Monday, July 30, 2007

Think On This

. . in the consciousness of eternity, time is not, neither is space. In man's consciousness there appears so much mercy, so much love, that these have been called time and space.

Edgar Cayce Reading 3660-1

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Becoming Pottered

When the 7th and last (?) Harry Potter book came out about two weeks ago, I became interested in the phenomenon. I thought, well, maybe I'll read the last book, just to see what all the fuss is about. Jeez.

I was told "you can't do that! You have to start with the first one and read them all in order so you'll know who everyone is and all the references to everything that happened before and...." It would be blasphemous to not read them all - in order. So this past Tuesday I picked up book #1, Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. Now, Saturday evening, five days later, I'm about a quarter of the way through book #4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I've been through Harry's first three years at Hogwart's, been to the Chamber of Secrets, met Sirius Black and also You Know Who, the one who's name can't be spoken. I know what a hippogriff is, find Professor Snape despicable and think Hagrid's wonderful, a big hippie. I know who Prong is and I wish I had a Marauder Map.

I'm hooked. The author certainly knows how to tell a story. Good versus evil, learning that the world is not black and white, but mostly shades of gray (maybe Dubya should read the books, except that he doesn't read) and that people aren't always what and how you think they are (or should be). In a news magazine I get, The Week, there's an article about Harry Potter and how the books are really Christian oriented, Harry's akin to Jesus, and the christian myths are resplendent in the seven books. Hmmn? Seven books? Seven is a mystical number.

Anyway, the books tell a good story, are easy to read and the stories are entertaining. So here I am spending all my spare time becoming Pottered.

The Goblet of Fire is 734 pages long. I'll probably be finished by the end of the weekend. Maybe by Monday night. The books are so interesting to read that it's hard to put them down.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jury Duty

Yesterday I had my first jury duty experience up here in Massachusetts. I'd served on a jury once before in Baltimore, back in 1990, so I was a seasoned pro. As if, right?

One thing I learned through the video everyone of us in the jury pool had to watch was that Massachusetts was the first state to have initiated the one-day-one-trial concept. Maryland has also adopted that concept and it seems pretty fair. Here in Massachusetts, you get called up for jury duty once every three years.

The trial I was involved in seventeen years ago lasted four full days. The one I was selected for yesterday lasted about 40 minutes. In both of these cases, we jurors were left scratching our heads and asking - "What were they thinking?"

In the former case, the plaintiff had had an ear operation and, three days post surgery had asked her family doctor, not the surgeon, if it was okay for her to fly to Florida. He said sure, she did, and she became deaf in that ear. She sued the surgeon for malpractice. We learned that she'd had three previous operations on the same ear. Our conclusion was - how could she even think for a minute that it would be okay to fly right after having an operation on her ear. We found the surgeon innocent.

In this most recent case, the judge declared a mistrial as the plaintiff's attorney, in his opening statement to us, started telling us stuff that had already been agreed by all parties to not be admissible information. The judge stood up, stopping him in mid-statement, and said, "Wait a minute." She then excused us, causing us to go back to the jury room. About twenty minutes later we trooped back in and she said "I've declared a mistrial." She apologized to us several times. We went back to the jury room.

A few minutes later the judge came in a explained what had happened. The judge had originally outlined the case for us: it was a civil case; a contract dispute. One plumber, who owned his own company, sold out to another plumbing company. The outstanding issue was something about the contract. In his opening remarks, the plaintiff's attorney starting heading down the path of how the plumber incurred a knee injury and was involved in Worker's Comp. and how... and the judge said Whoa. Hold it right there, buddy. The plaintiff's attorney got into territory that had been declared off limits. We the jury said to her - "What was that guy thinking?" She shook her head. And that was it. At 2:30 p.m. I was done, not only for the day but for the next three years.

C'est la vie.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rainy Friday Morning

It's 7 a.m. and raining. Neither Dixie nor I care to go out in the rain so I have a whole extra hour this morning to muse. She did go out to relieve herself but was uninterested in walking so she's back on her bed. I think the humidity affects her arthritis, which makes it hard for her to move around. Poor dog.

Recently I started acupuncture in my further recovering from the radical prostatectomy and, I have to say, things are looking up! There's still two more sessions to go and I continue to put a heating pad on my lower stomach every evening. The theory is that scar tissue formed, preventing the flow of blood. So, while I've noticed a significant improvement, there's still more to go. I appreciate all positive thoughts and intercessory prayers. I realize that's a selfish promotion but I really do want to improve my quality of life.

Life up here continues to go on. Julie's going to Paris for a week; I'm going to work. This weekend is the ArtBeast festival in Somerville, which is not to be missed. Also, we'll be going dancing tonight. Last night we went to Watertown's free summer concert series and listened to the Berklee School of Music's Jazz performance big band. They may have been students but they played like professionals.

At the moment I'm reading Al Gore's book - "The Assualt on Reason." I think it's a must read for us all. The Bush right wing conservative administration is very much on a mission to make our country a fundamentalist society in which the rich become obscenely rich and the rest of us, well, they don't care about. It really is up to us to oust this administration. We need to exercise our right to voice our opinions and to refuse to allow this regime to continue to take us down it's road of true fascism. It's not to just vote democratic, it's to vote for the people who will understand that we live in a progressive society and that we're all in this together and so we need to have people in office who truly do have the entire society's interests at heart.

The right wing Republication agenda of Bush/Cheney is very, very scary. What Nixon and Reagan did in their administrations is nothing compared to what these two are doing. Don't be surprised if, nearing election time, the threat of war (read terrorism) becomes paramount and the issue becomes how can we, the public, make an administration change during such a challenging time. Believe me, it will be a ruse that if we fall for it will seal America's fate for generations to come.

But, don't get me started. Read the book. Talk, discuss, become involved in the issues. It's not black and white, for me or against me, patriot or traitor, it's about what is best for all of us, not just some of (them).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Last Saturday Julie and I went down to Providence, Rhode Island to check out Waterfire. As a side benefit, there was a swing dance in the plaza. It took us about an hour to drive there and, as we were a little early, getting there near to 5:30 p.m., we got an excellent street parking spot.

Providence is an old New England city, the home of both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. As did most old cities, it fell into disrepair in the 1970's and continued on unabated into the 80's. In the early 1990's came the urban renaissance and Providence started cleaning up it's image. One of the things they did was to start First Mondays, an effort to lure people into the downtown area after dark for at least one evening.

As part of the First Monday's effort, in 1995, an artist came up with the idea of building a small bonfire on the river, which looks like a canal, that cuts through the downtown. Almost immediately it became an attraction of its own. The next year he built several more fires on the river and, a few years later, the project took on a life of its own.

Now, there are over 40 fires that stretch along the river in downtown Providence. We were there for the now weekly, at least in the summer, Saturday night lighting. In addition, there were activities such as a jazz band on one of the river crosswalks and, in the plaza, a live band playing swing music. There were food, beer and wine vendors, and street theater. By 9 p.m., I'll bet there were more than a few thousand people of all ages milling around.

After eating Indian food and wandering around the city for an hour or so, we stood on one of the temporarily blocked off roadways that crossed over the river to see the lighting of the fires. While we waited we watched gondolas passing underneath, oarsmen in black and white striped shirts ferrying tourists along that conjured up, for me, images of when I was in Venice, Italy.

The sun began to set, the shadows grew long and lights set up at the bases of the downtown buildings came on, casting colors up their sides that illuminated and bathed the buildings in reds, yellows and greens. As the twilight led into evening, the downtown area became a panapoly of color playing amongst shadows. The sounds of people talking and laughing mixed with the sounds of live music and, in counterpoint, the dissonance of the noise of traffic.

The fires were set up in a long line down the center of the river. They each looked like the bottoms of a large, circular, weber grill on a post. In the grill part were stacked chunks of wood, about a quarter of a cord of which were in each grill bottom. The fires reminded me of an evening's campfire, not too small but not a huge bonfire, either.

In an almost too long moment, stretched out for dramatic effect which, after a while, became anti -climatic (Just light the damn things, okay? We've been here for over an hour already and it's starting to get old.), black longboats came along with people also dressed in black, one person in each longboat carrying a long torch and lighting the bundles of wood. Once lit, the long procession of fires blazed into the night. It was very cool. And romantic.

There's something primal about fire. It conjures up life, warmth, light. It reaches, stretches, both dangerous and protective at the same time, into the night.

We stood there and watched the flames lick and dance. As entwined as two people can be in public, we pressed against each other and watched its orange and yellow reflection against the opaqueness of the water. The flames put us, and all the others around us, into a trance-like state as the fire's light shone us all off each other as we, this large crowd, stared at the fires.

After a while, we walked over to the plaza where a zillion people were dancing on the makeshift outdoor dance floor. We melded with the other dancers on the dance floor and gyrated in syncopated rythmns. It all became erotic in the humid, multi-colored, evening air.

As it was so crowded, we dancers, dressed in summer's undress, had to dance closely, even though swing, a partner dance, is not a close together dance. Our bodies touching, bumping against each other, merging, pulling apart, coming back together, sweating, breathing heavily in time with the beat of the live music that was urging us on, allowing us to express ourselves physically.

After dancing to several numbers, we gave up being on the over-crowded dance floor and wandered through the rest of the evening, meandering with the crowds taking in the play of light and dark, the festival colors against the black of night, the sounds and noises of people having fun. It was as good a street festival as I've ever been in.

We're thinking of going back again.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Recently I was promoted to Godan rank in the International Society of Shotokan Karate-do (ISSK). I've been studying karate since 1988 and continue to do so. For those of you who know so, elevation in rank after Sandan, which I achieved in 1994, is meritorious, at least in most traditional schools.

The head instructor of my former organization, the Maryland Shotokan Karate Association, and from where I received my third dan ranking, moved to Japan a number of years ago and set up the ISSK. It is with honor that I now belong to this organization.

It will be my goal to continue to advance the do, or Way, of karate, especially Shotokan, to people desiring to learn and have it become, as it has for me, a way of life.

Attack Cat

Last Thursday Dixie and I were out taking our evening walk around the neighborhood. I saw a gray cat run under an SUV and noticed that Dixie hadn't seen it. However, as we walked past the vehicle, Dixie must have smelled the cat because she went over to the SUV, stuck her nose under it and woofed. The cat, instead of hissing and running away, attacked.

Dixie suddenly backed away from the vehicle with the cat attached to her face. The cat let go and Dixie turned around to run away. Before she could even move, the cat jumped on her back and bit her on the neck. It then released and re-attacked Dixie, clamping itself on Dixie's haunches, and biting down hard.

When it released this last time, I kicked at the cat while pulling Dixie away. The cat then attacked me and attached itself on my ankle, biting me.

Just after it released from my leg, this fluffy little white dog, who was un-leashed and walking with its owner, a young woman and her little girl, came up to sniff Dixie. The cat jumped on it's back, virtually covering the entire dog, and bit it on the back of its neck.

When the cat released, I kicked the dog to get it away from the cat and pulled Dixie down the street. The cat, its back arched, stalked us a good 30 feet, wanting to attack again.

After Dixie and I rounded the corner I assessed the damage and saw that Dixie was bleeding in spots all over her body. In addition, she was unable to walk on her right rear leg. It occurred to me that when the cat jumped on her haunches, her hindquarter collapsed under the cat's weight, my guess is from the arthritic effects of having Lyme disease. I picked Dixie up and carried her home in my arms.

We next went to the emergency veterinary clinic where, three hours and $350 later, Dixie was diagnosed as having "lacerations and puncture wounds over the entire body." They gave me antibiotics to give Dixie and told me to take her to my regular vet the next day for a booster rabies shot. They also completed a form that was sent to animal control. Lastly, the vet looked at me, saw that I had two puncture wounds on my ankle and told me to go to my Dr. ASAP.

The next day I took Dixie to the regular vet who examined her, sympathized and shook her head in wonder at all the wound sites and gave Dixie a three year rabies shot instead of a booster. Afterwards the vet told me she didn't have any booster vaccine and since Dixie was two years into the three year cycle, it was easier to just do another three year shot. The vet then looked at my ankle and said that yes, I needed to go to my doctor.

In the afternoon I went to see my primary care doctor who looked at me, left the room to make a few phone calls, and then told me to head to the ER at the local hospital. Once there it was determined that I needed to undergo the full rabies series of shots.

Seven injections later (one in each puncture site, two on each hip and one in the arm), I went home. As a follow-up, I have to go and get a total of five more injections in my arm, spaced out in intervals that will extend through the month of July.

And a Happy Fourth of July to you, too.