Thursday, March 31, 2016

Still recovering old photos from this very blog, and came across this picture of the backyard in bloom from April 2006.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Since everything,  even misfortune, is our life, what is essential especially in these circumstances is to meet adversity with an attitude of equanimity. If we fall into hell, then we need the resolve to see that hell is our home. When we are being boiled in the demon's cauldron, that is where we have to do zazen. When we are pursued up a mountain of needles, we should be willing to climb that mountain hand over hand even at the risk of our life. When we throw all our life energy into whatever we might encounter, no demon can help but retreat. - Uchiyama

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On a related note, I've been told that Sunday's flowers are camellias and not roses.

Monday, March 28, 2016

I guess at some point or another in all our lives, we have to hire our first attorney.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

They say to stop and take time to smell the roses, and whatever else is going on in my life right now, I've got to remember that the roses are literally blooming just outside the house.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Seattle 2013

I'm starting to find some of my old pictures at various locations scattered around the internets.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Based on years past, I usually don't get to take this picture until April or even May, but here the azaleas are blooming in March, the earliest I've seen these colors yet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Corporate HQ Framed By Excavator Arm and Dirt

Our job is to separate the lead shot, coal clinkers, and debris from the native soil.  In this respect, there can be no doubt that soil fit for human exposure lies at the point where the soil has been distinguished from the waste. So, in our daily lives, we have to discriminate, but what we must not forget is the fundamental attitude grounding this discrimination: everything we encounter is our life. 
(paraphrased, revised and updated from Zen Master Dogen).

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Today's Poem

When you're worried,
When you're hurt,
Get a yellow Komatsu
And dig in the dirt.

Monday, March 21, 2016

It's not so much what happens to us as it is how we perceive what it is that happens. We craft our own narratives, and then suffer or thrive based on the tales we tell ourselves.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

On the first day of spring, I had to turn the heat back on after switching over to AC during last week's heat wave.  Morning temperatures this week are forecast to be down in the low 30s, just above freezing.

As you may have heard, the Georgia Senate passed House Bill 757, one of those so-called “Religious Liberty” bills, earlier this week.  The bill allows faith-based organizations or individuals to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds, and allows such organizations to refuse to hire or retain employees whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” The bill’s supporters are hoping Georgia joins the dozens of states who are sanctioning LGBT discrimination by dressing it up in religious garb.

The good news is that the bill is still not yet law, and Georgia's Republican Governor, Nathan Deal, may listen to the Metro Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, who've said the bill could wind up costing the state $1 to $2 billion in lost revenue, rather than the Christian conservatives who are actually claiming the bill doesn't go far enough.  

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons are building a new $1.3 billion stadium with the intention not only of hosting home games, but also of luring future Super Bowls to Atlanta. The "Religious Liberty" bill may jeopardize these plans, and the way the guarantees are structured for the new stadium, if it doesn't turn a profit, Georgia taxpayers may wind up paying for the difference.

This may turn out to be a character test for Governor Deal.  He's already declared “What the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world,” and “We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us.”

Hopefully, even if his conscience doesn't drive him to do the right thing and refuse to sign the bill, the economic impact may force his decision.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Water Tower

Auburn Avenue was once the commercial, cultural, and spiritual center of African American life in Atlanta. Extending approximately two miles east from Peachtree Street, the Sweet Auburn neighborhood in the Old Fourth Ward was the heart of the black residential and business community in the first part of the twentieth century, and boasted a concentration of black-owned businesses, entertainment venues, and churches that was unrivaled elsewhere in the South. Its bustling retail trade and wealthy business owners earned the street a national reputation for African American finance and entrepreneurial zeal. 

Originally called Wheat Street, the road was renamed in 1893 at the request of white petitioners who believed Auburn Avenue had a more cosmopolitan sound. In 1956, Fortune magazine memorably described Auburn Avenue as "the richest Negro street in the world."

The Old Fourth Ward Water Tower on Auburn Avenue was once the tallest structure in the neighborhood. The tower was built in the early 1900s to hold the 100,000-gallon water tank for a cotton compress factory next door.  It is now empty and idle.   

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Panic In Laptop Land

Well, it looks like I got this computer back-up problem licked, at least for now.

However, karma's a funny thing sometimes.  Just after I took this picture with my iPhone (a fourth computer of sorts, if you will) and was all full of materialistic pride over my hardware arsenal, the iPhone died as I was downloading the photo to my newest laptop (lower center). Black screen, wouldn't respond to anything.  

Panic.  I have no land line or back-up phone, and several critical calls to make tomorrow.  Not to mention, my Western, 21st-century, iPhone addiction.  

Just when I solve one problem, another one pops up.

Or so I had thought.  After the adrenaline in my bloodstream abated a bit, I tried the phone again, and it started right back up, good as new.  Everything's fine, everything's working, nothing's wrong.  But for a moment there, I thought I had taken one step forward and two steps back . . . .

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Facing West

Life's not all computer rebuilds and tree removals.  Today, it was back to work at good old Fort Mac, setting things up for the next phase of environmental restoration and cleanup.  Nice to take my mind off the mundane day-to-day crises I've been dealing with lately, even though the crises are still hanging over me (literally in the case of the tree).

But speaking of trees, I finally got a second bid for removal of the tree hanging over my house for $3,600 - $4,500, cheaper than the $8,500 for cutting it down halfway, but he wants to leave all the downed wood in my backyard, basically turning my property into a lumber yard.  Upside, free firewood for life; downside, a yard that looks like a lumber yard.

View above is North Avenue from the Eastside Beltline Trail yesterday, with the Bank of America tower and the AT&T building looming over the horizon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Great Minds Are Open

I got my old computer back today.  They slapped a new hard drive into the laptop and it works like new - literally new, there's nothing on it, none of my programs and none of my old files, just lots and lots of unused disk space (1 terabyte to be precise).

However, it's slowly dawning on me that all is not quite as lost as I had thought.  As I mentioned yesterday, I can start re-scanning my old photos again (oh boy, another time-wasting project!) but more importantly, most of the best of my old digital photographs have been posted right here on this very blog since 2004.  I used to use a lot of "found" imagery here, but even then, if I had traveled or took a particularly interesting picture, it got posted here.  I've still lost a lot, but I've been posting my favorite pictures right here for almost 12 years now, and there's no reason I can't begin another time-wasting project and start downloading those pics that I had previously uploaded.

I've also burned a lot of MP3 music to CD for listening to in my car ("fair use," man!) and while I don't have everything on CD, it's the stuff I liked the most that I wanted in my car, so the best is still recoverable.  I'm listening to my old beloved  Sung Tongs (2003) by Animal Collective right now. 

The tree's still up.  I got a bid back from only one of the three contractors who looked at the tree yesterday, and he wants $8,500 to just remove the branches hanging over my house and to cut the trunk down to the same height as its distance to the house.  Anything lower that that would be too heavy to carry away.  That would effectively kill the tree and it will most certainly fall eventually, but when it does it will be too short to hit me.  It feels like a temporary solution, kicking the can down the road if you will, but it may be my only option, although one that could spare me and my house grievous injury.

I walked a couple of miles on the Eastside Beltline Trail today (I live near the Westside trail).  It's a very different experience - while near me the trail runs mostly through residential neighborhoods, the Eastside trail runs through a mixed-use commercial area, and there are abundant shops, restaurants, taverns, and townhomes popping up all along the trail.  Most interesting to me, though, was that the trail connects parts of town I never realized were so close to each other, as before the trail, my automobile route to The Masquerade, say, on North Avenue went nowhere remotely near, say, Freedom Park off North Highland, but in crow-flying reality they're less than a mile apart.

Sort of makes me look at things differently.   

Monday, March 14, 2016

High and Low Tech

I heard from the computer technician today, and everything on my hard drive has been lost. Everything.  Nothing is recoverable, and I've lost all my music (over 100 gigs), all my photographs, my email files, the programs I've purchased, everything.

In his defense, the technician did offer to assist me by sending the hard drive to California, where it could possibly be rebuilt and some (or none) or the data might be recovered, but that cost, he warned me, was "in the thousands."

Everything's impermanent, and this is a lesson in non-attachment. I lost a lot of music, but I hadn't listened to the vast majority of it it months, if not years - it was just comforting to know that if the occasion ever arose, I had everything from the complete Rolling Stones discography to the most obscure and hard-to-find indie folk-rock songs of 2011.  

Almost everything can be streamed nowadays, anyway, so there's really no big loss, but the pictures will be missed.  I have most everything from September 2011 to the present backed up on Flickr, and I still have the original photographs from childhood to about 1998 that I had scanned and can always scan them again, but my digital photographs from 1998 to 2011 are mostly lost forever, except for those that have been posted here, and don't I regret all those goofy treatments and manipulations I'd done on them now that the originals are lost (but I also lost the software used to treat the photos, so you're not likely to see those again).  I'll never again see Liz eating breakfast in a terrycloth bathrobe on the porch of our hotel room in Florence, or that view of Mount Hood from that corporate condo in Portland.  But those are just memories, and I'm probably more pained by the idea of having lost them than any comfort that they ever brought me when I did have them.

But this post isn't about that - this is a post about trees.  Today, I had three different contractors come by to get estimates on the cost for taking down a large tree that's been ominously leaning over my house, and leaning at a greater angle the past year or so than in the past.  The tree is 42-inches across at the base, and to make things even more "interesting," the tree is fairly high up on a hill and behind my neighbor's house (it's actually on their property) and there's no access between the tightly spaced urban houses to bring in cranes or other equipment that would be needed to haul the big timber away once it was cut.  Two of the three contractors said, at least at first, that it simply couldn't be done, and the one that thinks he can do it envisions a labor-intensive process of workers hand carrying hundreds of sections down the steep hill our houses occupy.

It won't be easy, and it certainly won't be cheap, but the sister tree formerly next to the one I want removed fell a couple summers ago and completely demolished my neighbors house. They would have been killed had they been home, but fortunately were up in the mountains for the weekend. Every time there's a storm, I'm in a state of anxiety about the remaining tree coming down on me, and not feeling safe in your own home is no way to live.

As if to underscore the urgency, a tree came down today a mile or so away from here and tragically killed a utility worker unfortunate enough to have been beneath it at the time.  According to the press:
ATLANTA -- Rescuers scrambled to a scene in Buckhead Monday morning after a man was hit by a falling tree.
It happened around 10:30 Monday morning on Springlake Dr. NW. An Atlanta Fire and Rescue spokesperson confirmed the worker was killed.
11Alive Sky Tracker showed a broken bucket at the top of an extended bucket truck near the tree. A large section of the top of the tree appeared to have cut and was lying on the ground under the broken bucket.
A City of Atlanta spokesperson is on the scene and working to confirm if the worker was a city employee.   
Traffic had been blocked on Northside Drive and I could hear the ambulance sirens and the sound of emergency chain saws cutting, and while the contractors were looking at my tree, the 11Alive and other news helicopters were still noisily buzzing overhead, as if to remind us of the potential consequences of inaction. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Of course, the computer breaks down on a Friday, and I don't get it to the tech shop until late in the day, and of course they're closed weekends and don't work, so I won't even know if any of my data is recoverable - all my photographs, all my email, all my music, all my programs, and all of everything else that was on my hard drive - until sometime Monday at the earliest.  All I can do in the meantime is wait.

Turns out, though. that spending a weekend without all that stuff isn't as difficult as I imagined it would be. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

21st Century Blues

If this post ever makes it on line, it'll be a testament to my sheer stubbornness and willpower.

As I'd been suspecting all week, my computer, my new (or newish) laptop PC that I bought in November 2012 after my old faithful desktop finally bit the dust, crashed.  It generally won't start up, and on those few rare occasions that it does, it just makes clicking and beeping sounds for a few minutes and then turns itself back off.  I can't run anything on it, and I can't access anything on it, including all of my music files and MP3s, my collection of dharma talk podcasts, all of my photographs going back to scans of my childhood pictures, and my financial records, including everything I need to file my tax return.

I bought a new laptop today, a big 17-inch HP that looks and feels pretty steady, but it's been a challenge all day today to set everything back up, including re-loading Microsoft Office, Adobe, Google Chrome, and trying to find my old bookmarks and remember all of the passwords that were stored on my old computer.  Add to this the challenge of working for the first time on Windows 10 (my old computer was Windows 9) and a virus protection program that I have to manually turn off and then remember to turn back on every time I want to download a new program, and you have the basis for a tedious afternoon (although the frustration does take my mind off the other problems and challenges I've been facing).

I do have another old laptop that I keep for emergency purposes and do have some limited backup on, and for most of the day today, I've been transferring files and data from one to the other.  The broke-down laptop is at the shop now to see if they can recover data from the hard drive, but in the meantime, I'll just have to see how much I can live without.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A colleague of mine used to ask, "What do you call a 55-gallon drum of raw sewage with one glass of red wine added?," and then answer his own question, "A 55-gallon drum of raw sewage."

Then he would ask, What do you call a 55-gallon drum of red wine with one glass of raw sewage added?," and he would answer, "A 55-gallon drum of raw sewage."

His point, as I took it, is our tendency to focus on the negative.  While I don't advocate drinking from a 55-gallon drum of red wine with one glass or raw sewage added (I wouldn't advocate drinking any wine that came in 55-gallon drums, for that matter), we shouldn't lose sight of the positive in our lives when faced with adversity or difficulty, that glass of raw sewage that keeps getting dumped into our metaphorical drums. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Patience has never been my virtue, and right now my patience is being tested.

Monday, March 07, 2016

When we're tested, when we're stressed, we find out what our strengths and weaknesses really are.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Did you ever notice how the unfortunate always seem to keep on staying victims, and how the good fortune always seems to find the lucky ones?  Steeping yourself in negativity has seriously terrible consequences for your mental and physical health.

Friday, March 04, 2016

For the second week in a row now, I've worked from the home office (long story, don't ask) but as I rise each morning at my leisure and work at my own pace, and find I still get as much if not more done each day than over in corporate office-world, I find myself asking again why I want to do that.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Is A Donut Hole "Inside" of a Donut?

Since most animals pass through a moment early in life called gastrulation, in which an embryo, consisting of a hollow ball of cells, indents to form a cup, the "inside" of the animal isn't really the inside of the cup, it's between the deflated walls of the former ball.  

Further, since the cup closes further and forms a small hole, and a mouth later develops on the opposite side, the "inside" of the animal isn't the digestive tract but the body cavity that exists between the external surface and the plumbing of the tract. 

Therefore, the inside of our mouths, the inside of our stomachs, our intestines, and our colons are really the "outside."  Same thing with our lungs.  And if we look even closer, the micropores that allow nutrients to pass from our GI tract and oxygen to pass to our bloodstream, are open windows to the "outside," and the distinction between what's inside of us and what's outside of us gets very blurry, and if we look close enough, we can no longer draw a line between ourselves and the external world.

In that case, are we really "we"?