Thursday, 30 April 2009


I'm being chased by a swine, no wait it's a bacteria! Walking pneumonia? Pardon me, as opossed to running or lying down pneumonia? Bugger what a pain - no really, a hacking, chest wrenching pain! Argh! I'm inhaling nebulizers and attacking with a full spread of antibiotics so I expect to be among the walking well soon.
MY doctor said to bed for eight days, I said two - we agreed on when the coughing up of lung tissue ceases. Yes well...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


It is nearing time for Q's birthday, and as I do every year (I know...) I'm getting nostalgic, looking back at photographs, and generally being so grateful to the Universe for allowing me to have her as my child. Here - share a grin and a sigh with me....her rescue of MC Solaar from the streets of Fez and a life of crime.

From The life of M.C. Solaar, so far.. 05/10/2007 19:26

Monday, 20 April 2009

not my doing...

I didn't write this one, but I wish I had. I love Maureen Dowd, I don't always agree with her but she is such a smart woman and excellent writer. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pass on the opinion (and it's just an opinion people, and I realize NOT the only one) of George Lucas on Cheney - something I have said in the past and present.
As well, her review on the first gardener I found delightful - so enjoy.

April 19, 2009
The Aura of Arugulance


The first thing I wanted to do in the Bay Area was go out to Skywalker Ranch and ask George Lucas about a disturbing conversation we’d had at an Obama inaugural party in Washington.

Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” had told me that I had gotten Dick Cheney completely wrong, that Cheney was no Darth Vader. I felt awful. Had I been too hard on Vice?

Lucas explained politely as I listened contritely. Anakin Skywalker is a promising young man who is turned to the dark side by an older politician and becomes Darth Vader. “George Bush is Darth Vader,” he said. “Cheney is the emperor.”

I was relieved. In “Star Wars” terms, Dick Cheney was more evil than Darth Vader. I hadn’t been hard enough on Vice!

Lucas was on his way to Europe and didn’t have time to elaborate in person. But he sent me this message confirming our conversation: “You know, Darth Vader is really a kid from the desert planet near Crawford, and the true evil of the universe is the emperor who pulls all the strings.”

Sated, I went over to talk to the other celestial celebrity in San Francisco who inspires cultlike devotion for what she does with green cooking rather than blue screens: Alice Waters, who has created her own mythical empire of healthy food with her cookbooks, edible gardens in public schools and renowned Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.

Waters has been much in the news lately as the fairy godmother of the White House organic vegetable garden, an idea she has been pushing since 1993. Instead, Bill Clinton installed a seven-seat hot tub on the South Lawn. Though he loved to eat, Bill was more a consumer of fast food than slow food, as Waters calls her movement to persuade Americans to sup on simple, locally grown foods free of pesticides and herbicides.

The 64-year-old Waters, who got her taste for revolutions in the ‘60s in school at Berkeley with the antiwar and women’s movements, wears a gold peace sign on a necklace. But with her radiant skin and her mesmerizing, hesitating arias about the sensual pleasures of food, she seems more like a ‘30s movie actress than a graying hippie. (I’m not surprised to find out she loves Turner Classic Movies and Hollywood’s vintage hotel, Chateau Marmont, that she named her restaurant after a character in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s trilogy of movies, and that she thinks of her restaurant as theater.)

She wasn’t invited to the opening of the White House garden, and she understands why the Obamas would want “to keep a kind of distance from me and from that whole celebrity chef” aura. Barack Obama got upset during the campaign that he was painted as a finicky elitist after he complained about the price of arugula at Whole Foods.

She’s well aware of the criticism leveled at her in blogs for condescension and food snobbery. In a post on Friday called “Alice in Wonderland,” National Review stirred the pot against her: “The truth is, organic food is an expensive luxury item, something bought by those who have the resources.”

She says wryly: “I’m just put into that arugulance place. I own a fancy restaurant. I own an expensive restaurant. I never thought of it as fancy. People don’t know we’re supporting 85 farms and ranches and all of that.

“And so my first thing I say, it’s going to cost more and I want to pay for my food. I go to the farmers’ market; it makes me feel like I’m making a donation.”

Since the Obamas haven’t taken her up on her offer of a “kitchen cabinet,” she wants to do her first TV show called “The Green Kitchen.” She can do a soliloquy on the “discernment” of choosing the most ambrosial orange. But she also says that a recession is a time when people need to learn the basics — “a kind of everyday cooking, in a really tasty way. We’re really trying to take the ‘ie’ out of foodie.”

She says she’s sick of hearing about diets and obesity in America, and believes neither would be so prevalent if her European-style “delicious revolution” succeeded.

Waters is a visionary. She imagines a “peace garden” on the Gaza Strip that would employ people “from all sides.” She imagines a high school where the kids could run the whole cafeteria themselves, learning math, nutrition, art and food. She imagines starting gardens at Monticello and Mount Vernon that would “become the source of all food in the White House.” She imagines food being covered on the front page and the business page — not the food page, or on TV by “lesser” reporters like “the weatherman.”

Her most ambitious vision involves President Obama, who didn’t want beets in his garden. “I would just like to serve him some golden beets sometime that were roasted in the oven, that were not overcooked, that were dressed with a lovely little vinaigrette, maybe even diced in a salad,” she says in her seductive way. “Squeeze ‘em with a little lime. It’s fantastically nutritious.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

It’s just never that easy…

APRIL 14, 2009, 5:28 PM
Reconcile This
ABU SAIFEEN – On Saturday we got word from one of my Iraqi colleagues that Shiite-on-Shiite clashes had supposedly broken out between militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr and members of an Awakening Council in Baghdad’s Abu Saifeen neighborhood.
My colleague said the militiamen were allegedly fighting over a base at a local husseiniya, or Shiite house of worship.
We thought it would be a good idea to see what was going on.

Everything looked normal as we entered Abu Saifeen. There was no sound of gunfire and all shops and teahouses were open. It was the usual hustle and bustle in this poor working class area that is adjacent to Baghdad’s central market.
After asking a few shopkeepers we were directed to a narrow and crooked alleyway, known as alleyway 127. We walked for a while skipping over a thin stream of waste water.
This is one of Baghdad’s historic neighborhoods with crumbling brick homes. Many had Shanashils, the projecting oriel windows enclosed within carved wood latticework located on the second floor of a building or higher, and found in many ancient Arab capitals.
In front of the husseiniya I met Salah Qassim, 50, a carpenter and Alaa al-Khattat, 45, a sign maker. Both moonlight as members of the Abu Saifeen Awakening. They recounted their version of what happened earlier on Saturday.
On Saturday morning the leaders of the Abu Saifeen Awakening reopened the husseiniya for a neighborhood reconciliation meeting called for by the government’s reconciliation council.
They were only expecting tribal elders. So they were taken aback when the 20 elders showed up with 30 militia members, including six who were accused by residents of having committed countless crimes in the area.
The mood quickly soured, especially when one militia leader invoked Mr. Sadr. Things went downhill from there when the tribal elders said the militiamen were “refugees who should be allowed to return to the neighborhood.”
Word quickly spread in the neighborhood that Abu Saifeen’s former Mahdi Army leader was going to mount an attack to retake the area. Angry residents who were wronged by the militiamen rushed to the husseiniya.
“If they come back we will kill them with our own hands,” said Ahmed Haider, an 18-year-old blacksmith’s apprentice, who said the Mahdi Army raided his house last year and shot his brother and
sister-in-law in the legs.
Sensing that the charged situation had the potential to degenerate into an armed clash, the Awakening leaders told the sheiks and militiamen to leave.
Soon I was surrounded by dozens of residents with one claim or another against someone or another.
Walking away I pondered one particular word: reconciliation. American leaders keep exhorting the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to reconcile with Sunni Arabs, the “reconcilable” members of Saddam Hussein’s former Baath regime, etc. But much reconciliation remains to be done even among members of the same sect, in this case Shiite Muslims.
Six years into this war the sheer amount of reconciliation that has to take place is daunting. In addition to coming to grips with the past, almost every Iraqi family has been touched by what happened over the past few years. Many have lost loved ones in the sectarian bloodshed and many are not willing to forget or forgive.
Many still seek retribution either through the law or unilateral actions.

The Shiite Muslim’s, who are concentrated in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, clash with the Sunni has been at the heart of Islam since the groups first diverged after the Prophet Muhammad died in 632, and his followers could not agree on whether to choose bloodline successors or leaders most likely to follow the tenets of the faith.
The group now known as Sunnis chose Abu Bakr, the prophet’s adviser, to become the first successor, or caliph, to lead the Muslim state. Shiites favored Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law. Ali and his successors are called imams, who not only lead the Shiites but also are considered to be descendants of Muhammad. After the 11th imam died in 874, and his young son was said to have disappeared from the funeral, Shiites in particular came to see the child as a Messiah who had been hidden from the public by God.

The largest sect of Shiites, known as “twelvers,” have been preparing for his return ever since.

Not "until the ascendancy of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1978" did they believe that they had once again begun to live under the authority of a legitimate religious figure. (and just how scary that was for the rest of the world and Iran we all know)

For Sunni Muslims, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim world, the loss of the caliphate after World War I was devastating in light of the hitherto continuous historic presence of the caliph, the guardian of Islamic law and the Islamic state. Sunni fundamentalist leaders thereafter emerged in nations such as Egypt and India, where contact with Western political structures provided them with a model awkwardly to imitate ... as they struggled after 1924 to provide a viable alternative to the caliphate.

What is important to remember, for this discussion, is that religions are run by men (for the most part Q, for the most part) and men can be avaricious, corrupt, victims to their own bullshit, and have a testosterone hunger for power and proving they are right. Having your hands on the joystick for any large organized religion makes it very tempting to remodel the world in the image you think fit – I give up Pope Benedict as example (just not so certain the holocaust happened. Excuse me?). Albeit he did retract - um yes...
Easy there boys this is not a rant against “men”, you well know you are my favourite people but rather organized religion (not spirituality, that can flourish in or out of organization) that forgets it is only divinely inspired – the chaps making the calls and writing the dogma are human and capable of grave error. As true for Christianity (the priest and the incidents of pedophilia) and the other major religions as it is for Islam.

As far as how this impacts the West politically – well that’s a long discussion eh? But we do need to stir the above thoughts into that pot. Nothing happens in a vacuum – not religion and not war. Sometimes you can not change people’s minds, and you then must get out of the way lest you, or someone’s else’s son or daughter, becomes a target. I''m just saying...


Monday, 13 April 2009

The men who serve –

Below is the oath taken by the U.S. Navy Seals. I have had circumstance in my life such as to know some of these chaps personally, and what they did yesterday to rescue the American captain comes as no surprise to me.
Please note – if I am held against my will (check first, it could be Johnny Depp) by pirates, do send the same fellows right along.

Let me add my voice to the chorus of “Well Done and Thank you!"

In times of war and uncertainty there is a special breed of Warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call.

A common man with uncommon desires forged by adversity he stands alongside America’s finest Special Operation Forces to serve his Country, the American people, and protect their Way of Life. I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage bestowed upon me by the Heroes that have gone before and embodies the trust of those I am sworn to protect.

By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and it is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a Guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work or seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions regardless of circumstances sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be lead. In the absence of Orders I will take charge, lead my Teammates, and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down I will get back up every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my Teammates and accomplish the mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my Teammates and the success of our mission depend on me, my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my Country. Execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required, yet guided by the principle that I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and fear of reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions the legacy of my Teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed.
I will not fail.

Friday, 10 April 2009

a smile

Ladies, no matter how your day is going this has to make you smile! Makes me want to head for the gym - later then.


Wednesday, 8 April 2009

what ever Path you choose..

Happy Passover to the those People of the Book, and Happy Good Friday as well. For us pagans it is a celebration of Spring and renewal of life.

I am off with J to his brother's home which sits on a lovely ranch ( the house is the restored home of a Texas Ranger - too cool, and yes, I have the data, and yes I will post on it on my return) to the north of Austin, Texas with the children, and his mother - he's picking up the van now :-o It is the celebration of Passover for the Tribes and I am there to represent the pagans - I have a new green dress and everything. I am taking my new toy, the FLIP camcorder to record the event and practice my future as a director.

I had planned to give you a newsy post but the MIgraine monster has been really active of late and got me again last night - cheeky bugger.

Ciao and I'll be back on Friday.

Friday, 3 April 2009

This and that

The Texas weather forecast is as dependable as the belief that your hips will always be the size and firmness as when you were 16 years of age. The heat and humidity here are so wacky that it’s a topic of daily conversation with the populace. Apparently hot and humid is the norm for the majority of the year – oh joy and rapture! I comfort myself with the knowledge that all that humidity will be good for my skin, at least I won’t dry out. I have the weather site on my bloody Browser Bar to check several times during the day and still they get it wrong – I know, I know, it’s the bloody weather, but Crimey get it right once and again eh? Looking out the window doesn’t work here because Texas is so huge that the weather where you are and the weather where you are going? – could be totally different. It’s an adventure.

For two years while I lived in North Africa there were many men with small machines and large picks digging huge holes outside my door in the Oudayas. Since my arrival in America in October 2008 there have been many men with large machines and no picks digging multiple huge holes in front of my house, and on the corner, and at the end of the block – in all directions! A new transportation tube between Texas and Morocco? An attempt to find China and see what they are really stealing from the Dalai Lama through cyberspace? Made up work because they were bad? You tell me!

My ongoing attempt to find some long, flowing skirts in to wear during the nine-month summer season in Houston continues with no joy so far. What do these people wear in the heat? Of course I have been warned that the a/c is such here that everyone carries a sweater or jacket about in the hottest months. Allrighty.

J and I have decided against a house because we just don’t want all that room, and yard, and house-falling-apart-stuff that happens, and would like money left over for travel, and thus are happily looking at townhouses. We found one we were mad for, but it went while we were still angst-ing over house vs. townhouse. However we saw another last week that we liked all right, made a bid for it, and as the days pass we are liking it better inside our heads. The tiny but lovely garden that is out back would be just outside my office, so I love that. It is three stories, giving everyone their own space, so we like that. On the down side, the washer and dryer are in the garage – yes, I don’t know either but it’s not a deal breaker, just a bit odd. There is a corner in the parlour that will not fit J’s huge (ooh my really) plasma television and assorted electronic paraphernalia and where they put these horrid holes in the bookcases. I mean I get it, they put them there to make the shelves adjustable, but yuk – so that corner will have to be torn out and re-done, but that is the only major re-do we both have, all the rest is making it ours and we can do that with our “stuff’. Until we get it done we can put his toys there and I can find some huge books to hide the holes… Oh, and there is a fireplace. A fireplace? I can only assume that when one longs for winter, one turns up the a/c enough to light up the fireplace? No? Then what?

The present owners made a bid back at almost the original asking price so at present we are holding firm at our original bid. After years of haggling in Morocco my skills are well honed and we are prepared to walk away which is the real key. J says the location is great. I have no idea; I’m still acclimating to being in Texas! The wedding is 7 June and we would like to be in by then. His two children (14 and 17-years old) will be travelling and visiting about for most of the summer so that will be a good time to get things moved and situated. I’m hoping that Q will stay a while after the wedding. I have not seen much of her since her wedding as she is hard at work on her Master’s thesis.

My big problem is that I love my little tree house apartment so much I don’t want to leave, but no way there is enough room for all of us and I cannot have a cat here.
My tree house apartment 4/3/09 10:33 AM

Click on the photograph and it will take you to the album.

Yes! I am expanding our family. A took my Chen for the year Q and I were in Africa – he was already enamoured of that cat and I think I knew I would never get him back. By the time Q returned to America those two were best buds, and I had decided to stay another year in Morocco…. If you remember Q rescued a kitty from the streets of Fez and took him back to America with her. MC Solar and Chen have become fast friends in spite of their different backgrounds.
Chen Klong Pa and MC Solar

Again, a click on the photograph will take you to the album.

Therefore – I get a new cat. I’m very excited. I have been looking around at breeders and fortunately there are several within driving distances. I have decided to get another Ragdoll – a puppy in cat’s fur. The one I am hoping for (fingers crossed because they go so quickly) is a flame point. I’ve never had a cat to match my hair before…. He will be ready (12 weeks old) right around when we are planning to have the new house so that is perfect.

On my recent birthday one of my very old friends sent me a new electronic toy – a FLIP digital camcorder. I have never had one of these things – in part because they were so cumbersome but this little beauty fits in my hand. It’s barely bigger than my I Pod! I have been playing about with it a bit; I shall post a movie soon!

That’s it for today. Ciao

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

give it up already! No April Fool here...

The economic crisis, the shortfall of money and the increased criminal violence on the Mexican-U.S. border being reported daily, hourly now on the news – the crisis for the day is the “Drug War”. And it has driven me to this… because in parallel are the reports of the thousands, thousands – of people who have lost their life savings in the stock market or Madoff swindle, or lost their jobs – the numbers reported daily are staggering and nothing less of tragic. This is a BAD THING.

Why, why, why, why do we not legalize drugs? And right behind it please prostitution? Count the millions, billions of dollars. What federal deficit? What crime wave? Make the criminal element have to really work for their money by coming up with new ideas to make money that don’t target a certain populace.

If we can gently, not ignore, but side step for the sake of this post, the “moral” not ethical, but moral objections – let us look at this. Here is a medical view...

People who want to use drugs be they prescription or not, will find them. They will. If we can recall the loud failure called prohibition we can draw some parallels. I love this opinion from the former chief of police of Seattle usa. "I've witnessed the devastating effects of open-air drug markets in residential neighborhoods: children recruited as runners, mules and lookouts; drug dealers and innocent citizens shot dead in firefights between rival traffickers bent on protecting or expanding their markets; dedicated narcotics officers tortured and killed in the line of duty; prisons filled with nonviolent drug offenders; and drug-related foreign policies that foster political instability, wreak health and environmental disasters, and make life even tougher for indigenous subsistence farmers in places such as Latin America and Afghanistan. All because we like our drugs — and can't have them without breaking the law."

The drugs are coming, pouring actually, into the U.S. - as I understand it we, the United States, are the biggest customers of all drug providers. Just as the criminal element of the day provided illegal liquor during prohibition, the criminal element of today provides whatever substance is in demand and makes killing people just part of business. Here is a great article from The Economist.

Name me a time in history when prostitution was not a part of any culture? Would it be such a shame were it legalized and the pimps were out of a job, and the women who choose or see no other choice for income, could pay taxes, get health insurance, get protection from venereal disease (the ones that annoy and the ones that kill) and physical abuse. Again – deficient? What deficient? Mandate yearly health check ups and the use of condoms. Let the bureaucracy go nutty with joy coming up with new rules to turn prostitution into a huge return for the IRS. I think I can guarantee there will be no request from the Prostitution Industry or Union for federal subsidies.

If the U.S. legalized drugs and prostitution (using all that man power, hundreds of federal agents, from the DEA, the ATF, local constabulary, and now the National Guard that is being requested to help control the flow of drugs over the Mexican border into the U.S.) there would be no national deficit, and the crime rate would plummet! And no, in this particular case (I know, I know, normally I do but I’m just talking today) I don’t have statistics to back me up on each point, but come on the logic of the situation is self-apparent no? And I’ve given you loads of links and those people do have statistics. . I’ve had just enough semesters of statistics to know one can slant them in any direction as well – so some of the papers I have linked for you are also opinion.

Just one benefit would be the freeing up of prison space (the U.S. and most western nations are full up) to house sex offenders and murders. Gods they could actually sell San Quentin and set up a walking park… I’m just saying….

There would then be no need to deprive young men in Columbia of jobs to feed their families. Let them grow the heroin, the marijuana, cook up the meth – whatever – and export it, again legally – bringing up the Gross National Income of several, no doubt, Central American countries. We could even boycott the opium from Afghanistan that is presently funding terrorism if we like. Making the product legal would give them no market in the U.S. if we are getting it from Columbia and other well behaved countries. (just a little sarcasm, just a wee bit on the side)

The moral and ethical issues… Well, I have to tell you I just think that if a person is bound and determined to ingest “drugs” (be they bought with a prescription or on the ‘street’) they will do so. No law ever stopped an addict from getting his/her fix – delayed it maybe, but not stopped. And if we want to be ethical is it not better that these people would be purchasing drugs that have been approved by the FDA – instead of the street drugs that can contain lethal contaminants and undetermined potency that can kill? "Although purer heroin is becoming more common, most street heroin is “cut” with other drugs or with substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. Street heroin can also be cut with strychnine, fentanyl or other poisons. Because heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they are at risk of overdose or death." Regulate the hell out of it, tax them, and clean up the streets of drug runners I say. You would have an entire criminal element populace out of a job. Now there are some unemployment statistics I could get happy about.

I know this is a volatile subject and there is no simple solution, so sound off…what do you think?