Cranes in the Sunset

I’ve been following the blog of a guy named Kurt Brindley. He is fond of the Japanese poetry form haiku, and has written and posted several of his poems written in that style. I’ve enjoyed reading those posts and been inspired to try it myself. This is the first one.

Haiku poems have three lines, with a pattern of 5-7-5 syllables.

By the way, George Lucas has said that the cranes like the ones in the photograph below were the inspiration for the walking war machines in The Empire Strikes Back.


Cranes in the sunset
They wait on ships arriving
From across the seas

Conference Wrap Up


Last night was the big conference reception at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The reception was nice and I had a chance to visit old friends and make new ones. Alcohol can be a bad habit, but in a social setting it opens people up and sometimes you have good group conversations.

There were two primary topics of conversation: The rape allegations involving Bill Cosby, and President Obama’s executive action regarding those who have entered the United States in violation of immigration law.

With regard to Cosby, the only observation I have is the power of the media. His career has probably been destroyed by allegations several years old. I don’t know if any of the allegations are true, but he was never indicted or convicted of rape. Yet the media was easily able to turn the story of the allegations into a full blown controversy, to the point where two major deals Cosby had for new entertainment were broken.

So far as the immigration reform, I think that the practical implications pale in comparison to the political implications. The people at issue are already here and have been here for many years. There will likely be some marginal difference for them, but if you think about it, they would have been deported already if that was an actual threat. And the fact that they have been here a long time says a lot about their situation; it must be a better life here as an undocumented migrant than if they were to return to their places of origin.

But the political implications are enormous. I’m not a constitutional scholar or anything, but it does seem to me that the President is at least stretching the envelope by not working on immigration reform with Congress. And yes, that’s a two way street, but the irony is that any hope of having immigration reform the old-fashioned way has now been dashed, at least in the short term. And that’s unfortunate, because it’s a real problem that must be dealt with somehow. Even the President acknowledged yesterday afternoon that the action he has taken doesn’t fix the problem.

Polls show that most Americans want immigration reform. Polls also show that they didn’t want the President to do what he did, so it’s a mystery to me why he chose to go it alone.

Anyway, the rest of the conference was a little dry, but it ended at noon. I had plenty of time to drive back to the bay area before the really bad traffic set in.

Peter Kassig

I’ve had to think awhile to be able to write about the latest victim, Peter Kassig, shown in the beheadings that have been videotaped and posted on the internet. I’ve questioned whether to write about it at all, but this is on my mind, and it’s an important topic.

My understanding of Peter Kassig is based solely on media reports. I didn’t know him.

He was honorably discharged from the Army Rangers and then created a non-profit to provide assistance to victims of the civil war in Syria. He was abducted by terrorists while providing aid in Syria, held for over a year, then murdered. The evidence of the murder is a video recording, showing his severed head on the ground.

I haven’t viewed any of the beheading videos, and I encourage others to avoid them. Why? Because the terrorists are putting them on the internet, so, obviously, they think they gain an advantage by doing so. I make an exception for government officials and reporters. Someone has to watch it. I imagine it’s a terrible burden.

The stuff that should be on the internet is the work that Peter Kassig did before he was murdered. There are many more acts of courage and generosity that occur on a daily basis than there are acts of brutality and cruelty. I encourage the media to consider this going forward.

What if the media used the same approach as the terrorists; understanding that content has an impact? Tell Peter’s story, and people like him. By that I mean celebrate and magnify good people. It’s crazy that there are so many people who do good works, struggling in obscurity. Meanwhile, murderers have a large audience, presenting material that would, just a year ago, be unthinkable. And it should be free on youtube, as was the video created by the terrorists.

The terrorist video of Peter Kassing should not be the last comment on his life. Someone needs to produce a film about his life that lionizes him as a hero.

I’ll speculate here about the fact that the video, which I have not seen, varied from the previous videos. There is no video of him submitting to his captors and making anti-American statements prior to his execution.

One of the things that has forced me to think about Peter is the possibility that he resisted his captors, perhaps to spare his parents from the real-time act of his submission and the horror of his murder being posted on the internet.

Think, for a moment, the role his memory might play in the battle between dark and light. He is a hero.

Loving on Oakland

Oakland Lake

I have a co-worker who is originally from Chicago. I told him that I visited Chicago and thought it was a great city. He told me that he likes Oakland better, because in Chicago people are divided into ethnic enclaves, even if you’re caucasian. There’s an Italian neighborhood, a Polish neighborhood, etc. Since I’ve lived in California my whole life, that’s hard for me to imagine. At this point I’m going to share a somewhat non-sequiter funny picture of a concert poster.

Cake Poster

It’s a bear in sheep’s clothing. A riff on the California State flag.

Anyway, if it’s hard to imagine ethnic enclaves in California, it’s even harder to imagine them in Oakland, California. Oakland is eclectic. How eclectic?

I just went out for a coffee break. Down the street from where I work is a place called the Brown Coach Cafe. It is owned and operated by Muslims and the women behind the counter are wearing traditional headscarves. At one of the tables is a Caucasian woman conversing with an African American woman, next to a table with an Asian couple, next to a table with a Caucasian guy working on a laptop. The Brown Couch is right next door to an Afghan restaurant, run by Afghanis, which is across the street from a Japanese restaurant, run by Japanese, which is kitty-corner to a surf shop, run by a Caucasian surfer dude with blond hair. Two blocks away is Oakland’s Chinatown, which is as close as you can come to an ethnic enclave. People live there by choice, though, not because they aren’t integrated into the rest of the city. In fact, the current mayor of Oakland is of Chinese heritage.

Here’s a picture of a painting of Oakland’s shipping cranes that is hanging in the Brown Couch Cafe.


It was painted by a local artist named Dave Platford.

The thing is, everyone gets along just fine. As my co-worker and I walk back to the office (we’re both Caucasian) an African American lady who we don’t know walks past us and greets us and says good morning. If you lined up various cultural niches along a spectrum, Oakland would be at the far opposite end from the words “sectarian violence.”

I’m posting this today because my last post mentioned the tragic situation in Syria and Iraq.

There is hope for this world and for humanity. Oakland is one of the places on Earth where that hope resides in warmth and comfort, nurtured by people who have come here from all over the planet.

When you are feeling down and wonder what the world is coming to, visit us. It will make you feel a whole lot better.




Why I Love Golf

Yep, that’s me, Dufnering at the home course.

I played golf yesterday with some of my co-workers. It was a beautiful day.

It’s difficult to explain to people who’ve never played golf why it’s so much fun, and I suspect that even people who play golf do it for different reasons. Of course, golf is a sport, so there’s the athletic component. But on the other hand, most people who play golf can’t really be considered athletes, and most golfers never come close to mastering it as an athletic endeavor.

Also, it is somewhat expensive, what with the equipment and the fees to play a round. It is also time consuming. My round yesterday clocked in at a little over five hours, not counting the two post round beers and pre-round warm-up on the driving range.

So why play? Why subject yourself to the occasional psychological melt-downs and humiliation in front of your foursome? Why drag yourself out of bed at six in the morning on a weekend? For me, it comes down to the special moments that can only occur in the context of that particular sport, and often those moments happen when you’re not swinging your clubs.

For example, I was playing a round with friends a couple of years ago when suddenly a large white owl flew overhead, seemingly escorted on either side by large black crows. It looked like something out of a story about spirit animals. Two of my friends saw it, so I know I wasn’t hallucinating. Then there’s the fact that while no two golf courses are alike, the game itself is unchanging, and most all golf courses are park-like and beautiful. You can play by the ocean, or in the mountains, or in the desert. It’s a game that is consistent with recreational travel.

Also, golf, more than probably any other sport, with the possible exception of bowling, is a social activity. Did I say a round of golf takes a while to play? The plus side is that you are spending time with people, talking about most anything, including, of course, golf. Every now and then you’ll play with someone you don’t know, and five hours later you’ve have a new friend.

Finally, there are moments when even the most unskilled golfer hits a perfect tee shot, or holes out with an iron from the fairway, or sinks a sixty foot putt. When those moments happen, all the bad shots sink into the background and you know why you keep coming back, again and again, trying to shoot a lower score next time.