Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back To The Soil

Doonesbury Oct 26, 2010
America was founded largely by farmers who lived independent of central government because they could grow their own food plus cash crops to buy tools and luxuries. The notion of liberty is firmly rooted in the self-sufficiency of family farmers who mind their own business and don't much care for a distant bureaucracy telling them how they should behave.

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled
Here once the embattled farmer stood
And fired the shot heard round the world."

Is this revolutionary spirit still alive in the land or have we become a nation of craven sheep obedient to the will of the Great Big Shepherd in Washington, DC? Do you believe that some Mighty Master far away enjoys the right to tell you what you can or cannot grow on your own property?

There are many good arguments in favor of Proposition 19 (which would legalize the growing and use of marijuana for recreational--and scientific--use in the state of California). The Economists claim it would benefit the state by eliminating wasteful police and prison expenses as well as offering the state a new source of taxation. Others argue that making marijuana legal would put drug dealers out of business much as the ending of alcohol prohibition took away the profit motive from wannabe Al Capones.

But for me the best argument for the legalization of marijuana is that it should never have been made illegal in the first place.

Growing and consuming whatever I want in my own home is one of those inalienable rights set forth by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence. Are we free Americans or are we a nation of obedient sheep?

Back to the soil, I say. Put our many unemployed citizens back to work growing a crop that's so desirable that millions of ordinary Americans have risked imprisonment to use it.

If President Obama were a smart man he would welcome this new experiment in grass-roots democracy (similar to the long-term experiment in Holland that permits responsible adults to use cannabis). If Proposition 19 passes, Obama should proclaim: "The people have spoken. Let them have their way. If it's successful, we have learned that Californians are able to run their own lives in this regard without input from central authority. If negative results ensue, the Central Government does not lack the tanks, guns and soldiers to enforce the Old Way Of Doing Things."

Vote November 2 for a right that should never have been taken from us. Please vote YES on California Proposition 19.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Zen Education

Sheldon Glashow (recent pix)

In 1979 Sheldon Glashow shared the Nobel Prize in physics for his part in the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces, but in 1962, he was just another faculty member at Stanford with a taste for big cigars and small red sports cars.

In the crowded quarters of the Inner Quad, because I was a teaching assistant in a second-floor lab, I was given an office on that floor while less-fortunate grad students were relegated to "the Zoo" on the third floor--a large open area full of desks directly under the roof which was also home to pigeons, squirrels and (some claimed) owls. My second-floor office happened to be located right across the hall from Shelly Glashow's lair.

Lasers had just been invented then and were a topic of hot discussion. I had heard that red lasers were easy to make but that green lasers were harder, and blue lasers almost impossible. (Few are aware that the Blue-Ray laser in your DVD player represents a remarkable technological breakthrough.) I wondered what physics principle mades high-frequency lasers so difficult to build so I decided to ask Shelly Glashow.

I knocked on his door, posed my question and he asked: "Who are you?"

I told Shelly I had an office across the hall, was a second-year graduate student and he replied: "Get out of here. You can answer that question by yourself."

Shelly was right. In a few hours I was able to derive the answer from basic physics principles.

Not only did I discover the answer but I never forgot it. If Glashow had explained it to me I would almost certainly have forgotten it along with thousands of other physics facts that entered my mind in those days and quickly exited the other side.

Thanks, Shelly, for encouraging me to think for myself, and for embodying (no doubt unknowingly) the subtle art of teaching without teaching.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Defining the Magic

Vote YES on California's Proposition 19


a good poem is like a cold beer
when you need it,
a good poem is a hot turkey
sandwich when you're
a good poem is a gun when
the mob corners you,
a good poem is something that
allows you to walk through the streets of
a good poem can make death melt like
hot butter,
a good poem can frame agony and
hang it on a wall,
a good poem can let your feet touch
a good poem can make a broken mind
a good poem can let you shake hands
with Mozart,
a good poem can let you shoot craps
with the devil
and win,
a good poem can do almost anything
and most important
a good poem knows when to

--Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Managing Marijuana

Will you VOTE YES on Proposition 19 ?

In a few weeks (Nov 2) California voters will have the opportunity to vote to restore our God-given right (see Genesis 1) to grow and enjoy the fruits of every tree and plant that the Earth provides--in this case restoring our right to grow and utilize the plant called "marijuana". Supporters of Proposition 19 claim that its passage will ease California's budget woes by providing a brand new source of tax revenue, by reducing the police, legal and prison cost of enforcing marijuana prohibition and by generating new jobs for Californians otherwise unemployed. There is also the hope that taking the huge prohibition-generated profits out of pot by making it legal will deal a serious blow to outlaw drug cartels without firing a single shot. As a small side benefit, if Prop 19 passes, even scientists might be allowed to study this fearfully prohibited plant just as freely as we study radioactive plutonium, brain poisons and lung cancer.

Growing and using marijuana is a natural right. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition has caused more serious problems than the plant itself without significantly reducing its use. Proposition 19 makes a lot of sense. Only drug dealers, moralists and spineless politicians (afraid of being perceived as "soft on drugs") are against it.

But what about the kids? Under our present system marijuana is easily available to children who buy it from criminals in an unsupervised way. Under Prop 19, it will still be illegal to sell pot to minors. Since 1976, Amsterdam has effectively decriminalized the use of marijuana by adults. I am not aware (are you?) of an epidemic of irresponsible Dutch adults selling lots of pot to Dutch teens.  Prop 19 means a return to privatization of California's marijuana use. It lets parents not the police  assume responsibility for their own and their children's attitudes towards pot.

Nick Herbert supports Proposition 19 and dedicates this parody of Joyce Kilmer's Trees to its passage:


I think that I shall never see
(a-sittin' in my sauna)
A poem as lovely as, let's see,
A grove of marijuana.

Her leaves reflect a lovely green
Her blossoms give off spice
Her perfume draws the honeybee
Methinks I dwell in paradise.

Writers, poets, music crews,
Use ganga as a door to Muse
And ardent lovers spread her fame
As aid in Aphrodite's game.

Three thousand years her jagged leaves
Have helped good doctors treat disease
And holy men from every sod
Have praised her as a way to God.

Wise men from the Middle East
Considered fine hashish divine
They taught that pot restrained the beast
Beheaded fools who misused wine.

If I can sell baby-killing aspirin
Alcohol, rat poison, gasoline
Tobacco, dynamite 
and all the guns you need
Why can't I trade 
a single ounce of weed?

While stuffing pockets with our wealth
The politician schemes to stay in power
Screams: only I 
can save you from yourself
By ordering cops with guns 
to bust a flower.

Is pot really so bad for you and for me
That we have to call out 
the bloody marines
Our back yards to assault, 
our assets to seize
In prisons to lock us 
for "growin' o' the green"?

I sing the spirit inside the seed
I praise the gorgeous Goddess weed
Poems are made by fools like me--
and Dylan Thomas
But only God's the force that 
thru the green fuse drives cannabis.

Young Barack Obama enjoying a God-given right.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon: Siebzig Jahre

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Today the 70th anniversity of John Lennon's birth was celebrated around the world in a variety of Imaginative ways: Google invented an interactive Lennon logo, thousands gathered in NYC Central Park's Strawberry Field and Yoko Ono produced a concert in Iceland. Here's Doctor Jabir's contribution to the memory of a most remarkable man:


What a miracle
If imagination could end war
and feed every human being lunch.
But dreamers make easy prey in worlds
Where a few bad apples
Can spoil the bunch.

Love Is All You Need
Is not enough.
One needs get tough.

I love the Beatles and "Imagine"
Admire men who can't be bought
But also heed the words of Rabbi Yeshua
(Promptly crucified for what he taught)
Who told his listeners this about love:
Be wise like serpents first
Then simple like the dove.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Santa Cruz Scottish Games

Saturday, Oct 2, August O'Connor and I attended the second annual Scottish Games at San Lorenzo Park in Santa Cruz, CA. Here we watched grown men and woman toss heavy stones and large poles (cabers) record distances, witnessed the gathering of the clans in which the McPhersons, the Bells, the Crawfords and a score of other Scottish tribes proudly displayed their lineages to the public and marched before the queen and her retinue--everybody dressed in costumes covering several historical periods from medieval to modern. We observed an old-fashioned forge and a weapon shop, booths that sold haggis, pot pies, Guinness, musical instruments and plenty of Celtic clothes and adornment where August purchased a brown-and-yellow tartan scarf from county Down. Traditional Celtic music was present in abundance, headlined by the Wicked Tinkers and 1916, plus a plentitude of pipers, Scottish dancers and musicians from the Community Music School of Santa Cruz.

August and I worked the fair as wandering minstrels, she playing the bodhran (Irish frame drum) and I the penny whistle (which a friend recently described as "the gateway instrument to the bagpipes"). The attached clip by videographer Allan Lundell from Awake Media, captured us playing "Father Kelly's Reel" near the gaming field at the close of an boisterous Scottish day.