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