Sunday, September 30, 2012

On Andamanese Languages

(I responded to a Facebook rant—and did far too much Wiki surfing.)

A recent Facebook post I read on Andamanese peoples was a case of fast and loose reading with overbroad extrapolation and interpretation of facts. And it gave the appearance of ethnocentric (read: American Black) racism at the expense of indigenous cultures.

I wanted to tell the author, though I respected his attempt to reconcile the convoluted history of peoples and migrations throughout the eons, stating that Jōmon, and Andamanese peoples were one and the same—both out of Africa based on the outward appearances of skin color and hair—is wrong.

We have no photographic or linguistic record of ancient Jōmon cultures. As my ceramics teacher, Thano Johnson was fond of repeating: pots don't talk. My anthropology teachers McGrath and Dundes, reiterated the phrase. Be careful how you arrive at conclusions.

Granted that Andamanese languages and genes are old, very old. Possibly Proto-Australoid, it doesn't make them African.

A few Andamanese genetic characteristics are present in isolated populations from Asia to Oceania: southern India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and China.

Andaman languages (during the 1900s there were ten-plus mutually unintelligible Andaman languages—meaning they've been around a while—at least 60,000 years) are what is called a "linguistic isolate"—today only 3 languages survive, and they are in decline.

Genetically, "Andaman Islanders have been isolated for a substantial period of time." Andamanese genes have little genetic variation (bottleneck). The Jarawas carry an allele with no affinity to any other population in the world. It means they've been inhabiting the Andaman acrchpelago for a long, long time.

I noted that the subclade of the D haplogroup is not present outside of the Andamans—which supports the extreme insularity of these tribes. They are haploid D group, yes, but not the unique subclass marker. It does not make them Ainu, or vice versa.

(Archaic DNA origins of the Ainu, or Utari of Japan and Russia have not been scientifically identified (but they are thought to be proto-Mongoloid). Their Y-DNA haplogroup D2 is common in Tibet and the Andaman Islands. Mitochondrial DNA haplogroup Y is also found among Nivkhs, Tungusic peoples, Koreans, Mongols (including Kalmyks and Buryats), Chinese, Japanese, Central Asians, South Siberian Turkic peoples (e.g. Tuvans, Todjins, Soyots), Koryaks, Alyutors, Itelmens, Taiwanese aborigines, Filipinos, Indonesians, and Malaysians. )

Take mtDNA: All Andamanese belong to the subgroup M[10] which is also on the Indian subcontinent, it represents 60% of maternal lineages, but also in Africa and other areas west of India. But M2 is unique to the Andamanese. M2 and M4 lineages diverged 60,000-30,000 years ago. They've been an isolate group for so long, they had no immunity against common diseases—like the Amerindians.

In other words, nothing is as simple as it seems—other than these two groups are extremely old. Skimming the surface, with overbroad extrapolation and interpretation of facts serves only to muddy the water. Not shed light.

The oldest Chinese pictographs—the sun, moon, tree, etc., all share parentage with the glyphs and writing of ALL world cultures. Some things are held in common, as a development of mankind. It doesn't mean that they're African—unless you go really far back. Broaden the lens.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


I grew up within the melody range of streams
Our watershed creeks were named Arroyo & Barranca
for things bone-dry but our streams ran year-round,
a raging torrent in winter, a small song in summer
where minnows nosed the rocks in shallow pools
and snapped up damselflies and larvae
Sometimes I'd catch fingerlings in my palms
I'd build rock dams to deepen the pools
and then cup my hands to scoop them up
One spring I caught three small salmon fry
and kept them close in a mayonnaise jar
i marveled at their olive spots, their mouths groping
the way their silver undersides
flashed and wove water into threads of light
but we were going to my aunt's for the summer
so I screwed the lid on tight and toted my troutlings with me
I caught flies, small insects, I fed them hamburger
After a few weeks of city living, two went belly-up,
I gave them fishy funerals by the seashore
But one fish survived the long ride back home
The pools on Barranca Creek seemed so small
after seeing the world like that,
my fish was well traveled, so I set him free,
I slipped him into the cool depths
of the wine vat that was our spring-fed water tank
The daddy-long-legs on the cover
bounced in unison as if to say yes!
I never told my grandmother where I'd set him free.
I was perfecting the art of omission of truth.
Daily I hiked up the hill, maybe it was guilt that drove me
or perhaps I wanted to prove the adults wrong,
that the fish could live with us after all
But I never thought to the future,
or that I had interrupted a lifecycle
I kept tabs on that little fish
as he nosed at the bright algae
growing on the walls of the tank,
I marveled at the way
a shaft of sunlight sliced the darkness of his pool
and he'd swim towards the light,
but the tank couldn't sustain him
By summer's end he was gone,
melted back into the water
and I drank him in, salmon wisdom
returning home to natal grounds.


This piece was written for Watershed Festival—I was a featured poet on the Strawberry Creek walk. I read this piece to the creek with other poets.

17th Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival

17th Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival
Saturday, September 29, 10:00 a.m.

Strawberry Creek Walk • Meet at Oxford & Center Streets in Berkeley.

Creek Walk poets: Chris Olander, Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Maya Khosla, Rebecca Moos, Maureen Hurley, Rebecca Moos, Kim Shuck
A walk from Strawberry Creek on the UC Berkeley campus to the Watershed festival led by poet/eco-educator Chris Olander with poetry readings by poets and commentary by creek restoration experts, featuring Chris Olander, Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Maya Khosla, Maureen Hurley, Rebecca Moos, Kim Shuck, Tim Pine (UC Berkeley), Kirstin Miller (Ecocity Builders).

Festival Main Stage • Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park
Robert Hass • Joy Harjo • Michael McClure
Brenda Hillman • Francisco X. Alarcón • Rebecca Foust • Richard Silberg
— with Michael McClure, Brenda Hillman, Maya Khosla, Francisco X. Alarcon, Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Eileen Hale, Richard Silberg, Tim Pine, Poetry Flash, Chris Olander, Rebecca Foust, Joy Harjo, Rebecca Moos, Joyce Jenkins, Robert Hass and Kirstin Miller.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The State of CA State Parks

State parks will stay open for at least 2 years

"SACRAMENTO Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he had signed several bills to keep California's state parks open and ensure greater spending oversight after a scandal in which parks officials hid $54 million."

In a recent newsletter California State Parks Foundation President Elizabeth Goldstein appealed to its 130,000 constituents:  "…lawmakers have introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1478 which will appropriate $20.5 million in State Park and Recreation Fund funding to keep parks open. In addition to allocating this funding, AB 1478 also includes several other important provisions.
  • Prohibits the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) from closing or proposing the closure of a state park in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years.
  • Strengthens the State Park and Recreation Commission to improve their ability and capacity to provide oversight and a more meaningful connection between the public, park stakeholders, and the parks department.
  • Provides a one-time appropriation to ensure that all ongoing internal and external investigations into the DPR are fully funded.
Send a Message to Your legislators now.

In a follow up press release, Elizabeth Goldstein wrote:
“Governor Brown made the first important step toward restoring public confidence in California’s state parks by signing AB 1478,” said CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein. “Putting this bill into law is a sign of good faith on the part of California’s government that all the hard work of communities, organizations and donors across the state who stepped up to support their parks is recognized and appreciated. —CSPF

Now I usually don't blog about news headlines, let alone bulk email newsletters, but so much confusion has risen around the California State Parks scandal—I decided to look into it to see if I could make some sense of it. It's a case of defending what's mine—to use the California State Parks Foundation slogan.

What I do know is that most of the 70 California State Park park closures are located in the Greater Bay Area. And for some reason many people are blaming Governor Jerry Brown for the closures instead of the politicians who created the problem. Inheritance.

My childhood state park, Camp Taylor was one of the 70 parks slated to be closed—as in boarded up, gates locked—along with Tomales Bay as there weren't enough state funds to keep them open. We grew up on the slopes of Mt. Barnabe, swam each summer in Papermill Creek, and gathered huckleberries each fall on Tomales Ridge. My natal stomping grounds. This was becoming personal.

Add to that list of slated September closures:  Marin's China Camp, Benicia State Recreation Area, Mariposa's California Mining and Mineral Museum, San Mateo's Gray Whale Cove State Beach, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area (already shuttered) and Monterey's Zmudowski State Beach.

Most of my favorite Santa Cruz beaches have also been laid out on that September chopping block. Even the fabled Antelope Valley in SoCal—some 25 parks in all—better than the original 70 parks slated to close last year, that's nearly one-fourth of all our state parks. Sonoma's Goat Rock, and Rancho Olompali, the gates are already locked.

Goat Rock had locked gates, September 2011, as did most coastal beaches from Sonoma to Mendocino and Del Norte.
There was a $22m shortfall in the California State Parks budget. Private funders have stepped forward to keep several more popular parks including Henry Coe and Mugo Point open.

Rancho O;ompali (old Martin Ranch, aka Grateful Dead commune), on the slopes of Mt. Burdell—closed
Many California state parks have already transferring operating costs to private and public partners. Other partner takeovers, including one plan for a local favorite of mine, Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville, are pending.

Whereas this public and private partner solution keeps our state parks open in the short term—what implications does it have two years or ten years from now? Does this mean our state parks are now in the hands of private concessions? With no control factors in place?
"I think it's a lost opportunity to take action to reclaim our parks before it's too late. I worry that once they're lost, they may be lost forever," said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. "It's very hard to reclaim a resource like this once you've let it go." —Huff Post
Meanwhile rogue Parks and Recreation bureaucrats (whose appointments date back to the Pete Wilson administration) were sitting on two huge slushpots of unaccounted for surplus money ($54m) that chould have been used to keeping California State Parks open.
It's unclear how much of the money is dedicated for specific purposes or can be used generally on things such as staff salaries or to keep parks open.  —HuffPost
BTW, that surplus wasn't in the California State Parks' own budget but in other Parks and Recreation departments' budgets. Lest you think it's a recent development, that $54 million surplus has been accruing interest for more than a decade.

Rogue's Gallely: The Parks and Recreation Fund squirreled away $20.3 million while the Off Highway Vehicle Fund hid another $33.5 million. Neither of these vast sums was reported to California's state controller. Seems like more than an oversight.

Apparently the agencies did such a good job hiding the slush fund that Ruth Coleman, the California Parks Department director, who was hired during Pete Wilson's tenure, and has led the agency since 2003, hadn't a clue. She took the fall and unfortunately the name of California State Parks was sullied during the scandal.

Understand that California State Parks had nothing to do with this fiasco. But it certainly has had a negative impact on legislative attempts to secure long-term public funding for California State Parks at the ballot box. I happily would've paid a higher vehicle tax on two cars if it meant I had an access pass to California State Parks. How cool is that?
California voters in November 2010 rejected Proposition 21, an $18 registration fee for vehicles that would have raised an estimated $500 million for state parks. —HuffPost
I'm fairly certain that the Off Highway Vehicle Fund deliberately hid their excess funds. Before the scandal broke, I remember reading a small article stating that they jealously didn't want to "share" their take. Parks & Rec could also have hidden their surplus for similar reasons—neither wanting to bail out the beleaguered California State Parks. Call it petty sibling rivalry taken to the extreme.

Good old Arnie squandered CA's surplus budget and put California into a $15.7 billion deficit. But he had no idea that the umbrella oprganization, California State Parks and Recreation, was sitting on a surplus—or I'm sure he would've spent that windfall too. 

But the actual deceit goes back much farther, at least to Wilson's time. So credit Pete Wilson with this mess, perhaps even Gray Davis—but not Jerry Brown. Let's hope that our newly appointed nine-member State Park and Recreation Commission are better stewards than the last lot.

Further reading:

California State Parks Must Explain Hidden $54 Million Surplus

State parks shakeup: Scandal sinks plans for local tax measure

Update: CSPF applauds Governor Brown for signing legislation that supports state parks with funding, reform 

Your letters and faxes to Governor Brown worked to convince him to sign AB 1589 and AB 1478 into law! Now share your Defend What's Yours photos on our wall so we can see who you are! Get your poster here:
California State Parks Foundation on Facebook

"State parks will remain open, thanks in large part to advocacy by CLCV supporters and our partners. Gov. Brown signed two bills – AB 1478 (Blumenfield) and AB 1589 (Huffman) – to keep state parks open and ensure greater spending oversight. The Associated Press reports, "Together, the bills establish a two-year moratorium on park closures, provide about $30 million in funding and give the department that manages California's 278 state parks new fundraising tools." —Sarah Rose, CEO, California League of Conservation Voters

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wáng Wéi translations BIRDS

Myriad Birds Calling in the Ravine
—Interlinear translation of Wáng Wéi's Niāo Míng Jiàn

I am lost amid the falling petals of the cassia tree
calm spring night in the deserted hills
rising moon startles the mountain birds  
birds singing forever deep in the ravine.

                —2nd translation
Lulled by a sweet drift of cassia petals
night nestles on the empty ridges
moonrise startles the mountain birds
a cascade of birdsong floods the steep ravine.

Water Ousels in the Gorge
—after Wáng Wéi's Niāo Míng Jiàn
(freewrite transliteration)

They hide between shining trees
A stone hut in the distance
A woman's thoughts like the moon
trapped in the pines
Windows, so like the sun, or eyes
Clouds upon clouds, mountains
and the moon, hidden in the mist
Ousels skim across reflected light
the river mouth singing.

Poetry Inside Out

Niǎo Míng Jiàn
Wáng Wéi 699-759

Rén xián guìhuā luò,
Yèjìng chūnshān kōng.
Yuèchū jīng shān niǎo,
Shí míng chūn jiàn zhōng.

To see the Chinese  Mountain Song

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mac Hell and the realm of Lost Permissions

Hell and damnation. Hell and damnation and back again. The Snow Leopard Update I ran on my "new" MacBookPro stalled, via the iCloud, but due to slow DSL, it also locked all my external volumes to "custom access" and now I can't access ANY of my backup hard drive files under Info/Unlock. Not exactly progress.

Some Terminal codes I get are: drw-rw-r-T and an uchg flag. Anyone know Terminal, or UNIX? 

Someone asks: Can't Disk Utility's "Repair Permissions" come to the rescue? Restoring permissions—and there were lots of them—did not help. No reboot success. No, that's system file permissions. This is much deeper—at the UNIX root level. Ironically Disk Utility is what got me into this mess to begin with—I couldn't fix all the file permissions so I got the bright idea to reinstall Leopard, and do something about it. Mistake. 

FIrst round loading Snow Leopard from Leopard was OK— then when I ran the Combo update to 6,8, all manner of hell broke loose. My MacBookPro is an inert nert—it's stuck at the gray Apple logo. It's hanging. And nothing will unstick it, not even rebooting in Safe Mode. Oh, and it has no working screen. The inverter's gone.

My little MacBook 1.1 (2006!) trumpeting like a baby dino, came to the rescue. It accidentally loaded Snow Leopard, so I went with it. Been trying to update that little MacBook for ages—to no avail. So now it decides it's a good time to load Snow Leopard. WTF?

MackBook, why couldn't you have done that years ago when Snow Leopard first came out? I would have loved you longer. Why upgrade now, when you've been kicked to the obsolete technology closet?

OK, not kicking gift horses in the teeth. Niiiice MackBookie. Goood MackBookie. I have a working computer. I can access the internet.

Snow Leopard Update locked all my external hard drives. Not what I was expecting. Clearly the past does not want to let go and I'm dealing with a couple of jealous cats hissing and getting all turfy on me. If I can get that poor stuck drive to load—I might have better luck unraveling the dilemma.

I ran Terminal and discovered the uchg flag, AKA user immutable flags. What? Sounds so mysterious. Piet Bess says this is a "sticky bit" issue. Do some research about clearing the sticky bit. sudo chmod 775. Awp. It's all Greek to me. I don't DO Terminal!  OK, well....

I learned that the "uchg" part means it is locked. It also a symbol for barfing. Under Info, the "Locked" check box is not an option. Nor are the permissions wheels available. Accessing my files in a read-only mode is not an option. That padlock and "custom" access means I can't even OPEN them because I don't have sufficient "privileges."

I found this: Under Terminal, type:
  • cd /Volumes
  • chflags -R nouchg Portable\ HD
  • The command will perform an unlock on the HD and recursively unlock every file and folder on the drive.
Too sticky a wicket for me. So I reached out to my favorite Mac Guru. MacWorld maven Chris Breen said to use Batchmod. Voila! Magic ensued. Permissions restored. One. By. One. Slow progress. But I was kissing Chris's proverbial feet. I had a way in.

I may have accidentally changed the permissions on a 3rd party app that shouldn't have been locked. I hit return without thinking, and it "unlocked" all my Apps files—or so it said. Wonder if that's the root source of the cascade? At least all 3 HDDS have the same warning codes...

Meanwhile I have a poetry reading Sept 29, Watershed Poetry Festival & 100 Thousand Poets for Change— and I can't get into my hard drives in order to retrieve poems!!!! Luckily I have hard copies of many poems, and they're also posted on my blog. Will have to make do. We've a reading on Friday 28th, at Berkeley High School too.

9/26 Today, I had a modicum of success. But I still need my files on the desktop. I had one working OS system loaded onto a USB drive—it took three ports to find the right combo. Running the OS from the USB drive, I was able to rescue my desktop files. 

This means I can also clone a drive and pop it in—but I'd rather get the original drive working. It needed to authenticate all files when I tried to move them—so permissions are whacked—probably the source of the locked external drives. 

Robert Peake asks: Are you still under AppleCare? A nice genius could probably sort this out for you pretty quick... I had to laugh. At this point I was in so deep, I probably knew more than the Apple Genii. Are you kidding—these Mackies are older than durt! 2006. Made about the time some of the Apple techs were born.

This is the part where I used one elderly MacBook, long in tooth, to fix a fancyass MacBook Pro. I won't mention that I used my MacBook's old Tiger drive to unravel this dilemma, I had updated the MacBook to a SSD drive. I don't worry about MacBook's older 32-bit addressing vs the MBP's superior 64-bit addressing conflict. I swap drives. It works. But I still needed my desktop files. Not a hardware problem. MBP works. Unswap drives. Progress.

I eventually bought a new hard drive, swapped them out, then cleaned and cloned everything, and was up and running, but it took days of diligence, and stealing wifi that was faster than ours, so I could access the updates. 

Batchmod's logo is a bat. I had bats in the bellfry and bells in hell were ringing off the hook. It was a slow roast, but Batchmod saved the day. Albeit slowly. Can't recommend it enough.

I discovered my old Word 5 files turned into rogue Unix files when I joined this decade's operating system, but that's another story.

Moral of the story, reloading a tried and true operating systems does not necessarily guarantee smooth sailing. And Never NEVER never never have any hard drives attached when updating software. Especially your backup hard drive, and its backup hard drive. I could've lost everything. And I do mean everything. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

The USS Endeavor

I saw the Endeavor fly over Oakland enroute to SF, right outside my front door with Lorenzo the mailman. Rockin! We saw, we screamed, we clicked pix, and high-fived each other! Much more exciting than I anticipated—seeing as earlier I had been driving all around town for an hour looking for it. I gave it up for lost. And went home. Sigh.

But as I turned to go inside, there it was, low between the trees, flying piggyback on a 747 right up Highway 580. Flying in slo-mo. Egad, I took three out-of-focus pix, two passable fuzzy ones, and a crisp in-focus photo of the sidewalk and my foot. I thought my mother would've laughed at the folly of it. Then I remembered it was her birthday.

I never expected to be that excited. Like I was a kid. Absolutely thrilling. I did not go gentle... I'm hoarse from whooping and screaming.

I never expected so many emotions all at once. I was sort of ho-hum about it all  until I saw it—then I realized anything was possible—even the stars. 


While they unwrapped their new iPhone cameras,
my eyes wrapped themselves around an image
of the Endeavor silhouetted against the sun.

And for a moment, I saw the countenance of hope.
Then I realized anything was possible—even the stars.



While they unwrapped their new iPhone cameras, 
my eyes wrapped themselves around an image 
of the Endeavor silhouetted against the sun.

And for a moment, I saw the countenance of hope.
Then I realized anything was possible—even the stars. 


Saturday, September 15, 2012


Dear Ethyl,

Please don't go down
to the bridge
for it will make no difference 
in the end
War is inevitable
an espionage against life
and the martyrs always
fall for all the old stories
I love you too much
to lose you again
Not like that
For if you go down to the bridge tonight
Then I too must go with you
Please don't go down 
to the Delgado Bridge tonight
For surely I must accompany you
as your loving husband
I rremain faithful to the cause
but I love you more than life itself
so I will go with you
down to the bridge

Your Ira


Because my art is suffering
offering service to the void
the unborn legacy of words
awaiting birth, or rebirth
because nothing is new
we are continually reinventing ourselves
passing it forward
I want to tell you
about the way the eye sees
a certain angle of light
the way the shadows ease their grief
across the web of the labyrinth
hunting loose aspects of crystal
trapped within stone
Name it, call it feldspar and citrine
garnet and quarttz, serpentine and blueschist
But the deer ignore the pattern of the labyrinth
daintily picking their way across stones
At the crest of the hill
where buckeye and oak meet the eons
a horse's mane of clouds
shrouds the sky—whether in grief  or as a bride
And so I write to fill the void
and settle into an easy chair
in the corner of a dream
These words, a gift,
a lone hawk keening in the wind
What was it Picasso said? A lie? Truth?


         —after Ezra Pound's The River Merchant's Wife

She married too young
but he was a great lord
who said absence
made the heart stronger
but the insecurities
One never comes back
Did the river take him?
So many undercurrents
written into the river
He loved her
passing of time
They were paired butterflies.
She thought him dead,
never coming back
It was a great leveler
of circumstances, the turning tide,
not translated, nor translatable.
She could never send that letter
into the void, let the river take it,
a paper boat jettisoned
on the far shore of regret.
How we communicate in this age
of artifice and intimacy
the lie that makes us
realize the truth.