.

ובכן, זה לא הרבה יותר של הספר, באמת. יותר כמו סוכן המורים. דבר קטן, בגודל צנוע ואת היקף. אבל, הסתכל מסוים לאור, מתוך תצפית מסוימים, כמו ילדה יפה כמו בשוק, וכן כפי unobtainable, בטח כדי לחלוף הסערה אפילו מתחיל מחדש.

"האיש הזקן & את Seaglass"

(And back from Hebrew)

לוקח מניות של זה מישיגן, פלורידה, מרילנד - אבל ברגע שהיה הפסקה הגשמים כי כבר

Taking stock of this

Michigan, Florida, Maryland - but once the rains that had a break already Pummeling us for days now, I buy cans of food.

Large cumulus Clouds are usually rarity hereabouts, but for now, on every day occurrence. Of the dramatic sky, dark, foreboding.

I'm totally alone on this day. For two hours, צפיתי YouTube Videos - Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, the release of gruesome, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash - a lot of my friends.

So I started to work - in the post, photos, tweets.

That's right, I finally broke down and joined twitter. This is fun! Another forum for the connection.

After writing this blog, I'm going to try to finish the book (the three E's) and publish it. If I succeed, I'll provide a link back to it. It will be on sale for $ 2.85 but I'll make sure you can also read it for free - this is one of the beauty of self-publishing.

Wandering through my town today, going into the shop for a couple bucks and Central American markets, I started lusting for papaya. All My Travel Mexico and Hawaii, not to mention the South China Sea, I had already eaten tropical fruit is so tasty, that only makes the memory of my wet tongue.

Sensuality. The sun crashed through the Clouds, illuminating every thought or impulse. Beautiful girl, Chinese, handed me the change after the purchase.

"Not today?" She was referring to my decision to avoid papaya, which were kindly guided me to her (he was hiding.)

My mouth began to open, but my blue eyes (like those of a "spectral", my Japanese friend told me, "scary") only Gazed her into those dark and I lost my train of thought.

How to become a part of the people so nice? Their skin, the hair, the eyes that only emit light of the sun Rivals. But, of course, I'm an old man now, and I forget that when they look at me, these young girls feel a mixture of - what? - Pity, condescension, pity, remorse, disgust, fear?

Definitely do not want to.

Not one to be dirty beard, my thoughts are pure. These are like angels special visitors populate the inner world, but for a few minutes, lighting the corners where the voices of my walk.

Voices talking, calming me and makes me suddenly urgent. I always randomly still imagine himself to death. "Death", as they say. "Lift off," I say, if I was a believer.

Hell, maybe I'll take one of these days, God re. It is not like I do not like the Bible, at least the Bible. I have already done their share of begetting, not I?

So, the sense of what's happening here, dearest reader? Do you know the game I play, with you, my willing conspirator. I avoid the hard work of editing a book that I mentioned above.

Well, it's not much more of the book, really. More like a bookie. A small, modest in size and scope. But, looked at a certain light, from a certain viewpoint, like a beautiful girl like the market, and as unobtainable, probably to take the storm even begins again.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Grandsons in the North Country

This is Luca. He's been here for roughly half a year, but he already has one of the brightest smiles on the planet, much like his lovely Mom. Back when I was a reporter for Rolling Stone, I used to carry her around much as she now carries him. I'll never forget the way she would strain to position her little face so she could feel the wind rushing through the Haight from the Pacific.

This is James. He is also a beautiful young man, now at the grand age of two. Sources indicate he is an irrepressible ball of energy, which wasn't really true of his lovely Mom, who was rather more of a Buddha type toddler. In fact, she was so gentle that one time as I sat her on a couch to take her photograph, the flash was enough for her to fall over backwards, legs high in the air!


Walkway to Nowhere

We are in a global depression. Down at the granular level of an individual, or a nuclear unit like a family, we in the wealthy countries don't yet realize what we are in for.

Still, because we happen to live where we do, resources abound. This is not the part of the world where there actually is not enough food, fuel, water or heat. We have everything we need to survive.

What we do not have is the abundance required to continue to manufacture the excess of greed that has too long characterized our consumer culture. I recall way back before the depression started, last year, listening to an economist project how much more the typical American would need to consume in order to help sustain an annual GDP that would avoid a recession.

I remember thinking how absurd this line of thinking was. How many houses, cars, gadgets and other possessions do any of us need? We are already a nation of obese people, because we are overfed at the direct expense of people starving in Africa, for example.

We actually don't need any of this crap. We would be happier getting by on far less.

So, henceforth, I'm exchanging the word depression for opportunity. This is a time of great opportunity for Americans. We are getting the chance to re-calibrate our lives to a more sustainable level than that to which we had become accustomed.

Meanwhile, if you really think you need a job, go into the Peace Corps. You'll return in a couple years understanding what I am saying, grateful that you finally received the education we all crave, but never get at these bastions of privilege called universities.

Coddled hot-house tomatoes -- that is what I call undergraduates from middle class families, who've never worked a day in their lives and feel entitled to inheriting power.

The most impressive people in the world -- that is what I call the Third World women you can support with a tiny donation through These women repay their micro-loans at a very high rate of interest, while bloated Americans default on huge houses they never should have "purchased" in the first place.

I have zero compassion for Americans losing their homes. Zero. Anyone who lacks the integrity to pay their debts deserves to suffer. Move to Africa. Even with your current unbalanced financial balance sheet, you'll be the richest person in town.

And the fattest.

Oh yeah, Happy Valentine's Day. Did you eat a lot of candy?