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(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

Derelict pier, Galveston Island, Texas

9/4/01-Tues.-The rain has continued to come down in wonderfully great quantities here, with a total of about 7-8 inches in the past 8-9 days and nights. Our normally dry, hard, and dusty yard is like a rice patty. Of course, there are also mosquitoes out there by the thousand!

Completed our investments analysis over the weekend, after we'd gotten back from visiting with my mom and other relatives in Waco. Although even the conservative Dow Jones Industrial Average is down almost 6% for the month of August, our balanced value portfolio dropped just 2%. It would be much nicer if it were up. But that's unrealistic in this kind of market.

Last night, I checked out Idaho's attractions, real estate, and climate on the web and found a place we could afford, on five acres, with 2500 square feet of housing in a picturesque area near Coeur d'Alene, ID, and Spokane, WA. It was in the lovely, small community of Spirit Lake. The details immediately available looked so attractive that we were joking about retiring and moving immediately. After a little further research today, I find that the region is a little colder in winter and hotter in summer than the realtor had indicated and that it is a favorite place for hunters and fishermen. Still, despite such handicaps, it does seem enticing. Am not really in a big rush, though. Expect that, if we give ourselves time, we shall find at least as good a place and possibly an even better one, all things considered.

Had a mildly rough workday today. Glad when it was over. Fran had her first fairly full day back in the schools, after the summer hiatus, doing private musical instrument teaching. Despite this, she managed to get the trash out on time and Pepper to an unplanned appointment with a vet., this time about an eye infection.

9/5/01-Wed.-We've had still more rain! Our desert plants may soon be giving way to toadstools.

At work, there are still new challenges. For many months, with the federal fiscal and evaluation periods both ending this month, I have been struggling mightily to meet all of 13 standards for managing a large caseload, an especially hefty one as I have gone over the production requirement by 10%. Throughout, I've met or exceeded 12 of the 13, but have been frustrated in attempts to accomplish the last one, processing time on one of three types of cases I handle. Nonetheless, until now I thought I had an excellent chance to nail the final statistic before the end of the relevant year, i.e. by the end of September. I was getting close! This afternoon, however, my supervisor announced that the bar has just been raised another 5%, the parameter thus that much harder to match. It is as a result a moving target impossible to hit in the three remaining weeks before the computer cutoff of pipeline statistical input, mid-week in the last few days of the month. And so, by constantly adding to the workload and at the same time lofting the evaluation measures higher, the administration is unfairly assuring their own quota of folks vulnerable to being fired.

While the situation for me is certainly not as dire as in other Catch-22 circumstances, as, for instance, when our bomber officers in World War II were repeatedly told they could rotate stateside after completing an ever higher number of missions, with the result that few members of bomber crews actually made it home hale, hearty, and having a pulse, I do find the latest development infuriatingly consistent with an overall management style meant to control and demoralize much more than to uplift and motivate. The only saving grace, in my case, is that, while they can raise the quotas and lower the morale every damned day if they want to, I'm still out of there, with full retirement benefits, by the end of December!

Last night I had a dream, in which it was dark and nighttime, hard to see clearly what dangers might be around. It was more a sense of things than an action dream. I was in a succession of rooms or offices. In each I received word, directly or indirectly, of some grave threat to my person, that I was about to take a real beating. There seemed little if anything I could do to avoid it. I was just anxiously waiting, but freshly more concerned as each new indication of hazard was received.

In analyzing this nocturnal experience, my associations were not at all literal. I have not been dwelling in waking consciousness on any potential physical assault by known or unknown persons, mobsters, bullies, or whomever. However, the exact phrasing of the concern, "about to take a real beating," did bring to mind a set of circumstances. Our economy is just now seen as rather vulnerable to recession. Stocks are rightly perceived as, on average, still somewhat overpriced by historical measures. And the U. S. dollar, relative to other major world currencies, seems at or close to an all-time high.

Although our country's equity markets have been significantly down for over a year now, Fran's and my portfolios have still been holding their own. But the above conditions suggest that this could well change. In the first two instances, recession and stocks returning to historical price norms, we could see a modest fall in our equity portfolio. But if the dollar falls substantially, as some think is sooner or later inevitable, this could take both bond and stock assets far down, leaving us little to fall back on, at least in the short-term. We would, in sum, suffer quite a drubbing, just as we are needing to use our assets for retirement. Knowing this, I have been more anxious lately; and each new "word" I read or see on the computer or in business programs on TV, that brings the situation again to mind, renews a nervous sense of threat. (As in all portfolio "timing" anxiety, I am not certain of a genuine hazard. If I were, I would put all our liquid holdings into hard assets or reserves. As it is, I just hope for the best but realize that even a conservative and well balanced allocation of investments is not immune to some disasters.)

9/6/01-Thurs.-Fran and I went out to eat tonight. While chatting, we considered where we might, as of this very moment, like to move if we had the money and were completely retired. Fran chose Pittsburgh. It does have several nice features, though, based on what's shown on the web, the real estate market seems rather dreary.

On the other hand, she pointed out that, the way she feels today, she would be content just to stay in an inexpensive situation for a couple years, enjoying the simple pleasures of life and not having to be employed. That alone, without any different location, etc., would be quite satisfactory. I agree, though I imagine that, after awhile, I might very well be getting a little antsy to move on, to accept a new set of challenges and adventures. But a two to three year sabbatical about now surely would be dreamy!

9/7/01-Fri.-Fran has a very different approach to things than I. My motto would probably be "safety first." Stodgy as this is, it does have its advantages when the chips are down, as, every so often, they tend to be. She is so brilliant, however, that she normally cannot be bothered with conventional ways of doing things or with "playing it safe." She just figures she'll manage a way out of any predicament she gets us into. Awhile back, when she'd begun using a Zip Drive, we talked about having a backup for the backup, since it was her intention to put all the stored info. for all of our several complicated web sites onto just one disk. I thought she had agreed to this and certainly encouraged her to do so. It turns out she thought using two disks was too extravagant, as they cost a few dollars. So, without discussing it with me further, she simply did not make the second backup we'd talked about. Tonight our one backup disk failed. Panic time. Fortunately, consistent with her approach, she was, in less than an hour, able to create a new storage disk, so that, if the computer crashes, we would not lose everything. She has now agreed also to make a second viable backup disk. I am feeling all too vulnerable in this situation, not having yet mastered the technology. Thus I cannot on my own assure that the level of precautions I take for granted with our financial investments is also employed with our more creative ones. Perhaps the complementary combination of methodical stodginess and unfettered brilliance is best. At least, all in all, it works fairly well for us.

9/10/01-Mon.-Over the weekend our first cool front of the nearing fall season came through, bringing more rain and cloudy skies and blessedly lowered temperatures!

I mowed the front yard, which had grown into something of a jungle thanks to all the recent precipitation. Meanwhile, Fran used some wedges and a hammer, plus small stones, to level our air conditioner compressor and its foundation pedestal, which had been significantly undermined by flooding of late.

Yesterday we picked up and delivered some tasty Chinese take-out to Claudia and Ron and had a pleasant get-together with them. She is very much still in the initial shock and adjustment phase of dealing with metastasized breast cancer, for which she's already, in the last few weeks, had a biopsy, followed by a lumpectomy and removal of affected lymph nodes under her left arm, followed then a little over a week ago by a left mastectomy. Thursday of this week she begins her first sessions of chemotherapy. Her self and body images are taking a terrific beating. She is handling things with a keen sense of humor but evident, quite understandable, nervousness as well, seeming very vulnerable right now. As she faces up to it all, willy-nilly, with both anxiety and courage, I am drawn to her, just as we empathize with characters in a movie or play who are suddenly forced to deal with things beyond their normal routines, and just as, in front line war situations, we know that, even while much is at risk, or perhaps because of this, there also, if it is faced squarely, is a lot of living going on. Certainly this was true for my brother, Ralph, who was in many ways transformed by, even more than he was eventually killed by, his tumor.

She has, as was likely mentioned before, her horse on the property. From talking with her and looking around her house at a bridle bit here, barbed wire mounted on the wall there, a tapestry featuring horses somewhere else, etc., it is clear she has made herself into at least an amateur horsewoman, though she says they were not part of her life while growing up. She goes on with this hobby despite sometimes being thrown, stepped on, and otherwise abused by the beasts. I am reminded of the attitude of the better jockeys, as expressed in the Dick Francis mysteries. No matter the cost in temporary pain, they'll take that with the long-term gain, to be an intimate part of the world of horses, which they love, in spite of acknowledging that these are really rather dumb brutes. Part of this devotion seems to be aesthetic, part Zen, and part intellectual, from the satisfaction of knowing the creatures so well that we can manipulate physically much more powerful beings, with our superior smarts, to do what is best both for us and them. Well, who knows if all that if just so much horseshit or not? I am not a horseman and must simply speculate.

But it occurs to me that she is applying this sort of spirit to her new life with cancer. In this manner too, then, her appreciation for the equestrian way serves her well.

9/11/01-Tues.-As everyone now knows, our country was attacked today in an unprecedented dual terrorist incident. The carnage includes the total loss of the twin NY World Trade Center towers, major devastation to the Pentagon, the shut-down of our financial markets and air transportation, the effective closing of our most populous city and of scores of federal buildings around the nation, the suspension of hundreds of events throughout the country, and, not least, the severe injury or death of tens of thousands of direct victims.

Angry as I am at what has occurred, and much as I deplore the violence that has been done, I am not surprised. It seems inevitable that persons, groups, and nations that see our state as their chief enemy, supporting Israel no matter what outrageous behavior she undertakes against the ousted Palestinians or, from such persons' point of view, otherwise throwing our unilateral superpower weight around, will use what means are at their disposal to take revenge on us, to try by acts of mayhem to influence our foreign policy, or simply to make themselves look good in competition with other terrorist organizations.

If we now throw our bellicose, entrenched support further behind the Jewish people in the Middle East and make it seem that we are in league with them, completely at war with Israel's enemies, as if she were our colony in need of the mother country's protection from the "evil," dark-skinned followers of Islam, we but perpetuate a modern version of the Crusades, with as little real insight and benefit as was notable from the medieval ones.

We thus completely lose our credibility, if any still existed, as an honest, third party broker of peace between the world's violent factions.

And we may thereby embark upon a period of turmoil, domestically and internationally, that may make the dramatic movie interpretations of Nostradamus seem tame.

What is vitally needed now, both here and around the world, is the leadership of true statesmen. Will a new Lincoln, Churchill, or FDR heed the call? If not...

9/12/01-Wed.-As luck would have it, in my acquaintances there have been so far only minor effects from the terrorism horror that occurred on Tuesday. My best of all possible bosses had been scheduled to fly out yesterday morning to Lake Tahoe, but could not go. I am not saying anything about his large, anally retentive rear; but he still cannot get airborne and, with great disappointment, has cancelled his vacation. He is rather "bummed." (At least one good thing came out of this.)

On the other hand, my mom was due to fly out to CA for another couple weeks of vacation with my sis' and brother-in-law. She is having to stick around Waco instead. She e-mailed last night, wondering if the planes would be flying today, supposing not. I agreed with her. I expected it would be awhile yet before they are back on a regular schedule. Even when they are, the security measures in place at the airport would likely be much more stringent than heretofore, leading to probable long queues and waits. She might check into train travel to San Jose, I suggested. I think in the U.S. we'll soon be looking back on the pre-9/11/01 travel hassles with nostalgia. Glad my family had our CA bash before this happened! Hopefully we have seen the worst of terrorism for the foreseeable future. But we and the terrorists now know that two oceans are no longer sufficient protection for our population. In this new (to us) type battle, every resident of our major cities is now potentially on the front lines.

The Center for Disease Control is said to have had to estimate how many body bags would be needed for the collapsed buildings in NY (at least three in the World Trade Center complex so far) and said 40K! Though thousands would have been there as tourists and at least 50,000 normally worked in the towers, no doubt this is a high guess. But it is also clear that, as terrorist incidents go, the disaster is off the chart.

Locally, though perhaps suffering some from survivor's guilt, everyone is going on with his or her regular routines. Fran remarked on seeing a whole herd of deer on a walk with Pepper this morning, before heading off for teaching. We are all three glad of the cooler weather, in the sixties last night, with the same predicted for a few hours from now. It seems we have gotten through the worst of another summer from hell.

Meanwhile, we wait somewhat nervously to see what happens to the stock markets once the New York Stock Exchange finally reopens, probably Friday or Monday. In Asia, stocks have plummeted. The main Tokyo index, for instance, has just dropped to a seventeen-year low. The likelihood is great we'll see a global economic contraction before things start getting better for most investment prices. (The markets' dramatic downturn, by coincidence, came almost immediately after my dream of "taking a real beating," interpreted as anxiety about our retirement portfolio. Apparently my concern was not without merit.)

9/13/01-Thurs.-Fortunately, in contrast to the 40K unofficial estimate heard yesterday, this morning's news indicated that the official sum of the individuals known to be still missing plus those known to be dead from the mayhem of Tuesday's disaster is only about 5000. Let's hope the final figure is much closer to this number, though it still, in total fatalities, exceeds the Pearl Harbor loss of life. Like that earlier event, there were warnings that might have been heeded if we'd known just a little more. Like it too, this may turn out to have been a watershed event. Willy-nilly, things may never be the same afterward. It seems very important at such a time that we get our reactions right!

Although George W. has exhorted folks not to vent their feelings about the Tuesday events with (already increasing) attacks on Arab Americans, he has nonetheless painted a rather simplistic, war-footing, "good vs. evil" picture of the stance of our nation in relation to diverse Muslim organizations, ignoring a major source of deep-seated rage among the Islamic world, distress over our heretofore seemingly all-powerful, one-sided support of Israel, right or wrong.

But the issues may be more complicated. It is convenient to gloss over some of the facts:

  1. Our country did little for the Jewish people during the Holocaust, only supporting Israel's new statehood, on land taken from the Palestinians, after the 2nd World War was over and when Truman thought that, without the Jewish-American vote, he might lose an election so close that the pollsters all said his opponent would win.

  2. We continued our support for Israel against the Islamic peoples for strategic, not international legal reasons, because of our new global-power interests in the Suez Canal, containing Russia and Communism, and controlling "our" oil supply sources.

  3. During the long cold-war years, when it suited our purposes, we supported several Islamic terrorist individuals and organizations ourselves, with arms, training, and money. Some of these we now blame for the very terrorism we showed them how to organize for and carry out.

  4. If it is "evil" to kill many thousands of civilians and destroy great structures in pursuit of one's interests, then our hands, after Dresden, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, among others, must still reek of the stench of satanic deeds.

  5. If it is "good" to be like Americans, then Palestinian organizations are cloaked in the mantle of our righteousness too for they, like us in our country-founding fight for our rights, are seeking a redress of wrongs by guerrilla tactics, except that their means, like ours now, are more technologically advanced than those of the New England minutemen with their muskets and small cannons.

I do not condone their violent acts and much prefer the approaches of a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, Jr., to unjust conditions. But I think it is not legitimate to go to war with entire Islamic nations on false premises.

Great power implies great responsibility. If we had always dealt with Palestinians in an even-handed fashion, they and their Arab neighbors and friends would not likely be motivated to fight with us at this time and in this way. We have, clearly, a most serious difference of opinion about how to achieve a new world harmony. Some would say the line has already been crossed and that we cannot avoid the kind of measures that twice before in the last hundred years have engulfed most of the globe's nations in conflict. We have now to deal with an extremely complicated set of issues, ones at least as complex as those in 1914 or 1939. The "solution," though, must not be World War III.

What is needed is a restrained, mature response, one with which many very loyal Arab-Americans could agree, one that takes into account the very subtle nuances of a delicate international situation.

A cynic might wonder if George W.'s tough, defiant rhetoric (with appeals from his administration for substantially more money to finance upcoming preparations for and carrying out of one or more massive retaliatory military operations) is an expedient "wag the dog" diversion of domestic concerns away from growing budget deficits, combined with a strong bid by our chief executive for his party to win the elections of 2002, plus a second-term race in 2004. Our country has yet, I believe, to vote out a U.S. president while in the midst of a protracted war, a circumstance that undoubtedly has not escaped the younger President Bush's notice. He must be aware too that, with a slowed economy, his chances of success in November, 2004, are otherwise far less than excellent.

9/17/01-Mon.-I continue to be wrestling with strong emotions over the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It is very hard accepting what has happened and that there will likely now be many unfortunate consequences. Indeed, our lives will probably never be the same. An era has ended. With so many others, then, I am grieving. It has come about so suddenly, this change, and seemingly without fair warning. Our nation will wind up doing much soul-searching over what we may have done to deserve this series of attacks, before we roll up our sleeves and begin to simply slug it out with the terrorists of this world, but then with unforeseen, almost certainly disagreeable, repercussions.

Fran and I found time for some laughter over the weekend, though of a kind that could probably be called "black humor," or which would have been quite at home in the theatre of the absurd, fitting, perhaps, since that outlook and artform came into vogue as a reaction to World War II; and it now looks not unlikely we'll be embroiled in World War III before too much longer.

We also found a few moments away from moroseness, or laughing on the edge of the grave, for some affectionate and passionate touching.

Most of the weekend was devoted to getting our family-and-investing newsletter ready for this month. Fran added to our several connected sites with a new clip-art GIF set of pages. It looks pretty cool and is linked to our other pages. She had been working on this addition for several weeks.

We also took a couple walks with the dog, did the shopping, mowed and watered the yard or gardens, etc. Fran also called her folks, just back from their trip north in search of mushrooms and rekindling relationships with relatives and friends from Illinois. They had little luck with the edible funguses. The trouble is the area still, just as last year, has not had enough rain. Ironically, while they were away from their retirement home in FL, the latest tropical storm dumped ten inches on their place!

Mostly, though, I have remained in a kind of stunned daze or blue funk the last few days, still getting used to the idea of the horror from last week.

In keeping with the sense of powerlessness I have been feeling over those events and their aftermath, we had a small mirror of this in things going wrong with respect to our web sites. As mentioned previously, some in my family insist on anonymity as a condition for the family site, which mentions most everyone in our extended family circles. Fran and I have discussed this several times. Yet, she has given out our last name to one of her e-mail buddies who has journalistic connections, and whom she "met," online, only through response to our family site. Then she has kept up a fast and furious e-mail correspondence with her. Tonight, for the second time, she accidentally sent an e-mail to this lady using my Vintage Diarist address as sender, which, if her electronic buddy is the least bit curious, will allow her to connect all the dots. This should not be that big a deal. I have made mistakes with the e-mail identity myself, without significant fall-out. Still, this lady has many contacts in both the newspaper world and the Silicon Valley, where Alice and her brilliant hubby live and own a millionaire mansion. They, in turn, have many, many friends and love big parties. There no longer seem to be enough "degrees of separation."

I realize I may be stretching things to see hazard here. But, on the other hand, the result could be very negative if the dots are connected and my family becomes involved.

Someone has said that if the chances of atomic war are only 1 in a thousand, then sooner or later we will have nuclear winter. At this point, I do not think the odds for either too many of the wrong folks learning our complete identities (and the contents of all our sites) or for global thermonuclear war to be nearly that long. Unfortunately, it may become necessary to suspend one or more of the web sites, even rather abruptly.

9/18/01-Tues.-Eight years ago the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York was blasted by a terrible explosion, one of the first and worst acts of aggression that cost American lives on our own soil at the hands of foreign born terrorists. Time went by, people were buried, structures were repaired, trials and convictions eventually occurred, and we began to forget.

The Twin Towers of the New York Port Authority's WTC had been reoccupied, with over 430 private companies, representing the entire globe's aspirations and fortunes. These majestic skyscrapers gleamed in the morning sun, shining examples of the interconnection of nations of an optimistic, free, capitalist, and mutually dependent orb, reflecting into the new millennium some of the best and brightest of a hugely successful network of commerce linking all continents.

A doctor colleague of mine from New York (absent these last several days) has in her office a large, framed print of Manhattan Island from the air. With the Twin Towers leading, it looked like a great ship putting out to sea.

Just as December 7th, 1941, is known as "a date which will live in infamy," after many great vessels of the United States Navy, with their crews, were destroyed by surprise attack, so too for the hideous events of September 11, 2001, almost sixty years later, when the "great ship" of Manhattan, with its magnificent skyline, was struck by two passenger aircraft-turned-missiles, which devastated those beautiful towers, and thousands caught within, before the live-footage, horrified eyes of the world. For the full extent of the damage to be assessed, many weeks will be required. First, trained crews must clear away the mountain of rubble, a mass tomb. Already it appears that several adjacent edifices in and around the WTC complex are no longer sound and will have to be removed as well. At least one more has collapsed.

Almost at the same time as the first plane was smashing into the WTC, another was roaring down in a trajectory toward the White House. Then, inexplicably, it veered off and plunged into the Pentagon, killing more people there than in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. One additional large aircraft had been taken over by terrorists. It was apparently also in route for Washington, D.C., when its passengers, having heard what had already begun to occur at the WTC, sacrificed themselves to abort its targeted mission. It crashed, with no survivors, near Pittsburgh.

No one can measure the meaning of the lost lives, likely five thousand or more, each one precious. But the true cost of the disaster far exceeds the destruction of buildings and aircraft.

Not just in the United States but throughout the world, shocked citizens have been responding from deep emotional impact to what has occurred. In Lebanon, many Muslims were lining up to give blood (a fact apparently not noticed by many hotheads in our country involved in hate crimes against loyal Arab Americans and others of simply Eastern appearance). The European head of NATO was expressing its solidarity. In Canada, folks were offering assistance to our stranded air travelers and, as my brother, Ernie, has pointed out, giving testimonials of admiration for what this country has contributed to modern civilization, plus assurance that we shall rise Phoenix-like from these ashes, stronger in the future. In a gesture of allegiance, an Italian political figure offered his country's help to pay for the rebuilding of one of the demolished structures.

Though the phrase "be careful who your friends are" comes to mind, both Russia and China have sent official condolences and pledged cooperation with the fight against terrorism. Saudi Arabia, too, among other Islamic countries, is likely to have an interest in and join us for the looming, prolonged struggle against groups sponsoring or carrying out acts of terror. And so it has gone.

Millions have expressed their sympathies and desire to stand with us. Their voices, from all races and cultures, have drowned out those of a silly few militants who at first expressed satisfaction at what had happened to "the great Satan."

But many also have voiced great concerns, alarmed that the strong protector of peace and stability in the world was now itself seemingly in need of assistance and protection, that if it could happen to the most powerful nation, then it might occur anywhere. Indeed, it is now a brave new world, one in which, as never before, no single nation can take for granted its security and freedoms.

As I write, our stock exchanges, only freshly reopened, have been badly shaken; and we are still waiting for our communications and air transportation to resume a level of convenient functioning close to that before last week's devastating body-blow.

There will now need to be a reordering. It is far too early to determine the shape of the coming realignment. There has been too much action taken in anger. The problems are not open to easy solution. One can only hope that thoughtful men and women with cool heads, true statesmen, will carefully lead us to well considered choices. Yet the agendas of the terrorists cannot be allowed to prevail.

Meanwhile, we have insufficient words to properly praise and thank the many emergency work heroes who have appeared from the dust and flames of these multiple disasters, or the great numbers of private individuals from around the planet who have offered their blood, prayers, food, clothes, money, shelter, and words of encouragement. Not least in demonstrating true valor were the hundreds of New York firefighters, police, and EMS workers who were heading up the WTC towers, attempting further rescues, even as thousands were frantically racing away before those giant buildings collapsed.

It may be years before we are fully "back to normal." For many, the scope of what has happened simply has not sunk in. The relatively carefree way of life many of us enjoyed before last Tuesday may be gone forever. But we are a strong, resourceful, adaptive people, with a genius for resilience. We have been badly bloodied, even knocked down for a little while. Yet we are getting up. We shall carry on. The first attack on the WTC, eight years ago, may have left us a little complacent. The second has definitely gotten our attention!

9/21/01-Fri.-As the regular reader here may detect, especially from my Phil's Place entry of 9/19/01 and my most recent prior entry in The Vintage Diarist, I am feeling and thinking very ambivalently about the new war upon which we are seemingly now embarked. Yes, I certainly feel and think that something, or many things, must be done to thwart international terrorism in the wake of the atrocities that occurred on 9/11/01. (I note, though, that acts of terrorism have been going on through the rest of the world for decades, without much success in efforts to curtail them.)

On the other hand, I have great misgivings about any effort that has the hubris from the outset to call itself "Operation Infinite Justice." I see that the issues are so much more complicated than that would make them appear. George W. notwithstanding, it is not actually a campaign "to rid the world of evil." Indeed, if I thought that consummate politician, George W., truly believed his own rhetoric, I would be even more dismayed, as it would imply startling levels of foolhardiness and arrogance.

But the rush to militarism may deflect attention from serious questions:

  1. Why, when it was obvious to many that such tragedies were in the offing, did our government not see their potential and begin protecting us from them in advance with beefed up security measures (not just ones applied too late, which, given the sudden and disruptive nature of the current efforts, are likely to have an extremely negative effect on an already weak economy)? Is this not a big part of a government's job? Why are we still focused on a star wars shield against incoming ballistic missiles, when valise bombs, test-tube viruses, aerosol chemical weapons, and our own planes are so much more easily delivered?

  2. What was our intelligence community doing all these years, that it did not prevent, or warn us of, folks living in our country who were, instead, given ample opportunity to prepare such a catastrophe, even allowed to learn to fly our planes, get licenses for the transport of hazardous materials, etc?

  3. Is a war with Afghanistan, however appealing politically in the short-term, really in our nation's long-term interests? (After all, George W.'s father was very popular too as he prepared our country's war with Iraq. Yet, it seems likely that the long-term results of that effort have been of mixed benefit to our state. The man described as satanic, Sadam Hussein, was left in power, thumbing his nose at us and possibly assisting in what occurred ten days ago. Osama bin Laden, enraged that we would "occupy" northern Saudi Arabia for our efforts against what he considered a sister Islamic nation, Iraq, began a focused campaign of his own, one that seems to have led directly to the loss of about 7000 in New York, plus all the other destruction or death there, in PA, and in VA, not to mention his earlier serious acts of terrorism against us. One wonders if the American public in 1990, were it realized we could very well lose so many civilians and the WTC, etc., just eleven years later in a kind of continuation of Desert Storm, would have been so eager for us to go to war. The issues here and now are even more complicated and likely to result in many "unintended consequences." As Fran has pointed out, it is as if someone had sent us a computer "virus" e-mail that simply said "Delete these programs...on your computer;" [essential hard-drive software] and we did! Similarly, now, it is as if Osama bin Laden said "Do these things to mess up your economy and your relations with the Islamic world;" and we obligingly are doing it! We are reacting perfectly as the terrorists would have wished and in ways that likely will further destabilize not just our economy for awhile but our geopolitical situation for quite some time. We could easily see several currently moderate Islamic regimes fall to radicalized popular uprisings before this is over. It could be but the beginning. How do we tell if we have "won" this war? Must we truly "rid the world of evil" first? Or will we need to settle at some point for a kind of uneasy policing of ongoing "evil"? I suspect that we shall have no more complete victory over either terrorism or evil than we did over poverty or drugs, however nice the sound bite slogans for those earlier "wars.")

  4. You can be sure the terrorists know us very well. Their planning is apparently thorough, painstaking. It is brilliantly conceived and executed, and is carried out at their choice of times and locations, sometimes years in development, and taking full advantage of our own culture and its particular vulnerabilities. Shouldn't we wait to strike back at our foe until we can say we know him/her at least as well and have completed just as great preparations? Won't this be more likely to yield desired results, without too many negative consequences, than rushing off in the first few weeks or months with a major operation into a country most of us could barely find on a global map?

  5. What are we doing that is proactive instead of reactive? Or are we content to have the terrorists normally one or several steps ahead of us, while we are always closing the barn door after the horse has vanished? We are like novice chess players, trying off-the-top-of-our-head strategies against chess masters, who invented this Eastern game, and have already won as soon as we have made our first move.

I may express myself badly. Tonight, as I was browsing the internet, I found an article, "Don't Bomb Afghanistan" that puts such issues more clearly.

9/22/01-Sat.-Fingernail biting time, about how the market is doing. I'm sure equity prices will hit bottom, just hoping it will not be so far down that it is a life-changing phenomenon, before it starts, however slowly, back up. The equities markets have been falling so quickly that we have lost, in paper value, around $100,000 in only a month. Gone are our hopes for $640,000 by the end of the year. We should still manage a half-million, if things do not get too much worse.

Unfortunately, investors just do not know what they are dealing with here and hate uncertainty. The last two times the market has dropped this fast and broadly and for so many days at a time were in 1933, at the heart of the great depression, and in 1940, during Hitler's Western Offensive, when he seemed to hold all the cards in Europe and was doing as he pleased. I do not think the current situation is nearly as bad as in either of those two cases.

Our economy, it seems to me, is far healthier than in the 1930's. We've had a nice, modest tax cut. The federal funds rate has been coming steadily down. And the rest of the world looks to us for a leadership that I believe we shall still be able to provide. Also, our government is likely to help bail out the airline industry to some extend and to increase spending as it moves into a war mode, which will be stimulating to the economy, even if alarming to those who do not like deficits or dipping into the Social Security trust fund. Further, at least so far, Osama and his followers do not seem nearly as powerful as did Hitler at his height.

So, we are holding some, buying some, and selling none of our stocks and stock mutual funds, but nonetheless feeling anxious as the principal keeps declining. If nothing further negative of significance occurs soon, then I can see the stock market bottoming out later this year or some time next year, then heading upward again. Of course, if terrorists blow up a nuclear power plant, that then has a meltdown in a heavily populated area of the U.S., or something equivalently outrageous and destructive, all bets are off. Indeed, their capacity and willingness to do such a thing to us, in addition to the WTC, etc., fiascoes, would imply such a level of exposure to danger here that we should all be very worried about our country's viability, much less the near-term resumption of a robust economy and stock market.

I don't think I am a Pollyanna in believing this is unlikely, at least anytime soon. Nor do I think it likely we'll be in a "holy war" with Islam generally, before long. For various reasons, things will look rather uncertain and bleak now for awhile but probably should be much more hopeful in a year or two, three at the outside, not least because George W. is a consummate politician and wants his party to gain Congressional seats in next year's mid-term elections, followed by his own winning of a second presidential term, in 2004.

Too many others in the world have a vested interest, for their own domestic political and economic reasons, in seeing him succeed and our country remain strong, to allow the Osama bin Ladens of this world to achieve very much of what they seek, which seems to be nothing less than the destruction of modern civilization and substitution of their medieval lifestyles and views on everyone, a goal with which even a majority of the Islamic community cannot agree.

So, while I think it is possible that young men (and women?) might be drafted for conflicts abroad, I believe it probably will not happen, at least not anytime soon. If it does, it likely would mean that we at "home" are also facing a lot of "the music" in terms of still further, spectacular terrorist attacks on mainland USA, and that we'll all be struggling to survive and have our lifestyle prevail.

Now, I wish all I had to do was make those kinds of assertions for them to be so! But at least I believe they are correct and that as a nation we are doing, long-term, at least as well as, if not better than, was the case during the Cold War.

9/24/01-Mon.-Autumn has finally come again to Austin. Temperatures in the sixties are predicted for tonight, with the possibility of lows in the fifties later in the week. This evening we were quite comfortable on a walk at dusk, a novel experience for this area, since last spring. Now my favorite time of year here begins! Pepper also is reenergized, with lots of pep for an old dog. Fran was commenting that, as she'd noticed in a weather report, for her sister and brother-in-law living in WI, last night the temperature was down in the twenties. That's too much of a good thing.

9/25/01-Tues.-I'll not burden the reader with the sordid details. Suffice to say that my best of all possible jobs was, besides the stress and sadness still felt from the terrorist disasters and their aftermath, nearly enough to reduce me to tears today. Well, I am a man. Men do not cry over such things. It's OK perhaps to sob in a darkened theatre when alone and caught up in a terribly poignant drama (though best not to mention it to anyone later). I have shed tears and heaved great, shuddering sighs under such conditions. But the ordinary, extreme disappointments and frustrations of a thankless job must not so move me. Still, hours later, tonight, I remain terribly depressed and so, so tired of it all, burned out so badly there's hardly even any ash left. Still, one way or another, I have only two full months left there. Yes!

My wife, bless her, is endowed with a variety of qualities and gifts, one of which is a tendency, from time to time, to be happy for no particular reason. It was the case this evening. I suppose it is just a matter of favorable physiology and genes. The pump for my own endorphins must first be primed with repeated cranking of the handle (please, no lewd thoughts here, dear reader!), before it finally releases its thimblefuls of elixir, while her bounteous liquid of joy gushes forth out of the ground of her being unbidden. While I am not so absolutely bleak nor she so frivolously giddy as this sounds, I am quite glad our chemistries, if not in sync, at least usually complement one another.

9/27/01-Thurs.-I asked my nephew, Jim - who was my brother Ralph's only son - what he thought about the 9/11 terrorist events, and how we should respond to them. His answer was typically intellectual and insightful. He said we should go to war, but that he's not looking at war like a separate or unnatural act. Rather, war happens - I'm reminded of the T-shirt slogan, perhaps equally apt, "Shit happens" - and should happen, the way the body distributes anti-bodies and raises its temperature at just about any offense. It doesn't matter who we war with or how it goes. Or like when you get a bruise, the war is the bruise. It's not a good/bad question. He doesn't like bruises, which are unsightly and painful, but sees them as a necessary part of an ongoing process. In that sense, they are undoubtedly "good" and should always follow injury. War helps the economical and (for the most part) the psychological health of a nation. He sees it as ironic but not coincidental, then, that wars' catalysts are those very things which are believed to damage the economical and psychological health of a nation. Life, including especially the geopolitical system, in his view is so organic! Things go and flow and go...And it's all so easy to accept and disconnect, if you're never anticipating. Jim (who was seven when his dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, eight when he died) notes that he took his blows early, perhaps helping to explain his detached view of things.

The above thoughts remind me too that the historian's perspective may yield very different conclusions about wars than would be expressed by most who must live, or die, in them. Often the student of history or anthropology sees that adjoining or connecting societies have mutually benefited from each other's diverse ways of adapting during conflict, learning from one another, i.e., in one of the more benign ways, through musical acculturation.

Even when a people seem to be wiped out, almost inevitably there are surviving traditions and innovations unique to the "lost" culture, so that the then dominant society is changed for the better by those it dominates or destroys. Wars, certainly including the Cold War, have also been the main means by which we have achieved technological advance. However, as in the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," this process may be hellish for those going through it!

The jury is still out, I suppose, on where this all will end. Even if natural, organic, and "good," is war still truly advantageous to either our species or the many other relatively advanced forms of life - which now exist, in a sense, only at our mercy - if it leads us to advances in how to destroy one another so exponential that we succeed, no longer that great an extrapolation? I do not have the answers here, only a few disturbing questions. What is to happen, regardless of my outlook, will doubtless occur, with or without my permission.

I had best concern myself, then, with things that do matter in my life and over which I have at least some measure of control, like doing more meditation, or being a bit kinder to others in my daily commutes, getting a few minutes more rest each night, improving my diet, and seeking to sustain a keen sense of mirth, a grasp of how much in our existence is simply absurd, and not least so ourselves!

9/28/01-Fri.-I think I'll keep my war words relatively low-key, avoiding hysteria, either pro or con. Suffice to say I think the unexamined war is not worth fighting. But if we find the needs and benefits of war worthwhile after a thorough study of the matter, then so be it. So here I'll provide, in my own small way, a forum for thoughts and feelings about terrorism, war, causes, consequences, and anything related, that seem well presented. Tonight I heard a great audio piece on National Public Radio, by Ira Glass of "This American Life," an excellent example of radio journalism. The topic this evening was "This American Life;" and the question he put to participants was "Should we go to war?" I heartily recommend the program to everyone interested in this issue.

Got through another productive week at my best possible job today. Have about eight or so weeks left till this phase of my life comes to an end, after about twenty-seven years as a government employee.

Pepper is anxious to be out and about. So Fran and I shall take her over to suburban deer country in a few minutes and give ourselves about a two-mile constitutional.

Fran has started a really great little GIF web site, linked to our other set of online pages and our family-and-investment newsletter. I think she has a hit on her hands! She's been getting a lot of praise for the new stuff. Web rings have been eagerly accepting and adding her pages to their repertoire.

9/29/01-Sat.-We got up fairly early this morning and underway by a little after 7 AM. Actually, Fran and I had a little misunderstanding about when to get up, when to ask if one's partner were ready to rise, etc. We worked it out. Pepper has pulled a leg muscle in the last two or three days. Though this does not dampen her enthusiasm for beginning walks, if we take her very far she starts slowing down badly and limping. So, of course, we are making her take it easy. Today, therefore, after we'd driven over to Zilker Park, Fran and the mutt went off to look at or photograph the plants, and sniff all around them (Fran particularly fetching when doing this), while I did the rapid, four-mile walk circuit on my own. Down by Barton Creek, soon after it had spilled over the dam that makes Barton Springs into a year-round swimming hole, I spied a green heron close to my side of the stream. I eventually went on past the back entrance to the botanical gardens and then to the grounds of the Austin Nature Center. The center itself does not open till later; and nobody was there ahead of me. As I got into an open area, suddenly I saw a large, antlered adult white-tailed deer buck, only about seventy-five feet ahead and to my left. He moved at a dignified pace on across my field of view, from left to right, till out of sight in some trees and shrubs, a magnificent looking creature.

While at Jim's for breakfast, I did an analysis of our markedly decreased investments. Though they are nicely up from a week ago, there is no guarantee that they'll stay that way. Accordingly, I am instituting a protective policy of keeping our assets roughly one-third in fairly stable, income producing non-equities, into the foreseeable future, then reallocating periodically. (Fortunately, this was already the ratio, as it happened; so I didn't have to sell any stocks or stock mutual funds, at a big loss, to shift them over to the other asset category.)

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