At my first Bernie rally

Bernie-5“because I’m tired of the puppet show, tired of the games Democrats and Republicans play pretending to be enemies until their corporate bosses need something passed. Then it gets passed really easily.” Chris Vardijan at the Vallejo Bernie Rally, as quoted in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

“Young people ought to have the right to vote for their future, ” Bernie Sanders at the San Jose Rally.

I went to a Bernie Rally last Wednesday…Bernie-2 and somewhere in the middle of his speech, around when he was talking about going all the way to the Convention, Bernie said something like, “I have the support of more young people than any other candidate and young people ought to have the right to vote for their future”. It brought me up short. My generation, the Greater Baby Boomer Generation for lack of a better descriptor, has not been a good steward of their future, or our planet, or our democracy, or, even, the economy in whose name we have been trashing our planet and distorting our democracy. Yet we still think we know best. Huge numbers of young people have been brought  into the system and are supporting Bernie because they don’t think we do know best, they do not like our decisions for their future, and as Bernie points out, it is really their future that we are all voting on.

When I asked the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Bernie kids why they were for Bernie, they said “That’s easy, Education and the Economy.” That is at the top of their list because education and an economy that works for them is what they value. What we think and say we can afford, as individuals and as a nation, depends on what we value. When Hillary says we can not afford to have free college education, it is because that is not something she values enough to move up her list and these young people know it. These kids do not want perpetual war – and it has been perpetual war since most of them were alive – they do not consider war valuable and Hillary does, she thinks ISIS or Islamic Fundamentalism, or whatever you want to call it, is a major threat to the United States. I think she is wrong, I think educating our children and protecting our planet is more important to our long-term survival than bombing tribal chiefs in Afghanistan, or the Middle East, or North Africa, or even Sub Saharan Africa, but what I think isn’t particularly important, what is important is what these young people think and they think Hillary is wrong.But it wasn’t only young people at the Rally, there were lots of what we used to call minorities and a sprinkling of older people.IMG_6987-Edit

When I asked the woman standing next to me, a self-described healer from Santa Cruz about my age, why she is for Bernie,she said, “He is a real human being not a politician pretending to be human.” At the Rally, Bernie’s passion is not canned, his message is deeply felt – although it seems to be his standard stump speech – and it resonates with this crowd as being much truer than an applause line. He is not a particularly good speaker, looking down often at his notes – and like everybody else there, I am sure they were his notes and not a focus group tested line written by a speechwriter – but that only adds to his authenticity. This is a major part of Bernie’s allure, one sign said Not polished, not packaged, not for sale, Bernie Sanders, and maybe that lack of packaging and professionalism – as shallow as it is – along with his age, is part of why I find it hard to be as excited about Bernie as I was about Obama. The first rally I went to for Obama was about as big as this rally and it wasn’t any better organized but it was in a nightclub in May 2007 – eight months before the first primary – and this rally was in the hot sun, four and a half months after that primary.

The Rally itself was in a strange court, on the Santa Clara County Fairground, with stands seating maybe 150 people each, facing each other – and Bernie – at right angles, but most of us stood on the macadam nearby, and it was hot as hell in the sun. When I got back on the Freeway on the way home, the car thermometer said 94° so it must have been close to 90° on the court with no shade, after parking in a dirt parking lot – for ten bucks – and walking about a mile, including a long dirt back alley – past a dirt bike park and an even stranger looking paintball court – before we got to the Secret Service checkpoint. Bernie-4I was worried it would turn people off but that was obviously just projection on my part. A general cognitive dissonance reduction field must have cranked in because nobody seemed particularly upset. Although nobody seemed particularly joyous either. This seemed less like a party than a group of people who were very aware that they are getting the short end of the stick. They listened to Bernie and cheered for Bernie because they believe him and, more importantly, they know he believes in them. Bernie2FiveThirtyEight gives Hillary a 93% percent chance of winning California and that would almost certainly give her the nomination. That brings up the question, Will Bernie’s supporters switch to Hillary? and I think, in most cases, No!  These do not, in the overwhelming majority, seem like the usual political junkies. They are people who think Hillary is part of the puppet show. They do not seem like a group who will easily switch over to the Establishment’s choice for the nominee and Bernie did not seem like the kind of politician who will go quietly into the night. He is more concerned about the message and the cause than the party and so are most of his followers.  

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We have a new neighbor

Michele and Precious Mae looking for the fox.

About a week or so ago, Michele heard a strange screaming. We looked outside just in time to see Precious Mae running up the stairs with another animal right behind her. Both animals ran under the deck and when Michele went outside to join the fray, a fox ran out from under the deck and disappeared into the wilds of our backyard. Now the fox has been back almost daily – almost always in the dark and at a time of the fox’s choosing – and we think its den is nearby.

All of us, including the fox, are fascinated, although Precious has been staying inside alot more than usual. A couple of days ago we heard the screaming again coming from under a table at the edge of the deck. Precious was backed into a corner and the fox was jumping up on the deck, screaming in a very un-canine way, and jumping down. Precious was silently watching. Michele grabbed her iPhone and sat at the edge of the deck in the dark where she took this short video.

“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

OutlierGeologically speaking, the rock above is not an outlier, it is a Glacial erratic, but it is the closest I could get with one of my pictures. Still, Gladwell’s book, Outliers, The Story of Success, is not about geology, it is about very successful people and how big a part luck – both regular luck and deep luck – played in their success. It is pretty typical of the kind of book I like and that all fit into a, sort of, Matrix category. These are the kind of books that says here is what seems like reality and the reasons we are told for that reality, but there are other, deeper, reasons. I should also add that I very often buy into these deeper reasons and I have completely bought into Malcolm Gladwell’s arguments.

Two factoids that are especially interesting are that almost all professional hockey players were born in the first half of the year and that the Chinese way of writing numbers makes basic math much easier.

Professional hockey players are mostly born in the earlier part of the year because Canadian Youth Hockey Leagues segregate players by age, based on the calendar year. So, a five-year old, born on January 1st is about twenty percent older than a youngster born in December of the same year and they play in the same age bracket. At five years old, another year  makes a big difference. The older kids do better and are encouraged to work at hockey while the younger kids get discouraged, work less, and fall behind setting a pattern – in hockey at least – the results of which carry through to the Pros or notPros.

As for the numbers, add fifty-three and thirty-five in your head. It is hard to do without converting to Arabic numerals, 53 plus 35. In Chinese, those numbers are written as five-tens three and three-tens five. The logic of the numbers is written into the language making it much easier to work with them.

Gladwell weaves details like this into a new narrative about several successful people including Bill Gates and the Beatles. It’s fascinating and a very easy read.


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Of Oxalis, Rabbits, and Human Radiation


It’s Spring in our garden and everything is starting to grow – everything of the non native plants, that is, most of our native plants are winter growers and have been growing for a while – especially the Oxalis.  We have two kinds of Oxalis in our backyard, one that hitchhiked in and one that I brought in on purpose. Both of them are trying to take over my potted plants. The hitchhiker probably came in as seeds in a succulent that I bought. Once it got here, the Oxalis went nuts, and it seems that 50% of my gardening time in spent pulling little Oxalis plants from between more desirable plants, like the Gasteria in the picture. I have no excuse for actually buying an Oxalis plant but I did have a reason. My thinking was that the new plant, Oxalis callosa, is a beautiful little South African bulb, I like South African bulbs, and, because it is a bulb, I assumed it would just stay in its pot. It hasn’t.

O. callosa, the South African bulb, is doing so well because it has no natural predators. Well, that is not true, the deer probably like it, but the local bacteria and local bugs don’t, so, when I say it has no predators, I am not talking about large mammals that will eat almost anything, I am really talking about the basic predators at the most basic level.

A story that most of us have heard is that of rabbits taking over Australia. In the late 16th century, English sailors brought rabbits to Australia for food. They were kept in cages and weren’t, apparently, a problem. Then in 1857, Thomas Austin released  24 rabbits into the countryside, saying  “The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting.” The rabbits went wild, just like my Oxalis and for the same reason. There was nothing in Australia to make them sick, there were no germs that loved rabbits, there were no parasites to slow them down, Yes, there were larger animals that could and did eat the rabbits but that is usually not a big enough problem to destroy a population. Ten years later, the millions of rabbits had become a major problem and they are still a problem.

Humans, or more accurately proto-humans, have been leaving Africa for millions of years, even before we became what we now call human. The current thinking is that H. sapiens,  modern humans, us in other words, crossed from Ethiopia to Yemen sometime around 75,000 years ago. We did run into some of the proto-humans that had populated Western Asia earlier and they must have fought and killed each other, but there were no germs waiting for us, there was no bacteria to prey on us, there was no malaria or parasitic disease like flatworms, no typhoid or dengue fever.

We evolved in Africa during the last 4 to 8 million years and lots of organisms that like to live off of people evolved right along with us. But Greater Asia didn’t have the African diseases or parasites. Our new Eden was a much easier place to live in  than our birthplace and we were are worse than the rabbits; we are explorers and we have spread everywhere.

Human Radiation

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Eternal Yosemite

Yosemite-6I went to Yosemite Valley, for the day, a couple of days ago. I don’t want to say that I was disappointed, because I wasn’t, it was a lovely, warm spring day and the Valley was Yosemite Valley at its best; majestic, serene, lots of water, and the dogwoods were blooming. It just wasn’t surprising. I’ve been reading alot of geology lately, about the Farallon Plate diving – or, subducting if you prefer – under the North American Plate and pushing mountains up all the way to the Rockies, and I’ve started to visualizing the change taking place in an relatable time. But, in real life, the change is taking place so slowly that we can’t see it – although we do feel it occasionally – and this Yosemite is the same Yosemite I first saw as a child in 1948, even if I don’t remember much of it.

About twenty years later, I first saw El Capitan – El Cap – as a sentient being and it hasn’t moved one inch from my first picture. And the best places to photograph El Cap haven’t changed either, the meadow where you can watch the climbers, looking down valley from another meadow across the river, the aptly named El Capitan View turnout, or the Tunnel View turn out. The pictures below, right and bottom, were taken on a trip to The Valley with Michele’s cousin, Marion Kaplan, during the Rim Fire when the sky was full of smoke and the valley somber, and the upper left on a drive through The Valley, late in the day, shuttling a car from the west side to the east side of the Sierras. The sky has changed but the walls have not. When I raise my camera to take a picture, I am struck by how many times I have taken the same pictures, most of them now sitting in Kodak Carousels in storage somewhere. That is not to say that, today, now, The Valley isn’t still screaming Take my picture!; it is. It still is one of the most stunning places I have ever been, even when it was smoked in, looking and feeling like Mordor. But it does raise the question, What is the point of taking pictures of Yosemite?   20130911-IMG_2320-EditI’ve sort of come to the conclusion that the only reasonable answer is To get a Selfie. Really, think about it. There are already hundreds of millions of pictures of Yosemite and the world probably does not need another one, but maybe, just maybe, the world needs a picture of us, either indirectly by showing our own interpretation of a place, or directly with a portrait. Either way, the picture is witness to our visit to The Valley, something to bring to show and tell.   IMG_6744-Edit-2This day, when I got to Yosemite, they told me that Glacier Point had just opened for the season and, since that is one of my favorite view spots, I went there first. I was amazed at the volume of water in Merced and Nevada Falls… Puma-2

and I could almost hear Yosemite Falls across the valley, it was just like old times. YosemiteIt was 59° at Glacier Point – which is amazingly warm in the sun at 7200+ feet – there was still snow on the ground, and, more importantly, the view has not changed in the last sixty years, so I went back down into warmth of the The Valley. One picture that I did want to repeat is of the boardwalk across the road from the Yosemite Valley Chapel and across the valley from Yosemite Falls. As an aside, now that I am walking around Yosemite, I remember two things that have changed during my memory. One is that there used to be a great view of the church, with Half Dome in the background, from the meadow next to the church,  now trees – which I understand the Park Service planted – have grown up to block the view. The other is that Mirror Lake is now a meadow most of the time. End aside. Once I got to the boardwalk, the natural thing seemed to just walk across The Valley to Yosemite Falls, to hear its powerful roar and feel the mist. To simply let The Yosemite Valley of the Merced entrance me.  IMG_6745-EditIMG_6763-EditIMG_6778-EditYosemite