Monday, 24 December 2007

Looking back and looking forward

Tag from Darth

Dear *thirteen year old self,

You are full of unflagging optimism that will serve you well in years to come so don’t fret. I know you are concerned that you always expect the best, it’s fine. I want to reassure you that you WILL, eventually, have a feminine body to replace the bony, clumsy, stick-figure that you inhabit at present – you will be pleased – trust me. I fear it will be awhile, so occupy yourself otherwise.

I will not tell you of the tragedies to come lest you try to avoid them, for before the pain comes your life’s happiness. Follow the path you have already chosen as regards love. You do not yet understand the true meaning of that relationship but you will in the fullness of time. Do not let anyone deter you from that path, including Himself.

If I could change one thing for you it would be the instinctive need for secrecy and subterfuge that you are developing due to your enviroment. It will serve you in the short run, but unless you can distance yourself from it now I fear it will become as natural as breathing, and will distance you from the life you desire in later years.

I wish you would relax a bit – you do NOT ALWAYS have to be the best. It’s all right to do your best without pushing yourself to do even better EVERY time. Strive for excellence, yes; but give yourself a break will you?

Don’t worry over the whole ‘family thing’. That will be made clear to you in time, and even though painful – it is without doubt the best way. I know you have begun to wonder and question your situation in the world – just let it lie for now. Trust me.

Don’t go swimming in the firth on your birthday next! The month of pneumonia is not worth winning the dare. Back down for the first time in your life. If you don’t, the lesson of the Seven Samurai will be one that you don’t learn until you are forty!

Relax about your hair! It does not always have to look good, that’s why there are hats and tiebacks. If you don’t relax about it now I can tell you that you are going to spend a good deal of time in your future futzing about it – time you could use to better advantage. Just keep that whole Renaissance Princess theme going…

I wish I could save you from the pain and guilt that is coming but you will survive it, and you will find a different kind of happiness later, but happiness nonetheless. Do not listen to those (none of them Scots by the way) who tell you the “stoic” mindset is a bad one. You hold fast.

As far as I can tell from this vantage you are on the right spiritual road, so stick to that unless we find something that proves us wrong. Continue to be loving and trusting, it may be the harder road but it has great rewards.

Oh yes, would you have some photographs made and put them aside? You have someone in the future who wants to ‘see’ your past. You are a compassionate and loving child. As I look back now I’m glad to have known you. You are funny and relentlessly curious, those are good traits. The talents you don’t’ have you can appreciate in others, you don’t have to be able to do everything. Eat up and get plenty of rest, you have a very full life coming up.

I really want to hear what jmb, Sicily Scene, and Dulwichmum have to say to their thirteen-year-old selves!

Now, for the next two to three weeks I have to be on the road. Something has come up that I must do before Paris. I will do my best and should be able to post something every three days or so. I will not be able to answer comments as I normally do, or do much, if any, visiting. I will find occasion to play catch-up and address all comments. Happy Holidays (whatever holiday you choose, or none) to all!


Coming attractions:
*****and on Sunday the fresh blood trails….

Saturday, 22 December 2007

some kitty love

Klong Chen Pa at home in NYC with Q

Thursday, 20 December 2007

"buddies" and insight

I have received a lovely Award from Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. I love the avatar for the award. I pass this on to some of my buddies: jmb, Sicily Scene, ian, sir james, kaycle, and Dulwichmum. I think that’s all I’m allowed, the rest of you know who you are!

The following article is from October 2007. It reflects the poor crops that I noted in an earlier post, along with other uncertainties. I can tell you that the celebration is taking place in full form. This may give you some further insight into the culture I think.

Eid al-Adha uncertain in Morocco


Faced with his country's agricultural and economic troubles, King Mohammed VI may decide to cancel this year's celebration of Eid al-Adha.

By Imane Belhaj for Magharebia in Casablanca – 10/12/07

Sacrificial animals are expensive, and their quality is poorer than previous years due to poor grazing conditions.

Moroccans are discussing the possibility that Eid al-Adha may be called off this year due to a poor harvest and the relative lateness of recorded rainfall. King Mohammed VI, as Commander of the Faithful, possesses the ability to suspend the observation of the holiday if there is sufficient cause.

A representative of the High Scientific Council said the king may cancel Eid for reasons such as drought, insufficient livestock to meet demand, or excessive economic hardship. The previous king, Hassan II, called off the animal sacrificing in 1981 and 1996 because of severe drought.

Opinions vary widely on the issue; housewife Zaynab Belhaj told Magharbeia that Eid al-Adha "is an establishment where the intention is, by slaughtering the sacrificial animal, to get closer to God, and it is an occasion which certain poorer families can enjoy after having sold what is costly and precious in order to acquire an Eid sacrifice animal once a year. Therefore, I think that this occasion is a sacred one which families must hold on to at whatever price."

Secretary Thaouria Zaydouh shared her opinion. She said Eid and its rituals are indispensable to her and to her children, "because we have the best times as a family gathered together".

Zahra, a civil servant, said the occasion "constitutes a financial burden, given the increase in cost of animals for sacrifice, which can sometimes go as high as 3,000 dirhams. These costs weigh heavily on families, particularly those that are poor and can only get by through borrowing in order to buy a sacrifice." She added: "I am sure that this year will see another rise in the price of sheep, and speculators will have a great opportunity to squeeze the citizens."

Young newlywed Ibrahim told Magharebia: "It doesn't matter whether Eid is called off or not. I'm going with my wife to Agadir for a few days, and we’ll think about sacrificial animals next year, God willing."

Credit companies are mindful of the potential cancellation of the holiday and have avoided their usual publicity campaigns concerning special loans for the occasion.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced that the supply of Eid animals this year is enough to meet demand, with almost 4.9 million heads of livestock.

The ministry statement pointed out, however, that although the supply of sheep and goats will be able to cover the demand, the quality of the animals on offer will be somewhat lower than last year, given the shortage of feed due to a poor growing season marked by drought and price increases.

Regarding prices, the agriculture ministry explained that they will be determined according to supply and demand, and would vary according to quality, breed, age and region.

The ministry said Eid sacrifices would have positive economic and social repercussions, particularly in farming communities. Sales are expected to reach 7 billion dirhams, a large share of which would go to rural areas, contributing to the income of breadwinners and stimulating the local economies.

**This content was commissioned for

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Eid Al-Adha

Yesterday I noticed the young women who are my neighbors were out whitewashing the sidewalks of our street. There are fresh bales of hay giving off the smell of a country sunrise stacked throughout the Medina, and I passed several sheep being carted to an unknown fate on my way home. Later in the day Abdul Latif, my landlord, arrived at my door to tell me I must get to the hannout and stock up because all the shops will be closed for three days. I think it starts tomorrow but it might be today. I'm going out later to check. I will keep you updated.

‘Īd al-’Aḍḥā) is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims and Druze worldwide as a commemoration of Ibrahim's (Abraham's) willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael for Allah. It is one of two Eid festivals that Muslims celebrate (Muslims in Iran celebrate a third, non-denominational eid ). Like Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha begins with a short prayer followed by a sermon (khuṭba). It is also called the bigger Eid because it lasts a day longer than Eid ul-Fitr[citation needed].

It is the most important feast of the Muslim calendar.

Eid al-Adha is four days long and starts on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja (ذو الحجة) of the lunar Islamic calendar. This is the day after the pilgrims in Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide, descend from Mount Arafat. It happens to be approximately 70 days after the end of the month of Ramadan.

Known as Eid el-Kibir (the 'Big' Eid) in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer (Salatu'l-`id) in any mosque. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice their best domestic animals (usually sheep, but also camels, cows, and goats) as a symbol of Ibrahim's (Abraham's) sacrifice. The sacrificed animals, called "udhiya Arabic: أضحية" also known as "qurbani", have to meet certain age and quality standards or else the animal is considered an unacceptable sacrifice. Generally, these must be at least 4 years old, and weigh 26 st. At the time of sacrifice, Allah's name is recited along with the offering statement and a supplication as Muhammad said. According to the Quran a large portion of the meat has to be given towards the poor and hungry people so they can all join in the feast which is held on Eid-ul-Adha. The remainder is cooked for the family celebration meal in which relatives and friends are invited to share. The regular charitable practices of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid ul-Adha by the concerted effort to see that no impoverished Muslim is left without sacrificial food during these days. Eid ul-Adha is a concrete affirmation of what the Muslim community ethic means in practice. People in these days are expected to visit their relations, starting with their parents, then their families and friends.

Distributing meat among people is considered an essential part of the festival during this period, as well as chanting Takbir out loud before the Eid prayer on the first day and after prayers through out the four days of Eid.


Monday, 17 December 2007

This and that…

The plastic bags at the government office are used to hold documents and double as file folders; they are left out on the desk for anyone to see.

The phrase “very hygienic” has entered our vernacular now. This is the phrase that the ladies of the hamman use as they encourage you to let them strip your body of any and all hair save that of your head! “It’s very hygienic.” Yikes!

The black birds with the orange beaks that fly at lightening speed with a rapid fire chirping as they past would make great messenger birds to my mind; forget the pigeons.

The Medina now after four in the afternoon is a maelstrom of sound, smells, colors, and crowds.

Apparently Leonardo DeCaprio is in town filming a movie. He hasn’t called…

Embarrassment won’t kill the human body nor will its scarier big brother humiliation, but sometimes it is hard to convince a human of that fact.

“The camel’s name is Jimmy Hendricks.”

My child’s comment to me!
“I don’t think you’re a pathological liar, just that you feel no compunction to tell the truth when a lie is more convenient.”

The difference between Rabat and Fez, or any of the larger cities of Morocco and Fez is quite stark. The withholding of funds or investment to the city by the old king continues to impact the city today. It makes you aware of just how much taxes (used properly of course) can do for the public welfare. In Fez you have cracked and crumbling sidewalks, no parks, no flower gardens for the public to walk in, contemplate, and bring children to play. No museums of any note or art galleries. I am sure that dry spell of neglect had an impact on the psyche of the city as well. You do see the individual entrepreneurship that you see all over the rest of Morocco but not as much or with the same zeal. It is changing with the help of the new king. There is a lovely new boulevard now with trees, flowers, and benches. I have hope, as this is the true heart of Morocco. You cannot visit Fez and not leave a piece of your heart – if so, you best have a check-up to make sure it’s still ticking.

Camels have no ass, just two big hipbones sticking out and surrounding the anus.

Afghanistan: Farmers in Australia and France for example, harvest dried pods by machine. It’s faster, but “straw extract” has fewer alkaloids than opium bled by hand out of lanced bulbs.
The turfy-chocolaty nosegay of raw opium wafts from hundreds of milk cans. The sides of the bubbling steam dryer are caked with it.

I saw two women in the Mall the other day who were “TV pregnant”. All made up, dressed to the nines, and had not gained a pound over what was necessary. Hah! I used both my pregnancies to eat everything, and in huge servings, that I normally would only nibble! I made the very best of that time. Fortunately I was young enough that the extra poundage just fell off after giving birth. I could hear my body saying, “What WAS that?”

Moroccan women are the queens of illusion – the mini skirt over the tights, the t-strap over a shirt, the sheer djellaba, the fitted djellaba, the plunging necklines but long trousers, and THAT WALK. Whoo hoo! The women here can conduct an entire conversation with their hips.

Tee-shirts seen all about the Medina, usually on the young, D&G, Versace, “Somebody in Texas loves Me” – I stumbled when I saw that last one.

Moroccans and the high drama of romance: Q’s tutor: “He cut his wrist for her love. Don’t you love that (sigh)?”
Q said, “I think she’s gone right over the edge.”

The bookstore has 3:1 romance novels in Arabic; Q says they are all tragic

“Uh-huh. You could, could you? I think I can feel someone's wings melting....
Communication actually ranks as one of my highest priorities as well; however, living in the Middle East--a very tolerant, relaxed part of the Middle East--has taught me that sometimes you can communicate perfectly and still be worlds apart. The gulf that divides us is not necessarily ameliorated by perfect understanding; “I can understand your perspective and still think it is necessary to kill you.” Many things can be solved by communication, but not all. Not by a long shot.” Q, in response to Kasalas saying he could solve the Israeli crisis with a sit down.


Friday, 14 December 2007

The Tipping Point indeed..

This is just too much fun, "Why Pregnant Women Don't Tip Over". Now you have a conversational tidbit for that next holiday party.

I have started WWIII. That I think is not so very bad, but I am having so much fun at it. Just as I normally read more than one book at a time, it is apparently better for me to write more than one book at a time. I spent over an hour yesterday at a toy store (yes, the simple finding of a toy store was surreal, for the big load I had to go to Souissi). I bought "combat commandos, three different boxed sets of action figures and vehicles - the SWAT and police units, the fire department unit, and the poor soon to be blown to bits in the name of my novel that is too much fun and a real alternative to the more serious one, civilians. I even have an incendiary device that makes "the sound". Q put her foot down last year when we were in Fez and I had one in the Villa (just practicing): after I had "fired it off" for about the one hundredth time, she rolled her eyes back, gave a put-upon sigh and said, “That’s it Mom.” - rotter. But now there is no one to complain. (the sound of wicked witch laughter)

I found a special vehicle (kismet I tell you) for "President Arnold S" (one of the main characters) - it is the Mr. Freeze auto that I am given to understand he drove in the Batman movie and the package included that car of the same genre, the Batmobile - which is now the vehicle that will convey our hero on his sojourns around the globe in the name of ...well I am just not sure of his motives yet as he is a Captain in SOCOM and being 28 years old he is embodied with the earnestness of youth.

I have some very cool miniature cars that will be serving to represent my tank units; I have colour stamps to put on them differentiating which Alliance. I don't have a proper War Table (I did not stomp my foot, perhaps just a bit then) and so I am creating one. I have one long table, and I found a piece of plywood (I think) behind the armoire (don't ask) that I can lay over the two small bedside tables. If I put the two side by side I should have a fair size area. I have to search out another map today. I have my trusty world map on the wall already (yes, I take a world map with me when I travel...) but I am using it to track shifts in alliance, and treaty violations, etc.

I need one for the table to lay out under my "stuff" so I can see the troop movements. I did not find any ships! Go figure. I need ships! I have to move the U.S. and the Chinese fleets around, not to mention the Japanese. I need some miniature carriers!

I am not defeated. I shall be busy the next few days, constructing my air force (I do need a few more planes however) and my soldiers for the field.
I couldn't believe they didn't have those, you know, plastic bags filled with soldiers, and then the small ships and do these children plan a proper offensive?

I do, however have two working missile bays that actually fire the missiles! Too cool. I am going to then plan another foray to the toy story, I am reasonably certain it is the only one in the New City; on the other hand, you can find the most outlandish items in the Medina... Onward!


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Paris and the Yanks

Hotel rooms in Paris are expensive! Yes, I know this is not news to most people, but I mean more exactly - they are much more expensive than even a year ago. Most of the little boutique out-of-the-way places that I normally use are now in use by the “cool people”. Who knew? I’m a trendsetter, or I should stop passing on my finds to others… I am pulling my other travel trick out of my pocket – stay where the people aren’t or what hotel is offering a deal? And I found one, it appears the business class stays home over the holidays or goes to Aspen or Gstaad. The quite posh and normally pricey Millennium Hotel has on a lower rate for the last week in December, still costly but oh so much less than anywhere else I found. Now all I need is a plane ticket and I think I shall be walking the Seine for the season. I’m all atwitter. But I am not done looking yet, I’m thinking I still might find something better….

I plan to have my usual visit which consist of walking along the river, sitting in cafés, and people watching while having café’ au lait and pastry; visit the old woman who runs the post card shop near Notre Dame (she and the post cards both qualify for centennial status); and walk around my old neighborhood in the seventh, have wine in the bistro across from the garden in the back of Norte Dame, walk through the orchid fair, visit the book stores over in the sixth, and visit my memories.

What do you call someone from the United States?
Not Americans, that really irritates the Canadians.
In fact there is no agreed upon right answer. In the United Kingdom, the use of “U.S.” as an adjective is common in media and government house styles. In Spanish, Americano tends to refer to any resident of the Americas; English spoken in Latin America often makes this distinction as well. In the North American Free Trade Agreement (1994), the Canadian French word for an American is given as e’tatsunien; in Spanish it is estadounidense. This is clumsy in English. U.S.-American is better, and that’s what the Germans tend to use (US-Amerikaner).

Some (not all serious) suggestions for a specific English word meaning “citizen of the U.S.” have included: Americanite; Colonican; Columbard; Columbian; Fredonian; Statesider; Uessian; United Statesian; United Statesman; USen; Vespuccino; Washingtonian. And Merkin – from the way Americans pronounce “American”.

The likely source for Yankee is the Dutch name Janke, meaning “little Jan” or “little John,” dating from the 1680s when the Dutch ran New York. During the Civil War, yankee referred only to those loyal to the Union. Now the term carries less emotion – except, of course, for baseball fans. The word gringo is widely used in Latin America to mean a U.S. citizen, particularly in Mexico, though not necessarily in a pejorative way. It’s thought to come from the Spanish griego (Greek) – hence any foreigner (as in the English “it’s all Greek to me”).*
*”The Book of General Ignorance”

My own experience teaches there is a world of other names in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and North Africa – that being said the populace usually differentiates between citizens and the government.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

cathedrals, murder, Italians, war, spies, and Michelle Pfeiffer

Run, walk, skip, or jump to the nearest cinema, DVD rental store, or Amazon – but do see “Stardust”! It is brilliant. All right chaps yes, it is a fantasy and it is a love story – but there are swords, Robert De Niro, and you get to look at Michelle Pfeiffer for ninety minutes, what could be better than that? At the ending you can do nothing but smile and a give a secret sigh. It is so imaginative and original. I loved it.

I have been reading in a joyful and decadent flurry since my return from the states with my case full of books:

The English Assassin” by Daniel Silva: good brain candy/ spy-type thriller with art restoration thrown in.

Mist” by Stephen King: what is there to say? If you are a Stephen King fan, read on. I do not like ‘horror’ books, but I love the way King writes. If you don’t like King, don’t read it.

“Knife of Dreams
” by Robert Jordon: I cannot even tell you how many years I have been waiting for this series to BE OVER! Every book since number seven I said I wasn’t going to read any more; you see me reading number eleven. The characters and world he created for this series will not let me walk away. The best I have been able to do is to not buy each one until it is in paperback. Each one is a huge book (800 pages or better) and you stay right there until the end. If you like Tolkien you will like this. That being said, this is a series where you need to start at the beginning in order to have any idea what is going on. And yes, I will be there for number twelve. My big fear is that one of us will die before he finishes it!

“World Without End
” by Ken Follett is a sequel to “Pillars of the Earth” but you really do not need to have read the first one. It is excellent. Another one where you become very invested with the characters. The first book was about the building of the cathedral and this follows the people in the town and the cathedral some hundreds of years later.

True Evil” by Greg Iles is yummy. I read it straight through. It’s a murder thriller with the most interesting plot line. Really, yummy.

by James Patterson is another Alex Cross book. Eh… I’m a Patterson fan but the Alex Cross books have become too simplistic for me. Nothing is a surprise and the characters are two-dimensional.

” by Kate Mosse is another yummy one. It’s one of those of the De Vinci code genre but with a heroine and some past life complications thrown in. Just good fun. I read this one straight through as well.

Eat, pray, love” by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book for Welshcakes and jmb! This is the story of one young woman’s search for love, spirituality, and pleasure. She travels Italy, Bali, and India to find her answers. Her writing is engaging and fun. I will say about 2/3 of the way through I did stop to read another few books and I am finishing it between other reads. Worth the read.

"Faith of the Fallen" by Terry Goodkind is another 800-pager. This is also part of a fantasy series. The plot is a bit unoriginal (the bad Communist, by another name, against the good Capitalist); but the characters and the magic is compelling.


Monday, 10 December 2007

we need a different plan

I read this article with no small amount of despair. Aside from the fact that this war should never have been, as we are past that now, is what to do in the present. You cannot enforce democracy; it’s rather like that saying from the sixties, “Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity.” The article explains the present state of affairs – after the “war for democracy”.

“The girls explained that they were Christians and that their faith did not call for headscarves. “He said: 'Outside this university you are Christian and can do what you want; inside you are not. Next time I want to see you wearing a hijab or I swear to God the three of you will be killed immediately',” Zeena recalled. Terrified, the girls ran home. They now wear the headscarf all the time.
In the past five months more than 40 women have been murdered and their bodies dumped in the street by militiamen, according to the Basra police chief. Major-General Abdul-Jalil Khalaf said that some of them had been killed alone, others gunned down with their children. One unveiled mother was murdered together with her children aged 6 and 11.”

Why is it the women and children that are always suppressed first and longest in a society – the answer is simple, they are the most vulnerable and cowards always attack what they perceive to be weaker than they are. Which leaves the question should Britain and the U.S. leave the country (which won’t happen in the case of the U.S. because of the oil), and let it find its own way? I think a country cannot be brought to democracy and freedom unless the population wants that more than life. It is a sad fact but true that freedom comes with revolution and revolution comes with blood. As much as I abhor the treatment of women and indeed the populace in general, I don’t think sacrificing more British lives will save Basra. The only reason Iraq was a secular society under Hussein was by enforcement. If the population wants freedom, and wants a secular society – or just one that is not ruled by militant Islam, they have to fight for it, they have to instigate it.

I see it here in Morocco every day, the fine line that must be walked. Unlike Tunisia where the wearing of the veil is prohibited by law, here it is a choice. But every day it is a fight against the more fundamentalist element to keep that choice, and it is the people doing that fighting. When the bombers in Casablanca were caught, citizens turned them in. That is how you attain freedom. Now I know that Morocco is a monarchy and yes, it is a suppressive regime in many ways still, but when you look at surrounding countries and the countries of the Middle East – it looks pretty good eh?

I don’t know that we should leave the Middle East to ferment and stew in its own juice if they continue to send out terrorists to the west, but barring that… If you look at Iran, yes there is a madman who is presently holding the office of president, but before him there was a movement toward freedom and a more just society – that movement is not dead. Should we not be helping them by whatever means is available to us?

I think this is a fluid situation, one that calls for reassessment on almost a daily basis. If you look at Afghanistan and the fact that the Taliban now holds as much control as it did before the invasion by the West, you have to wonder what we are doing still there? The political situation in Pakistan is becoming more volatile every day. Has anything the U.S. has done helped to defuse that situation? I don’t think we can simply turn our backs on the Middle East, or any Muslim country that threatens the West, but what we are doing now does not appear to be working. I think we need a different plan.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

another day in the Kasbah

Q and A had a wonderful time at Mama’ Fatima’s last year, discussions of, “That’s right the Jews left Germany because they had some difficulty with Hitler.” It was meant however in the best sense when one considers how conservative the older son, who is the male of the house (even though there is no doubt it is Mama’ who rules the roost) is in his beliefs. His wife does not come downstairs when there are male visitors, and wears a hijab in the house even if those visitors are male relatives. He had several discussions with Susie (another Fulbright scholar) while she was living there and his view is that the Holocaust never happened; this resulted in the almost embarrassing display of welcome lavished on A when he arrived. I am telling you, the women of Morocco are not without recourse.

There was a house full of relatives for the visit. Two sheep were killed in preparation for all the family and visitors expected; one of which was hanging upstairs and being carved as-you-go. The downstairs large mahogany table was covered with a display of home baked cookies to make the best baker weep.

The older sister Fatima Zora, who is an Economics Professor but wants to quit and open a beauty salon, was there discussing in detail (to the horror of Fatima-younger sister) the varied and specific oils that should be used for massage. Once again proving that Fez, in spite of its size, is a ‘small town’, Fatima Zora said to Q, “My friend Fed-wa tells me your mother was into the Spa and had the hamman and the waxing.”

Q is thinking, “Fabulous, the entire family now knows my mother had the Brazilian wax (albeit by accident as I did not know how to say, "Please don't completely denude me" in French)!” The phrase used ad nauseam by the women in the spa, "This is very hygenic." She said, “How do you know Fed-wa?”

“Her salon is across the street from my old school. I used to go there, and she said there was a Western girl in named Q with her mother, so I knew it was you.”

At the end of the evening Mama Fatima said to Q, “You are behaving like an American! You have to be invited to visit? I do not expect this from you.”

On the walk home yesterday I passed a little Fatima in all her sparkly dressed up glory, going for a photograph I imagine, and a chap riding a bicycle, like you do, with four or five skinned (I can say this with authority as it was the glistening that attracted my attention) carcasses of sheep roped over the back wheel. I kid you not! They were not together.

I remain entranced, the mouth-hanging-open-you-are-not-from-around-here, with the birds of Morocco. There was a high flying v-formation lofting over as I walked home, and I was greeted with a cacophony of birdsong as I stood in front of the French Ambassador’s residence to write in my little black Mole Book about the sheep on the bike, ‘cause yeah I was really likely to forget that...but you never know.

The Moroccans just do not know how to queue properly. IF the British and not the Frogs had colonized here they would not all be rushing the counter, of course the British were busy suppressing people in Egypt and India. You can only do so much

A friend of ours can’t get her cat neutered until she returns to the States because her Moroccan boyfriend thinks it is evil. Yes, that’s the word used, evil. This attitude may have something to do with the large number of cats in Morocco. He thinks that depriving the male cat of the ability to have sex is WRONG. He doesn’t mind spading the female cats, but his reasoning here seems somewhat more just to my mind, because she can still have sex. The male populace seems to take the neutering personally.


Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Sniff your way to success

What drives human sperm wild?

The smell of lily of the valley.
It appears sperm have “noses” which they use to navigate toward a woman’s egg. Researchers experimented with a range of floral fragrances and lily of the valley came out on top, getting the random sperm wriggling in the same direction at twice the normal speed.

The research was carried out at Ruhr University in Germany in 2003. They discovered a new sperm protein, hOR17-4, which acted as a receptor for sperm in exactly the same way as protein sensors in the nose detect smells. They then tested their new sperm “nose” on hundreds of synthetic compounds, many of them used to mimic floral scents in commercial perfumes.

One of these, bourgeonal, is used to create the lily of the valley fragrance. It had two dramatic effects on the behavior of sperm: doubling its speed and changing undirected swimming behavior to direct movement. The “foot-to-the-floor” effect seems to derive from hOR17-4 making the sperm wag their “tails” harder.

I just could not resist passing this bit of data along to you. ☺

Monday, 3 December 2007


I apologize as I said I would post the trip to Chellah this weekend but my internet connection has been, and is, spotty at best. Interference from Russia no doubt. Here it is today, just click on the photograph to take you to the album.

Chellah (pronounced Shell- lah) is the ancient Roman city of Sala Coonia and the Merenid necropolis of Chellah. It was a once thriving Roman outpost that was built over in the 13th century by the Merenid sultan Abou al-Hassan Ali who built a necropolis on top of the Roman site and surrounded it with the defensive wall that stands today.

I visited on a cloudy cool day mid-week that had discouraged other visitors. I only saw four other people and a couple who did not want to be seen, on my walk through the ruins. It was spectacular to envision the old Roman city and the buildings that were added later. I went a little overboard with the photographs of the storks but they are just so cool.

CHELLAH: 28/11/2007 20:40


Friday, 30 November 2007

the rapid and backward

The only reasons curbs exist on the streets and sidewalks of Morocco is so that the cars have something to hook onto when they park on the sidewalks!

24 April 2007: A few days ago three of the boys from the street knocked on the door, grins ear to ear.
In Moroccan: "We are collecting money for a football."
Me: "You pirates! You have a football. You are outside my door kicking it every day!"

The grins get wider.

They had put a blue velvet drape with some sort of crest on it over the football box. That sort of initiative deserves a reward. I dug into my change and gave them money. I hang my head as it is my firm policy NOT to give the children candy or money, but if you had seen them you would have given them money too!

A question asked by Hamid, Q’s tutor, in all seriousness, as they were discussing religion and American culture:
“Would it be more important for a Protestant or Catholic to go to confession or be on Dr. Phil?”

Present time: In the past two days I have passed as many demonstrations and in both of them women were well represented – and in both of them the women were grouped together at the BACK. Grrrr I acknowledge that it is likely this bothers me more than them.

I have found that my pace of walking is proving a security measure. I walk faster than any potential thief, and a stalker would be oh too easy to spot if he were following at my pace. Handy eh?

Abdul Latif has warned me away from walking along the river to Marjane, but only at a certain time of day – early I think. He said the danger is thieves? Traffic? Rain? Potholes? I’m just not sure but I am thinking if it is thieves that they are monumentally stupid – to be in the same place every day at the same time… perhaps it was aggressive birds?

Come by this week-end as I am posting the observations and photographs from my trip to Chellah this week.


Wednesday, 28 November 2007

‘Tis [always] the season…

Reading the world’s newspapers on any given day is enough to make us throw up our hands and say, “There’s nothing I can do. What can one person do?” I know you say this lovely readers because several of you have expressed that hopelessness on this site. I have an answer for you she said smiling. This is my pet project discovered some ten years ago – Project Heifer International. It is an organization that practices that old tale about teaching a hungry man to fish rather than giving him bread for the day.

Heifer International is a worldwide organization that has had an enormous positive influence on the planet toward ending world hunger. Look around you, how obscene is it that in the world of 2007 there is a problem of world hunger? It is absurd and we need all to feel a bit ashamed. This organization works on a marvelous principle of spread the wealth, or what they call pass on the gift. You give a rabbit, a goat, or a cow to a family. When that animal produces (the organization makes sure it has a little romantic friend nearby) offspring, the family is obligated to give one of the animals away. Now think about that, how that can spread through a village. Go to the site and read. They tell their own tale much better than I can.

For years it has been my own routine to “sacrifice a goat” whenever something good happens. True the phrase has shocked more than a few people in the more urbane parts of the world… What I mean is that whenever the Universe gives me a gift, I go to the Heifer International website and buy a goat for a family. It is only $120/58 pounds for one goat, and amazingly the price hasn’t changed over the past ten years. There are more expensive animals and less expensive. It is the price of a day at the salon, or a new shirt, or a pair of gloves – and how many of those do we need? For that small price you get to feel smug, joyful, and generous. It DOES work to change the world. There is an old Korean proverb: To build a mountain, you start with a grain of sand.

I believe that every time we commit a good act it affects the Universe, just as every time we commit a bad act it affects the Universe. Now do the math, if we have more good acts….

Think it over and then go sacrifice a goat eh?


Tuesday, 27 November 2007

to stroll perchance to walk an adventure

I am a flaneur, a walker. To walk, to stroll (not my pace but it works for others), to see things at eye level with the ability to explore farther – this is the way to discover a city. I love great walking cities: Paris, of course, Prague, New York, London, and San Francisco are a few. I like walking in the sun, the rain, the snow and I will walk in the heat, if I must. This day the sun was sparkling in a sky so blue you could fall into it and get lost. A few high flying white fluffy clouds just to define a nice chill and I was set.

I went out this morning with the intention to visit the bank in New
City to get cash, like you do, and then have lunch, read a bit, and pick up my new djellaba that is being altered; but as often happens in Morocco that’s not how it went. The bank, as it is so often, was out of money, which I needed to have to lunch at Le Grand Comptoir as I thought to have fish. I walked as far as the Gare de Ville rearranging my day in my head as I walked. Taking a taxi to Chez Paul in Agdal, I then walked over to the bank, which always has money, and made my withdrawal. As long as I was there I visited La Vie en Rose and did a small bit of shopping – something white and lacy. Having traversed the boulevard I decided not to return to Paul’s but instead to lunch at one of the sidewalk cafés where Q and I had eaten before. Wonderful service, great French fires with mayonnaise, and delicious lamb for a pittance.

After lunch I started walking in the direction of New City thinking I would catch a taxi as soon as I no longer recognized any landmarks. I walked past the computer stores that are located past the clothes-shopping district, only HP and Dell – Apple is located somewhere to the north I think.
I continued over the bridge as I remember coming this way. Now I was walking past the shops for house paint and mirrors and other items for refinishing and refurbishing a house or apartment.
Then the auto parts of every ilk.
Next were antiques, chandeliers, and lamps; with one cedar table and set of chairs to die for – but as I reminded myself I have no use for at present.

By now I was far enough along that I was thinking I could make it to the train station, pick up my djellaba (as it was now past three p.m.) and take a taxi the rest of the way home. I continued in the general direction of west even though I recognized nothing by this time. I stopped at a pharmacy and then a furniture store to “ask” directions. It’s amazing what you can garner from a conversation when you understand not-one-single-word.

As I rounded the next curve in the road I saw the walls of the Medina ahead and began to recognize landmarks. I had completely bypassed the New City and come around to end on the other side of the Medina! Some six miles or better I guess. Inshallah. I can pick up the djellaba on another day.

Looking to the right I saw what appeared to be a mini-Marjane, Label’ Vie Supermarche’. It is indeed a small market with fruit, a meat section in the back (under glass!), and Haagen-Dazs ice crème! I bought some apples and Clementines – this year’s crop is sad compared to last year where there were carts of them in the street and you could buy a kg. for less than ten dirhams. Something happened, not enough rain – something I’m not certain what. The “orange juice man” in the Oudayas has converted his hannout to selling gas for the winter as he says the price of the oranges is too high to make it profitable for him. And yes I bought two (!) pints of ice crème, Pralines and Crème. At the check-out I had not had my fruit weighed and priced (didn’t know I should, didn’t know where) and instead of stopping the line and looking at me like I was a stupid git, the nice young woman called over some one else who took my fruit and had it priced, bagged, and returned while she moved the line along around me. I’ll be back.

Coming to the Medina walls I saw Oued Dahab, a shopping mall of sorts that I keep meaning to check out. I went in to find I’m not missing anything – it’s full of sneakers and not much else.

As I took an unfamiliar road into the Medina I saw six old men lined up along the walk, sitting at rickety tables with ancient typewriters, some with an umbrella for shade. They had people sitting in the extra chair at the table and were typing letters and documents for them. What an enterprise, out of time.

The dates are spectacular and cheap this season as I noted coming past the Medina market. The King’s dates are marked down to 100 dirhams/kg. and look delicious.

Arriving home I had tea, dates and Clementines, and cake while watching “Amazing Grace” with Ioan Gruffudd, as William Wilberforce the Englishman who was the driving force behind the abolition of slavery in Britain. A wonderful film, really well done. I recommend this one.


Monday, 26 November 2007

and today there will be oysters and popcorn in the market

Now THIS article makes me smile! Teachers are listed right at the top with firefighters as the "most prestigious" professions! There you go!

As there was no sleep to be had in the Oudayas last night due to the party next door (I think the parents went out of town…) I finished “World Without End”. It did not disappoint. I highly recommend this one. History, sex, war, murder, plague, and politics – it’s got it all.

Abdul Latif and I met each other in the cobbled streets of the Oudayas this morning and both threw our hands up and said, “No sleep!” It is however an isolated incident and I think a good time was had by all, so no problem. I am tempted to rouse them from bed this morning with a blast of the Corries at full volume but… no. he he Walking through the Medina there are no more sfinj being offered, but there is popcorn and fresh oysters for sale.

It is a gorgeous day out. The sun is shinning from a sky that is clear and blue as the sea that is crashing in on the beach below the fort. It is 18 degrees C and I am a happy camper even though I feel a bit knackered from very little sleep. Once again I wish I was a “napper”, but alas it is not a talent I posses. Q learned this skill from her grandfather, one of the great nappers of America. I always think I’m going to miss something, or the world will be in danger and they will need me – I don’t know why. Q says I have a “rescue complex”. Could be worse, I could have a “victim complex”. Yuk.

I see, speaking of rescue, that Ms. Rice has decided to settle the Middle East matter before her boy is out of office. Good luck with that. Australia is considering dismissing the monarchy; Sharif has returned to Pakistan to stir the pot even more (aren’t we thrilled they have nuclear weapons?), France is making francs building airplanes for China, and Columbia and Venezuela are having a political crisis because the leaders of both countries like the little boys they are have been insulting each other.

Aside from the world-shaking events is the decision I have to make. Where shall I go for Christmas? I am thinking I will go to Paris, as there are some old memories I’d like to visit, but the lure of the North Sea or Dunvegan is strong as well. Then there is London, and at Christmas it’s like walking through a Dickens novel but with the retail delights of Knightsbridge and Harrods. Sigh, such a problem. Or……. Lyon, Madrid, or Lisbon? What do you think? I’ll take opinions and suggestions. Indulge your fantasy – if you could go, where would you choose?


Saturday, 24 November 2007

our world, our problems

Two shocking articles that give rise to concern:

This about Iraq veterans living in Britain. I find it hard to believe anyone would treat veterans in this way, but then again only recently I read another article about the hundreds! of veterans living homeless in the U.S. As this was a war of choice how can we allow the soldiers who fought to be treated this way? There should be an outcry. This is my part - for now.

and this about the future of terriorism in my back yard.

I went out yesterday, for the first time in days, to find grey, overcast skies, chilly wind, and intermittent pouring rain. It was brilliant! The three people in Morocco who did NOT think I was a bit “off” are now convinced that I am. I can only assume they are unaware that in Scotland we bring our crazies, I mean eccentrics right down to the parlor where everyone can see them.

The rain in Fez falls in soft intermittent showers; the rain in Rabat falls as if Thor is empting a bucket on your head. The rain rolls in, sits just off the beach beyond the breakwater and sends in what can only be described as a celestial bucket that then dumps the rain onto Rabat, then there is a quiet period before the next bucket makes its appearance. There were real splash-your-feet-in puddles, and yes…. I did. By the time I arrived back home my jeans were soaked through and I was being very pleased with myself that I had chosen the Moroccan version of proper rainwear – in leu of wellies, sandals. I’m smiling.


Friday, 23 November 2007

I am returned

I continue to be amazed at how supportive the cyber community is; we need to be reminded I guess that it is flesh and blood people writing these posts. When you get out in the world and meet members of your cyber circle, like sally, Geoff, and jmb, you become certain it is a brilliant medium. This is my roundabout way of saying “thank you!” to everyone who was so kind to leave a message during my recent indisposition. I apologize to all my lovely readers for the lack of material these past few days and I shall endeavor to make it up to you by being extra witty and entertaining.

I must admit I have no adventures to report as I have been confined to my bed – alone. Not a lot of material there. We have had rain here; a good solid rain, enough to come through my sometimes-leaky glass ceiling. Fortunately it kindly always leaks in the same place so I am at the ready with a towel on the floor. I am going out later to retrieve my laundry from the Press and to see the city, as I am sure it has exploded in green. after the rain; always a glorious site.

I began reading a new novel yesterday when I started to feel better and I am going though it like a knife through warm butter. It is Ken Follett’s “ World Without End”. That man can spin a tale so well. It is a sequel of sorts to “Pillars of the Earth” which was brilliant, about the building of a Cathedral in England. If you are an architecture or history buff, or just like a good story, I highly recommend both. You don’t need to have read the first at all to read the present offering which takes place some hundreds of years later and follows the lives of several children who witnessed a murder in the forest. Yes…. I am reading it and as I find myself hundreds of pages past where I was going to stop I ask, “How does he do that?”

Here are some observations from Fez this time last year:
4 December 2006, Fez Morocco, 1144 hours local time

I have in amazement noted the presence of many liquor shops, and a large liquor section at Marjane’s, with a back door… for the French, the tourists, the Muslims gone astray?

There are a section of women with hair the color of shoe polish; an odd purple color that comes from henna applied to jet-black hair I believe.

I have made note of a great many people – men, women, and the occasional child – with eye patches. It appears to be medical, not from an injury, and I wonder if it is some endemic disease, or something environmental?

None of the government offices in Fez, and I had cause to visit them all in pursuit of a residency card, have a single computer. They all work on paper and the files are kept in flimsy tin cabinets.

The cab driver I had recently on my trip to Marjane’s: “You must learn Arabic to read the Koran, to enter the mosque, the Koran takes all (after the explanation I am Buddhist) people under Islam. “You are a writer woman. This is good.” It was the kindest of proselytizing.

The distance between rich and poor is vast, but they don’t clash up against each other on a daily basis; the culture is “inward” like the houses. Even more than in other places of the world, you can’t go on outside appearances.

Overheard in conversation at lunch with Q and some of the girls: We were discussing the differences between the Catholic and Buddhist views on sex before marriage.
P: “My parents have accepted that I sinned and we moved on, we just don’t talk about it?”
Q: “I think it is great that you learned to speak Italian just to sin.”

There is no “Health and Safety commission”, no OSCHA: at the construction site you see the workers hauling the bricks up with rope on precarious wooden platforms, chaps on the ledge smoothing the cement with trowels and no safety ropes or helmets; and the welder with no gloves, glasses, helmet, or coveralls.

Moroccan men cannot parallel park, but they can dance.

I have been here long enough now to tell the difference between couture and off the rack djellabas.

The scariest rooms I know are – empty. The bureaucrat from the Residency cards took us upstairs to “the boss”. I long for the simplicity of the bajeesh of India where you simply hand over the bribe and you’re done) the bottom floor is like any bureaucracy, but notably bare of decoration, personal or otherwise. The second floor sent me reeling back thirty years to a similar set of bare rooms with long dark hallways set with closed doors with numbers set above. Shiver.

Morocco is lousy with birds and full of bird song. The birds come in all sizes from the tiny brown and grey songsters that perch in our window’s iron grating to the huge black majestic that fly the thermals.

Ciao lovely readers.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

back soon

dear readers,

I have been quite ill, some better today. I shall be back soon.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


Consider this:
If a single miracle occurs it removes all possibility that we have free will.

The question of free will looks different from the dusty pathways of the parched Sudan, the bloody streets of Palestine and Israel, from the banks of the filthy but sacred Ganges, the dizzy heights of the breathtaking Himalayan mountain peaks, or the lush cornucopia of Fifth Avenue in New York City. Did the sixteen-year-old child in the Democratic Republic of Congo holding the AK-47 to the head of the twelve-year-old, and forcing him to rape and then kill a young woman six months pregnant question free will? He thought there was no choice; he was repeating the same horror that had been visited upon him because he knew no other reality.
During the climbing season of 1996 twelve of the people who attempted to scale Everest, did not come down alive. One of those who did return walked out of the blizzard after spending the night in the open – no one survives that. Two of those who died were among the most experienced climbers in the world. Why did he live, why did they die? If they had chosen to not go on the expedition would they have died some other way that spring, or would they still be alive?
If there is some power outside ourselves that has predetermined our fate, should we not all retire to the library for cigars and brandy? If we are in control of our own fate, why should we feel compassion for anyone who is not doing well? It is, after all, their choice, yes?
The question of free will is like the question of reality in that it deals with perception. The reality of any given student at Oxford University is likely to differ significantly from a villager in the Hindu Kush, or does it? Does the student at Oxford have more or less free will than the villager within the scope of his own existence?
If we perceive that we have free will, whether it is true or not, do we live our lives any differently? If we do not have free will who or what has predetermined our fate? Is accepting some form of fate abdicating responsibility or embracing faith?

Miracle is a noun, not a verb, it is a result of action taken. The definitions in one and three have to do with how the act is perceived. Definition two lists a miracle as an unusual event. I would say in order to explore the nature of miracles; you first have to define the phenomena. Is it an event independent of other events, or an event that is the culmination of a series of events? In either case divinity, in whatever shape, can be optional. If one allows “the Church”, and by that I mean any religious organization, to define miracle; the definition is tainted by bias.

1. Determinism: every event is caused by another event.

2. Indeterminism: not every event is caused by another event.

3. Simple indeterminism: some events have no cause at all.

4. Libertarianism: (every event is caused, but) some events are caused (not by events but) by persons.

5. Every event has a cause.

In “simple indeterminism”…if human actions have no cause at all, then we in turn have no responsibility or freedom of action. Libertarian views state there are two causes of actions and events: event causation, and agent causation. This view leaves the door open for “forced” actions with prior events, as well as the intercession of will by the “agent” or person resulting in free will causing actions resulting in events.

Following the determinist, one would have to follow the path she is destined to take. She is “free” in the sense (according to the soft determinist) that this is what she “wants” to do, she would choose no other path, she is wired for these actions alone.
The Libertarian would say she is free to choose any of the paths she chooses.
Responsibility requires avoidability however; if according to the conditions stated the individuals have no choice, they have no responsibility. Does this then set the stage for divine interventions/miracles?

Fatalism follows the line of causal determinism – an event is “forced” by a previous event, which was forced by a previous event, which was forced by..bada bing bada boom, you have yourself a miracle– no choice, no discussion, no dither.

Divine foreknowledge is the concept that the individual is not responsible because his/her “path” has been predetermined by some divine intervention or knowledge. Humans seek the comfort of the divine in fatalism. The “freedom and foreknowledge” dilemma has been eliminated to some extent here, as divine intervention/miracles are reserved for the worthy.

Divine intervention/miracles must take place in a certain agreed upon reality. Indeed there are those people who convince themselves daily that what they want to be true is real, rather than what is in actual fact, reality. Speak with any fundamentalist, be they Christian, Muslim, Communist, or Nazi party member. Those who think that the beliefs of others make him/her so wrong as to require the death of those persons is creating a reality unto himself or herself. The more people in agreement with that version of Reality, the larger the reality ( the film Matrix). I do believe this behavior reaches a level that equates to the Matrix. I have had many opportunities over a span of years to observe and speak to such persons on different continents and it never ceases to astound me – even to the point of me checking my own reality just to be certain!

It is simple to understand. I mean really, the ease of it. A world where you believe in black and white. It is true or it is false. People are either on your side, or they are your enemy. There is a book, or a person, or a group, that tells you what to do – and you believe totally that this is Truth. The level of Justification is real for you; it never has to be questioned again. Do you see the lure of that? You decide once what is True, and you are done. What a relief! Divine intervention/miracles in this reality would be a natural consequence of the actions preceeding it/them.

Thinking, questioning (Socrates), finding (Descartes) what is true for you - is an ongoing, daily, difficult task. If you acknowledge life is an ongoing journey of discovery, that every day is the opportunity to find a better truth, a more expansive Universe, that means you question your reality every day. It means you acknowledge that there is more than one road to the Truth, and you may not have the map. Socrates, Descartes, Nietzsche, Jung, and Wheeler, Hawkins, and Einstein were all chaps poking at the edges of their reality to check that it was not a Matrix. This environment also leaves room for miracles, but would be more likely to question a divine origination.

The question, which has been asked before – are we the dreamer, or are we the dream; are we playing the game, or are we the pieces of the game; are we observing the hologram, or are we unknowingly being observed in the hologram? Just how can one be certain that the knowledge you are in possession of is “the” truth? How much do you want to know what is true, as opposed to what is real, if what is real is not as attractive as what is believed? Is it possible that more than one reality can hold the knowledge leading to what is true? Can there be more than one truth about the same belief? Is there more than one way to get to the reality that holds the knowledge that reveals truth? Is there more than one explanation for miracles, one that would leave free will intact?

What constitutes reality? Is reality a matter of agreement or a matter of fact, or a question of dimensions? I offer string theory and bubble universes, as well as the levels of reality described thousands of years ago in Hindu and Buddhist text, among others. If one is inside the box, and is unaware there is reality outside the box, does that reality outside the box still exist?

What is the sound of one hand clapping? If you cannot comprehend the reality of another, does that physical reality then cease to exist? What about the quantum realities of Schrödinger’s cat, forever at the mercy of the opening of a box? Because one cannot physically observe atoms, quarks, or muons, do we doubt their existence? At present, the scientific fact, truth, and reality is - all we can observe is where quarks have been, not where they are. Reality, truth, belief, and knowledge are indeed, tricky business.

If one believes it, then is it true, so now is it knowledge? Or does one have knowledge of belief, which leads in turn to truth?
Is it as simple as Descartes would have it – “cogito ergo sum”? Why is it important to find our way out of the Matrix? Is not one reality as good as another? Truth is insufficient to stand-alone. If one does not have knowledge of the truth, can one hear that rather infamous tree fall in the wood?

Nietzsche pointed out that “language is the first stage of scientific effort. …it is the belief in found truth from which the mightiest sources of strength have flowed. “ He goes on that Logic is, in and of itself, not anything real in the world, and that mathematics would indeed have had hard going had it been known at the onset there is no “exactly straight line in nature, no real circle, no absolute measure.” It poses the question, are these beliefs, this knowledge, built on straw? Is it all simply an agreed upon reality like - ‘time’? Is the miracle the act itself, or the reality in which the act can be accepted as Truth?

From the concept of realities, how great would it be if (and according to string theory, or more exactly M-theory it is possible) that for every wrong turn you took, there existed a reality where you took the right one? For every time the elevator door closed just before, you thought of the great comeback line, there existed a reality where you nailed it just in time. Where every possibility was a reality - the check did arrive in time, the vaccine did work, the guy got the girl, the peace talks were successful.... Yeah, String Theory there’s a miracle.

Friday, 16 November 2007

a walk to Hasssan Tower

SUNDAY STROLL IN RABAT 11/11/2007 19:54

click on the photograph to take you to the album with descriptions.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

what's happening here

An Award from Sparx: Thank you sweet girl. Since I love your blog, it is twice as sweet.

cash advance

Get a Cash Advance

A reading test:
I’m not at all sure what this means, but it sounds good eh? I think it means that all my lovely readers are of genius level.

Just finished watching:

American Gangster”: Denzel Washington (love him!) and Russell Crowe (good actor) I hate it when Mr. Washington is the ‘bad guy’ but as Q pointed out, “he does it so well.” Very violent, so no kiddies. If you are a fan of Mr. Washington or Mr. Crowe I would recommend it.

Five Fingers”. Laurence Fishburne (love him), Gina Torres (love her) and Ryan Phillippe (don’t care for the characters he always plays, but he does it well). This is an excellent movie with a twist for an ending that has you going, “Well of course.” I do recommend it. It is not a family film – keep the audience above 15-years I should think. It is a movie that will hopefully cause those who view it to think about the issue it addresses.

Home of the BraveSamuel Jackson (always fun to watch) Jessica Biel, Brian Presley, and Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent. A film that addresses the soldiers AFTER they come home, an issue that needs addressing I think as I read last week about the shocking number of returning soldiers (usa) who are now living on the streets! It’s very well done, not sappy but it does touch the heart. I recommend it. Again, not a movie for the children.

Just finished reading:
At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon. This is the first in what has become a very successful series. It is written very well, and I enjoyed it until about 2/3 of the way through when I got bored. That is the death knell for any book for me. She was so invested in the characters that she didn’t give them anything interesting enough to do to hold my interest. In other words I thought they would do just as well if I left, and so I did. I recommend it for those who like their books character based.

A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines. I do not understand the popularity (won the National Book Critics Circle Aware for Fiction) of sad books set in the southern region of America before 1970. It is well written and kept me there until the end, but I knew what was going to happen and I knew I would not like it. I admit that I read the last half of the book at warp speed. I only recommend it for those who are in need of a good cry and want an outside excuse.

The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd. I’m going to climb right on the bandwagon (A New York Times Bestseller) and say that this book is wonderful. Not reach up and grab you by the throat, or a mystery that needs solving – albeit she launches that possibility – but a nice steady read that will keep you there until the end, and you close it for the last time with a satisfied sigh. I recommend this one.

/Reading: “April 1865” by Jay Winkik. I picked this one up as research for my novel, but it reads like one. So far I am enjoying it.

HRH” by Danielle Steel. I picked this one up for research and it is crap. It is soooo boring. There is no real plot and the characters are one dimensional and cardboard. Yuk, I do not recommend but you can’t argue with the woman’s success; she is doing something right. That said I think I can finish it with my eyes closed.

“The Best American Short Stories 2007
” editing by Stephen King. I bought this solely because Mr. King was involved. I have so much respect for the way that man writes (not what he writes, I dislike his plots intensely). I have only read two of the stories so far, and I didn’t care for them but that’s only two.

Tomorrow! A visit to Hassan Tower. Ta da!


by request of Welshcakes

My new cushy play shoes, and my new very expensive (!) running shoes.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Part IV

to refresh your memory, Part I - III.

Part IV (for all of you incurable romantics who have been nudging me, and you know who you are (– jmb, sparx, jenny, wuastc, debio,…)

The breeze blowing in off the sea was cool on my face, and the moonlight was bathing the rocks in a soft glow as Hassan took my hand and we walked along the beach. The Moroccan night sky was doing its usual number – a light show of uncountable bright stars on a bed of black velvet stretching along a limitless horizon. It’s been a while since I took a romantic walk on the beach, all right it’s been a long time since a man held my hand; both actions were having an effect on my psyche and my physical vital signs (increased heart rate, flushed face, nervous tension in the abdomen). I felt my skin in such awareness I was sure I could feel the moonlight touching me on the backs of my legs.

“How long are you going to stay?” Hassan asked without looking at me.

“No chit chat, no small talk first? You want to go right for the blueprint?”

“If you are leaving Africa it puts a different perspective on my blueprint yes. I found in my absence from you that I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I’d like to know your favorite color, and the first time you ate ice crème, the name of the first boy you kissed, and why you have no husband now. I want to know if your eyes always change from brown to green in the sunlight or only when you wear blue. He stopped walking and put his arms around my…. Blackout

This is not a story lovely readers, it’s my life so there are some things you will have to imagine for yourselves.

When we returned to the tent there was café au lait and Delamain Re’serve de la Famille cognac. “How did you get a bottle of the Reserve?! I haven’t even seen a bottle of this in years. I didn’t think Delamain sold the Reserve?”

“The vineyard began selling it in 1984.”

“That explains it, that’s about the time I stopped drinking obscenely expensive brandy,” I grimaced. “You aren’t having any?” I asked as I noticed the one glass on the table.

“I take Ramadan seriously.”

“That’s something we’re going to have to talk about isn’t it? I mean other than the fact I’m staying in Morocco for an indeterminate period of time, if we are going to continue seeing each other – it’s the elephant in the room isn’t it? I’m a Buddhist, you’re a Muslim. Q put it succinctly when she said you could either covert me or kill me. Is that true, or is there another option? Oh gods this is delicious!” I said as the cognac exploded in my mouth. It was a gastronomical orgasm as it flowered in the back of my mouth and paved a heated path to my stomach.

Hassan smiled then started to laugh so hard he had to put his coffee down on the table so that he didn’t spill it. “Gods you are magnificent! You are the only woman I’ve ever met who when beginning a serious discussion of the impact of our personal religious and political differences, and the worlds apart difference that can have on our budding relationship, stops for a sensuous appreciation of a singular taste.”

I stopped with the glass halfway to my mouth for a second sip, “And that’s a good thing?” Yes, yes, I was giving him my “aren’t I adorable smile”. I’m pleased to report it still works.

I’d love to tell you we settled our differences, it all worked out; that religion and politics don’t matter – but that’s a Danielle Steele novel. We decided we could put it off a bit longer and just enjoy the night. Ali drove me home around two a.m. and, of course, walked me to the door and insisted on checking the house before he would leave. I like that chap.

Hassan has gone back to Saudi Arabia. His six-month mission has been extended to a year by the king. Never fear, romantics among you, we have a date in Istanbul or Madrid (my choice ☺ the last week in November or early December. I find him more attractive each time I see him, and his depth and sensitivity are hard to resist. Yes, sparx, he kisses like you would expect _ warm, soft, lingering, and it makes me dizzy. Sigh.


Monday, 12 November 2007

passions and fears

Passed to me From Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

8 things I’m passionate about

1- my child
2- separation of church and state/freedom of religion
3- child abuse of any ilk/secular education for all children
4- books, art, music, writing, beauty in all its forms
5- the necessity for us ALL to THINK, in relation to religion, politics, bigotry, culture, et al.
6- freedom of self-determination and respect for ALL persons/the present downward spiral of civil liberties in the West
7- good shoes
8- good manners

8 things to do before I die
1- get as close as I can to a state of spiritual self determinism
2- make the New York Times Best Seller List (more than once)
3- do as much good as I can (whatever monies I can give, whatever kindnesses I can bestow)
4- put my opinion out in the world and hope it has a positive affect on people and how they treat those they love, those they hate, and those they do not know
5- go back to New Zealand
6- Take Q to Machu Picchu, and take my grandchildren climbing in the Himalayas
7- never stop learning; never stop flirting; never stop appreciating
8- find some physical proof of a fantastic truth I have told Q, but that she must take for true solely on my word – to give her that piece of mind.

8 things I say often
1- “Bloody hell !” (since Q’s departure has replaced, “Sit up straight dearest.”)
2- “Thank you.” (in several languages)
3- “Let’s move it people.” Or “Make a hole.”
4- “I do NOT speak French, but I DO speak Spanish, English, Tibetan, some Hindi, some Chinese, and Pashto!” (said with a tinge of defensiveness it’s true, as in – because I do not speak French does not mean I am a dunce, but I am learning the language out of politeness)
5- “Bonjour.”
6- bad word that begins with an ‘f’, in several variations
7- “May I help you?”
8- brilliant

8 books I’ve read recently

1- Infidel by Ali
2- All the Shah’s Men by Kinzer
3- White Gold by Milton
4- (re-read) Inner Revolution by Thurman
5- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
6- Inside Terrorism by Hoffman
7- Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud by Navarro (reading)
8- At Home in Milford by Karon (reading)

8 songs I could listen to over and over

1- the arias from La Traviata (all of them) (Callas and Domingo)
2- Scottish songs: Amazing Grace, Bonnie Dundee, Ye Jacobites by Name, … (The Corries)
3- Someone to Watch Over Me (Sinatra)
4- Lhasa Pumo (Yungchen Lhamo)
5- La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf) and La Marseillaise
6- This Time Around (Linda Eder) (makes me cry)
7- Chain of Fools (Aretha Franklin) (makes me dance)
8- Candy (Big Maybelle)
(and Pretty Woman (Orbison), Folsom Prison (Cash), and Great Balls of Fire (Lewis) my list, my rules ☺

8 qualities I look for in a best friend

1- loyalty
2- loyalty
3- an appreciation of my dry/warped sense of humor
4- compassion
5- loyalty
6- has to love my child
7- a similar, but not necessarily identical, worldview
8- must love animals and children

8 people I’m passing this on to

1 – jmb
2 – welshcakes
3 – kaycle
4 – annie
5 – debiO
6 – omega mum
7 – mountain mama
8 – mama zen

Now that was fun, while this is too frightening for words. The slow but sure loss of civil liberties across not only America, but in Britain as well, is in danger of becoming permanent, something I don’t think we can permit. We need some of those radical hippie people from the 1960’s (I was not one, I missed the sixties – I was reading – in India). If not that, we need to do some severe speaking out in print, and with our votes.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

for the day..

Really not very reassuring: So, What About Those Nukes?

Attempt at survival, denial, or humans takeing the Road less Traveled?: here

Torture not a laughing matter? try this

Saturday, 10 November 2007

The photo journey


I did not do well in Vancouver I fear - photo wise - but my mind was elsewhere, and you can always go to jmb's site for the best photographs of that area.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Here we go..

It worked!
I had an idea, like you do, that I would bribe the Universe. I mean why not? It’s just creating karma eh? Before leaving Boston, I bought a large bag of Lindt dark chocolate truffles and decided I would give one to everyone during the day that I had an exchange with (the airline ticket agent, the young woman at Starbucks, the baggage man, the security guy outside the gate, etc.); this was my idea to get my bags to arrive Casablanca at the same time I did – a feat which has never happened before I might add. And it worked! So cool! Along the way I also made several people smile and arrived home in Rabat with only two truffles left, and ALL MY BAGS. Not only did my bags arrive as I did, but they were first off the aeroplane! Now that’s results.

I was surprised, and pleased, at how glad I felt to be back in Morocco. You should see my little house; not only did Abdul Latif, the world’s nicest landlord, put in the promised central heat and air, but he cleaned up after the painter (did all the white walls) and the handyman! And, he repaired the door bell, and closed the terrace grill for the winter. Now THAT’S service! He was so cute when I presented him with a giant jar of Skippy peanut butter: “You remembered,” he said quietly and then grinned like a six-year-old on Christmas morning.

Back to the baggage story for a moment, not only did I get all my books and tea in the bags, but the red one weighed in at 69#, and the other at 67# (the limit on RAM is 70#); I’m reasonably sure, after hefting it a few times, that my carry-on was above the legislated 40# as it was packed with books. Can I pack or can I pack?

I hardly know where to start to bring you up to date! A brief overview yes? The trip to the conference in Vancouver was exhausting, but informative and enjoyable; I would say I really got my money’s worth (no higher complement from a Scot). Meeting the wonderful jmb and her scientist guy was a highlight I must say. She is every bit as wonderful, effervescent, and beautiful as we all thought. She and her scientist guy showed me a great time, which was most welcome after the demands of the conference.

Then on to Boston where Cath’ and Bob picked me up at Logan International in the rain! More rain, I was so happy. Up the road to the picturesque village of Dunstable which for the rest of my stay showed the most glorious fall weather, and was dressed in the deep, and comforting colors of the changing of the season. I ran every day along the old French road trying to drink in the colors through not only my eyes, but storing them in my mind. I did get caught a couple of times by the locals, talking to the cows… but I really like cows you know. Could be all my time in India, I grant you, albeit the cow poop in the streets never really endeared me to Brahman. No, it it’s the bucolic appearance and gentle, non-threatening aura of the country cows; I think even more so now that the world seems full of threat.

Cath’ and Bob did their usual number of feeding me up with all the delicious food I like best. I was quite surprised to find I still fit in my jeans when I dressed for the plane home – but that’s what the running was for, eh? I spent an inordinate, and blissful amount of time in the local Barnes and Noble bookstore. I did get new running shoes - $ 180.00! My goodness, I do remember when running shoes were outrageous at 30 pounds. My rule is you spend the money for the best on shoes, bras, and moisture crème (La Mer) – support you know is essential. And I splurged on a new pair of pumps that were just too cute to resist. A quick visit to Banana Republic, which I tell you ladies is the best place for jeans for bodies past forty, regardless of price, to refill my jeans supply. I bought every box of Chai tea I could find (unfortunately bags, but what are you to do..?), and that B&N Hot Cinnamon Tea, delicious.

I pulled my old but still lovely blue Spode teapot from the cedar chest and brought it back with me along with a couple of sterling silver tea spoons; because really, we have to have civilization don’t we (or the British version of it that I am comfortable with…). I also brought back some additional spiritual comfort, as Buddhist Temples are thin on the ground in Morocco. A lovely rendition of the goddess Saraswati, goddess of creativity and inspiration; a timely choice I thought, as well as a miniature prayer wheel, and a replication of the goddess Tara for protection, and a larger portrait of His Holiness for above the altar.

My visit to the dentist, the wonderful Dr. Crane of North Chelmsford, went well. He repaired in good order the tooth I had broken over a year ago, and told me I have very healthy gums – always good new eh? I am a white knuckler dental patient; so when I say he has a reassuring manner, take me at my word. The man could work OB delivering babies, or the terminal ward easing the dying! His lovely daughter Amy is assisting him just now in the office and in complete deadpan he replied to my question, “Are you enjoying working in the office with your father?” He said, “Oh yes, it’s a dream come true for Amy. She is thrilled to be here every day.” It took me a minute all right, but I was terrified and sedated after all! Just what you want, a funny dentist! They are a great team and I survived in good shape.

My other medical visit to the ophthalmologist was equally reassuring if not as amusing. I don’t have a detached retina as I feared, but I shall continue to have this floater for some indeterminate time. As it resembles a (thankfully) shrinking gnat, I am thinking of naming it – a constant companion after all.

Reading! So it begins.. I have a recommendation for you, INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It is the story of a young woman’s survival; it is of further interest that the young woman is African and Muslim. My impression, aside from the obvious insights into their culture, was the realization (once again) that while political and cultural correctness (and simple good manners) are required of us, we must engender that with the knowledge of fact and not ignore that in bending too far the other way. As I am guilty of this myself, it made the point especially to me. I am so antithetical to bigotry and ignorance that I sometimes skim over the ugly facts of a culture or religion in order not to give ammunition to those who would use such to further their own ignorant and hateful agenda. As thinking people we must see the gray. I really hate that you know, it is exhausting. I totally understand the allure of fundamentalism, of any ilk – religious or political. The sheer relief of knowing you are right and they are wrong; no more decisions, no thinking, no reversal of opinion, no discussion, no giving over or giving in, and no possible exceptions. Unfortunately my education and upbringing do not allow me the luxury, and so I continue to examine the grey areas – as must all thinking beings eh? And so back to the book, it must also be seen (as Q has reminded me since I tend to leap to my soapbox, sword afire and words of passion and right to the ready) that publishers print what will sell – and a woman, an Arab or African woman who does not write about genital mutilation is less likely to get published. This does not make what Ali has to say any less true, or any less valuable, but it means that we, the readers, must take into account the environment in which her book was written, edited, and published. Exhausting eh?

Oh my I have rambled on past 1000 words, and I do try to keep posting to that limit. More tomorrow then?