Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Browns on Holiday

The Browns on Holiday
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Actually, it's Krista's folks in their kitchen back in Cloverdale. But they look so happy, and the light was so nice, I thought they might rather be at the lake.

Vintage Meredith & Steve

Vintage Meredith & Steve
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

I found this old photo from the early 90's. Meredith and Steve had moved into our old place on Ross Branch Road. It was a magical spot. I'm guessing this was 1991?

Monday, January 29, 2007

June 68

June 68
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

I just finished an intense project--scanning and restoring a number of old photos from my childhood and before, when my folks were young. I did it for a present for my sister, who turns 50 next week. Yikes!
Today I found a whole new stack. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry-it was so much work already. I guess the new batch will have to wait a little bit, to give my eyes a chance to recover.
I decided that this is the perfect art form for someone with Venus in Virgo: removing tiny specks and flaws to make something beautiful.
This photo is in front of our townhouse in Corte Madera, Marin County, California. Now one of the most expensive places to live on Earth. Then, just a sleepy little blue collar town. The hippies hadn't really begun the migration North just yet.

(more photos on flickr)

Awesome New Power Generator

This is so damn cool. Check it out.

Hey Jude - Seven Minutes Of Lovely Nostalgia

Why We Should Never Go To War With North Korea!

Warning: Not for the faint of heart. These folks seem to be totally insane.

Little Girl

Sometimes I wonder what we might do (as a people) if we weren't so busy killing eachother and raping the Earth for short term material gain. I think we'd put on lots more shows, just for fun. Here's one from Europe. Enjoy.

Pan's Labyrinth - A Review

Another movie outing with Steve! And another very dark, disturbing film. When we were driving back, Steve said "Well, I'm glad I saw it. But I would never want to see it again!"
I'm not so sure I'm glad I saw it. I had trouble falling asleep last night.
This was the most violent movie I've seen in many years and unlike rather silly movies, Kill Bill for example, the violence was very realistic, slowed down, brought close up and tied to something genuinely horrifying in the human soul.
All three of us literally covered our eyes or looked away all through this film. It was simply unbearable.

I guess the film had a message or two: FASCISM IS BAD. REALLY BAD. And given that Bush Co has been trying hard to install fascism here in the US, I guess I'm glad that millions of my countrymen will get that message delivered up close and personal. But I kind of knew it already.

Perhaps the other message in the film is that it's just as well to die and get off this hellish planet. Especially if it's a choice between selfishly using another or bravely sacrificing one's self. I can't really argue with that one, but we do seem to keep coming back here.

I think it would be rather easy to edit out almost all of the extreme violence and still convey the horrors and brutality of a fascist police state. But there was one scene in the magical realm that was somehow key to the film--the child killing monster with eyes in its hands. It would be nearly impossible to 'tone it down'. I just hope no one ever ever ever takes a child to see this film. It should really have an X rating, in my humble opinion.

One final note: I think most Americans may be a bit hazy on the Spanish Civil War. If you want to see this film, it might be worth brushing up on your history.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Up Into The Light
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Yesterday we went for a hike with Meredith and Steve at Annadele State Park. We nearly reached the sun.
I love talking with Meredith and Steve and even more so while we're hiking somewhere beautiful.
Unfortunately, the girls had turned their noses up at lunch before we left, and it didn't take long for their blood sugar to hit grumpy levels. It amazes me how little shame they seem to feel at times like that. Luckily we had half a cheese sandwich on hand and once they got it down the bitching and moaning subsided. Ye gods.
Tonight Danny brought Hattie over for another visit. He and Hattie have been together for some months now. I like her.
We had a good time telling stories and laughing. And Krista got coaxed into playing a few songs for us!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Is Americans Dumb?

My friend Ray sent me a link to this video. It confirms what we've come to call Kelly's Law--that most people are really stupid. Or at least most Americans. Or at least the ones interviewed in this video. You may find it funny. I found it horrifying. Actually, maybe you shouldn't watch it.

On edit: of course we don't know how many intelligent people he interviewed, whose responses were simply edited out--maybe it's a hundred to one ratio. Maybe a thousand to one! It does seem like the same group of people shuffled around throughout the report.
And maybe some of the seemingly moronic answers were actually correct answers to a different question, and he sneakily edited them in to make the people seem retarded.
And maybe having a professional looking camera and microphone shoved in your face triggers an emotional response that makes clear thinking difficult.
I'm clinging to hope here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Children Of Men

Last night Krista and I joined our friend Steve and went out to the movies! (I added that exclamation point because I honestly can't remember the last time I went to a theater to see a film). I should give Steve credit for the idea.
We saw Children of Men and it was well worth the $6.75 or howevermuch we forked over. Not a very cheerful film, to say the least. But it was so well made, so well acted, so believable that I would reccomend it to anyone who can stomach a bit of violence and horror.
The violence was intense, but I don't think it was gratuitous. It firmly established the hellish parameters of this future dystopia, allowing the story of one pregnant woman in a childless world to become mythical and intensely numinous.
This film certainly didn't beat one over the head with its message. It demanded a bit of thought, plenty of discussion and a certain amount of shuddering.
This is a good one to see on the big screen. Especially if you need your adrenal glands wrung out.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Odd Couple

I guess this story has made it's way around the internet, but I just got it. Meredith's mom sent us an email. Here's a link to the story and photos in case you missed it too, and/or want an uplift.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Eden the Hoopster

Eden practices her moves with the hoops Danny gave us for Christmas.

Skeletor Battles Paparazzi

Thailand Sojourn

Using a small plastic doll to relate to foreign cultures.
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

I've been very busy for about a week now, creating a new blog called Thailand Sojourn.
It came about when I realized that all of my written postings from our trip to Thailand never got published on this blog. I don't know why.
I thought about adding them in, en mass, as I was rather fond of them. It was a magical time for us and I wanted to share my writings.
But putting them in here, almost two years later, seemed absurd. I also came to realize that I'd posted only a relative few photos here and had many many more excellant photos to share.
So I decided to make Thailand Sojourn. I loaded about 160 photos onto my flickr page and produced 12 little short video clips from our original footage. I included my original travelogue and massively supplemented it. I put in lots of hyperlinks too.
It was an absurd amount of work and I love every minute of it. I just have no idea why I felt compelled to do it.
But now it's (essentially) done. Aside from a little tweaking and tinkering, it's a done deal. I won't really be adding to it.
Time to go celebrate.

PS if you don't have broadband internet, forget it. Even with a fast connection it takes too long to load!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Some Great New Ideas To Save Gaia!

I'm borrowing these paragraphs from a Truthout article by Kelpie Wilson, entitled 2006 Top Green Tech Ideas. OF course the idea of a plug in biodiesel hybrid car is familiar, but check out the V2G part:

Plug-In Hybrids and the V2G

At the end of 2006, General Motors announced it would commit to manufacturing a plug-in hybrid vehicle. A plug-in hybrid adds a larger battery pack and a plug to charge the batteries with grid power, allowing the car to rely more on the electric drive and less on the fuel supply. A new study for the Department of Energy has found that we already have enough electrical generating capacity to power 84 percent of our 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrids. That's because our capacity is designed to meet peak power needs for air conditioning on hot afternoons, and when peak power is not needed there is plenty of spare capacity to charge electric car batteries.

This would be a bad trade-off where grid power is provided by coal. But ask not what grid can do for your car; rather, ask what your car can do for the grid.

The real promise of plug-in hybrids is using their batteries to stabilize a power grid that is supplied by renewable but variable wind and solar power. Dubbed "vehicle to grid," or V2G for short, the idea is to use the combined storage power of 220 million mobile battery packs to buffer the grid whenever the vehicles are not in use. Vehicles would absorb excess power at night or on sunny or windy days. The vehicle battery packs could then be tapped to help out during peak demand periods and a computerized "smart grid" would regulate it all. The potential is huge. Terry Penney, a technology manager at the National Renewable Energy Lab said, "if millions of these [plug-in hybrids] were produced, it would enable some of the renewable technologies to really take off."

Terra Preta - The Black Earth

I've saved the best for last. Terra preta is new to Western science, but it is an old technology from the Amazon that disappeared when the native populations were wiped out by European diseases after Columbus.

The technology of black earth is simple: Instead of slashing and burning the rainforest to make way for agriculture, long lost Amazonian civilizations burned forest slash in smoldering piles to make charcoal, and then buried the charcoal in the soil. This produces an astounding increase in soil fertility. The charcoal itself adds nutrients to soil, but it also acts as a sponge to absorb and retain any manures or other added fertilizers for very long periods of time. Some of the terra preta soils created more than 500 years ago are still highly fertile today.

Terra preta could be a win-win-win-win solution of tremendous magnitude. Here's how it would work: Farmers would start by growing biomass for energy - cornstalks, for instance. The material would be heated with solar furnaces to make the charcoal, which releases gases like methane. These gases can be collected and burned for energy. Then the charcoal gets buried in the fields, making them more productive. But the biggest prize of all is the carbon sequestration. This is a highly effective process for pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into long-term storage in the earth.

The best thing about this idea is that anyone can do it. My resolution for 2007 is to try this in my own garden. But all the voluntary efforts of individuals and even corporations won't be enough to tackle the energy/climate crisis. We need a society-wide mobilization of resources to develop these excellent ideas and others, and put them into practice. My hope for 2007 is that the new Congress will be up to it.

Kelpie also talks about advances in solar, wind power kites and LED lightbulbs. If you aren't up on these sources of optimism, check out the article!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Astrology - A Rant

I began learning astrology in college and on into grad school. Astrology is an elegant and comprehensive language of the soul and at that time several Jungian astrologers were prominent, the foremost being Liz Greene. It was a great match with the depth psychology I was studying.

That was way back in the early 80's and I slowly come to realize that I didn't want to become a professional astrologer. I certainly did a lot of charts for folks. But I rarely enjoyed interpreting them. I saw astrology as a psycho-therapeutic tool, but few people wanted to dive in deep to explore their own psyche. At least not with me--a more or less untrained beginner. I got tired of being asked superficial questions and trying to explain the basic ideas over and over. Ugh.

But last month Meredith called us up all excited. She's an aunt! Her brother had just had his first baby, and that she was going to visit them in Manhattan over the holidays. It just seemed natural to do the baby's natal chart as a gift. We have beautiful blank chart forms (they were our first unsuccesful business venture) and we can make a chart look pretty cool.

But Meredith wanted more! She wanted to be able to explain the chart, at least somewhat, to her uptight stockbroker brother and sister-in-law. So I typed up a brief explanation of astrology using the baby's chart for examples, and sat down with Meredith for about an hour to explain.

It was intense! Meredith goes after new information like a hungry tiger goes for a slow moving villager. She listened so intently and asked so many excellent questions that foutains of information just flowed right out of my creaky old brain. By the end of our hour she was clutching her head and groaning, saying she had had no idea astrology was so complex and deep.
Later on she called me and asked if we could do a trade. I could teach her astrology in exchange for her tutoring of India. Somewhat hesitantly, I agreed. I'm not sure I have enough insight and knowledge to make it a fair trade, but I'm going to give it a shot.

When she got back from Manhattan she told me of her father's reaction to the whole chart thing. He yelled at her! "You don't really believe this crap? It's bullshit! It's totally unscientific!" She had obviously enjoyed provoking her dad and was amused by his ranting. Her East Coast relatives think she's too "crunchy" anyway. A kook from the woo woo 'left coast'. I suspect she likes to rub their noses in it once in a while.

Well, I didn't find the story amusing. Her dad's attitude is all too familiar and I'm sick of it.
In my opinion, it's the attitude of insecure people who don't understand science and have made of it a religion. They believe in "scientism" in order to feel safely grounded in the current consensus paradigm. Only vaguely aware of the "scientific method"--the very basis of science, they glom onto the trappings, the glamour of it.

Instead of peasants gawping at the priest in his vestments, speaking incomprehensible latin, we've got psuedo-intellectuals nodding their heads at researchers in lab coats publishing incomprehensible studies. They read about 'findings' in women's magazines and The New York Times.
I don't like religion in general, but scientism seems especially repulsive to me. The peasant's sense of awe and wonder has been replaced with smugness and superiority. I don't see that as an improvement!

I will admit that most people have no clue whatsoever that astrology is anything more than the daily horoscope one finds in the newspapers. They've never even heard the term 'natal chart'. Still, for the follower of scientism, astrology is has served as strawman and whipping boy far too long.

Clearly astrology is "unscientific" because we can't explain how the alignment of planets and stars can have anything to do with human behavior.
By the same token, the Moon obviously has nothing to do with tides, or women's menstrual cycles (or lunacy for that matter). Any apparent connection is mere coincidence. Or used to be before we could measure gravitation.

Gravitation. Now there's a nice scientific term. It describes something we can't really see or feel and which I certainly can't explain. I doubt you can either. But physicists came up with clever ways of measuring it though and now we feel so scientific when we drop something and it breaks. "Oh, that was gravity, that was."

But unlike the Moon's gravitation causing the tides, and synchronising mentrual cycles, and filling the psych wards once a month, astrologers don't suggest that the planetary alignments "cause" anything. Rather they seem to mirror human behavior. As above, so below.
And yes, we can't explain why. Yet.
Jung invented the term 'synchronicity'--an acausal connecting principle. (Also an album by The Police). It comes back to that word 'co incidence' which simply means things happening at the same time. If we can't ascribe a clear cause then there simply cannot be any meaningful connection. That's Scientism.

In reality, there's no particular reason why the scientific method can't be applied to synchronicity. No scientific reason. But there are plenty of cultural reasons.
I should know. I was a Psych major.
Poor old Psychology has been trying so hard for so long to be taken seriously it's been humping the leg of 18th century Newtonian science for about a hundred years. Sort of barking up the wrong tree of life. This desperate longing for respectibility seems to have blinded most psychological researchers to newer (20th Century) develpments in the hard sciences.

But consider this: virtually all scientific studies use statistical analysis to determine if their results are "statistically significant". But statistics is based entirely on faith. Faith in a concept called randomness or chance. If your results occur more often than random chance would suggest, then we can be pretty sure they are due to whatever it was you were studying.
But where did this idea of 'random chance' come from? It really is a religious idea. I'm pretty sure it came into prominence around the time that Descartes tossed God outside of matter and the Earth became dead.

Quantum physics seems to suggest that there really is no such thing as "random chance". Every electron in the universe seems to know what every other electron is up to. Seriously.
Things look random to us, from our limited perspective. It's a bit arrogant, I think, to automatically assume that they are. And that's a key difference between Science and Scientism. Science requires an open mind in seeking for what's real. Scientism doesn't bother with that sort of messiness. We know what's what. We'll just throw a lab coat over it and smugly nod our heads.

Okay. So in the end, if there is no real randomness in the Universe--if nothing is really happening just by chance, then why the hell shouldn't the alignment of the planets at the moment of a baby's birth have significance?
Honestly, I think certain people would do well to put away their New York Times and pick up a quantum physics book.

There. Rant over.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Day

The Elements
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Meredith and Steve invited us to a beach cookout for New Years Day. We brought food and firewood and hula hoops, frisbees and our kite. And enough coats and sweaters to survive Antarctica. As it so happened, the day was so warm I had to strip down to my t-shirt! And there was just enough breeze to keep the fire lively and the kite aloft. An altogether perfect day at the beach.
We left just before sundown and got to see the full moon rising over the hills as we drove east and happily got home before dark.
What a wonderful way to start the year off.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.
Steve is a very handy fellow to have around. He made an awesome fire in jigtime, was the only one who had a knife (to open the hermetically sealed tofu dogs) and made tide pooling an unforgettable experience. I think his kindergarten class is damn lucky to have him.

Meredith with S'mores

Meredith with S'mores
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Organic vegetarian s'mores. We had quite the analog picnic. Tofu hotdogs, (baked) bbq potato chips, organic root beer. Yum.
We also had homemade sauerkraut made by our friend Jean for the dogs. The best part, of course, was roasting the dogs over the hot coals.

Tide Pools

Tide Pools
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

I've spent many happy hours clambering around tide pools, ever since I was a little boy and my folks would take us to Pacific Grove to camp out.
But I've never seen such an abundance of starfish and sea anenomies, mussels, barnacles and crabs. Steve found one crab about as big as Eden's hand. And then to top it all off....


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

The high point of a very good day at the ocean. Steve found a little octopus stranded on the sand and not doing too well. At first we thought it was dead, but he carefully moved it into a pool and it perked right up.
It started out an orangey red color, but turned itself motled grey to match the sand on the bottom of the pool.
We got to see it move along to find a crevice, using his tentacles and sort of gliding, pulling, swimming, slinking. An extrordinary thing to witness! We all felt so lucky to have encountered this creature, surely one of nature's weirdest.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

At long last, our Bali kite soared aloft to sail the ocean breezes. It looked beautiful bobbing along in the currents of air. It never stayed up for long, but I discovered a big ol' grin on my face--pure enjoyment!
I bought that kite from the fellow who made it (well, him and his wife) on the beach after my first scuba diving experience. I was too happy to haggle for it (and so probably paid twice what he expected to get).
It has a good energy about it.

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

We got invited to the Tubleweed's 'New York New Years Eve' party. This means we celebrated the event at 9pm and got to sleep by 11.
What a nice bunch of folks. They started out as a playgroup for their toddlers and we got sucked into the magical vortex along the way.
Robert and Jean have a great little house in the countryside west of Windsor, with chickens, donkeys and goats all around.
We shot off dangerous fireworks to mark that magic 9pm.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Talent Show

Talent Show
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Or at least a show. I'm not clear what exactly the talent was. Any excuse to put on costumes and have people clap.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.