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Here's the lastest garden photo exposition: "Raspberry Story", photos of the ripe raspberries on my garden vines.


Okay, I think I'll have to start again here. I think I got into a very non-communicative mode here for a while. Too many angry political feelings. Too much rage and disgust for digital piracy. Too much heartache over animal abuse. Started to get a little morbid. Could be I should only share pretty little pictures of flowers and grass and birdies.

I'll try. But there's that book I'm reading that incenses me yet again: "Dereliction of Duty", about how a handful of brilliant unconscionable jerks engineered the war in Viet Nam. I already knew that but it's very dismaying to read yet again how few people control events to squander the lives of others.

Ooops . . .I will try to go back to the pretty pictures for a while.


Nobody likes to think about it but it's a rock solid fact of life than any of us can die at any moment. We'd like to think that bad stuff and sudden death just happens to other people. But no. I always try to remember that I'm lucky to be alive today and do not have broken bones and I'm not in agonizing pain for one reason or another. Because I have been in the past and one always has to be grateful for big favors like that.

So yesterday, when it was a gloriously sunny day at last, I was so happy to be able to walk to the grocery store with my big Shepherd, Xena, who was so frisky. What a treat to be able to just tie her up outside (we all do that around here - take our dogs to the store where there is a nice doggie watering trough and waiting area for us). Then I just sat in the steps of my deck, with my doggies grouped around me, and listened to some Spring birdsong, and did nothing for a while. We should all do that more.

My Tulips are fabulous. I've got tall red ones and yellow ones and short purple ones. I had TONS of them. The Daffodils are already on their way out and I need to cut them down. It's inevitable but I've got to make way for some other plantings, like some Petunias and Pansies. I seeded some Scarlett O'Hara Morning Glories yesterday and I can hardly wait to see them climbing the wall in the side yard of my house. I also have a pot of deep eggplant colored Calla Lilies I'm planning to paint before I plant them. I've got Hollyhock seeds and purple Morning Glories and Naturtiums to seed tomorrow. I put some giant Green Goddess Calla Lilies in big Vietnamese Pots on my back deck last weekend. My cherry trees are in bloom. My grapevines and blueberries are starting to bud. The grass is green. The doggies are lounging in the sun.

I feel pretty good, I've got nothing to complain about. I hope I don't die in the near future.


Here's a short photo story of the new flagstone walk we had added to connect our front entry way, sideyard and back deck: Robert & Dana's Flagstone Adventure. Be sure and click on the link showing where we started when we were demolishing the wretched deck in this derelict house when we bought it . . .and compare to what we have made out of this house now.

While looking at these photos, remember that this is what we bought 4 years ago (actually this is after we cleaned it up a lot):


No sooner am I finished with that nice fat book about Capitalism than I am lucky enough to turn to "The Last Empress: Madame Chang Kai SHek and The Birth of Modern China", by Hanna Pakula. Oh, my God, this is delicious! The first chapter was like a tasty hors d'ouevres at a cocktail party and I have many savory courses awaiting me! I love fat books with great maps. I love to balance those mountains of testosterone by reading about powerful women who have been able to charm billions of dollars out of the American people on behalf of their own country. And this book isn't just about May Ling, wife of Chaing Kai Shek, but about a fascinating era in History that is far too obscure in my mind. So I get to fill in another empty space in my head where understanding should be. Plus, it's just the tastiest narrative, full of truly fascinating social, economic, political history and individual biography!


I finished "Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism" by Joyce Appleby, yesterday. It is terrific. I have been trying hard for a couple of years to make up for my abysmal ignorance of economics, both micro and macro. I understand economics best when it is presented to me in the context of social history: what were individual men and women - and groups of men and woman - actually thinking and doing across time? So this book works for me in trying to understand what's going on with the economy now. Appleby provides a narrative of the development of Capitalism from a fringe-y practice by a minority of merchants in a few cities surrounded by dominant agrarian culture . . . to becoming the dominant engine of the planet, where the consumer market pervades every aspect of our lives.

As I have been reading this book every morning, I've had lots of opportunity to reflect on its meaning for the health of ecommerce and small online businesses in the current recession. I've had lots of insights into how economic theory meets practical daily reality in my own business every time I put out a new product and deal with customers. I LOVE my morning reading. It's a way of soothing my mind to meet the stressful challenges of the day.


I'm an idealist. Really hopeless. It's typical for a Scorpio and more complicated by growing up as a Catholic. But it's not that I'm self righteous. Not at all. I don't claim perfection or faultlessness. In fact, I'm guilty all the time and go around confessing to myself and punishing myself throughout the day because I do NOT live up to my ideals. That's the horrible reality of being an idealist: you never live up to your own ideals. They are just gigantic goals out there in the distance, LOL.

However, the ideals mean a lot to me. Like, I have a really big ideal about not cheating. Not stealing. One time I stole a candy bar from a store on my way to school when I was 9 years old. It happened that day I was on my way to confession and of course I had to confess the theft of the candy bar and I was terrified. Then, because I was so terrified, and got a particularly stern priest for my confession, I even muffed the confession and didn't fully explain where and how I had stolen the candy bar. So I got a more lenient penance, which meant that the penance wasn't even fully valid. So the absolution wasn't "good". I left the confessional knowing I was doomed. I had lied to a priest in confession and withheld the full truth of my sin. Remember that I was 9 years old. I was devastated by the horror of what had spread from my original sin of theft. The unintended consequences of the original fault. The fear and anxiety ust spread and spread. There was nobody to turn to about this because, ironically, I am the only Catholic in my family, LOL. Oh yeah, as a bizarre circumstance, my mother had remarried after the death of my father and I was the only one of her children to be sent to Catholic school. I was completely isolated in Catholic school because everybody else had an entire family who was also Catholic receiving a parochial education. In our household, there was no religious atmosphere and in my school there was no family support. I was completely alone with the horrible guilt.

I took this experience with utter seriousness and completely believed that I as living with a mortal sin on my soul. And I could die any time and you know where I would end up. The fear and anxiety and inner conflict lasted for a very long time. With the hindsight of an adult I really feel for that child and don't believe in mortal sin at all any more and certainly don't believe in that hot place. I wish I could have comforted the child. But I never stole anything or even cheated on a test after that because I never wanted that feeling again. Why, I wouldn't even throw litter on the street, ha! I'm just, like, naturally socially responsible now.

I've told some lies here or there, that's for sure. But I gotta say that I'm compelled to confess out loud right away, LOL. I self flaggelate on a regular and public basis. It's a grave handicap, I can tell you! I can not be a CIA agent or an undercover cop. I can't cheat on my husband, at least for very long, because my face will betray me and I'll blurt out the truth. Don't tell me any secrets either, okay?!!!!! I am not a secret keeper because I GOTTA tell the truth!!!! I feel like I'm in a confessional all day, every day, and there's a stern priest listening to me and I'm under threat of dying with a mortal sin on my soul if I cheat, lie, or steal and do not confess immediately!!!! So I don't even believe in secrets. In fact, when I was studying history as a graduate student, I did my many seminar papers on the problem of the dangers of hidden diplomacy. I HATE secrecy, lying, dishonesty and dissembling and I'm always willing to confess. I have confessed to the IRS and traffic cops within seconds of being asked if I did something wrong or made a mistake. I will confess to things I didn't even do, if I can think of what someone wants me to confess to. Wait a minute, that would be lying too . . .can't do that! That's why I try to avoid making those mistakes in advance if I possibly can.

That's what you get for stealing a candybar and not confessing properly when you are 9 years old.

Most of all, though . . .I try to avoid stealing what isn't mine or exploiting the labor of others. Good lessons for children, don't you think?


We saw "Avatar" yesterday morning as a Christmas present to ourselves. Absolutely the best movie of the decade. Possibly the best movie I've ever seen. For me, this is so. Not just for the CG effects, either. The messages in this movie were very profound. I've heard people criticizing the film for having rehashed plots, but the storytelling here is classic and there's nothing wrong with that: heroic courage, resistance to injustice, grief and loss leading to redemption, triumph over adversity, all that stuff. Shakespeare constantly rehashed classic plots with spectacular success. In this case, it was a high impact retelling of archaic themes. I tried to remember when I've seen it done better. I can't.

I also was reminded of my personal spiritual beliefs. I'm essentially a Pantheist. Although reared as a Catholic, I rejected Christianity, became strongly irreligionist long ago, embraced evolutionary science, and opted for an immanent, universalist approach to the divine. On this level, I totally "got" the movie. I am already committed to my connection to all life in the universe, so the idea of being bonded to trees and dragons and weird forest critters doesn't seem that exotic to me. I can do the same thing in my backyard. In fact, the movie encourages me to just come right out of the closet as a public Pantheist.

But the beauty of the film . . .ahhhhhh . . .I admit it, I am seduced by the visual beauty. We saw it in an Imax theater, which I highly recommend. Go early so you get a seat right smack in the middle of an Imax theater, where you don't have to peer between heads. You feel really immersed in the 3d environment. When sparks and beautiful creatures waft about, you really sense them wafting toward you. It's not cheesey effects at all. It's KILLER. As a digital artist, it was one long prolonged virtual orgasm. And it's the future of bigscreen entertainment.

More about the message . . . an "avatar" is not a cute little graphic symbol to represent you in facebook. That's a typical linguistic degeneration, the kind I hate. The original meaning of Avatar is a the descent of a deity into physical form in order to restore righteousness after peace has been destroyed by evildoing. Sometimes "avatar" refers to a specific deity form and sometimes it refers to a general spiritual doctrine (as described in the Baghavid Gita). In this movie, the interconnectivity of Pandora and the lives of the Na'avi people are threatened by the invasion of the Sky People (humans) in search of their Unobtanium (the lifeless thing they think they gotta have, like gold or oil or uranium or something we are usually willing to destroy everything to get our hands on). The movie is really a nice model for the hell which the European people unleashed on the world in the centuries after the Age of Discovery, when we/they destroyed millions of people and intentionally wiped untold native cultures off the face of the planet, in order to take whatever (unobtanium) they had. And come to think of it, it's kind of a perfect model for what we're doing to the earth right now.

There is no movie I've seen that does a better job of telling this classic tale, with greater beauty. And as an added bonus, there's a positive ending. How rare is that? I don't think that's corny. Gawd, it's what I pray for every morning and night.


This is the most wonderful book: "Breathless" by Dean Koontz. I read almost all his books, but this is one that I really wish were true, LOL. He often has dogs in his books, but this one has some magical, mysterious creatures from another dimension or another reality that change the meaning of life on earth . . .Oh don't I wish that were true! They are like dogs . . .but waaaay beyond the most wonderful dogs you ever imagined! This guy is such a wonderful writer.


Okay, is this an adorable boy or what?

Zion's School Picture (Kindergarten, 2009)

He's a pretty handsome fellow, hunh? And he's pretty smart and sweet too. We just visited him and his parents in Colorado for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful time. He's just a complete sweetheart, very artistic, like his mom, Heather, my daughter-in-law, who is a terrific artist. Check out her blog here.


When life is stressful . . .indulge in pleasure. Make sure they are healthy, inexpensive pleasures, of course. Do stuff that, if you do it for 20 minutes, it basically costs nothing but can't fail to make you feel completely different when you are finished with the experience.

Like . . .playing with doggies. I gotta have at least one 20 minute experience per day throwing balls around with my dogs in the yard or rolling around on the carpet with them. They remind me to play. They get so excited when I bring out the tennis balls or the little soft stuffed toys (we call them "dollies" around here) and squeaky toys. They are actually grinning from ear to ear and they leap in the air and mock attack each other and race around the yard or the room. They bite leaves and twigs and extract ecstacy from thin air and remind me that being happy is nothing more than a choice I can switch on.

Or . . . it costs me nothing to lay down with my dogs for a short nap. Yeah, they take one look at that pillow and that chenille throw and they know how to dispose themselves. Chihuahuas are burrowers. Paco goes under the throw on my pelvis. Charlie curls up against my ribs. Tiny Lily settles against my neck like a feather boa, making it hard for me to hold my book but . . .oh well, I'm going to nod off pretty quickly anyway. Jolie packs herself softly on my other side. My big shepherd, Xena, climbs on the couch and lays against my feet. Honey squeezes in against my thigh. They aren't heavy. It's heavenly. I fall into a light relaxed slumber and wake up refreshed in about 15 minutes and ready to go back to work. It costs me nothing and it's a total delight every afternoon. In the summer I do this outside on my deck. In the winter it's even more delicious in front of the fireplace.

Evening pleasures: Watching "So You Think You Can Dance" and succombing to the urge to get up and dance! Then watching "Glee" and laughing my ass off. Falling asleep with various parts of my body touching my husband and all six of my dogs.

Interspersed throughout the day: stepping outside the door and just sniffing the air. Dogs have taught me the fabulous pleasure of sniffing the air a hundred times a day to see what's being carried on the breeze. This morning: woodsmoke and slightly decaying leaves, a little bit of apple from our tree plus the rain and the distant scent of saltwater from the Puget sound and the tang of the manure I'm using in my flower beds . . .the scent of Fall.


I'm really attached to my early morning read and I look forward to my first cup of coffee with the companionship of high content history or biography and a couple of dogs packed around me in my reading chair, while it's still dark outside my living room window. It's got to be a dense but fascinating non fiction read. I'm most awake and mentally receptive at about 5:30 a.m., after my husband has left for his commute. And then I'm deliciously alone to give my full attention before the work day begins. Oh, I waited for this book and had to back order it: "The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy" by The Team at the Boston Globe, Edited by Peter S. Canellos. The first chapter of the day with a book like this is like the first couple of bites of the best choclate cake you ever ate. So dense with flavorful meaning. You can really savor a book like this at this solitudinous time of the day.

And in this biography is a full picture of a complex person, replete with character defects and virtues, set into the complexities of his times. This is why I love good biographical history. History makes the best hobby in the world, the best intellectual discipline. It's never failed me as a brain splint against emotional fractures or just a general pleasurable passtime. This is a terrific biography about Ted Kennedy, about the Kennedys in general, about U.S. politics in general and about the U.S. Senate.

This is what I appreciate about Ted Kennedy: survival. Authenticity. Confronting his inner demons and going on to give service despite his many inner failings. Refusing to live a shame-based life even when he had much reason to feel deep and appropriate guilt. Actually feeling the guilt and going on anyway. Feeling the joy in his life as deeply as the pain - and showing it without hesitation. Not being embarrased to profess his values and ethics even when he failed abysmally to live up to them. All these internal contradictions are things we are all prey to and he had to live them in the public eye. I have deep appreciation for public figures to serve while struggling with their own moral character.

God, this is a great in depth evaluation of someone who overcame a ne'er-do-well reputation he honestly earned, and went on to honestly earn a reputation for great accomplishment in service. I've read thousands of biographies of male and female leaders and they are all mixed bags of humanity. With some of them, the more you know, the better you like them or the more you hate them and sometimes you just end up spitting from contempt. I am really really gaganutso about George Washington but frankly ambivalent in my admiration for Lyndon Johnson. I could have cheerfuly stabbed Stalin or Mao. I have only the deepest admiration for little known heroines like Gertrude Bell. And some men just make you cry. Reading about Ted Kennedy makes me cry from recognition of his deep personal courage in transcending his limitations. I want to have that much integrity about my own weaknesses and strengths. Yeah that's it: he had integrity, which doesn't mean "virtue". It means the parts hung together pretty doggone good.


I am not someone who easily thinks in economic terms and I didn't even take Economics in college, so I have to work extra hard to understand what is happening with our economy today. I generally understand best when things are presented in an historical context. The person I learn from most is Paul Krugman, whose column I read in the New York Times, and who I follow online at his website, I just finished his terrific book "The Return of Depression Economics", which made the current recession understandable even to an economic dunce like me. I highly reccommend it for grasping the connections between the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and the collapse of the ghost banking structure and the credit crisis and the rising unemployment . . .and the mess we're in and the potential fixes. Yes, he thinks there are some. I hate being foggy about this stuff, so I really work at understanding what's happening and Paul Krugman is a big help.


Digital Graphic Cyberstalking

As if my life weren't fascinating enough . . . there are actually people who want to be me. Graphically speaking. Well, this is one possible deduction from existing facts. There could be other explanations. I just want the fun of speculation for while, so let's see . . .

First, the Copying Caveat: I'm the oldest of 6 from a very working class home. I know that copying the successful behavior of those around us is an honored primate survival tactic. I grew up expecting to pass on whatever I know to whoever needs the information. All human knowledge involves lots of copying, it's literally in our DNA. Certainly the history of art is the history of copying from those more skilled or talented. Anybody who teaches dearly hopes to be copied for short periods. Copying in itself is not a problem.

But then . . .there are instances when "copying" someone else's behavior, skills, or creative work product may also represent a meta message - or even a pathological behavior. In fact, there are occasionally people who, for reasons we can only guess, intend to take over someone else's entire persona through aping them. Maybe they don't have a full persona of their own? Or maybe they have sinister motives. There have been several scary or funny movies with this theme. Here's a story about obsessive graphics copying and you can decide whether it's funny or creepy.

Consider Anagord/Lady Gordana. I first noticed some modestly skillful Jaguarwoman knockoffs in her store at Firstly I saw some parchments backgrounds that were very much like my "More Parchments" and "Yet More Parchments" and used some of my other products in the promo images. It looks like those graphics are part of the product, so that's misleading, but I just vaguely wondered about that. I recognized the use of a specific filter to create the page scroll, although I didn't use a filter to create my parchment scroll, but rather used the digital painting techniques I teach in my "Scrolling Parchment Tutorial". I noticed that the product promo text and readme was almost word for word the same as that in my own promo text and readme and thought that was a little strange. I'm used to this, but I'd never had someone copy me quite so precisely. I admit I was impressed by the effort but not offended at all.

Then . . . some time later, several friends who are also vendors from Renderosity sent me links to this Anagord product of brocade textures which unaccountably display digital tassels (which again are not part of the product) prominently in the promo image which are skillful copies of tassels from my More Tasselmania. The product promos misleadingly advertise something that's not really in the product. The main thing I think is: somebody is really studying my work! And I know how much work is involved in making those digital tassels. Again, these aren't my digitally painted tassels, they are good copies of my tassles, which have nothing to do with the product in which they are being displayed. Strangely, they are displayed prominently in the first promo image of this product as though they were the product. Now I'm perplexed: there's a message here somewhere, but what is it?

While I'm scratching my head over this, I get links from Anagord's Renderosity profile to her online blog and various art and graphics websites where she had galleries of "her work", under the name Lady Gordana. She removed the blog as soon as I contacted her, but here are the screenshots of the blog with my work, used as a gallery to advertise her services as a webdesigner and digital artist, including work of mine, signed by her "designed by Lady Anagord". I'm more than perplexed, I'm irritated to see my work with someone else's signature.

When I contacted her she removed the work from this blog and all other galleries immediately and responded with strange messages about how I should feel happy that someone admires my work so much to copy it and do I think I'm Michelangelo? No, not really. But it seemed even stranger after several other galleries turned up on other graphics sites with my work, in the form some of my digitally painted florals and some abstract backgrounds being similarly used to create portfolio galleries for Anagord/Lady Gordana to promote her work as a webdesigner and digital artist. Anagord/Lady Gordana clearly has the skills to copy me quite well. That would seem to suffice. Why would she need to use my promo images (with her signature) or my actual digital painting as portfolio shots in her online galleries? What is the point/message here? I hate inexplicable mysteries perpetrated by people who refuse to clarify themselves. And I asked for an explanation: Why? What are you doing?

It was the conjunction of the precise copying of the many products AND the wording of every promotional text WITH the use of my work her galleries (signed and claimed by her) in many graphics venues that turned everything very weird. Copying somebody's style and technique is common, no sweat. Systematically copying everything someone does start to look a bit . . .uh . . .symptomatic and message-like.

Here's a gallery at RDNA where Angarod uses the title of one of my products to introduce a gallery full of bad copies of the entire product: "Nouvelle Scrollerie" She's kindasorta got the hang of copying this product: "La Belle Scrollerie". but she named it after this product: "La Nouvelle Scrollerie". Okay, she's edging up there in copying skills, but she's got a ways to go before she can give the Chinese and Japanese a run for their money. The refinement just isn't there yet. Still, I get a tingly feeling looking at that page at RDNA. The backgrounds on this page are not my work, but the effort to make it look like mine is extensive. That's what is really weird. When someone expends this much effort to copy someone else more or less successfully and still writes their name on pieces of artwork to pretend that they did it (since they clearly don't have to do that) theweirdness factor thickens into a concrete creepy gravy.

It's enough for a plot for a B movie thriller. Like that one where a weird roommate has a fixation on the main character and starts by copying her hairdo and begins to wear her clothes and then murders her best friend and seduces her fiance? No kidding, this is worth a screenplay. And who is Anagord/Lady Gordana really? Does she really live in Serbia? Maybe she works for Renderosity, LOL.

Copying is one thing, everybody copies what they admire in order to learn and then moves on. This is something else. It's more than copying and there's no moving on. There's got to be some real fun in analyzing the psychology of Anagord/Lady Gordana's motivations. And then there's the mental stimulation of figuring out what in the heck Renderosity's role in this is, since they were contacted about this originally and chose not to take action, so they know they have a weird vendor. Times are tough, yeah, and maybe they needed some vendor replacements. But vendors can't be in such short supply that they need cyberstalking obsessed copiers from Serbia.

By now I'd believe anything. Remember, I know Seachell. I've seen and heard the most amazing things by now. I know I've learned everything I know from somebody else, so I can only be generous with people "copying" whatever I do. And that is why I do tutorials myself - to show and tell others how I do what I do so that they can gain skill and earn some money from it. I'm a classic oldest child from a working class family. I want all the kids to get their graham crackers. I like everybody to succeed. I totally understand that everybody begins by copying how others tie their shoes and then they go on to inject their own personalities into whatever they do.

You might think graphics is a tame industry. Nope. The case of Anagord/Lady Gordana is something on a completely different plane. This is not a normal case of admiration or copying someone's style. This is in the realm of radically unethical behavior or, pathology. Or it's material for stand-up comedy. I could go with that.


Last night, I took Lily, my 4 1/2 pound long haired Chihuahua, on an off-leash cross-country walk we do with our trainer, Kate, from Fast Pup Dog Training, along with about 12 other grrrreat big dogs of all kinds: a giant Cane Corso, a energetic young Doberman, lots and lots of various rambunctious retrievers lurching and leaping through the brush around her. We crossed many streets where all the dogs had to sit/stay and wait to be commanded, one by one, by their names, to cross the street and sit/stay on the other side. People often say that Chihuahuas are bad candidates for obedience training and at the very least you have to start very young and you can NOT talk harshly to them! But there was Lily, doing her sit/stays and distant recalls and following at my heel and dodging and weaving as those heavy dogs shot past her. Yes, she was intimidated! No, not once did she snarl or launch herself as so many defensive Chihuahuas do. She always had a pretty calm temperament for a Chihuahua but she has learned to contain herself much more in the Fast Pup Dog Training.

I wish people could have seen her, dainty little thing, trucking along at a steady clip in the middle of that pack of big old rough doggies, delicately sidestepping them and running under them when they came charging out of the underbrush straight at her, always returning right to my side! And sitting in a firm sit/stay at the side of the road despite the distraction of passersby and bicycles and loud children. I thank Kate, our terrific trainer at Fast Pup Dog Training. This is the little dog who almost gave us a heart attack when she ran between our feet and out into the busy street one day. Now I do not worry about that because when I say "Lily, sit! Stay!" She does it. That peace of mind is worth a great deal to me. And on top of that, I'm able to take my favorite companion everywhere with me and nothing fazes her. She's never the nervous Chi people expect. She's always calm and open to the world. She does not shiver and freak out when meeting other dogs. She's a perfect intimate companion! The trainer is great! The training is fabulous. But let's give the balance of credit where it really belongs: to the dog!!!!!


Since statistics indicate that driving while texting is as dangerous as driving drunk, logically, that means that texting and driving is inherently a willful act of endangering others on the road or rails and ipso facto deserves the same kind of legal consequences as does drunk driving. Unfortunately, even drunk drivers are often not treated as seriously as they should be.

But . . .some states (like Utah) are waking up to the extent of the risk we are all facing from so many mad texters out there on the roads:

After a crash here that killed two scientists — and prompted a dogged investigation by a police officer and local victim’s advocate — Utah passed the nation’s toughest law to crack down on texting behind the wheel. Offenders now face up to 15 years in prison. The new law, which took effect in May, penalizes a texting driver who causes a fatality as harshly as a drunken driver who kills someone. In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an “accident” like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless.“It’s a willful act,” said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. “If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you’re assuming the same risk.” New York Times, August 29, 2009

The new legal machinery behind this law is a significant development because it has had to assert that people know that texting and driving is not just a "bad idea", it is actually negligent to the point of "reckless disregard of human life" and essentially the danger equivalent of driving under the influence of alcohol. This is a significant legal breathrough which transcends all the counter arguments against a privacy and private property defense. You see, proper legal arguments have to be marshalled when you want to stop people from killing you or your children. And marshalling these legal arguments can take years and billions of dollars.

In the meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of us can die or have our limbs smashed while stupid people are blythely texting their boyfriends and girlfriends. But . . .we can't expect people to curtail their fun just because of common sense or logical arguments. It's gotta take some real legal coercion and a lot of pain and suffering and probably a Movie-of-the-Week or 2 to make the point. Somebody's parents and children will have to make the headlines a few times and/or a few more enormous train pile-ups and a chance to get on the Dr. Phil show a few more times and some billion dollar lawsuits and some one will have to go a to jail before people get it through their thick skulls that it's not okay to sacrifice people's lives for the pleasure of exercising their thumbs while driving.

No texting, no talking on the phone, no applying mascara, no intoxication of any kind . . .just driving, see? How simple is that?


Pleasures of the deep summer . . .

My wall of Morning Glories . . . literally for no more than a few dollars, you can strew a couple of seed packets in the dirt and end up with an entire wall of fabulous Morning Glories climbing up your plain wall like this. It was incredibly easy but fabulous pleasure. I walk out here every morning to look at this. And there are red Nasturtiums below. The easiest gardening pleasure of the entire summer.

A little more difficult to cultivate, but not much, this is the view from my big living room window, my fave, the Smoke Bush, flanked by hydrangeas, which I get to look at all day long. The shrubs were kind of puny the first year but they get bigger every year as they mature. The Smoke Bush is actually a reddish color and becomes rustier as the Fall progresses, creating a wonderful contrast with the hydrangeas, although they are going to drop off as the summer ends. It really makes for a lovely combination around the lawn at the end of the garden, with the ivy climbing the fence. I thought about that when I was choosing the fence paint color. I wanted the greens, the blue, the rusty red. And the varying colors of the daffs, tulips, lilies and Callas over the course of the year.

This is actually our front yard I'm photographing here, which we extended through some hefty landfill and stacked-stone retaining wall and encircled with the fence on top, so there's a significant drop off of about 8 feet to the street on the other side. This way, our entire plot of land has been turned into a completely private compound protected from the busy street below and . . .a perfect dog garden!


Miss Lily sleeps in on Sundays. She gets up for breakfast at 4:30 as usual but then goes back to sleep for a couple of hours.

She prefers goose down pillows and high thread count sheets and pillow cases. She's very nice to sleep with, I might add. 4 1/2 pounds of delicacy, like a warm little feather and she smells like baby powder and her fur is very silky. I never worry about crushing her at night because Chihuahuas are burrowers with an unerring sense of how to move in a crowded bed and whenever we turn over or move our arms and legs, they move with us and intuitively find the perfect space behind our knees or re-nestle quickly against the small of our backs, or - in Lily's case, right at the top of my pillow, breathing softly into my hair. It's heaven, actually. We have 5 Chihuahuas and they all sleep with us at night and we consider it the height of luxury. I can touch one of them with a different part of my body and if I wake up in the night, I reach for one and it puts me right back to sleep. Second to my husband, it's the greatest thing, better than any Teddy Bear. I never lie down to sleep without some dogs. My big dog, Xena (95 lbs.) is a bit more like a sack of potatos on my legs, but I can live with that too.


"Revolutionary Road" is a really great film. I watched it alone the other night, which is actually the way I prefer to watch movies. Mostly I like to concentrate on a great dramatic film like that because every moment is weighted with meaning it's easy to miss. So there's no room for interuptions of casual conversation.

This movie stars Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslett and it's about a young couple who can't bear the ordinaryness of their lives. They feel desperate, although in fact their lives are actually comfortable. They start out in love and destroy the happiness they might have by their inability to accept that they are not as exceptional individually or together as they fantasized they would be.

This movie doesn't have any fancy effects. It just has the best acting in there is. Virtuoso relationship revelation: what goes on between a man and a women who actually love one another when things go really wrong and they don't know what is happening to them and don't know how to fix it and both begin to feel an increasing sense of out-of-control despair that no amount of love can fix. The entire movie is really just these two actors, carrying out a faultless script under fabulous direction. There are great supportive actors, but it is really Leonardo and Kate, among the 2 greatest actors alive today.

I'm not a fan of talent alone. But I am a big supporter of people who cultivate their talent over a lifetime of hard work. Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslett have been developing their talent and skill with courage and hard work over the course of a lifetime and you can see it now in every film they make. I have nothing but reverence for their work in this film. They are able to reveal the deepest inner truths of the individuals and the relationship they portray in this film. They have worked now for decades to have the personal depth and craft to do this. Wow. What a film. What actors. I bow down. Highest accolades.


I totally, absolutely support a ban on texting while driving. I've known for a long time that my life was being put in danger by drivers who talk on the phone. It's statistically as dangerous as drunk driving. But the texter-drivers!!!!! Get them off the road!!!!! Especially those teenagers. And the truck drivers, fer sure!. The studies are showing that even people who know they are being observed and admit that it's dangerous can't seem to resist the urge to get in those finger moves while hurtling down the highway.

While idly flipping channels a few weeks ago, I accidentally landed on a Dr. Phil show (that would have to be an accident) where a young woman was joking about her ability to drive 65 miles an hour with her knees while texting and how although she knew it was dangerous she believed in her superior ability to multitask and thought the old fogies were just making a big deal out of nothing. Her smirky testimony was followed by the pleas of a woman who missed her young daughter who was killed by a texting teenage driver.

No mercy for texting drivers. Throw the damned cellphones and Blackberries in your pocket or purse when you get in the car. Nothing is so important that it can't wait until you get to your destination. I can clearly see people who are talking on the phone and weaving in the lanes. I want to scream or honk at them but that would shatter their slim grasp of driving attention even further.

Stop arresting marijuana smokers (unless they are driving and texting) and start preemptively arresting imbecilic homicidal texter/drivers. Fine them, send them to jail, take their assets and use the money to pay for national health insurance. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but the statistics clearly show that people who drive and use cell phones and/or text while driving are 35 times more likely to get into an accident than people who don't and that is comparable to driving while drunk. We do not tolerate drunk driving (much), it's a prosecutable offense. Logic thus dictates . . .no texting or cellphone usage while driving. And hey . . .headphones don't help appreciably. It's the cellphone conversation that seems to be distracting as well as the hand action. I'm plainly for prosecuting people who endanger my life and that of my loved ones. Simple equation: if you are persistently thoughtless enough to try to kill me you should be subject to legal and economic penalties, I think that's fair. That's what laws are for. Of course, I feel the same about people who drive under the influence of pot or any other intoxicating substance.

Now as for those people who are eating hamburgers and applying makeup in the lane next to me . . .I feel exactly the same way. I'm just old fashioned. When driving a car, I'm afraid there's really nothing else to be done but drive the car. The virtues of multi-tasking do not apply when driving a car. I'm for people doing what they want, just NOT while driving a car, LOL. It's a basic concept of civilized society: we all get to do pretty much what we want, as long as we do not threaten the welfare of others, eh?

What in the hell is so important about those danged electronic devices that puts them above other people's lives? And we also now know that active lobbying efforts have been made to suppress the studies which have shown just how dangerous it they are.


Among the various public arguments I've been following closely is the one for and against the legalization of marijuana. Do remember that I don't smoke pot - not for many many years - but I favor its legalization and not only for medical purposes. I'm definitely for California legalizing pot and taxing the hell out of it to solve their revenue crisis, yeah! I also recognize the serious dependency problem of a certain percentage of pot smokers, among whom are many young people whose cognitive skills are still developing (but apparently veeeeery sloooooowly). But then I also recognize that alcohol, which is legal, is our #1 mortal addiction problem in this country. And we're back to the issue of whether it serves a purpose for marijuana usage to be illegal, whether its usage creates dependency problems or not.

Here is a great opinion page from the New York Times which encapsulates many of the For/Against arguments for the legalization issue. Among the quotes, this one, from Norm Stamper, former Police Chief of the City of Seattle, struck me profoundly:

Any law disobeyed by more than 100 million Americans, the number who’ve tried marijuana at least once, is bad public policy. As a 34-year police veteran, I’ve seen how marijuana prohibition breeds disrespect for the law, and contempt for those who enforce it.

Many in law enforcement have observed that the "War on Drugs" has failed abysmally while costing a great deal and has criminalized a huge percentage of the citizenry. Stamper goes on to make a strong case for spending our tax dollars differently, on education and addiction treatment for example.

This opinon page (cited above) is filled with articles for and against legalization of marijuana, including evidence of increasing potency of the drug, usage statistics, comparison of usage before and after legalization in other countries, the case for medical usage, the impact on other illegal activities. It's really worth the research effort. As a start. California can't afford to keep dangerous felons in jail, let along drug offenders.



2011 Raspberry Story

2011 Iris Story

2010 Summer

2009 Flagstone
Paths & Patio Project

2008 Backyard Garden Landscaping Project

2007 Deck Demolition
& Deck Construction

My Lily Baby
(Lily as a tiny Puppy)


I adopted my Charlie from Chihuahua Rescue and they did a marvellous job of rehabilitating this little guy and making sure I was "good enough" to serve as a permanent dog mommy for him for the rest of his life, after have a pretty rough road. I highly recommend this organization of deeply caring people, and in fact, I'm going to see if I can become a foster dog parent myself. Charlie was 8 when he was rescued and he's been glued to my side for over 5 years now and I hope he doesn't remember what his life was like before he came to our house.

You can see a photo of
Charlie and some of our other dogs on this page

Fast Pup Dog Training

This is the training system
I'm enrolled in with my big, 90-lb. Shepherd mix, Xena. I'm about 4' 10 1/2" and 62 years old and she's an energetic, rambunctious girl who wants to gogogo! She's also my personal bodyguard who is with me 24 hours a day, so I want her with me wherever I go, in many circumstances. I also want to be very close to her emotionally and have her under easy voice control. I don't want to wrangle or wrestle or repeat myself! Over the course of her 7 years, I've I've used a variety of training methods to accomplish both good discipline and strong emotional bonding, but nothing has given me the confidence and freedom that Kate's methods have. In a short time, I've gained a rapid increase in both confidence and easy control with Xena, especially off-leash voice control reliable long term sit/stays and distant recall. I know that I can place or move her where I want, past many different distractions, without having her lose her focus on me. Her enthusiasm grows and she just gets happier with her work outs. Because the results happen so quickly, my own enthusiasm grows too. She actually gets to do more because she has more control over herself. She's using her mind, not just wildly dissipating energy and adding to my bicep tendonitis, LOL. With or without a leash, she's always at my pace, on the flats, over rocky terrain, or on a staircase. She's still getting even more focused physical workouts, and we both feel more confident in different environments. Hence, we're even closer emotionally, which is the ultimate goal: we get to go places and do a lot more together because I have no concern about losing control of my dog in new situations and embarrassing ourselves or offending people or, even worse, creating danger. She pays attention to me because it way more interesting and fun that way. When I call Xena for her training, she's very eager and runs right to me and sits down in front of me with her happy face on. Xena and I can't say enough about this training and my other 5 dogs (all Chihuahuas) are standing in line for their turn! Maximum happiness is our goal. Dogs and people can't have it without confidence and self control, eh?


At least get a few facts?

Medical Marijuana Blog

Naomi Klein
The most sense
you can read online,
the smartest woman
I know, bar none

CG Society
Where I go for Humility and
Inspiration Every Day!

International Piracy

Report Filesharing
You may soon be a victim yourself.

But please do not report large filesharing sites like Nigmae and Heroturk and similar sites of massive filesharing links. Not only is this extremely old news and I get a dozen reports per day of the same links, but disabling links in places like these is a full time job, since they are reposted the next day. I am mainly interested in filesharing individuals who can be exposed and banned from stores. This is the primary practical method of fighting filesharing at the source, in the customer bases of the artists who they are exploiting directly. To to this, artists need to know the actual individuals who buy their products and upload them to Rapidshare and Yahoo and Google groups. In my store, when I discover filesharing, I ban the individuals.

Rapidshare looses
court battle . . .

Notice to Unethical Illegal Filesharing Groups


Feminists For Obama


Zion's Page
(Something Cheery!)

Heather Sitarzewski Blog!
(More Cheery & Adorable Stuff Here!)



Puppy Mill
Awareness Day


This is the breeder
from whom we
aquired Lily:

Long-Coated Chihuahuas of Washougal

The breeder's name is Pam and she only has one or two litters per year (from her 2 females), for the best health of the mothers. But she really knows how to produce calm, healthy, confident, hand-reared pups. She keeps the puppies with their mother and siblings for 12 weeks and they are trained to a puppy pad and beautifully socialized by the time they go directly to their new homes. So they never suffer insecurity and undue anxiety as they are developing. I've aquired rescues and dogs from breeders and this is just about the most perfect breeding situation I've seen yet. This is not a "backyard breeder" or a "puppy mill", these are really hand-reared, AKC standard, healthy, calm, confident Chihuahuas. I was able to meet the parents twice and see the situation in which the pups were born and hand reared for maximum socialization. I couldn't say enough about this breeder. We got a "perfect" Chihuahua girl. Pam really knew Lily's personal disposition when we selected her: she told me that she was assertive and unusually playful. And sure enough, she was confident enough to walk right into our existing 4-dog situation and win them all over and STILL dominate them with her charm.


The Daily Puppy

NY TIMES (Of Course)

The Nation


The Huffington Post


The Key To Rebecca
by Ken Follett

"The Hard Way"
by Lee Child

"Obama's War"
by Robert Woodward
Oh. Dear. We're Doomed.

"The Letter and the Scroll: What Archeology Tells Us About The Bible"
by Robin Currie & Stephen Hyslop

"Fall of Giants"
by Ken Follett
I read everything he writes.

"Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought To Save The Financial System - And themselves"
by Andrews Ross Sorkin
Every American should read this, even thought it is a bit of a slog.
It's "duty reading". Don't just sit there and whine about what's happening in the economy if you aren't at least trying to understand the complexities of banking, mortgage speculation, the financialization of the economy, and how extremely wealthy people gamble with everybody's lives.

"Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior"
by Geoffrey Miller

"The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine"
by Michael Lewis
Absolutely, hands down, one of
the best books of the year for me

"Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy"

by Joseph E. Stiglitz
If you read "Globalization And
Its Discontents, you'll LOVE this.
I really appreciate brilliant people
who can make complex problems comprehensible to me.

"Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years"
by Diarmaid MacCulloch
Standby, this is going to take a
very long time to read, but I can
use the refresher course, LOL

"Genghis: Bones
of the Hills"

by Conn Iggulden

"Conspirata: A Novel of Ancient Rome"
by Robert Harris
I'm a sucker for historical fiction
about the Roman Empire and
Cicero and all that stuff

"The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement"
by Michael Strangelove
This is fascinating, really hard work, and necessary to read if you are determined to understand digital piracy from the ground up, which I am. I agree with the author that it is here to stay for quite a while, but I don't agree that it's as liberating or benevolent as he seems to think. I'm not a corporation and I'm convinced that the "free market" can and does work for many individual working class people who are as threatened by anti-capitalism and digital piracy as they are threatened by corporatism.

"Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime"
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Okay, this is actually pretty interesting, in retrospect, even though I know the outcome. It helps to remember that nothing is assured. It's also useful to know the nuts and bolts of how politics actuall happens. I, too, did not know the difference between the caucases and the primaries, but even Hillary Clinton and her entire campaign staff didn't understand it very well.

"Under The Dome"
by Stephen King

"Black Cross"
by Greg Iles

"First Family"
by David Baldacci

"The Devil's Punchbowl"
by Greg Iles
Kinda scary/ugly, because it's about dogfighting as the center of organizaed crime and that's horrifying to me, I can barely stand to read it. But Iread all his novels, just to keep me pedalling in the gym.

by Joe Hill
Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, by the way. Clearly, he has inherited his father's talent. This is a quirky, unusual supernatural thriller and I couldn't put it down; it's one of those few novels I read from start to finish as fast as I could.

"Empires of Trust: How Rome Built - and AMerica Is Building - a New World"
by Thomas F. Madden

"The Last Empress: Madame Chiange Kai Shek & The Birth of Modern China"
by Hannah Pakula

"The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism"
by Joyce Appleby

"The Age of Wonder: How The Romantic Generation Discovered The Beauty And Terror of Science"
by Richard Holmes
Best Book of 2009, My Vote!

"Quarrel With The King: The Story of an English Family On the High Road to Civil War"
by Adam Nicolson
Excellent, highly recommended for
lovers of 17th Century history

"The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & The Fire That Saved America"
by Timothy Egan

"Wolf Hall"
by Hilary Mantel

"New York"
by Edward Rutherford
Okay, this is one of my favorite authors, and good historical fiction is my favorite thing to read. This isn't bad at all!

"The Lost Symbol"
by Dan Brown
This guy writes soooo much
bullshit, but it does keep me
pedalling at the YMCA and
that's all I require of a novel.

"A Fiery Peace
In A Cold War"
by Bernard Shriever
Duty reading, but fascinating.
Part of my long term project
to understand the long trajectory
of U.S. Foreign Policy.

"This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High In America"
by Ryan Grim
Oh, this is really a terrific
and iteresting read and frankly,
every taxpayer and parent
should read it, it wouldn't hurt!

"Spandau Phoenix"
by Gren Iles

"The Return of
Depression Economics"

by Paul Krugman

"How Dogs Think:
What The World Looks Like To Them and Why They Act The Way They Do"

by Stanely Coren
This is really a fascinating book on the latest scientific research on dog behavior, immensely useful to me

"True Evil"
by Greg Iles
Yet anothr great read for those 40 minutes on the treadmill and Life Cycle and stairmaster!

"In The Graveyard of Empires: America's War
in Afghanistan"
by Seth G. Jones
I consider this "duty ready" for every American. I regret that in general Americans are abysmally ignorant about the wars we pay for and this is clearly an critically important and vastly expensive war I don't think we can avoid (unlike the Iraq war we could have avoided). So I really wish (naively perhaps) that the U.S. population would at least try to understand what we're doing there and the stakes involved and where the tax money is going and why people are dying over there and what it has cost us to take our eyes off the ball and waste so much time in Iraq.

"The Battle For America 2008: The Story of An Extraordinary Election"
by Dan Balz & Haynes Johnson

"La Guerra Del Fin Del Mundo"
By Mario Vargas Llosa

"The Enchantress of Florence"
by Salman Rushdie
Okay, I'm sorry to say, but I think Salman Rushdie is over-rated. His language is very beautiful and exciting, but his florid prose just doesn't go anywhere for me. I really need some meaning with my prose. There's just no meat with the fancy verbal flavor for me. Yes, he can write beautifully, but there's not a lot of emotional human depth to his work for me, I'm just not moved much while I'm reading his work, so no matter how beautiful the words, I have to keep forcing myself onwards. Sorry, that's the verdict from this addicted reader.

"Dancing To The Precipice: Lucie De La Tour Du Pin, Eyewitness To An Era"
by Caroline Moorehead
Totally, utterly delicious history
and highly recommended. So much to relate to today, when we seem to close to so many edges and so obvlivious!

"Stories In Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology"
by David B. Williams

"An Edible History of Humanity"
by Tom Standage

"The Strain"
by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

"The Nine: Inside
The Secret World of The Supreme Court"

by Jeffrey Toobin

"Tell Me Where It Hurts:
A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope, My Life As An Animal Surgeon"

by Dr. Nick Trout

"El Juego Del Angel"
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This turned out to be the absolutely best fiction read of the year, even though it was in Spanish and I had to kind of work at it. I highly recommend Zafon. Learn Spanish if you have to!

"Outliers: The Story
of Sucess"
by Malcolm Gladwell

"The Great Medieval Heretics: Five Centuries of Religious Dissent"
by Michael Frassetto

"The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism"
by Naomi Klein
The BEST book of the year,
for ME

"The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone Vs. Disraeli"
by Richard Alduous

"Deadly Scenarios:
A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century"
by Andrew F. Krepineveich
Boy if this doesn't make you worry, nothing will. Stuff even I hadn't though about yet. Yikes!

by Dan Simmons
This is just a long,
delicious read, a kind of historical mystery novel about Charles Dickens

by Patricia Cornwell
I confess that I read Cornwell's Scarpetta books almost exclusively while on the treadmill and Lifecycle at the gym. You can concentrate most effectively and sweat and breath heavy while keeping your cardio at exactly the right rate while reading the perfect medical forensic crime thrillers. The Scarpetta books are suitably psychologically deep AND scientifically intriguing and gruesome enough to hold your attention even while your neighbor is grunting and flinging sweat your way and those 40 minutes fly by!

"Presidential Command: Power, Leadership,
and the Making of Foreign Policy From Richard Nixon
to George W. Bush"
by Peter W. Rodman

"Hot, Flat, & Crowded: Why We Need A Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America"
by Thomas L. Friedman

The Israel Lobby
& U.S. Foreign Policy

by John Mearsheimer
& Stephen M. Walt
You gotta read this to kow why the Israelis have more freedom to discuss Israeli politics than Americans do. You can be practically stoned for cricicizing the Likud Party in the U.S. or for questioning U.S. military aid to Israel, or specific actions of the IDF, but the are plenty of Jewish and Israeli critics of Likud, and with good reason.

"Champlain's Dream: The European Founding of North America"
by David Hackett Fischer
Fascinating and about my fave century, the 17th, and my 2 fave continents at the same time! A nice fat book, too!

by Chelsea Cain

Can't go wrong with these complex psychological serial killer thrillers so good you can (as I do) read them avidly while power walking on a treadmill and using an elliptical trainer. This is how I make it through my cardio. Caution: Read her first book "Heartsick" first or you will lose a lot of the meaning in this book.

"Traitor To His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt"
by H.W. Brands
This is the best in historical biography: the best in narrative AND historical annalysis. A perfect book to be reading at this time of economic crisis, when we are all trying to figure out what is going on and what is needed in terms of leadership so that we can come out the other end. Really delicious exposition of the roots of the Depression and the complexities involved in recovering from it.

"The Shadow Factory:
The Ultra-Secret NSA
From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping of America"

by James Bamford

"The Ascent of Money:
A Financial History
of the World"

by Niall Ferguson

"Hot, Flat, & Crowded"
by Thomas Friedman

by Robert Greene

"Angler: The Cheney
Vice Presidency"

by Barton Gellman

"Havana Nocturne:
How the Mob Owned
Cuba . . .And Then
Lost It To The Revolution"

T.J. English

"Child 44"
Tom Rob Smith

by Chelsea Cain

"Third Degree"
by Greg Iles

"Barbarians To Angels: The
Dark Ages Recondisered"

by Peter S. Wells

"The Last Days
of the Incas"

by Kim MacQuarrie

"Inez del Alma Mia"
Isabel Allende
(Always read in
the native language of the
author, if at all possible, for
maximum pleasure. If you
have to learn the language
to do so, do it. It changes
your reading experience
entirely, not to mention the
fact that it fends of Alzheimers)

"Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de Medici"
by Miles J. Unger

"Mistress of the Vatican"
by Eleanor Herman

"The War Within"
by Bob Woodward

"Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters"
by Richard Clarke

"Rough Crossings:
Britain, The Slaves and The American Revolution"

by Simon Schama

"The Power of Art"
by Simon Schama

"Through A Glass Darkly"
Karleen Koen
(this is so delicious, it's like eating a piece of the best devil's food cake every afternoon)

"The War of The World: Twentieth-Century
Conflict and The
Descent Of The West"

by Nial Ferguson

"Mao: The Unknown Story"
by Jung Chang

"State of Denial: Bush
At War, Part III"

by Bob Woodward

"Shooting Star: The Brief
Arc of Joe McCarthy"

by Tom Wicker
(a book from which I conclude that Ann Coulter must have taken McCarthy as a life model)

"The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy,
and The End of the Republic"

by Chalmers Johnson

"Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest
for Global Dominance"

by Noam Chomsky
(I was reading this before Chavez recommended it, LOL)

"Don Quixote
De La Mancha"

Miguel de Cervantes
(Read it in the original Spanish
for God's sake)

The Great War For Civilization:
The Conquest of the Middle East

by Robert Fisk

This is the best book, bar none, I've read about the nature of conflict in the Middle East. Actually, it's the best book I've read in years. 1000 pages of detailed memoirs from Robert Fisk's 30 year career as a war correspondent. You might think that would be mindnumbing, but Fisk is a very moving narrator who has been on the ground in all the conflicts in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Every one of the pages in this book is written with both fabulous historical scholarship and a compassionate eye for the human experience of soldiers and civilians. I fell in love with Fisk because the people he has interviewed and observed are neither demonized nor turned into "collateral damage". Amazing, hunh? A man who writes about war and politics, not as "events" but as experiences people actually lived through. So with this book you get a whole lot more than a chronicle of governments; you get a picture of what people did, thought, how they died, what they intended, and how their intentions went astray.

If you read this single book, you would add immensely to your understanding of why so many people in the Middle East distrust the West. It ain't because they "hate our freedom". What? Can't read fat, high content books with powerful affect? If you only read a page or two of this book while sitting on the toilet in the morning . . .you would want to read it constantly in your spare time. Fisk renders the humanness of inhuman struggles just that compelling: you could move from casual bathroom reading to complete absorption in one sitting.

I have read a ton of stuff on the Middle East and 20th Century conflict and the minute I started reading this book, I got teary with relief that there is at least one person who conveys an understandable human story about warfare.


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