Sunday, September 30, 2001

It's wonderful how people have come together to raise money for the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Over half-a-billion dollars ($500,000,000) has been raised so far, with more benefits planned, including: shows by Jerry Seinfeld and Paul McCartney, a CD soundtrack to the TV telethon that aired last week, and more. All of this with proceeds specified only for victims and families of the 9/11 attack.

All wonderful, but I do have one haunting thought that keeps reoccurring: What about the victims of the attacks yet to come? Eighty percent of Americans, including Attorney General Ashcroft and the President, agree that such attacks are likely within a year - and will me made even more likely following any retaliatory action by the U.S. Military.

Will we have the will and ability to raise these kinds of funds after every incident, or will compassion-burn-out set in quickly? As anybody in the non-profit and/or fund-raising sectors can tell you, this is a real problem. Funds raised for all causes tends to go down directly after a well publicized campaign for a national emergency. The old line about "I gave at the office" becomes quite popular and true. This is only natural: people only have so much to give, and once it's given... well, that's it.

So, again I ask, what about the families of the victims of the attacks yet to come?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting down any effort that has been extended so far - I've made contributions to 9/11 funds, and I'll be buying the CD of last week's telethon - I'm only suggesting that organizers accept the new reality, broaden their scope, and begin setting up funds for all victims of terrorism during this coming war. It's not a pleasant thought, but it is a necessary one.

More Terror Activity Likely -US Attorney General

Saturday, September 29, 2001

Hey, Kids! Grab your seats - It's book review time again!

"The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology," by Simon Winchester, proved to be a bit of a disappointment. It's a wonderful book, and I'm sure for those who make their life in geology it's an excellent read, but for me it was a let down.

The problem may be that Winchester is too good a writer, or too accurate a biographer, to put down any details of which he's not 100% certain. Add to that the fact that the source materials focus on William Smith's professional work almost to the exclusion of any personal detail, and you have what should be a compelling personal journey that winds up reading more like a geology text in too many chapters.

Smith's place in history was assured by his 1815 publication of a map of England showing the geological strata and graphically demonstrating his theories that one could tell the age of the rocks from examining the fossils found within. This was radical stuff in 1815, and the work that led to this map took Smith some 30 years. Along the way he picked up a wife, who was possibly crazy, and adopted a nephew, who became his assistant, had business and financial troubles, which led to his being held in debtor's prison, and had a long running class-based feud with England's scientific establishment, which led to his works not being properly recognized for many years after their publication.

Unfortunately, only the last aspect of Smith's life is covered in any detail because that's all he wrote about in his own journal, or is covered in other source material. About the wife we're told that she was a burden to him, often sick, probably crazy, and possibly even a nymphomaniac. We're told all that, but we're never given examples, or are told how Smith felt about her. Did he love her anyway? Did they ever try to have children of their own? Did she embarrass him publicly? We don't know. About the nephew we're told that Smith took over his care when his sister and brother-in-law died, and that he became his assistant, but we're told nothing of their personal relationship. Was their's a close, familial relationship, or only one of master or mentor to apprentice? We don't know. And such is the frustration with the book (mine, at least).

What's left is endless descriptions of the various layers of the earth's crust, and how Smith could tell if an outcropping belonged to the Jurassic or Cretaceous periods.

I picked up this book because I loved Winchester's previous "The Professor and the Madman" so much. That's a book that's rich in personal detail, and is as important and fascinating in the descriptions of the lives of the subjects as it is in the descriptions of their professional works. "The Map that Changed the World" is likely stunning for students of geology, but may bore beyond belief the reader who doesn't care or know about item one of earth science.

So - In the end, I suppose a mixed review. If you get this joke (and think it's funny): "Subduction leads to orogeny" - or, if you have a bumper sticker that says "Stop Plate Tectonics" - Then this is a five star book that you will love every page of. If you don't even care to look up any of those words, then this is a three star book you should avoid. Which averages out to four stars: An occasionally fascinating and well-written book that is often dry and disappointing.

Friday, September 28, 2001

These are certainly days for confusion and mixed feelings, both about the world at large and my life in particular. I've written here about my unsure feelings about supporting a foreign war, no need to rehash that today.

No, now I'm concerned about starting a new job. I've been under- and/or unemployed for seven months now, and I'm nervous about going back to work. The usual concerns of whether or not it's the right job (it probably is, if I must work), concerns about whether or not I can cut do the job, and whether or not I'll remember how to get up and go to work for eight hours a day at something other than writing.

This has been a great period for me, having plenty of time to do whatever I choose, and to write quite a bit. In just the last month or so I've completed three of the best short stories I've ever written. Work that I truly feel is a breakthrough of sorts. And at the same time I know that I cannot afford to continue to be a full-time writer. The reality is that my savings, such as they are, could only support this for another couple of months before dire emergency would set in. It's best to accept a good job when it's offered, rather than wait till the last minute and not have any income.

So, what have I learned here? Writing full time is quite different than writing strictly "for fun." As a hobby, I only ever wrote when I wanted to - when I was "inspired." These last weeks and months I've had certain set-aside times to sit down and write, inspired or not. I set certain rules about not getting up until I'd done 1,000 words, inspired or not. It was great to build that discipline, to set those challenges, and to meet them. Even better was the pay-off; as I said above, I really think I've grown as a writer for having done this.

So, again, the worry over going back to work full-time... Will I lose what I have learned? I hope not, and think not. I won't have as much time to devote to developing my writing, but I know now, more than ever, that it is not simply a dream, but something I can and will do professionally. It's just going to take some time.

Thursday, September 27, 2001

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. For Jews, it is the holiest day of the year. We spend much of it at temple (we were there for a couple of hours this morning, and will be going back soon for a couple more hours), and we fast (standard Yom Kippur joke: "Why do they call it a 'fast day' if it goes so damn slow?").

A big part of the liturgy for Yom Kippur focuses on a sort of mass confessional. We, as a community, read through the lists of sins that we, as a community as well as individuals, may have committed, attempt to repent, and ask for forgiveness. But that is not the only thing covered.

Today, in the light of recent events, and my frustration over how to respond to them (to support a war that may actually be justified, or to follow my natural pacifistic tendency and oppose war) I was particularly struck by how much of the service focuses on peace. The need for peace, the desire for peace, the goal of peace, the blessing of those who would make peace and those who would teach peace, and the sins of not keeping the peace.

Then we came to the reading of the long lists of sins and I saw one I'd never noticed before: the sin of appeasing aggressors. How does one keep peace as the highest goal without giving in to appeasing aggressors? Is this the loophole that allows for the making of war? Or is there a way to remain strong in the face of aggression, and even to fight back, without resorting to more violence?

There are no easy answers to this situation. All I can do is to return to temple this evening and pray for guidance; for myself and for our nation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

I'm happy to report that I will be starting a new job next week with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. My title is "Associate Training Director, Silicon Valley."

Like HandsNet (where I've been the last two+ years), CompassPoint is a nonprofit that provides training and information services for other nonprofits. CompassPoint and HandsNet have partnered on many projects in the past, so I already know, and have worked with, several of my new co-workers. Yep, they already knew me, but hired me anyway.

Here's more detail, copied from the official job announcement:

"CompassPoint is a nonprofit organization that offers the country's largest nonprofit management training program, including a comprehensive curriculum of Internet and computer workshops. CompassPoint Nonprofit Services also provides consulting, publications and research to help nonprofits strengthen their communities through stronger management."

"The Associate Training Director, Silicon Valley is responsible for the overall management of CompassPoint's workshop programs in San Jose and the Peninsula, with the goal of building program scale and quality. Job activities include recruiting presenters, scheduling, managing, and marketing 200+ workshops and implementing logistics for 3+ conferences per year."

This will be an exciting opportunity, and I'm looking forward to getting started.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Last night was the first rain of the season. Not simply first rain, but first storm. Beginning not long before seven o'clock, as the last of the day was fading from the sky, lightning brightening the atmosphere. Not simply isolated strikes flashing, but several seconds of the brightest possible light followed shortly by the powerful, rolling booms of the thunder, echoing ominously as if in warning, like it had something to tell us.

Now, this morning, the sky is clear, the ground is dry, with only a few scattered puddles to secretly tell us that something happened last night. Joggers go by in shorts and t-shirts, as they've always done.

Last night we were all checking our flashlights for fresh batteries, and making sure there were candles and matches available in case the power went out, as it did in a few areas. We're prepared now for the next storm, whenever it arrives, whether tonight or sometime next month, because we know that it is just a matter of when, not if. The season is just beginning, after all.

But until that time, we'll go on about our business as usual with an extra umbrella or overcoat tossed in the trunk of our cars, just in case. We'll get on with our lives, but we'll be listening for that distant sound of the coming storm, and we'll be ready.

Monday, September 24, 2001

Movie ticket sales were down again over this last weekend. The weekend's biggest hit was "Hardball" starring Keanu Reeves. Distributors blamed the slump in attendance on fears stemming from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Personally, I wanted to go the movies yesterday but couldn't find anything worthwhile to see. Come on, if Keanu Reeves is the best you've got to offer, don't blame politics for the lack of interest.

Meanwhile, if you do have the urge to see a movie, go tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/25/01). Theatres nationwide will be donating 100% of profits to charity during Victims' Benefit Day at the Movies. I'd go, but not if the only choice is Keanu Reeves.

Meanwhile, we have the first virus warning of the new war:

email subject line: "Peace between America and Islam!" - email text: "Hi. Is it a war against America or Islam!? Let's vote to live in peace!" - attachment title: "WTC.exe"

If you receive this email DELETE it. Do NOT open the attachment. As usual, the email is perfectly safe - it is the Attachment that contains the virus.

Do NOT open WTC.exe! It will begin deleting files from your hard drive and then email itself to your full address list. Additionally, if the infected machine is a web-server it will change the text of all html pages to "America ... few days will show you what we can do!!! It's our turn ))) Zaker is so sorry for you."

Again, if you get the email, simply delete it WITHOUT opening the attachment and you'll be fine.

Read more about it: at Yahoo! News or at Symantec Security Response (formerly SARC)

And remember: "always verify virus warnings before forwarding!"

Sunday, September 23, 2001

There are a lot of stories going around by email about things that may, or may not have happened regarding the incidents of September 11 (such as Nostradamus' predictions, the U.S. company that banned the display of flags, the Microsoft Conspiracy, the International Jewish Conspiracy, pilots fighting back, the bloody hands, and the man who rode the falling debris to safety). Find out which ones are true and which ones are false at Urban Legends Reference Page: Rumors of War.

But, if you want real news, news that matters, get to your local supermarket checkout line and pick up the current Weekly World News ("America's Best Newspaper"). On the cover: Bill Catches Hillary with Space Alien! ("I thought she was gay," says stunned ex-Prez"). You won't believe the pictures inside, but if it's in the WWN, it's got to be true!

Saturday, September 22, 2001

After yesterday's posting, where I amazed myself by coming out in favor of a war of covert actions and assassinations, I feel the need to pull back a bit, and take a breath today. Let me ask you just this one question: If your war is against terrorism in general, not just to round up one gang of terrorists in particular, how do you know when you've won?

My friends in Salt Lake are worried about security at the Olympics that are coming there in February. They are concerned about the possibility of chemical or biological weapons in particular and seriously discussing sending there one-year-old daughter to stay with relatives elsewhere during the Olympics - just in case.

If you want a precarious thrill, get your copy of Moby Dick off the shelf (what, you don't have a copy? Go to Borders and look under "Melville") and check out about four paragraphs up from the end of chapter one ("Loomings"). Freaky, eh? (Thanks to W.S.K. for pointing that out).

Friday, September 21, 2001

As with each of my other posts here since the tragedies of 9/11, I'm just thinking out loud about my own attempt to walk that fine line between appropriate response and quagmire. I also believe we are all suffering from a certain lack of sleep. Never-the-less, here's some thoughts after the President's big speech to Congress and a few emails with friends...

A friend of mine wrote to say that he "never thought [he] would support the U.S. sending troops to battle in a foreign nation." I agree. Even more bizarre is that I found comfort in the President's saying that while some of this battle will be seen on TV, much of it will be "secret even in success."

I can't believe it, but I agree that this will be most successful if it is kept primarily in black ops and covert actions. We need to quietly and effectively cut off their network and eliminate the operatives from the bottom up. Bin Laden is actually the last one we want to assassinate. Taking him out, while he still has an army of terrorists would only make him a martyr and light the fuse on ten thousand bombs. Cut off that army first, and then take out the leader when he's on the run.

These are things that need to be done with the combined intelligence services of all our allies, funded by the U.S. but much of it carried out by the agents of some of our friends who don't have that pesky little prohibition against assassination.

Now that's some shit I never thought I'd support. But, I'm convinced that conventional "war" isn't going to work here. Not just because I'm pretty much of a pacifist, but because, objectively, it's just the wrong strategy. (Like the President said last week, "You don't send a $2 million missile into a $10 tent." That's why the Clinton attempts failed.)

When the President (and you'll notice I've stopped calling him W, and have come to accept that he is the President, like it or not) said that some of this battle will be seen on TV but much of it will be "secret even in success," I realized that he knows that too: He needs a few conventional strikes for PR. The video will let people know that we're working on it, and keep us in support of him and the fight. But that's all for show. The real work will be stuff we won't know about for twenty years, at least.

My friend's email concluded, "Do not expect rational thought from irrational minds." Here, I will disagree with him to an extent. It's a mistake to assume that they are irrational. Everybody, including insane people, act in ways that seem rational to them.

So, why would last week's attacks seem rational to bin Laden? Well, to make him a hero in the fundamentalist world, sure. But that's not enough because he knows that we've got to retaliate for something that big. And that's why the article I posted the other day from Alternet, that suggested bin Laden was trying to goad us into WWIII, made sense to me.

Bin Laden's writings suggest he thinks a war of the Muslim world against the West is winnable. He doesn't believe we can hold a coalition together for anything bigger than a single strike or show of power. He knows from history that no outside force has ever successfully invaded Afghanistan. From that point of view it's totally rational to make a first strike that requires our response. He's certainly wrong on the first point, probably wrong on the second, and the third doesn't take new technology into consideration. But he's quite rational. Insane or foolish, perhaps. But certainly rational.

Anyway, as always, these are just thoughts as they're forming and evolving without the benefit of sleep. I'm sure there'll be more tomorrow.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Well - I must be doing something right. One of my [former] co-workers at HandsNet was mad at me because she thought I was being too gung-ho in my pro-American attitude and blood-thirstyness. Now a reply to this morning's post leads me to think another friend is under the impression that I've joined the "Let's-roll-over-and-die-and-take-what's-coming-to-us" club.

The truth is I'm in neither of those extreme camps. All I've been interested in doing with my posts here, and with some emails I've sent, is to ask for a calm, reasoned, and realistic approach in responding to terror. I agree 100% about doing something about this. But I don't believe World War III is the answer.

As the [edited] clergy letter I posted this morning said, "we too demand that those responsible for these utterly evil acts be found and brought to justice. Those culpable must not escape accountability. But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate." The keyword being "indiscriminately" - yes, we must retaliate, but wisely and selectively and with restraint.

To be honest, I don't know what that means any more than anybody else. But I'm fairly certain it doesn't include massive air raids or sending ground troops across Pakistan to invade Afghanistan to chase Osama bin Laden into Chechnya.

Just think of me as Alan Greenspan cautioning about irrational exuberance in the field of warfare.
Imagine a country where fundamentalist extremists, with tens of thousands of unquestioning followers, can justify violence by blaming it on the supposed sins of certain fellow citizens. Welcome to America.

One week ago, just two days after the terrorist attack of September 11, Reverend Jerry Falwell said on national TV that America got "probably what we deserved." Falwell blamed gays, lesbians, feminists, the ACLU, and People for the American Way for making God mad at America: "I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" - "I totally concur," said Reverend Pat Robertson, Falwell's host on "The 700 Club."

Falwell and Robertson have clearly demonstrated that they are in full agreement with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in their criticism of secular American society, and their desire to start a holy crusade against it, the end of which is government by the clergy and [their narrow interpretation of] religious doctrine.

I'm still waiting for President Bush to say what he plans to do with these particular evil-doers, and whether it will be through targeted missile strikes, air raids, or ground invasion.

But seriously, for a more reasonable religious response to last week's events, read this letter, signed by progressive clergy from all of America's religious groups:

"We, American religious leaders, share the broken hearts of our fellow citizens. ... In the face of such a cruel catastrophe, it is a time to look to God and to each other for the strength we need and the response we will make. We must dig deep to the roots of our faith for sustenance, solace, and wisdom...

"... we offer a word of sober restraint as our nation discerns what its response will be. We share the deep anger toward those who so callously and massively destroy innocent lives, no matter what the grievances or injustices invoked. In the name of God, we too demand that those responsible for these utterly evil acts be found and brought to justice. Those culpable must not escape accountability. But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life.

"... The terrorists have offered us a stark view of the world they would create, where the remedy to every human grievance and injustice is a resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge - even against the most innocent.

"... But we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also emotional oppression to further its aims. ... America must be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. It is especially important that our citizens who share national origins, ethnicity, or religion with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us.

"... Let us make the right choices in this crisis - to pray, act, and unite against the bitter fruits of division, hatred, and violence. Let us rededicate ourselves to global peace, human dignity, and the eradication of injustice that breeds rage and vengeance. ..."

Click for the full text of the letter and all signatories

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

"We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that. New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs." This is Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-American, speaking out on the terror of the Taliban on

Ansary reminds us that the "Taliban and Bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan." He then goes on to discuss that plan, and what we, in the West, can do about it.

Afghanistan is a nation of about 22 million people, at least a quarter of whom are in danger of starvation. The only reason that number isn't higher is that relief organizations (mostly funded by and based in the U.S.) are working to prevent a greater tragedy. They did not choose the Taliban; they were the first victims. Air raids and missile strikes are more likely to hit that civilian population than to take out Osama bin Laden (remember, we've tried that before and missed).

The only way to put an end to the rule of the Taliban and capture Osama bin Laden, while minimizing "collateral damage," is to send in ground troops.

In the article, Ansary point out that "to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West. And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants."

Please read the full article at

Monday, September 17, 2001

Yesterday evening, at the intersection of Blossom Hill and Almaden, a major suburban intersection in San Jose, a large crowd had gathered at each corner, waving flags and banners that read "Honk if You Love Freedom!"

We had met my brother for dinner just a few doors up from that corner. From six o'clock, when we arrived to wait for a table, to eight o'clock, when we had finished our meals (and margarita's), the honking never ceased.

I understood that the organizers of this action meant it in support of the US troops who will soon be called into battle, and as a statement against those who would deny us our way of life - concepts I fully support - but, still, I found the display disturbing.

War is not something to enter with car horns and cheering. It is something to enter quietly and soberly, with prayers and meditation.

We didn't ask for war, but it has come to us anyway. I can, and will, accept that we are going to fight but, please, don't expect me to be happy about it and, please, don't ask me to participate in a pep rally.

Tonight begins the Jewish new year's holy day of Rosh Hashanah (literally, "Head of the Year") and an eight day period called the Days of Awe which culminate next week in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Like millions of Jews around the world, my thoughts and prayers will be focused on the events that began last Tuesday.

I will pray for Mayor Giuliani and President Bush, for our troops, for the families of those victims from the attacks so far, and the families of those victims yet to come, whatever their nationality, for guidance and calm to come to our leaders, and, most of all, for a swift peace.

I'll be saving my cheers and car honking for the end of the war, when those responsible have been brought to justice, our soldiers and civilians are safe, and we can declare victory over terrorism. That's when you'll see me on a street corner waving my flag.

Sunday, September 16, 2001

We finally have TV again. We'd made the appointment for cable installation last month, and they were supposed to have come on Friday, between 3:00 and 5:00. Which means, of course, that they showed up at 7:30 PM, just as we were giving up and heading out the door for dinner.

The bottom line is, yesterday, we finally got to be immersed in the images that we'd been reading and hearing about all week. Now we're ready to have them pull the cable out again.

Saturday, September 15, 2001

The following is an email I sent to a friend last night in response to some emails he's been sending out to all his list the last few days:


Three days in a row you have sent me emails with pleas for calm, reason, and peace, which I very much appreciate.

You have warned against rash reactions to the events of this last week and prayed for there to be no world war. Thank you.

You have warned against taking the extremism of a handful of Islamic fundamentalists as an excuse to punish all Muslims and Arabs with our hatred. I hope that all Americans get that message. We cannot allow that to happen.

You have pointed out in quite eloquent language that "what goes around comes around," that in no small way our own foreign policy may have led to these tragedies, that it may be a case of the "chickens coming home to roost." I agree, to a certain point, but think the issues are much deeper than simply that.

You have then, in all three letters, singled out Israel for criticism, and laid the blame for the WTC tragedy on our (US) support for Israel. I certainly have my problems with those in power in Israel and many of their policies. However, to harp on and on about their supposed terrorism without the context of the terrorists attacking them is beneath you.

Just as propaganda against Islamic fundamentalists gets taken out against American Muslims and Arabs, so too does anti-Israeli propaganda get taken out against American Jews. To say support for Israel killed 5,000 Americans at the WTC is not much different than simply saying, "Blame the Jews."

The problem is one of omission. Yes, we must be stern with Israel in helping to forge a peace in the mid-east. But when we scold one partner in that battle without scolding the others for the same, or worse, acts, you make it seem as if the other combatant is blameless. Do not even try to tell me that the PLO does not support terrorism. There are no angels here.

Why is it that your letters never mention the moderate Arab states that the US supports that are anything but democratic lovers of freedom and diversity?

Just as your omission of the PLO make Israel seem like the only villain in that battle, so too does your omission of Osama bin Laden's activities seem like an attempt to justify the actions taken against us.

US foreign policy over the last 40 years (at least) certainly helps explain the hatred of us abroad, but explanations are not the same thing as justification. Just as the heinous actions of the PLO (and others) explain, but could never justify, the deplorable actions of Israel.

A little balance in that region is all I ask of you as a friend, and expect of you as a well-informed commentator.

Please, in your next missive, if you must criticize Israel again, also point out some of the crimes of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc. (all moderate states, our allies, my friend's homelands, but not quite America).

And when you ask people not to resort to anti-Muslim actions or thoughts, you could also point out that "anti-Semitism" refers to all Semites: Jews & Arabs, brothers despite it all. You can remind people that American Jews do not vote in Israel, and also deplore the cycle of violence.

Here's just one small anecdote for you: My cousin D- was a proud US Marine during the time of the Gulf War. He was trained, ready, and willing to go into battle. He was shipped off to Bahrain, but was then stuck there in the staging area. Why? Because our hosts in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, for whom we were shedding American blood, asked that no Jews be sent onto their soil.

Maybe someday I'll tell you about my Gulf War protest experience, where I learned first hand the virulent anti-Semitism of the American left.

I value your friendship, I admire your writing, but I'm hurt by these emails.


- Ken

Friday, September 14, 2001

In the email I've received some supposed writings of Nostradamus that purport to have predicted Tuesday's tragedies. Being curious, and having far too much time on my hands, I decided to do a little research and see if the email quotes were accurate.

First, I went to my Nostradamus book and searched out certain keywords that were in the email. Finally, I was lucky enough to find a good Nostradamus site that was easily searchable.

As I suspected, the email which very accurately describes the WTC attack to the letter was bogus. But, it did borrow certain lines from several actual Nostradamus prophecies. Here are the main ones it seems to be compiled from:

X. 72
In the seventh month of 1999
A great king of Terror comes from the sky
To receive the king of Mongols
Before and after, Mars reigns by good fortune

("seventh month" is the English translation, the original French is "Sept" - as to the year, 2000+1, 2000-1, close enough?)

VI. 97
At forty-five degrees the sky will burn,
Fire to approach the great new city:
In an instant a great scattered flame will leap up,
When one will want to demand proof of the Normans.

(New York is at Latitude 41 degrees)


X. 49
Garden of the World near the new city
In the path of hollow mountains
Seized and plunged into the vat
Forced to drink water poisoned by sulfur

(are skyscrapers "hollow mountains?")

Those three verses, taken out of context, and read this week certainly seem to point to the WTC tragedy (when you forget the references to Mongols and Normans, round off the numbers, have a generous imagination, and ignore the stuff that's completely indecipherable).

While looking those up I also came across this verse that was definitely relevant a few months ago:

VIII. 20
False message about a fraudulent election
Is stopped from circulating through the city
Voices bought, chapel tainted with blood
The empire goes to another

Here's the Nostradamus search engine

I just got another email asking about the domestic conspiracy angle: Did W and his cronies set this up as an excuse to cut into our freedoms? My sister-in-law and her girlfriend called on Tuesday afternoon with similar questions.

Look, I'm as open to conspiracy theories as anybody else (more so, probably), but I'm not ready to buy that one yet. For one thing, it's caused too much disruption of the financial markets. If, when the markets reopen on Monday, they're able to turn this into some sort of windfall profit rather than a $50 billion pit, then I'll look at the domestic conspiracy theories. Remember: these assholes are self-interested above all else.

Of course, the profit angle could figure in if we wind up with a full-scale war going on. Wars are expensive things to run, and there's much cash to made on weaponry and defense systems.

If this was "an inside job" I have to believe that they didn't realize how far it would go. As jaded and cynical as I am, or can be, I don't want to even speculate that our "leaders" knew what the death toll would be and still went along with it.

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Once again, it's book review time...

"The Feast of Love" by Charles Baxter is a surprising and original book that covers the love buffet, from young and innocent, to jaded and cynical. There's love between lovers, between parents and children, between people and pets, and between friends, love gone right, and love gone wrong, and it's all there for us to examine.

The first half of the book reads more like a collection of loosely related short stories as Baxter himself, as a character in his own book, meets and interviews his friends and neighbors about their love experiences. By the mid-way point, however, the threads between the stories become stronger, and Baxter plays a lesser role in the narrative. By the end you understand how the various parts add up to a single whole, are fascinated by each of the people presented, and sad to be left out of the rest of their lives.

Because each character tells their own story, each chapter is from a different point of view; that is to say the "first person" narrating is a different first person from chapter to chapter. I had no problem with this, and I expect most readers won't, but I know that that can be a bother to a certain few readers who like a single, strong narrative voice throughout. If that's you, you know who you are.

If you like a lighter (but not light weight), comic novel, you can't go wrong with Feast of Love. Also recommended for readers of short stories.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

It's kind of hard to get my thoughts around the events of the last 24 hours. It's still all just sinking in.

I spent the first half of yesterday not doing much more than listening to the radio (still no TV, the cable guy is coming Friday). I had on KCBS and listened to the story unfold: reports of attacks that didn't happen (truck bomb at the state department and a plane crash at Camp David), confusion over whether four or five planes were hijacked, security measures being taken and emergency crews being assembled, and of course the tragedies that did occur.

KCBS made phone contact with a couple of San Francisco locals who were working in the World Trade Center when the attacks occurred. The first interview, which ran about 20-25 minutes, was with a man who'd been on the 33rd floor of tower one. He described hearing the plane approach and the building shuddering and swaying with the impact. He wasn't sure if it was a plane crash or a missile.

He ran into the hallway, which was already filling with smoke, then went back into the office. He phoned his wife (in SF), then his business partner (in NY). The partner told him that he was watching on the TV, told him what had happened, and suggested he get out of there.

In the stairwell he joined the procession coming from the upper floors. He described the slow movement as organized and controlled. They'd all step aside to let those with burns, or pregnant women, go ahead for a quicker exit. Along the way some of the evacuees broke into soda machines on the floor landings to pass out waters to those choking on the smoke. Paper towel rolls, taken from the rest rooms, were also passed; each person taking a square to place over their mouth and breath through.

About halfway down they started to meet the fire fighters on their way up the same stairway; one single-file line going down, another going up. The crowd started handing their stolen waters to the firemen. He described the looks on their faces, as if they knew they were going to their own deaths.

When he made it to the lobby he described the wreckage there as looking like there had been an earthquake (he's from SF, remember). He guessed that at least one of the elevator shafts had collapsed, the pressure blowing out the elevator doors, through the lobby, buckling the floor, and crashing out the windows and doors at the front of the building.

He was about three or four blocks away, heading north by foot, when he turned back and saw one of the towers collapse.

The other powerful interview was with a San Franciscan who was on the 61st floor of the second tower. He had seen the flames coming from the first tower, but didn't know what was going on. He joined a crowd of people heading down the stairwells, just in case, when they were told to head back up and to their offices; the burning building was being evacuated and people in the "good" building should stay out of the way.

Before making it up too many flights back to his office, he felt what he thought was bomb rock that tower. A crack in the wall of the stairwell opened up behind him, and he once again headed down. He too described the faces of the fire fighters, as he passed them, as indescribable; they were already ghosts before going to their deaths.

The local news had to do with security measures being taken, what was closed and what was open, and commentary on events beyond comment. Mayors Brown (SF), Brown (Oakland), and Gonzalez (San Jose), all appealed for calm and help and prayers and reassured locals that everything was fine here.

The calls for blood donations locally were so successful that they had to come back on to suggest spreading out donations over the next week. At one three hour wait to donate blood, KCBS reporters ran into Robin Williams in line. "Type B Positive, B Negative, just be here," joked Williams.

I finally had to turn off the radio around 12:30 or 1:00. It felt better to get out for a little while and do some errands (pharmacy, market, etc.). But when I came back home, I still couldn't get to work on anything, and the radio came back on before too long.

With the radio on I sat at my kitchen table watching the song birds visiting the bird feeder we hung from the awning outside the kitchen window. Across the way I could see the park, and the trees. The visual in front of me did not match with the reports I was listening too, and the irony was hard to bear.

When Leslie came home we went up the street to Double-D's, a sports bar & grill with multiple TVs. As expected (as hoped for), they had CNN on several screens and I got to see, for the first time, what I'd been listening to all day.

Watching the buildings collapse, and the crowds running ahead of the gray clouds of debris making their way up the streets of Manhattan, I thought it looked like volcano footage. The cars and people rising from the streets covered in several inches of ash reminded me of Mount St. Helens.

The video of the second plane flying into, and virtually through, the second tower took my breath away. It was completely beyond any of the descriptions I had heard during the day, or the ability of anybody to accurately describe.

And now, now that I've collected my thoughts on the subject, now I'm going to try to get back to my life that I put aside 24 hours ago.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

on 9/11/01 8:17 AM, nan wrote:
> What the FUCK is going on in our world?! Are we safe?!

We woke up to the clock-radio, the Greg Kihn show, at 6:20. I was still half asleep, and couldn't really hear what he was saying, but Leslie asked me, "Is he serious?"

"About what?"

"Did he just say the World Trade Center is burning?"

This situation is surreal enough, but hearing it first from a former rock star ["(Our Love's in) Jeopardy" "The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'em Like That Anymore)"] turned morning DJ just made it even more surreal.

I've been glued to the radio for the past 90 minutes - I think I need to start taking notes to follow which planes have hit which targets and which reports have been confirmed and which were just nasty rumors.

Certainly, we're at war. The question is, with whom?

Are we safe? Maybe. Los Gatos (just outside San Jose) is not likely to be a major target, but the local radio is reporting all the precautionary evacuations in San Francisco (the city schools just closed, 20 minutes after they opened). The only San Jose evacuation, so far, is the airport.

Recap, so far (8:15 AM, PST):
  • 2 hijacked planes took down the World Trade Center in NY, both towers, all 110 stories of them, are now rubble
  • 1 hijacked plane took out a corner of the Pentagon
  • A truck bomb did NOT go off at the State Department, as previously reported
  • Plane crash outside Pittsburgh - Not sure if it's related yet
  • Washington DC on alert for one more hijacked plane that may be on its way - F16's are in the air ready to shoot it down
  • Possible report of a plane crash at Camp David - need more detail
  • President Bush in the air, en route from Florida - Was going to DC, may be diverted elsewhere
  • All flights, anywhere, in the US are cancelled for at least 5 or 6 more hours - International flights to the US are going to Canada
  • The White House, the Capitol, and what's left of the Pentagon have all be evacuated, with similar evacuations of Federal properties nationwide
  • Manhattan has been evacuated - Mayor Giulliani has requested that everybody move "above Canal Street"
  • Stock markets all closed

I can't get onto, even Yahoo! News is too busy to get into. I have no television (the cable guy's coming on Friday). So, I've just got the AM radio going to keep me up to date.

This is certainly not what I had planned on writing this morning.

Monday, September 10, 2001

According to the latest research, advertising has the ability to create false childhood memories, or alter existing memories. Inspired by Disney World's "Remember the Magic" 25th anniversary ad campaign, researchers created fake ads, depicting Bugs Bunny greeting kids at Disney World. Adults who were shown the fake ads "remembered" shaking hands with Bugs at Disney World as children. In reality, Bugs, of course, works for Warner Brothers, and wouldn't be caught dead on Disney property.

Personally, I doubt that ads could shape memories. I know that my childhood memories are all accurate, and all my own. Like the time my mother bought that new Life cereal, and we were afraid to try it, so we got little Mickey to try it - and he hates everything!

The full story: Ads can alter memory claim scientists

Saturday, September 08, 2001

NEWS FLASH: Verizon says, "You're Too Stupid to Understand Basic Economics!"

Verizon Communications is the latest company to announce that they will raising their payphone rates to 50 cents per call. The culprit being blamed for the "necessity" of this hike is everybody's favorite new villain; the cell phone.

Too many people are using cell phones, which has cut into the payphone business by as much as 25 percent. The phone companies are all claiming it's a matter of simple economics, pointing out that when demand goes down, they've got to raise their prices to make up for the loss.

Except, if you've ever taken even the most basic course in economics, you know that that is not how the laws of supply and demand work. Prices go up when there is a shortage of an item that is in high demand - it is a "seller's market" and they set the price. When you have a product in abundant supply, but low in demand, that is a "buyer's market" - prices should be dropping to encourage us to use payphones. At the very least, prices should remain stable.

Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union in Washington DC may have caught on to the reasoning behind their lies: "They're just trying to migrate people from using pay phones, which are often very inconvenient and with unlimited calling once you've made the initial 25- or 35-cent payment for a local call and move them over to wireless where you pay by the minute."

So, the problem isn't that too many people are using cell phones, as Verizon claims; the problem is they want Everybody using cell phones where their profit margin is even higher. See, I told you economics was simple.

Blame Pay Phone Hike On Cellular

Friday, September 07, 2001

Q: How do you feel about not being heard? What does that feel like, and where did it come from? What do you do about it?

I'll repeat myself. Once. Maybe twice - for somebody I like. But if you didn't hear me by that point, I'm not going to waste my time saying it again.

As the youngest of three sons, I had to repeat myself a lot growing up. Most days, I could get a word in edgewise. So I learned to save it up, to only speak when I have something important to say. If you weren't listening, then that's your problem.

Q: That's good, but it's not exactly what I meant. I wasn't talking about listening; I was asking about hearing. Understanding. How do you feel about not being heard?

Perhaps that's why I'm interested in writing. Through the printed word I can better control the way I communicate. I'm able to get out all I have to say on a subject without being interrupted. The reader can still choose to stop in the middle, but they can't shut me up.

Q: You're still avoiding the question. You're not hearing me.

Ahhh, really? And how does that feel?

Thursday, September 06, 2001

I'm not $88 million richer today than I was yesterday. I thought I might be, but I just checked the winning Lotto numbers, and I'm not. For $88 million, I thought, what the Hell? I bought a couple of quick-picks. I guess this means I've got to continue searching for a job.

Yesterday I had a fairly decent job interview. I can't say that I felt I had it locked down, but I don't think I blew it too bad either. It was a slightly different experience in that I knew the woman interviewing me. The organization was a sometime partner of HandsNet in a few projects, so I knew them, they knew me, they understand the situation. Whether that helps my case or hurts remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I called the state EDD (Employment Development Department) and activated my claim for unemployment insurance. After paying into the system for twenty-two years I suppose it might be about time that I get a little bit back. But it still feels like something I shouldn't be doing; like I'm cheating somehow. I'm sure I'll get over it when I see how little I'll be getting. This isn't a life choice; it's an emergency measure.

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

I just posted my latest column on

Amending Freedom:
What's the purpose of the US Constitution? A look at two proposed amendments, and why they each pose dangers to our freedom by limiting our rights. That's not what the Constitution is supposed to be about, is it? Can you amend freedom, or only limit it?

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

"Film is so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have no business studying the cinema."
Pauline Kael
June 19, 1919 - September 3, 2001

Film critic extraordinaire, Pauline Kael, died yesterday from Parkinson's at age 82. Kael's writings have inspired generations of film makers and film lovers, and helped promote the careers of such directors as Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese. The quote above (from memory, I apologize if it's not accurate) has always been one of my favorites. I feel it's the film criticism equivalent of Emma Goldman's quote, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Also said yesterday, at a campaign rally in Minneapolis for a local Mayoral candidate: "My attitude is you win some, you lose some, and then there's that little-known third category" - Al Gore, 9/3/01.

Meanwhile, in the wake of more shark attacks in one season than anybody can remember, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has pulled a series of billboards saying, "Would You Give Your Right Arm to Know Why Sharks Attack, Could it be Revenge? Go Vegetarian, PETA." A rare show of good taste from PETA.

One theory for why there have been so many shark attacks this year is that we have now trained the sharks to not fear us, and to see us as a source of food. This is because many scuba and sight-seeing tours now do shark petting. Yes, shark petting. The tour guide feeds the sharks and gets them to circle the boat. While the sharks are distracted with the food, brave (? how about stupid?) tourists reach out and pet the sharks. Wake up folks, this isn't the Discovery Channel here. You fuck with nature and nature will fuck with you.

My own experience with sharks in the wild is limited to the smallish Sand Sharks that follow the fishing boats off of Cape Cod. When we were growing up my paternal grandparents had a house in Onset where all the Goldstein Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins would gather every summer. My uncle Phil would be up every morning before the sun to go fishing.

I remember one occasion when I went with him. He did not have a boat of his own, so we were out on a boat with about twenty or thirty fishermen and a crew of maybe four or five. I had fun trying to fish, but seeing as I don't eat them, I wasn't too motivated to catch them. As the blood and guts of our catch piled up on deck, more and more of the Sand Sharks would be following us, waiting for the rejects that might be tossed back.

When they'd get too bold, and get tangled in people's lines, the boat's crew would haul the sharks up on deck, take a sledge hammer, and smash its head in. I don't recall if they were thrown back, as a warning to the other sharks, or if they were kept for dinner. But that was the end of my career as deep sea fisher.

Sunday, September 02, 2001

The inevitable finally happened on Friday; the long, slow decline of HandsNet is just about complete. If you recall, I was actually laid off six months ago, as of March 1, but that I was going to help "wrap things up" for a few weeks as a consultant. That relationship continued for six months. The money is now completely gone, and Friday was the last day for which I'll be paid, though not, necessarily, the last day which I'll work. Now begins the wrapping up that was supposed to have begun in March. And now begins the job search, again, in earnest.

Meanwhile, I've been doing quite a bit of writing. I've got a couple of short stories that have been sent out, and are making the rounds of the little, literary journals, another that's just about ready (and may be my best yet), and a couple more in the works.

Is this a good omen? This morning, I saw Batgirl. She wasn't in her crime fighting uniform, but I know it was her. Well, actually, without her costume she'd be Barbara Gordon, the Commissioner's daughter, but you and I each know she's really Batgirl. She's riding a Ninja motorcycle these days, but I still recognized her from the red hair streaming from beneath the helmet.

Now, why is that? I see a young woman ride by on a motorcycle, and just because of her red hair, and approximate physical similarity, I think of Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, and the image stays with me for the rest of the day. Perhaps, years ago, when I was tuning in at the same Bat-time to the same Bat-channel, she was stirring up in me feelings I couldn't yet understand.

In talking about these things with my friends, we usually all agree it was Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stevens, or Barbara Eden as Jeannie, or even Barbara Feldon as 99, that aroused our earliest sexual fantasies. But Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, now that's one we often forget, but was certainly worth thinking about.

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