March 21, 2006

Stop the War

The Olympian started it out, with a front page story headed by "Dad in Iraq for revenge ready to head home". The story is about an older soldier who joined the Guard, wanting to serve again, this time with his son, who was in Iraq. Before he was able to go to Iraq, his son was killed. Now, he's in Iraq himself and "there's some revenge involved." I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a child to a war and I'm sure he is in serious pain, but I can imagine several alternative ways to deal with the pain, all of them an improvement over hoping to kill a "terrorist." Even more perplexing to me was that he had served as a Christian missionary. Was he more than a salesman for Christ? Is there something he might have taken from his religious teachings, beyond that he is on the other side from the heathens and that killing them is the answer? To his credit, he seemed to be losing his enthusiasm for the enterprise, though it wasn't clear what he'd learned from it.

This was followed by the spiritual perspective, this week from Imam Mohamad Joban, the leader of the local Muslim congregation. His article was called "Understanding the Islam view of violence", which was a refreshing improvement from the poor guy who thinks he can cure the pain of the loss of his son by taking someone else's son or daughter. It was also good to see the Imam's writing in the Olympian and his clear statement that "there is no room for violence in the Quran."

Once home, I picked up February's Sun Magazine and found myself immersed in an interview with Kathy Kelly, which described some of her experiences in Iraq. She was in Baghdad when the U.S troops arrived and Saddam's regime fell. I was impressed by her commitment and clear vision for a real compassionate foreign policy. And that love and compassion were the center of her spiritual path.

So it was with these thoughts in my head that I went downtown to join the rally against the war. Several hundred of us lined both sides of Fourth Avenue, from the Heritage Park fountain to halfway up the Fourth Avenue bridge. The vast majority of the responses from those driving on the road were positive. (Note to those already talking on your cell phones: please don't bother to wave. We understand and would prefer at least one hand on the wheel.) I'm sure it won't stop the war, but it felt like time to do something and it was good to see my neighbors out there, too.

March 16, 2006

The Neville Chamberlain of Global Warming?

From GOAT - A High Country News Blog:
According to a poll by the Civil Society Institute and, a plurality of Americans want the federal government to do more about climate change, and given the absence of federal leadership, they support local initiatives to do the same. (Link to survey results .pdf)
More and more, I'm thinking the Bush administration will be seen as the Neville Chamberlain of global warming -- the folks who turned their eyes away from a real and increasing danger and who dithered in the face of an implacable foe. That the Bush administration seems to do it for the profit of campaign donors makes it even more squalid. Chamberlain was a dope, but even if history looks unkindly on him at least he wasn't on the Nazi payroll.
This is a good metaphor for this administration, but it's actually worse than it suggests. The Bush administration, rather than an ineffective dope, is more like a warming-sympathizer. They are not failing in an ineffectual struggle against global warming, they've actively pushed against efforts to control warming.

March 15, 2006

BVI - Tortola, Soper's Hole

Map of Tortola, BVI
We were awakened quite a bit too early for my comfort by a series of excited roosters. Still, it was a beautiful morning and we were soon ready to go. Here's a morning view of the marina from the balcony of our hotel.

Soper's Hole marina, Tortola, BVI
We spent the day acclimatizing to the sun and the warm and exploring the little town of Soper's Hole, perched on Frenchman’s Cay and the nearby main island. We found the two groceries, checked in with the charter, Barecat Yacht Charters, and discussing our plans. There were a number of little shops and restaurants and quite a few people about, so it was interesting to just watch people go by. And, frankly, that's about all we had energy for this day.

The Captain and the Librarian and I had breakfast the Blue Parrot. I had the full English breakfast (of course), but the others ordered the rum French toast. All of us were surprised by what it turned out to be – French toast with a shot of syrup and an accompanying shot of rum. When they say rum around here, they mean it!

The Captain likes to find a local soft drink to take along, to keep the body hydrated and the blood sugar going. In St. Vincent, it was Bitter Lemon. He couldn’t get it here (he tried before we left), so here it was Ting. We bought four cases. We also bought a couple of cases of Red Stripe beer, another fine, Jamaican product.

We finished the evening on the deck outside our hotel rooms watching the sun set on Little Thatch Island, outside the harbor.

The next day we got serious about provisioning for the trip. Prices were what you'd expect in a small town on an island with two stores that cater to visitors who can afford to charter sailboats for a holiday. That helped us to avoid a repeat of the over-purchasing that went on in St. Vincent. The Captain and the charter owner went through the orientation while I listened in, while the rest lugged everything to the dock. About noon, the Captain fired up the motors, we cast off, swung downwind, and headed out of the harbor.

March 12, 2006

British Virgin Islands

Earlier this winter, during the middle of January, we had the wonderful opportunity to visit the British Virgin Islands and spend twelve days sailing on a catamaran. Three of us had done something similar a few years ago, on a bareboat charter out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So, we jumped at the chance to do it again, in new waters. I mean, steady wind, warm air, warm water, and going barefoot for days at a time? A no-brainer.

The British Virgin Islands are a collection of mostly volcanic islands, just east of the U. S. Virgin Islands (St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix), at the point where the Caribbean archipelago begins to arc southward. They are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, but are administered independently. They, conveniently, use the U. S. Dollar. With the steady winds, the many islands and harbors, the deep waters, and coral reefs, they are a wonderful cruising ground.

There were five of us: the Captain, the Librarian, the Professor, the Dancer, and me. Sadly, the Captain's mate was unable to accompany us, as her mother took seriously ill just before we left. We thought of her -- and her mother --? frequently. Still, we couldn'?t help ourselves: we had a great time.

The Captain has sailed since he was ten and is the best I'?ve sailed under -- calm and confident. There was more than enough sailing competence on board that we were never under pressure.
The Captain, the Librarian and I flew from SeaTac through Dallas and San Juan, Puerto Rico to Beef Island, BVI, arriving late in the evening. Immigration and customs was simple enough. The taxi driver who usually serves our charter company's customers wasn'?t available (all the other drivers there knew who he was and that he wasn'?t available), so we found a guy who was willing to go that far that late.

We all crammed ourselves and our gear into the van and we headed out on the narrow and surprisingly busy roads. First, over the bridge onto Tortola Island, then through the capital, Road Town (where we dropped off one of the passengers), and continued along the coast to Soper'?s Hole, at the far western end of the island. There was a little confusion about the hotel, as everything was closed, it was dark, and there was no signage. We found it by the note on the door from the Professor and the Dancer, who had arrived earlier from Portland. They very graciously awoke and let us in, where we chattered excitedly about the coming days.

March 5, 2006

The Game of Love and Chance

Last night, my wife and I and a couple of friends went to Harlequin Productions’ current show, The Game of Love and Chance. I enjoyed it; I laughed a great deal. It had good writing, interesting costumes, and effective performances.

The translation by Stephen Wadsworth was interesting. Much of the feeling of the mid-eighteenth century language was preserved, but every now and then, he plugged in a very contemporary, colloquialism, like “Really?” or some other informality. I think it worked, but it clinked a little in my ear, especially at first.

It wasn’t as powerful as their last production, Frozen, but I really appreciate Harlequin’s commitment to doing new things and different things. They’ve matured from a few years ago, when it seemed that the same group of actors was in every production. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t. They seem now to have expanded their circle of actors and, so, have a wider selection of skills to choose from.

If you’re interested in supporting local theater, you could do worse than Harlequin.

March 4, 2006

Does Salvage Logging Kill Seedlings?

The very useful High Country News has been following the saga of Dan Donato, a graduate student at Oregon State University who has been leading a study of the effects of salvage logging in Oregon. And I've followed this story with more than ecological interest, because I have met the young man, as he's married to my daughter's first cousin.

The linked story describes the drama well:
  • The publication of initial results in the journal Science and the uproar attending it from timber industry-supported interests.
  • The withdrawal of funding for the study by the Bureau of Land Management, with timing suggesting that it is motivated by concern that the results don't support agency policy.
  • The demand by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (WA) that the BLM's decision be investigated as politically motivated and the almost immediate reversal of the funding decision.
  • The visit by two other U.S. Reps. Brian Baird (WA) and Greg Walden (OR) to southern Oregon and conduct a "hearing," in which it's clear that Rep. Baird is displeased with the study's report.
I'm pissed about this because Brian Baird is my congressmember and I find him generally useful. But this last episode looks like political intimidation of the process of gathering scientific knowledge. It disturbs me that Rep. Baird has chosen to support the practice of the Bush administration of punishing scientists who report data that calls into question their preferred policies. Rep. Baird has stated that salvage logging "lessens impact" on the environment. He should back this assertion up with data, not intimidation of those out in the field gathering that data.