April 30, 2008

Socializing at the Cemetery


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warbler shot by inadequate camera

Since June busted out all over in April, I've been hanging out a bit at Mt. Auburn, our "garden" cemetery - final resting place of many a poet and patrician, bird sanctuary and horticultural heaven. I was partaking of the pollen and working my way up to shooting the usual thousand flower pictures I feel compelled to take every spring, when, quite by chance, I bumped into a small but interesting social scene which I'm assuming happens often among the gravestones of a sunny afternoon. The friendly bird photographers were all steamed up about the elusive ruby crowned kinglet, and ever so ready to take me under their wings, so to speak, even though my mini Olympus was a eighth of the size of one of theirs. All three hang enough big brand cameras and binoculars around their necks to strangle an ordinary citizen. Sometimes they walk alone, but often in a quiet pack.

Last week they were stalking the ruby crowned kinglet, ("a bird on cocaine") this week, the Baltimore oriole. These guys are a hoot, and they know everything -- where the coyotes live and how many cubs they had last year, how the Canadian geese are discouraged from taking up residence (I forget), all about bad birding manners (crypt and step ladder ascents seen often during warbler week). They dislike baby strollers, especially squeaky wheels or squeaky babies. In fact most children are not trained in the art of bird stalking, and generally behave in bird disturbing ways. They hang out with the blue heron hoping to catch him with a bullfrog in his beak with a froggy legs extended, and reminisce about the day they shot him spearing an orange carp.

They taught me the basics Look up and scan the trees until you see movement. Since I'm very myopic and have so many floaters , I see movement everywhere. Fortunately, there's a fallback - listen for a bird call, hear who's around, and then look up. Then take out your camera, make the necessary adjustments and shoot. Then see if you shot a bird. Then see if it's in focus. Then make sure you didn't shoot a robin or a grackle, or if you did, that the boring bird is doing something interesting like building a nest or flying upside down. Every once in a while you hit the birdy jackpot. Lord knows it must have been an expensive hobby before digital cameras came along, since so many shots come out looking like some woodpecker was behind the camera. Frankly, it's all quite thrilling when you get a good one, rather like catching a fish without the worms or the need to be inhumane.

The deficiencies of my camera for this exciting game soon became very clear to me. I can only capture the big slow birds like heron and swans , who are tame enough to pose for an audience. I'm looking at a faster model, so that I may delight my audience with further birdy scenes of nature.

The guys tell me that they are just the tip of the iceberg, The Brookline Bird Club, some 1500 strong, has a special key to the gates of Mt. Auburn, and in high season 200 afficionados arrive each morning at 6:30AM for prime viewing.

You can take a virtual bird tour around Mt. Auburn, and get a better idea of the challenges a bird shooter faces.

Photo note: An art shot, where the bird is only a design element. You can see that my warbler shot will never do for the National Geographic, but I got it!

Posted by Dakota at 08:10 AM

April 24, 2008

Speaking of Nukes


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The ever astute Dan Froomkin smells a rat. In a piece for his Washington Post column White House Watch, which he has entitled "What Are They Up To Now?" he writes:

Intelligence reports from this administration can't be taken at face value.

President Bush has built up a prodigious track record of selectively disclosing intelligence findings that serve his political agenda. And some of the most important of those findings, of course, turned out to be completely false.

The latest disclosure from the White House's intelligence apparatus -- that Syria secretly built a nuclear reactor with North Korean help -- is in many ways a blockbuster. But at the same time, its highly suspicious timing raises doubts about the motivation behind its announcement.

And even if everything the administration says is true, there are many elements of the emerging story that deserve scrutiny.

Consider, for instance, that the Syrians were still nowhere near being able to build a nuclear weapon when the White House tacitly approved Israel's attack on the facility. Did you think Bush's pre-emption doctrine was dead? Just listen to the administration officials yesterday speaking sympathetically of Israel's conclusion that it faced an "existential threat."

Another obvious question: Why now? Why is the White House going public more than seven months after Israel's attack?

Administration officials offered an explanation yesterday -- saying that they were initially worried about provoking Syrian retaliation, and that the disclosure could actually help the ongoing nuclear negotiations with North Korea.

But there are still some who suspect the announcement is the work of Vice President Cheney and other administration neocons who are trying to upset those negotiations -- and further ratchet up tensions with Iran. The White House statement about the Syrian installation insisted that "this development . . . underscores that the international community is right to be very concerned about the nuclear activities of Iran and the risks those activities pose to the stability of the Middle East."

You can and should read the rest, but it will only confirm for you that Nancy should have started impeachment proceedings long ago.

It has been all too easy to sell war. Last Sunday, The New York Times broke a front page story about military pundits embedded in the media, which has has now all but disappeared. In response, Michael Moore issued this edict : " I would like tonight to call for a removal, an immediate removal, of all US troops from CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, CNN, NBC, all of them."

Why ever would we ratchet up tensions with Iran? Israel has the nuclear capabilities, after all. If the Israelis are in any way encouraged to use them, even in a limited way scientists predict that the consequences to the environment, and to human health will be dire.

Photo note: As close as we could get to a nuclear explosion given the spring material available in the photo archives -- that's a good thing.

Addendum:N uclear explosions since 1945

Posted by Dakota at 08:56 PM

Around the Pond and Back


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Of course
the swans
were there


though this
specific duo
was shot a
month ago


from a vernal pool
sprung at last
to life
melodic chirps
rose up
like beating
fairy wings


around the bend
a great blue heron
posed graciously
for a portrait by
an amateur


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another swan
swam closer
hoping for a
swanny treat


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along the
spongy bank
woodland violets
burst into bloom


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returning home
I read
of tyranny
evil and deceit

and then

to turn away
from truth
and look at
birds instead
altogether wrong

Photo note: Horn Pond

Posted by Dakota at 07:03 AM

April 23, 2008

Believe It Or Not, It's Still Passover


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Long view

Devoted readers of this blog, and you know who you are, may be distressed to think that they have missed the annual Passover entry this year - (actually, there doesn't seem to be one for 2007, though we did celebrate). Have heart, here it is!

There were twenty two of us creating a ritual of freedom this year. Once again, the table was at maximum seating capacity. The first night of Passover fell on a Saturday, so we were not even forced to move the occasion to a more convenient date, as is our usual tendency. Since Passover is celebrated by the more orthodox for eight days, until April 27, even this entry is right on time.

It was, as always, a religiously rollicking event, culminating somewhat after midnight with an unfortunate dishwasher breakdown. Since all the plates were paper, (most Kosher, most convenient) this was not the tragedy it might have been. (Rest assured, all plastic was recycled)

The next morning, we polished off the leftover matzo ball soup, screwed the tops back on the elderberry Manishevitz for next year, made egg salad from the uneaten hard boiled eggs on the Seder Plate, stopped eating homemade horseradish directly from the jar so that we'd have some left to serve with raw oysters this summer, and solved the annual problem of what to do with the many leftover boxes of matzo

Photo note: The table sans celebrants

Posted by Dakota at 12:31 PM

April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day


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Since today is Earth Day
all of us here at Dakota
thought we'd pass along
a lovely visual meditation
from the HeartMath Institute
whoever they may be
and use the opportunity
to publish one of
the plethora of
flower pictures
we cannot resist
shooting in spring

this one at least
has double triangles

Photo note: completely unnecessary

Posted by Dakota at 06:57 AM

April 18, 2008


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A dear and close personal friend directed me to this remarkable TED Talk by Dr Jill .Bolte Taylor, Harvard brain scientist and stroke survivor. She has some extraordinary observations about her own brain, as, and after, she suffered the stroke. She entitled the book she wrote about her experience,"My Stroke of Insight".

Taylor tells us that "Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems, and then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like what it sounds like..... We are energy beings connected to the energy all around us through the consciousness of our right hemispheres ....".

As if to emphasize this point, the universe provided a profound contrast. On the day I received Taylor's talk, I attended the wake of a twenty seven year old free skier whose clearly vibrant, energetic connection had been tragically severed when he missed a jump and tumbled to his death down the mountain. His body, clad in a yellow ski suit, lay still in an open casket a few feet from his grieving family as they received hundreds of mourners. To quote a friend, it was a fierce reminder that the body is just a suitcase

Photo note: The animate and the inanimate and the split.

Posted by Dakota at 07:49 PM | TrackBack

April 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Benedict


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Just in case you haven't been sufficiently bombarded by the media on this subject, the Pope flew into Washington to celebrate his birthday with his new best friends. They threw a party the likes of which have not been seen since Reagan's corpse hit town. The menu - morel-encrusted diver scallops, ramp spatzle (in honor of Pope Benny's German heritage and stinky behavior), angel hair asparagus bisque, duo of veal, white truffle potato dumplings, baby carrots and boletus mushrooms, heirloom lettuces and candied pumpkin seeds, spring squash carpaccio, styrian pumpkin oil vinaigrette, raspberry crisp and mint coulis. was a state secret until unveiled.

It has been pointed out that God's Rotweiller and George W. Bush have lots in common. They share many regressive views against abortion, stem cell research, birth control and gay marriage. The media, however, failed to mention their mutual penchant for massive cover ups. We all know about George W's - .here's the pope's

Five years ago he sent out an updated version of the notorious 1962 Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis - Latin for The Crime of Solicitation - which laid down the Vatican's strict instructions on covering up sexual scandal. It was regarded as so secret that it came with instructions that bishops had to keep it locked in a safe at all times.

Cardinal Ratzinger reinforced the strict cover-up policy by introducing a new principle: that the Vatican must have what it calls Exclusive Competence. In other words, he commanded that all child abuse allegations should be dealt with direct by Rome.

The pope did have the decency to say that the sexual abuse scandal caused him shame - well deserved, and unfortunately not until it was exposed.

So Happy Birthday dear Benedict from all of us here at Dakota.

Photo note: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

Addendum: Dan Froomkin has a wonderful column about Bush's moral relativism in which he quotes Bush to Ben:

"'In a world where some invoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and murder and hate, we need your message that God is love,' Bush said. 'In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred. . . . In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism. . . . In a world where some see freedom as simply the right to do as they wish, we need your message that true liberty requires us to live our freedom not just for ourselves, but in a spirit of mutual support.' . . .

"The pope, tactfully, made no direct mention of Iraq, torture, global warming and other disputes with the administration, but he did call the Bush-hostile United Nations an 'effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world's people.'"

Posted by Dakota at 06:32 PM

April 14, 2008



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the sign said
"public water supply
do not feed
the waterfowl"

but she was
at the edge
of the pond
with a
bag of bread

this swan is sick
she told me
he can
no longer
see out
of his
left eye
the tumor
is so large

another cob
attacked him
and drove him
from the
big pond

if I report it
they'll just
euthanize him
and his mate
will suffer

it's the water
I know
it's the water
I can see
the suds
down the

a shaman
who seems
to know
these things
an abscess
caused by
cob attacks
don't jump
to conclusions
she told me
that nature
to heal it

I wonder
or whether
there are
vets for

Photo note: The afflicted one

Posted by Dakota at 08:16 AM

April 12, 2008

Signs of Spring


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As you can see, the production line here at Dakota has been slowing down. We took a NY Times article entitled "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop" to heart - Matt Richtel reports:

They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.....

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

We know you wouldn't want this to happen to us, so we refer you to Fox News, while you await our next entry.

Photo note: Ducky on the edge.

Posted by Dakota at 11:12 AM

April 08, 2008

Lobby Layers and Loose Lips


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All of us here at Dakota simply cannot understand why Mark Penn was asked to resign from the Clinton Campaign just because his firm lobbied for a free trade agreement with Columbia, even though that conflicts with Hillary's stance on the issue, especially when that very same firm, or it's "subsidiary" prepped Blackwater founder Erik Prince for his congressional hearing

We cannot understand why there are lobbyists working on Hillary's campaign in the first place, especially when their affiliations are so suspect.

We cannot understand why lobbyists are actually running John McCain's campaign too. Charles R. Black, McCain's chief campaign strategist works for the same firm as Mark Penn.

We cannot understand why George W Bush and Dick Cheney were not asked to resign for election tampering, starting an illegal war that has killed over 600,000 Iraqis, 4000 American soldiers, and wounded and maimed another 29,000, war profiteering and constitutional corrosion.

Samantha Power was asked to resign from Obama's campaign for calling Hillary a monster.

Randi Rhodes was fired from AirAmerica for calling Hillary a whore

Oh ..h..h we get it! Uncouth is unacceptable, corporate or criminal is fine.

No that's not quite right

After all, John McCain wasn't asked to resign when he called his wife an unseemly name, but that was 1992.

Photo note: A metaphorophoto - confusing picture of a lobby (get it?) on two different levels with blurry figures underneath and only a slice revealed on other levels - shot at the MOMA

Posted by Dakota at 06:44 AM

April 02, 2008

Secret Memos and Yoo Know Who


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Lots of juicy news flowing from the Department of Justice. Thanks to the persistant efforts of the ACLU doing the job of Congress for the American people, the Yoo torture memos were released. Yoo who, you ask?

He's just a lowly worm in the process of right wrenching at the Department of Justice which is so beautifully documented by Scott Horton in Harper's. That clickie, by the way, is a designated "must read" by the good citizens here at Dakota. If you care about your country try to concentrate.

The Republican project of the past seven years has been to build on that success, to transform the legal apparatus of the United States into an instrument of partisan force. Each step of that transformation has been well reported, but few commentators have noted how those steps have in turn brought about a complete subversion of the original law-enforcement function of the Justice Department. Indeed, the absence of controversy demonstrates precisely how successful the administration has been at mainstreaming its odd notions of justice. And this raises a larger concern.

Yoo didn't stop with torture he wrote the memo for justified surveillance too. In fact, he was so good at memos that they made him a law professor at Berkeley.

Of course all his memos were classified secret, and very hard to obtain. The Federation of American Scientists questions what all this secrecy is about anyway.

From a secrecy policy point of view, the document [Yoo's] itself exemplifies the political abuse of classification authority. Though it was classified at the Secret level, nothing in the document could possibly pose a threat to national security, particularly since it is presented as an interpretation of law rather than an operational plan. Instead, it seems self-evident that the legal memorandum was classified not to protect national security but to evade unwanted public controversy.

What is arguably worse is that for years there was no oversight mechanism, in Congress or elsewhere, that was capable of identifying and correcting this abuse of secrecy authority. (Had the ACLU not challenged the withholding of the document in court, it would undoubtedly remain inaccessible.) Consequently, one must assume similar abuses of classification are prevalent.

Speaking of former DOJ employees returned to civilian life after performing dirty deeds, everybody's darling Monica Goodling was wed to the right wing blogger who founded Redstate. Be sure to read the comments. Somehow The New York Times Wedding Section missed this one.

Photo note: Since torture chambers are currently off limits to photographers, we find we have to make do with construction sites.

Posted by Dakota at 10:20 PM