Friday, September 30, 2005

No One Aboard

Back last July 6, I spent eight hours under oath testifying about a Superfund case. I spent another four or five hours being deposed the next day as well.

Today, I got to sit on the other side of the table. The plaintiffs developed rebuttal reports from various experts, and I got to sit in as the defendants' lawyers deposed the rebuttal experts.

The trick is to not take it all personally. My ego got pricked every time I heard the rebuttal expert mention my name or my report, and even though he disagreed with the findings of my report, it was not a personal assault. But it's very easy to fall into the duality of "us" and "them," our side versus their side, and plaintiffs and defendants.

Of course, philosophically, there wouldn't be an "us" if there weren't a "them" to distinguish us from. Legally, there wouldn't be defendants if there weren't plaintiffs. It's all just two sides of the same coin. But when the rebuttal expert says he he finds fault with my report's conclusions, egotistical pride kicks in, heaven and hell are infinitely far apart, and I suffer and want the other side of the table to suffer, too.

However, Zen practice lets me recognize that all of this is nothing more than the mechanics of the mind, and I can let go of the anger while still doing my best to help the attorneys defend our client. In the end, if everything is done professionally, the truth will prevail.

The weather was beautiful the whole time I was in Washington - cool and dry and clear. I didn't get around town too much as I was pretty busy, but I did get to eat dinner at the Capitol City Brew Pub next to Union Station and at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue. The George Hotel was great and crawling with politicos.

While I was in DC, John Roberts got sworn in as the new Chief Justice of SCOTUS, a job he will probably hold for the rest of my life, and Tom DeLay got indicted. The local news talked about some sort of stench that was reportedly coming from the sewers in the northeast part of town, and the FAA and the air traffic controllers were arguing over whether planes were disappearing from the radar screen for 30 seconds at a time or for "merely" 14 or 15 seconds.

Delta put me in the middle seat on the flight back, but I accepted my assignment - after all, I was heading home.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More Karma

The "Acknowledgement of Karma" is from the initiation ceremony, or jukai, performed in the Soto Zen tradition. Here in Atlanta, we perform it twice a year (assuming new initiates have stepped forward).

For those interested in such things, an outline of the entire jukai ceremony can be found here.

The chant is also recited during other ceremonies, such as the renewal of precepts, known as fusatsu. During fusatsu, the "Acknowledgement of Karma" is chanted by those initiates who have already taken the precepts as a reminder.

Another version of the "Acknowledgement of Karma" goes:

All my ancient twisted karma,
From beginningless greed, hatred and delusion,
Born of body, speech and mind,
I now fully atone.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown on October 12. I hadn't considered that the holiday was coming up when I posted the chant yesterday. Actually, it was part of an email I had sent to my teacher, in which I had acknowledged that some of my egocentric, one-sided views had recently gotten in the way of my own practice. Long story.

I'm still in Washington, and the weather's been lovely. I had an opportunity to walk around the Capitol earlier this evening, and ate breakfast here at the hotel in the booth next to Sen. Hastert for the quintessential D.C. experience.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Acknowlegement of Karma

All the karmic action ever committed by me since of old
Arising from beginningless greed anger and delusion
Born of this body mouth and mind
I now acknowledge
and accept all consequence with equanimity

Oh, by the way, I'm in D.C. today. I flew up this morning, met with our Arlington office this afternoon, and am now staying in an E Street hotel in anticipation of two full days of meetings. Much of the hard work the last several days has been in preparation for these meetings. The die is cast; it now just remains to be seen how all that preparation plays out.

On Friday night, I get to be the one who goes back home.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Two days this week of long hours spent in the office. Very late lunches (2:30 or even 3:45 p.m.). Much stress. Hard work.

Of course, when I say "hard work," you must understand that I'm sitting on a comfortable chair in a private, air-conditioned office. The physical aspect is no harder than typing at a keyboard, which I'm doing now for leisure (note to file: why am I doing this again?).

Bob Marley once noted, "Every man thinks that his burden is the heaviest."

The truth is I live a charmed life. I get paid, and paid well, to use my mind instead of my muscles. I'm free and physically fit enough to hike in the mountains, scuba dive and jog. I'm healthy. My house rocks. I get to practice zazen.

These are not boasts. I'm just appreciating what is.

On a recent trip up to the mountains, I was accompanied by a young Bangladeshi. He told the story of a time when he visited a family in one of the wealthier suburbs. Upon arriving, he could not help but exclaim, "What a large house!"

"Why, thank you," the woman who owned it said.

This confused my friend. "I was just noting that the house was very large. Why would she take that as a personal compliment?"

When we cling to nothing, we have everything.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Music Review: Muslimgauze

Bryn Jones was an extremely prolific electronic musician, strongly influenced by Middle Eastern music and politics. Although he was neither Arabic nor Muslim, he was a staunch supporter of Hamas and the PLO. Born in Manchester, England, he never visited the Middle East because he believed it was wrong to visit an occupied land.

He first began making music in 1982 under the alias E.g Oblique Graph. In 1983, he changed his name to Muslimgauze. The name was a play on the word "muslin," a type of gauze, and his own intense interest in the Middle East.

Strongly against the use of computers and samplers in music, Jones always recorded his music with old analog equipment. He would record himself playing various Middle Eastern instruments and record voices of Middle Eastern people from old tapes. Jones's music was heavily percussive; a review of a rare live performance notes that Jones used a "backing DAT tape with pretty harsh, rhythmic textures, his sort of patented spiraling hypnotic beat, to which he played on two or three different drums with great skill." He actually never looped his music; it was all recorded live, and edited/mixed afterwards. The end result was often fuzz-toned and loud, with sudden changes in volume.

Every Muslimgauze piece of music was inspired by a political fact or event. "The political facts of Palestine, Afghanistan and Iran influence the music of Muslimgauze" declares the back cover of one album. Album and song titles (e.g., "Hebron Massacre," "The Rape of Palestine" and "Vote Hezbollah") were intentionally provocative and confrontational.

Jones was never concerned with how many copies of his records were sold, or even how much listeners enjoyed his music, but rather how original his music was. Jones disliked live shows but was rarely asked to do them anyway, which is why Muslimgauze performances were so rare.

He always stated that he never had time to listen to other people's music, although in a 1992 interview with Impulse Magazine, he mentioned that he enjoys traditional music of Japan, the Middle East and India, as well as the works of artists such as Can, Throbbing Gristle, Wire and Faust. However, despite a few collaborations, Jones didn't trust anyone when it came to remixing his music. Instead, he would usually take pieces of music that were sent to him and remix them to his own liking.

The Muslimgauze discography is extremely vast. In 1995, he had six releases; in 1996, fifteen; in 1997, nine; in 1998, sixteen. Altogether, he released over 90 original albums on 32 different record labels, creating nearly 2,000 original songs. Most of his albums were released in limited editions of only 200-1,000 copies.

I spent much of today listening to his 9-CD release "Box of Silk and Dogs." William S. Burroughs once wrote that Arabic music seemed to work on what he called "hashish time," evolving without discernable beginnings and weaving and drifting endlessly through the air. My first reaction to hearing this music was wanting to check that the CD wasn't damaged - was it really supposed to sound like that? Perhaps a speaker wire is loose? The sound is fuzzy and static-laden, a lo-fi soundscape with sudden drops and rebounds in volume.

On December 30, 1998, Bryn was rushed to a hospital in Manchester. He had a rare fungal infection in his bloodstream, and had to be heavily sedated. His body eventually shut down, and he passed away on January 14, 1999.

I wonder how his music, with its provocative and confrontational song titles, would be received if he had lived to see the post-911 world, or his own England after the London bombings. If he weren't outright censored, his militantly noncommercial music would likely never find an outlet nor be heard in today's corporate climate.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Shokai the Nerd

Alright, enough of the flood talk already. Miraculously, although Rita was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico, and the third strongest hurricane observed in the Atlantic, no one seems to have died from its landfall. The storm is now stalling over the lower Mississippi Valley, so it's likely to bring more flooding downriver to New Orleans, but while I sympathize, and am outraged by the government's prior inaction, it's time to move on and blog about other things.

I played the nerd today. I bought this new computer late last Sunday afternoon, and while I had time to set it up and get on line, I really didn't have time to do too much else with it all week. So this morning, I came into the office with a big cup of Joe, sat down, and was the computer geek all day.

My first challenge was setting up Outlook, so I wouldn't have to get all of my email on the Web. I entered the 25-digit Windows product-validation code when prompted, but the computer kept telling me that it wasn't a valid number. I kept trying and re-checking (was that a capital one, or the letter "i?") until it finally dawned on me that I was entering the Windows operating system code, not the Microsoft Works code (wrong CD).

That seemed to be the breakthrough, and soon I had my email client up and running, the Windows office package, and all the various virus protectors, spyware sentinels and other cyber prophylactics required these days.
Then I rolled up my sleeves for the real challenge - the old broke-down dinosaur in the other room. My old computer still had all my old digital photographs, including pictures of my trips to Bahamas, Corsica, Florence and Budapest, plus sundry holidays, hikes, and other highlights of the last few years. And a boatload of music files, downloaded programs and all of my email and contacts since June 2001.

Well, I fixed it! I put the system recovery disk in the CD drive and started it up, and instead of slipping back into Safe Mode, it started right up - it even seemed to be operating better than it had been for a while; the convalescence seems to have done it well. I didn't waste any time retrieving the most important items, and I immediately started burning the digital photos to disk. I gained confidence as the afternoon passed, and I was eventually able to harvest about everything I needed.

So now I have two computers - one in the office and one in the meditation room. That's sort of like me - a little extravagant, definitely impractical, and very idiosyncratic. One could argue that I didn't need to have bought this new computer, but instead should have put more effort into fixing the old one - like I did today - but I have no regrets. The old dinosaur was barely limping along on Windows ME and as much time as I spend at my computer, I didn't need the aggravation. Maybe I'll network the two, and let them talk among themselves and keep each other company while I'm at work.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Rita has started her destruction even before she made landfall - heavy rains have overtopped the levees in New Orleans and re-flooded the Lower Ninth Ward. A storm surge of seven feet pushed water from Lake Pontchartrain through the Industrial Canal and cascading over a repaired levee.

This blog, like its author, has always been graphically oriented, and even as Rita nears the shore, I came across these pictures of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. These pictures are a sobering reminder of what East Texas and Western Louisiana might be in for, or what New Orleans might experience yet again.

I pray for the safety and well-being of everyone in the storm's path.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Two Haiku

The Earth arrived at the autumnal equinox at 6:23 pm today. Since the very first day of June, the mornings have been noticably cooler. Also, the tree droppings on my patio have taken on a different form - instead of the magnolia leaves of May and June or the storm-tossed branches of July and August, I am already getting brown, dry leaves - the first harbingers of The Fall?

First leaves of autumn
Drop down from branches and watch
My beard growing back.

I've been working long hours the past few weeks. Even though the Pascagoula Project has been shut down apres Katrina, I've still been working on the case that I was deposed for last July as well as other projects, plus some pro bono work related to the proposed Atlanta BeltLine. Too busy to even notice that it's now been three weeks since the repairman took my television to the shop with him and still hasn't told me when he's going to give it back.

The Unsellable
Condo in Vinings is still
Out on the market.

At least some things never change.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

God is unhappy with George Bush

In Chinese lore, it is said that when the levees break and the rivers flood, that the emperor has lost the "Mandate of Heaven." After all, when an emperor foolishly pursues war at the expense of his people's well-being, then the gods will be unhappy. The levees break, the people rebel, and the government falls. As UC Berkeley professor emeritus Franz Schurmann wrote earlier this year (pre-Katrina):

The disasters occurred especially in the Yellow River region, ancient China's homeland. Confucius put the blame on the power-driven warlords, each of whom insisted they alone had the "Mandate of Heaven," or more correctly, "God Commands" (tianming). Instead of making sure the levees vital for an overwhelming peasant society were secure, for example, the warlords first selfishly pursued their own aggrandizement.

In a more colloquial fashion, a good pal of mine (who shall remain nameless), just wrote me this thought:

Y'all might be amused to note that in Hurricane Katrina Trent Lott lost his home, while Hurricane Rita (which as of today was upgraded to Category 5) is currently on track to wreck straight through Crawford, Texas. Who's got God on their side, now, be-yatch?

Now that's the wisdom of the ages.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Katrina Revisited and Predicted

"It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

"But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however — the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

"The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level — more than eight feet below in places — so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

"Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

"When did this calamity happen? It hasn't — yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great."

- Joel K. Bourne, Jr., Gone With the Water, National Geographic Magazine, October 2004 (that's right, almost a year before everything predicted above actually came true)

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Computer

As anticipated, I wound up going to Comp U.S.A. and bought myself a new computer yesterday. Quite an improvement over the old failing computer that I bought way back in 2001. Now, I've got a 3-gig processor, 1-gig of RAM and a 250-gig hard drive. I should be able to get that Frogger across the street now . . .

For what it's worth, this is my first post with the new computer. Last weekend's entries were posted using my office laptop.

The old H.P. is now sitting on a desk in the meditation room as I try to figure how to retrieve over two years' of digital photographs, sundry downloaded programs, gigs and gigs of MP3s and over four years of email (not that I need everything - no attachments and all that - but it would be nice to get some of it back).

If anyone has an idea of how to get a memory-challenged computer out of Safe Mode, please advise.

Anyway, this new computer's way fun, at least now in our honeymoon phase. But it's a long road ahead.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Happy 50,000th!

(Sometimes these blog entries just seem to write themselves. If you're a frequent visitor here, you may want to skip this entry and come back tomorrow.)

Yesterday was a fair day in Boulder, Colorado, mostly sunny with a high around 80. _____ wondered how the rest of the afternoon was going to go. ______ was working at the Broadway Suites, downtown Boulder's premier executive offices, located at 1942 Broadway on the Pearl Street Mall. Anyway, _______ was wondering what to do with the rest of the day. Perhaps there was still some time to go mountain biking. Maybe go to a movie. Or maybe just a little shopping, followed by a quiet night at home.

_____ decided to check the Internet. _____ has a Macintosh computer, and uses a Safari 1.3 browser. For those who care about such details, the monitor was set at a 1280 x 960 resolution. Web surfing, being what it is, led one thing to another, and before too long, _____ saw the craziest picture on Google Image Search of the blessed Virgin Mary holding a small t. rex. _____ just had to follow the link to this crazy picture, and at 3:17:41 p.m. yesterday afternoon, _____ became the 50,000th visitor to Water Dissolves Water.

Saturday was auspicious for several reasons. Not only did it mark the 50,000th visit, but it also was the first day this site got 500 hits. And it marked the day my computer died, although I do not think it was the traffic that finally crashed that wretched beast.

Traffic to this site is normally down on weekends, so it's all the more amazing that both records, 500 hits and 50,000th visit, occurred on a Saturday. The vast majority of the visits still seem to be Googling Monkeys looking for Jimi Hendrix pictures, whom I'm happy to oblige. A rather improbable and slightly psychedelic picture of a rug barn is inexplicably the second biggest attraction. Next comes a picture of Courtney Love, the creation of Adam, and Jack Vettriano's Private Dancer, the latter coming mostly from the U.K. Rounding out the Top 10 are Amanda Keeys' I Love You to Death and Edith Vonnegut's Goddess In the Freezer, the requests for that latter one coming mostly from France. The list goes on with mostly the same images, but as requested in Germany, France, the U.K. and Canada. My international profile looks like this: Of course, those of you who check out my Site Meter already know all of this.

The top search words that bring visitors this site are jimi hendrix, sexblog, "water dissolves water", aj mclean stepsister, armin meiwes, art rene, bodhidharma way come to china koan, bootleg drew womack , fresh water mold in new orleans from katrina, homosexual actors,, jimi, mount everest, radio television, ray charles, shokai, t-rex, water dissolves, and, finally, what dissolves in water.

But what does all of this have to do with our friend _____ in Boulder? Damn if I know. ______, if you're reading this, if you saw something here that compelled you to come come, please email me. I want to know more, more about you, how you came across the V.M. and t-rex picture to start with, and what you thought of this site.

You are, after all, something of a celebrity around here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Death of a Hewlett Packard

Well, my television set is now in the repair shop for the third week. I don't think it's that badly damaged, I think the repair shop is that incompetent. Calling them (they never call me, despite their promises), they have one excuse after the other, from "the part was delivered too early for us to get it" (in other words, "we slept too late to meet UPS") to "the technician is out all this week" (in other words, "we can't fix it ourselves, and have to call in for help").

But worse things can happen than I go without t.v. for three weeks. At least I have the internet.

Or so I thought. As I have been predicting for some time now, my computer's been slowly dying and this afternoon it finally gave up the ghost altogether. Dead. A useless pile of electronic components.

For some reason (premonition?), I brought my office laptop home with me this weekend, which is why I'm able to post this.

So I'm off to Comp U.S.A., I guess, to buy a new computer.

My old H.P., for those wondering, was purchased in May 2001, so I got 4 years out of it.

I suppose the stereo's due to go out next here at Shokai's House of Dysfunctional Electronics.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Blame Game

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do it's job right, I take responsibility," Bush said. "I want to know what went right and what went wrong."

When I first heard this, I thought that this was the first time ever in Dubya's entire presidency that he ever took the blame for adminstration failures. I was hoping that he had sobered up and finally realized that he's actually in a position of responsibility and not at some frat house party. That alone was a pretty sobering thought.

But then I realized that the phrase "to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do it's job right" was custom made to re-surface later as his way to weasel out.

It's all a P.R. gambit. Act humble and take responsibility while your ratings are low, but leave yourself a loophole for when they want to love you again. If you recall, for a while there, Rumsfeld was in the habit for taking responsibility, too. There are no real negative consequences, and if people respect the responsibility-taker for takin' the blame, the only consequences are positive.

If Bush's ratings drop any lower, look for him to take responsibility for the Holocaust, the Whitewater scandal, and for shooting J. R.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nantahala National Forest

I know I've been falling behind in my blogging but, even though I haven't been in Pascagoula for a while, I have been quite busy. Too busy to post at least.

And tonight is no exception. But to keep the ball rolling as it were, here are some pictures from last Saturday's zen hike up to the Slickrock Creek Trail in North Carolina:

Monday, September 12, 2005


A friend/dive buddy of mine decided to load up his truck with camping equipment, scuba gear for salvage work, and tools and chainsaws and head to Mississippi to help in the Katrina relief effort. Below is his narrative from Gulfport for those interested in a first-hand account of conditions down there, not filtered by the news or the administration.

Sent: Friday, September 09, 2005 6:39 PM
Subject: Hurricane Katrina news from Gulfport, MS

Greetings from Gulfport Mississippi, specifically one mile north of highway 10 on state route 49.

My first day here has been a real experience. It's hard to tell where to start, my day started at sunrise after spending the night in my truck in a church parking lot. Jumping ahead my accommodations now are much better, we are in an impromptu distribution center in a empty
supermarket. Semis bring in donations all day which are sorted then reloaded and distributed to sites around Gulfport and Biloxi.

Early this morning as I was finding my way around I ended up in a devastated neighborhood, nothing but foundations left. I came across a church group, seven guys from Michigan, unloading supplies from a bus. I pitched in and ended up loading and unloading the bus three more times today.

It is hard, hot work but very rewarding, the people we are delivering supplies to are in dire need and very appreciative. I have dealt with crying grandmothers and laughing babies. We just finished loading the bus and will make a run first thing tomorrow morning to the projects in Biloxi.

That is the positive side, on the negative things are very disorganized and I have collected some real horror stories about the FEMA bureaucracy. That and there are so many military and police officers from surrounding states that everyone is lost and no one knows what is happening. In spite of that almost everyone just pitches in an does what needs to be done. We talk to each other and help each other out. The Army filled our bus with diesel today, we finally found the right officer!

The church group has made me family and we are camped out under a store awning here at the distribution center, other than the trucks and police cars parading through it is great. Lots of company, food and water, we even appropriated donated foam pads and sleeping bags, we have coolers, generators, a grill and occasional Internet access when Sprint is not over loaded. The one thing we really need is hot showers, our hygiene is not the best right now.

Some random thoughts, I may never drink bottled water again, it is everywhere and heavy to load! Your donations are getting through, we see it all; MRE's, tons of diapers and baby food and bags of donated mixed can goods, lots of bulk stuff, most seems to be from private organizations. The distribution is not efficient, trucks misdirected, too much time spent waiting for decisions, etc. But after just a day here we are becoming the experts and learning our way around. That will change, there is talk of us moving to a distribution center in Downtown Biloxi tomorrow.

I still think there is some diving work that I can do to help out, I have been passing fliers out to police and rescue workers I have met and they all assure me they will call if they find the need.

Well I will close for now. I tried to send pictures but Sprint can't deal with it tonight, service is really strained down here.