Monthly Archives: October 2007

A Tribute to Fup. Store Cat.

I love store cats and dogs. When I find a store that has a store cat or dog, I tend to visit them simply because of that. Our local flower shop had a beautiful store cat, Topaz, that the kids would always ask if we could visit when they were little. Topaz retired a few years ago and I haven’t been back there since. So this story today in the Powell’s newsletter made me quite sad. Their newsletter always had a story about Fup and her friends. Even though I have yet to visit Powells, I do make purchases online there, and feel I’ve lost a friend with Fup gone.

Powell’s Books – PowellsBooks.BLOG – A Tribute to Fup. Store Cat.

Fup, the resident cat at Powell’s Technical Books, passed away on October 25. She was 19 years old. She continued to greet her admiring public to the end, when her health failed and there was no choice but to put her to sleep. Her lifelong veterinarian made the trip out to the store to perform the task and Fup died peacefully at home with several of her longtime co-workers present.

Fup was born on or about June 30, 1988. She was adopted as a kitten by the Technical Store’s first manager, so her exact birthdate is unknown and she was always quite coy about that. As for the origin of her name, legend has it that the manager’s sister had a cat named Puff, so he sort of spelled that backwards. There was also a book titled Fup by Jim Dodge, published in 1983, which may have played into it as well.

When Powell’s Technical Books moved to its present address in November 1990, Fup made the move as well. After clearing the building of any remaining mice, she claimed the store as her own. She showed little interest in the outside world, except to watch birds and falling leaves outside the window. She didn’t care for toys, either — Fup took her position quite seriously. Except for the summer of 1997, when she was moved to an employee’s apartment for about six weeks while the store was being remodeled, her rule was uninterrupted.

In her youth, Fup would sometimes climb ladders and hide at the top of book fixtures to look down upon the humans in her domain. Over the years, Fup acquired a well-earned reputation for biting employees who intruded on her time for more than about 30 seconds. However, she would always be sitting in front of the office to greet whoever came to open the store in the morning, demanding her serving of canned food for breakfast. She was more patient with visitors; Fup played the celebrity game well. She received many gifts and cards and emails from fans, which she appreciated.

In her later years, she mellowed out quite a bit and even became friendlier towards her co-workers, especially if they shared their lunches. Her favorite foods were canned tuna, chicken (especially Tandoori), and pulled pork. Cold cuts were also welcome.

In lieu of cards or flowers, we respectfully request you make a gift donation to the Oregon Humane Society in Fup’s name.

Most public school students in South are poor

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 10/30/2007 | Study: Most students in South are poor

For the first time in more than 40 years, the majority of children in public schools in the South are poor, according to a report released Tuesday.

In 11 Southern states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, a significant increase in the number of poor children attending public school has sent district officials scurrying for solutions on how to best educate kids who are coming from economically disadvantaged homes.

“The future of the South’s ability to have an educated population is going to depend on how well we can improve these students’ education,” said Steve Suitts, a program coordinator with the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on Southern educational issues and conducted the study.

In places like Memphis, where roughly 80 percent of students come from low-income homes, that has meant adopting models that address teaching children in poverty. In Miami-Dade, where 61 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunch, that has meant strengthening efforts to improve all students’ math and reading scores and curb dropout rates.

“The reason this presents a profound challenge for us is that low-income students as a group begin school least ready,” Suitts said. “They are the students most likely to drop out of school. They perform at the lowest levels on tests that decide graduation and advancement. They have the least access to college.”

Twenty years ago, Mississippi was the only state in the country with such a high percentage of poor public school students. However, as textile mills shut down in the Carolinas, Appalachian coal mines cut workers and a recession swept the nation, families in the South were especially hard hit, the Southern Education Foundation report found.

Also hitting the South disproportionately were federal cutbacks in anti-poverty programs, the region’s higher rates of underemployment and the increased birthrates of Hispanic and African American children — who are statistically more likely than their white peers to be born into poverty.

Now, a majority of public school students are considered low income in a total of 14 states, including 11 in the South. The South shows tremendous variability, with 84 percent of students considered low-income in Louisiana, 75 percent in Mississippi, 62 percent in Florida, 49 percent in North Carolina, but only 33 percent in Virginia.

According to the report, public schools in the West may face similar problems in the next five to seven years. Already 51 percent of public school children in California and 62 percent of those in New Mexico are considered low income.

All told, the report said, 54 percent of students in Southern states are judged to be poor, a significant increase from the 37 percent so classified in the late 1980s. Nationally, 46 percent of public school students are low-income.

This makes me so sad. The rich have opted out of our public schools, and it has hurt the quality of our education.

I realized sending my kids to public school was a political choice. I’m glad I did, since their value system isn’t all skewed out of reality. They have friends at all income levels, and I’m glad they do.

The unknown

Via Diary of a Self-Portrait

There’s a quote I recently came across by Kent Nerburn from Letters to my Son that I absolutely love:

If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days.”

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain…

Go read Evelyn. ;^) Watch the video.

Here’s the secret: Life supports it Self in all its myriad of expressions. Only and only when we cut ourselves off from our real self do things get dicey.

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
I like watchin’ the puddles gather rain

And all I can do is just pour some tea for two
and speak my point of view

But it’s not sane, It’s not sane

I just want some one to say to me
“I’ll always be there when you wake”
Ya know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today
So stay with me and I’ll have it made

And I don’t understand why I sleep all day
And I start to complain that there’s no rain
And all I can do is read a book to stay awake
And it rips my life away, but it’s a great escape

escape……escape……escape……

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
ya don’t like my point of view
ya think I’m insane

Its not sane……it’s not sane

— Blind Melon

The Myth of Success and My Creative Process

It’s so cool when people get it…..

Be Alive Believe Be You : The Myth of Success and My Creative Process

no one has it figured out…we are all working on whatever it is we are working on. everyday. I think Dreams can be realized but never quite be completely fulfilled because the moment we are almost there we Dream a new Dream. That is the beauty of life! I think frustration and unhappiness is believing there is one true way and that eventually you figure it out, eventually you win the race, get the prize.

I believe happiness is reveling in the beauty of the truth that the journey really is the destination.

Wrinkles (I am lazy today, so this is a repost)


lava flow

snail shell

mountains

leaves

crow’s feet

Lines in the face, tattoos of aging.
Life is proved upon the body
Like needle jabs from a sightless machine.

The older one gets, the more one is conscious of aging. We can barely remember childhood innocence and exuberance. We are surprised by the youthful vitality and unmarked face when we see earlier photos of ourselves. When we look in the mirror, we reluctantly acknowledge the aging mask. It seems that there is no escaping the marks of life.

Every experience that we have, everything that we do and think is registered upon us as surely as the steady embroidery of a tattoo artist. But to a large degree, the pattern and picture that will emerge is up to us. If we go to a tattoo artist, it is we who select the picture. In life, it we who select what we will become by the actions we perform. There is no reason to go through life thoughtlessly, to let accident shape us. That is like allowing oneself to be tattooed by a man with no sight. How can you help but turn old and ugly?

Whether we emerge beautiful or ugly is our sole responsibility.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

One Saturday sometime in 1968, there was a big demonstration against the war in Vietnam in San Francisco. Many of us Zen students wanted to go, but instead we came to hear Suzuki-Roshi’s lecture. At that time I was a full-time antiwar activist, working as an organizer and draft counselor. The big issue on my mind was, “How does zazen fit in with my anti-war position?” After the talk, I raised my hand and asked, “Suzuki-Roshi, What is war?” Immediately he pointed to the three by six foot bamboo mat on the floor, and said, “When two people sit down there, they each want to smooth out their side of the mat so there are no wrinkles. And when the wrinkles meet in the center, that’s war.”

“Taking sides” means, “I want my side of the mat to be smooth. You say you have wrinkles on your side? Sorry about that.” These wrinkles are not just some irritation we are trying to get rid of. When we say we want to smooth out our wrinkles, what we’re really talking about is our fear. And not just ordinary fear, but the deepest fear of all, the fear of being extinguished, the fear of being nobody, of not being loved, of being alone, of being snuffed out. This fear lies at the root of our humanity, and drives all our choices. To exist as a human being means to have this fear. When we talk about smoothing the mat, we may be saying, “I want your land, your water, or your wealth.” But what we are really saying is, “I just to want exist and feel safe. I want to be OK, to be smooth.” I want my fear not to be there.
In the Genjo koan, Dogen says, “To study Buddhism is to study the self.” What he means is to thoroughly look at what it is to be here, until you touch the root of why we want to smooth the mat. This is what is called clinging in Buddhism, the source of all suffering. There’s no way to be enlightened unless you’re willing to face this fear. And the minute you touch it, you touch everyone’s fear. This is where real compassion begins. We usually think of compassion as something like empathy, feeling sorry for a starving child, an injured person. The compassion of Buddhism is a little different; it starts when we touch our own fear. And then we immediately understand that this fear is the same for all people. We say, “Oh my gosh! We’re all on the same mat. You’re smoothing the wrinkles because you’re afraid, I’m smoothing the wrinkles because I’m afraid. Now I understand; we’re both afraid!”
Lewis Richmond

In American society, we are afraid of wrinkles. We have companies making billions of dollars selling wrinkle cures and preventatives, and plastic surgeons making fortunes doing facelifts. Our society is so afraid of wrinkles in our skin, we are willing to spend small fortunes to get rid of them. And that’s just the ones on our faces.

We also spend billions of dollars on medications to get rid of the wrinkles in our personality, even treating the youngest among us for ADHD, although to most people, the many anxious youth unable to sit still in the classroom seem merely to be normal little boys and girls possibly hyped up on sugar and junk food. (Yes, I know there are some legitimate reasons to treat ADHD, but it’s way over-diagnosed). We treat personality disorders and depression and anxiety so that everyone can fit in to our desperately fast-paced, overworked, hyperdrive nation.

We spend military fortunes to try and control the world’s oil supply so we won’t have to be inconvenienced by driving fuel-efficient, smaller vehicles or living close enough to our jobs to walk to work or ride public transportation. We spend fortunes on electricity to cool our oversized McMansions, fortunes on junk and trinkets from WalMart buying goods made in China for our convenience, while borrowing from the Chinese to pay for them. Yes, the mat under us is not only smooth, it is padded. It is no longer a mere bamboo mat we sit on, but a luxurious lounge chair resting on a thick-pile carpet. We have smoothed our wrinkles, and left the world to deal with all the wrinkles on their own part of the mat. And wonder why everyone seems to hate us when we step off our own part of the mat onto theirs.

What distinguishes a Buddha from an ordinary person is that there is a transparency for a Buddha that is not available to ordinary people. The Buddha sees the fear in everyone, and how it makes us obsessively want to keep smoothing the wrinkles on our side of the mat. Some people may have guns, while others don’t, some may be big, some small, some strong, some weak. Our feeling naturally goes out to the weak, but even the powerful have this fear. In fact they have an especially bad case of it. The fear encompasses everyone. — Lewis Richmond

So, what are we Americans most afraid of? Losing our youth, losing our comforts, losing the things that make our lives so privileged. We are afraid of death, even those who seem to most embrace the idea of God and heaven. They don’t really want heaven, they want their own version of heaven, here and now, on earth. They want to be eternally young, eternally comfortable. And don’t even talk to them about actually dying – they won’t go to their wars to fight and risk dying; they will send other people’s children to do that.

While I’m talking, I’m looking at that big statue of Avalokitesvara there across the room, the Bodhisattva of compassion. When I was young, I didn’t care much for statues. We don’t need statues for Zen, I thought, just a mat and a cushion. Now that I’m older I realize these statues are teachings. The faces on Buddha statues are actually realization faces. The face is always calm, but with a sort of smile. It’s a Buddha face. When we look at it, we immediately say, “That’s a Buddha.” This is a visual manifestation of the Middle Way, of not taking sides. The word “Avalokitesvara” means “the one who sees.” What kind of seeing is this? What does Avalokitesvara see?

If we really saw how the world really is, with all of its wrinkles, all of its suffering, we wouldn’t be able to stand it. Not with our ordinary way of seeing. We can only absorb it with our Buddha eye, our awakened eye, the eye of Avalokitesvara. Some people may think that the purpose of religion is to create a wrinkle free world—a spiritual Disneyland. But there’s no such thing as a wrinkle free world; this is Buddhism’s first Noble Truth. Real liberation comes not from building a bigger and better steam iron to smooth the wrinkles. It comes from realizing the inevitability and seamlessness of the wrinkles. — Lewis Richmond

Real liberation in our own lives comes from seeing our wrinkles and understanding their inevitability, and the seamless way they fit into our own lives, and the lives of those around us. As we see our children become young adults in their own right, we understand the passage of time and we move to new phases of our own lives. We move to having the position of the elder, with our wrinkles and, hopefully, the wisdom that comes with those wrinkles. Wrinkles are neither beautiful or ugly – they are the seamless ties of our lives to time itself.

For more thoughts on wrinkles, aging, and what it’s really like to get older, I recommend Ronni’s wonderful blog at Time Goes By.

$100 a Bungle for Oil

Stirling is on target, again. Go read.

$100 a Bungle for Oil | The Agonist

In a liberal Keynesian order – you know, the people who won the second world war, and the cold war, quadrupled real standards of living and cut poverty by a factor of four – the pattern is that the central bank is used to slow economic activity, and then the fiscal authority – presuming it is populated by people who might be egregiously corrupt, venal and racist, but who are not rapaciously committed to selling the future in to debt slavery – will vote for a series of stimulus initiatives that will both get the economy moving, and lay the ground work for the future economic expansion by investing in capital which, while too expensive and risking for the private market place, is not too expensive for a government that has just proven its credibility by taking political pain rather than selling posterity out for their posteriors in office. Since this is exactly what our current political leadership – on both sides of the aisle – has declined to do, the people buying futures on America’s liberties know that they can keep doing it.

Instead in the neo-conservative order, the central bank keeps the expansion going as long as the rich are getting richer, stops it when the poor start to get richer, and then once the fiscal house in more in order, the fiscal authority, that’s the Congress plus the President in the US, bails out any rich people who were accidentally hurt by the recession. The Saving’s and Loan Bail out, the Bush and Reagan tax cuts are examples of thise exact process. Did you know you are still paying interest on the money used to bail out Neil Bush? Think on that. Your grand children will also being paying interest on that, and interest on the money used to bail out Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. And probably a couple of other bailouts after that. If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention, or you are getting checks from the man. Cash’em quick though, you thought you were getting dollars and really you are getting BushBucks.

Bernanke, by doing as he has done – anything is better than allowing an economic slide that would bring a liberal to power, it is in his academic work – assures not that we will avoid an economic collapse, but that it will come later and be larger, and have more consequences. While the arab world is far far behind the US now, a generation of sending them all our money can equalize things. There is no reason in genetics, society or science that the Arab world cannot become technically and economically capable of destroying the West, given enough money and time.

Don’t Rush It. Dig In

Don’t Rush It. Dig In: Defining Advice for the Possibilities Ahead – CommonDreams.org

So this is the point in the article when I am supposed to give you alternative solutions. Excitingly I have many. They are not original, most have nothing to do with large-scale national solutions to environmental problems, and they require an active imagination:

* Turn your lawn into a garden.
* Quit your job if you hate it and start doing what you’ve always wanted (after all if McKibben is right you’ve only got about a decade).
* Look at what you do on a daily basis and ask yourself is this harmful to me, to others, to the planet? Act accordingly.
* Learn how to can and preserve to eat locally year round.
* Turn off your T.V., Computer, cell phone.
* Read a book, play a game, dance around a bonfire.
* Install a grey water system to create a closed loop for your water use.
* Be dirty more often.
* Use rain barrels.
* Find a place you love outside; visit it often.
* Learn the names of trees, shrubs, birds, say hello.
* Stop blaming: We are they, they are us.
* Start a conversation with someone who intimidates you.
* Cross neighborhood boundaries, be uncomfortable.
* Never ever drink out of a plastic straw again.
* Carry a mug, a re-usable bag, a water bottle, plate, and fork with you at all times.
* Unplug, unplug, unplug.
* Make a leaf collage
* Compost (1/3 of the household waste in landfills could have been composted)
* Trust that what is happening will unfold well if we keep working on it.
* Do not try to do this all at once. I did and it wasn’t pretty.

Finally, I end with two of wisest pieces of advice I have ever received about how to change the world.

The first is from a man named John Francis, also known as the Planetwalker. He spent 22 years walking all over the country, 17 of them in silence. His advice, also at the Great Turning Conference, was this:

“Ask yourself: what is your dream, say it out loud, and then begin taking steps towards it. Don’t rush it.”

The second is from Winona LaDuke:

“Get some place. Stay there. Live in a way that is peaceful to that place. Dig in.”

This is what, each time that I panic, draws me back from the edge. It is trust in the universe, the will to follow my dreams, and the knowledge that I am not alone, far from it. There are millions of people out there making the world better everyday; my guess is that you are one of them. So Don’t Rush it but Dig In.

Bush Cheney health care plan

VIa Hoffmania. More great toons up there today.

Why people can’t realize that we are already paying for the uninsured in our own higher health care costs is beyond me. Perhaps if more people actually paid their own health care premiums rather than having them paid for through their work, they might get it. But I really don’t know why more companies aren’t screaming for national health care when so much is going to pay for employees’ coverage.

Such a rich country but we can’t pay for insuring that everyone stays healthy. It’s so stupid. Every other industrialized nation can do it, but no, not the U.S. It’s too “socialist” to actually bother taking care of each other’s kids.

These selfish idiots really tick me off.