Saturday, 27 February 2010

'Round the Blogsphere

For a warm feeling in your heart go to: Notes Inside my Head

A taste of the absurd at Nourishing Obscurity

Tips for woaca at Fabously40

Some fowl words at French Fancy

A view on British politics can be found at Ellee Seymour

Posh reigns at Dulwichmumand today she has some hysterical marriage advice

Shadow pens some red hot poetry

For a breathtaking view of the sky go here


Thursday, 25 February 2010

A Second Chance in a New Age

I've decided a want a more adult version of my blog to discuss the brilliant and rather wonderful situation I find myself in after the unexpected turn my life took a year ago. A life filled with love, lots of sex, and more laughter than one immune system should be allowed is now my lot.

The intent here is not pornographic, but rather a frank and largely humorous discussion of sex and love when a woman, and I hope you chaps will join in, reaches a certain age - for me it is 59 years.

I am a woman who really, really enjoys sex but who before my new husband came back into my life last year had gone 13 years (yes groan please!) without it, because even as good as sex can be without love - for me, once having the two together spoiled me for the lesser stuff.

Let me be very clear because I do not wish to alienate any of my lovely readers - this is a blog for adults, moreover for adults who are comfortable with a frank discussion of sex. My intent is a discussion not a lecture, so I hope there will be many comments.

We, I believe I qualify age-wise for the "baby boomers" generation, are living longer, healthier lives, and our appetites for passion, and life do not need to wane unless we make that decision. As for me? I'm just getting started! So join me please.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

You will find the interview here - Larry King and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Below, from CNN, is some of the content:

CNN) -- China is "denying there is a problem" between its government and Tibet, the Dalai Lama says.
In his first interview since his recent controversial meeting with President Obama, the spiritual leader of Tibet told CNN's "Larry King Live" that China claims Tibetans are "very happy ... much, much, much better than previous Tibet."
However, he noted that his Tibetan government-in-exile has received information indicating "suppression ... or restrictions" culturally and religiously of the Tibetan people.
China rejects Tibetan claims of independence or greater autonomy and claims sovereignty over the area.
But the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, told King that Tibetans "are not seeking independence."
"That's why we are called middle way," he said. "We complain [about] the presence of policy in Tibet. It is actually very much damaging. ... But [on the] other hand, we also do not want separation from China because ... Tibet [is a] landlocked country, materially backward. Every Tibetan want modernized Tibet, so for that reason, [we] remain within the People's Republic of China."
The Dalai Lama met with Obama on Thursday despite strong objections from Chinese government officials. The meeting threatened to further complicate Sino-U.S. tensions, which have been rising in recent months. China warned it would damage Beijing's ties to Washington.
Beijing regards the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as a dangerous "separatist" who wishes to sever Tibet from China.
"Larry King Live"
The Dalai Lama told King he first met Obama when the future president was a young senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He was a "very impressive, young politician then," he said of Obama.
"As soon as he become president, we had some sort of contact," he said, indicating that Obama expressed sympathy toward Tibet's plight. However, a meeting was postponed due to sensitive talks Obama was conducting with Chinese leaders.
"Now this time, despite some difficulties, we had that meeting and [it was a] very pleasant one," he said.
The Dalai Lama said he discussed three priorities during the meeting with Obama: "the promotion of human value in order to create a better world," the promotion of religious harmony and his desire for modern education for Tibetan children.
He called Obama very receptive to his priorities.
Asked whether he thinks often of his homeland, the Dalai Lama said he occasionally conjures up memories of his childhood in Tibet. But after more than 50 years in India, "my body [is] supported by Indian rice and Indian dollar," he said.
He sought to deflect attention away from his exile, saying "this is not our concern. Our concern is 6 million Tibetan people's basic rights and culture. These are our main issues."
As a Buddhist, the Dalai Lama spoke often during the interview about the concept of love and peace.
Asked whether he has love for the Chinese, he answered, "Certainly. We have to practice that." He admitted to "some irritation" with Chinese hardliners, but insisted they are "small moments."

At another site was the question that everyone knew he would be asked:

“Not everyone caught that Tiger Woods press conference last week, starting with a major spiritual leader of the faith the golfer may use to help him cope with a sex scandal.
In what was described as a "brief interview," the Dalai Lama told The Associated Press that he had never heard of Woods, who last week said he plans to explore anew the Buddhist teachings from his childhood.
When the matter was explained to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader (who was in Beverly Hills, California, for a speech Saturday), he replied that "all religions have the same idea" about adultery.
"Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that's important," he said. "Self-discipline with awareness of consequences."

Ouch! When you have an ego the size of Mr. Woods - that had to hurt.

And finally on this subject - HIs Holiness is now twittering! I love it.

On the economic front, I ran across this sad bit of news -

Another Recession Casualty: Cuban Cigars

David Dennis (Creative Commons)
Cuban cigars — that quintessential emblem of high living, celebration and excess — have not weathered the downturn well, according to The Associated Press.
Cuban cigar sales fell 8 percent in 2009. The article attributes the decline primarily to a dwindling demand in Spain (the biggest market for Cuban cigars) and less international travel (and therefore, fewer sales at duty-free shops at airports).
It also probably doesn’t help that people cut back on smoking in general during recessions.
Faced with such challenges, Cuba’s state-run tobacco company is turning its sights to an untapped market: women.

As a long time lover of a good cognac and a really fine cigar to accompany it, this news saddens me. I know, I know tobacco is bad for you – but all things in moderation eh?


Monday, 22 February 2010

Going home...

On Friday the adorable husband slept in while I did some writing, then we did some yoga (see Monday's post), and afterwards headed down to Gramercy Tavern at 42 East 20th Street, near one of my favourite places to stay back in my single days, The Gramercy Park Hotel - albeit I understand, and from the web site it looks true, that it has been remodelled and ‘modernized’, which is a shame as its charm was in its old world décor.

I was so impressed with the floral decorations at Gramercy Travern that I asked for the name of the designer - Roberta Ben David(who is so fabulous "she's not taking new clients"). I love fresh flowers but it is so difficult to decorate a space like that without overdoing it or understating it. Our waiter, Dennis, was a charmer and entertained as well as serving us. He and the adorable husband hit it off as is shown by the fact that well into his second (perfect) martini, as I was wrapped in the cosy warmth of my second glass of 18-year-old MacAllan whiskey he said, “I bought her two glasses of the most expensive whiskey you have and I already got lucky this morning.”
Dennis, without missing a beat said, “That’s true love.”

The food was marvellous. I had the sea bass with a sauce of walnuts and something that was so good it made my toes tingle, or was that the whiskey? The adorable husband had the special - some kind of soup and the roast beef sandwich. We had the "Pumpkin Whoopie Pies" for dessert, and it was so very yummy!

After a long, relaxing, and delicious lunch we made our way over to The Strand. Wow. What fun. It would take days to give this place its proper due but I managed to find a couple of Science Fiction novels I wanted and a Stephen King book that I’ve been meaning to get to, along with some of the canvas bags that Q told us are all the rage (a dated phrase for sure) now in New York City. “Oh yes, some people leave their Kelly bag at home and use the Strand’s canvas bag to show they are ‘cool’.” So now I’m set even though I’ve never understood the rules for ‘cool’. I want a couple of days to dive into their Military History section that Q had already scoped out for me.

Back at the hotel we did some more yoga then the adorable husband had a nap while I packed. He hates to pack. Saturday morning J went down for café while I got ready to go back to Texas. By eight thirty we were in the taxi headed for La Guardia and much to our surprise the same four ministers (see 14 February) that accompanied us from Houston to NYC were returning on the same flight in the same seats! Fred, the minister seated by me, and I continued our conversation recalling memories of Britain – everything from old television shows (I’m more conversant in BBC than American television) like Are You Being Served? to Dame Judi Dench’s old show that ran for ages – As Time Goes By; to our mutual enjoyment of Science Fiction – he actually knew who E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith was and knew of The Lensman Series; and I know who Dr. Who was, and is at present.

Landing in Houston we needed the a/c on the ride home – ug. We both apparently had the post-vacation let down, as I, after unpacking, couldn’t keep my eyes open and the adorable husband slept in Sunday morning before going out for cafe' as it is no longer served downstairs.

It was a grand week and I will be happy to go again next year. Meanwhile back at home, the refrigerator has died. It was ill before we left and I was looking for Consumer Reports advice on what to buy; now speed is imperative.

Larry King is interviewing HIs Holiness the Dalai Lama tonight.


Sunday, 21 February 2010

NYC Photographs

The adorable husband with his "Fashion Week" stance and scowl...
The window on the Park Avenue side
The restaurant inside the church
The door open and welcoming
The entrance to St. Bart's
The sign outside St. Bart's
The adorable husband as Lord McLeod, lord of the manor...

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Plaza, books, museums, and food - oh my!

Wednesday began with Q meeting me at the hotel, and from there we window shopped down 5th Avenue stopping into Yves St. Laurent to have a close up look at a stunning electric purple sheath and shoes – just yummy. Q who is now adding seamstress to her roster of skills (already a chef of family and friends renown) was examining the seams…. There was a stunning python trench but we agreed that neither of us would be able to wear it (she used to have snakes as pets (I know!) and pythons are endangered, as well they skin them while still alive), but it was an eye-catcher.

We were looking for a place for brunch as we had walked right past the breakfast hour and ba da bing – there’s the Plaza Hotel sitting in her sartorial elegance – always a good choice. We had a lovely time in the downstairs hotel restaurant with wonderful views of both the inside of the hotel and the outside passersby – brilliant people watching. The food was of course wonderful and the service – well it’s the Plaza isn’t it?

Afterwards we walked off our indulgence (they had melt in your mouth breads and pastry) by making our way on foot up to 87th Street and the Met. The adorable husband was off to a matinee of Noel Coward's Present Laughter starring Victor Garber, which he said later he quite enjoyed.

Two exhibits in particular I wanted to see were the Chinese Carved Lacquer and the Jain Manuscript Paintings. Both were as expected – breathtaking. As usual we made our way through the Egyptian exhibits (the spot Q normally gets stuck) where we explored the Temple of Dendur showing off some 1800’s graffiti as well as the impressive Temple gates, and an intricately carved sarcophagus.

Also a good day for the soon-to-be sixty year old’s ego. As we were making our way from the Egyptian exhibit on the first floor to the Chinese Lacquer exhibit on the third floor, Q pulled me closer to say, “The young, rather good looking museum attendant back there came over to me when your back was turned looking at the Temple and ask, ‘Is that your mother?’ You know at first when he pointed you out I thought he was going to ask me to tell you something like to lean back from the sarcophagus, but it was much more like he was checking to see so that if you weren’t my mother it would be alright to hit on you. Since people never assume you are my mother I think he was hoping you were an older friend, or aunt – apparently that would have given him a clear field but the fact you are my mother meant you are married or it would have been bad manners.

Then as we were leaving the coat check after having a bit of French with the lovely Haitian chap handing us our hats she said, “I’m beginning to feel ugly.”

“What? Why do you say that?”

“The guy back there? What he said to you was, ‘You must tell your mother that she is magnificent’, you know c'est magnifique!! '. So you can tell J that you got hit on twice at the museum!”

I think I stood a little straighter on the way out she said smiling smugly. And later Q took great delight in telling the adorable husband the story in detail, along with according to her “all the other times I’ve felt like saying, ‘So what am I chopped liver?” She’s very kind to her old mum, and quite beautiful in her own right.

Oh a non sequitur but I don’t want to forget to tell you, and I’m going to try to remember to take my camera out there before we leave… The Anglican (which explains why it was some difficult for me to determine the denomination) church of St. Bart’s at 325 Park Avenue has a sign out front that states: “Have something different for lunch? Eucharist at …” and it list the hours! We did a double take the first time to be sure it was saying what we thought it was saying and it does! I went to their website to get the link for you and clicked on their mission statement which I really liked:

“Located at 325 Park Avenue between 50th and 51st Street in the heart of Manhattan, St. Bartholomew’s Church is a faithful community of Christians... who WELCOME ALL to this sacred oasis whose urban outreach is buzzing with life 24/7. 

A Manhattan crossroads and one of New York’s treasured landmarks, we passionately serve our city and the larger world, opening our portals unconditionally to all. Become part of who we are, through our daily cultural community offerings, beautiful music and powerful inspirational worship services.
Every day of the year we worship God, serving not only our own membership of nearly 4,000 but also thousands others—Christians, fellow believers of other faiths, and many who are seeking God, truth or a spiritual center for themselves.
We think of our sacred space as a gift—something bequeathed to us by our forbears but a gift we know we are called to share with others. Our members and visitors come from the whole New York metropolitan area, from other parts of the country and as tourists and pilgrims from around the world. We practice what St. Benedict taught his monks and their households: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ” (Rule of Benedict 53:1).

We met Q “below 14th Street” at 116 Avenue C to have dinner at the Serbian Kafana restaurant she had recommended to us for dinner. "The adorable husband is a meat eater right? He's going to like this place I think."

I knew it was authentic when I walked through the door framing these two burly types all bundled up sitting at the bar facing each other in lively conversation – I was transported back to Serbia ten years ago to a eerily similar scene. It was confirmed when we walked in and it was the chaps at the bar who said, “Oh yeah just sit anywhere you like.” The waitress reappeared a few minutes later having been out on an errand. It is a family run restaurant, small and cozy – very clean. Our service was warm and friendly right down to giving Q the recipe for the sausage. We were the only native English speakers in the room, also a good sign.

We had Ćevapčići with chopped onion, beef burgers, sausages, pork chops, and grilled meat, which are on the menu of every restaurant in Serbia, from Vojvodina to the south. And the supreme pleasure in grill definitely is mixed meat - mixture of several grilled meat specialties, which are best when absolutely fresh and hot from the grill as these most certainly were.

The real Serbian dish, which cannot be found on any menu in the world, is kajmak. Kajmak is what you take off the milk to make it low fat, and is considered the best part of the milk. Yes, it is full of milk fat, but it's delicious. This is one of the oldest specialties from this region.
Smoked meat, hot pogača (homemade bread), and kajmak.
Sarma, "pasulj"(beans made the Serbian way), were almost creamy, and served with more of the heavily spiced and delicious sausage. I am not a big meat eater and I think I just may have had my quota for this year.

Real homemade Serbian cherry pie, very good after a big meal, was enjoyed by Q and the adorable husband. I was stuffed but did have a bite and it’s delicious. If you survive all this, at the end of each meal you definitely must drink good Turkish, actually Serbian coffee, since the Turks prepare coffee differently.

At eight o’clock we were seated in the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre for the Premier production of ‘A Behanding In Spokane’. You know how frightening Christopher Walken is on film, he is scarier on stage. He doesn’t even have to speak. The first three or four minutes he just sat there – and it was spooky.

The playwright, Martin McDonagh, has a penchant for black comedy and that promise was fulfilled in this play. The adorable husband is a fan of his work and attends his plays whenever possible; but this was my first introduction to Mr. McDonagh.

Carmichael (Christopher Walken) has been searching for his missing left hand for almost half a century. Mix in two bickering lovebirds (Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan) (granddauger of Elia Kazan) with a hand to sell, and a hotel clerk (Sam Rockwell) who is loopy as a fruitcake, throw in some gunfire, a large case full of dismembered hands, and a racist mother (Mrs. Carmichael) chasing a balloon up a tree and you’re set. Get the picture? You’re right; you had to be there.

It was so funny. It was so funny. Really, it was so funny. From “You can’t have black hillbillies” to “You looked through them all (porn magazines)? Congratulations Ma now you’re a lesbian”. But you had to be there.

All of the actors delivered excellent performances. The play is 90 minutes without a break and you never once get antsy in your seat because your attention is riveted on the stage lest you miss one great line.

On Thursday the papers are running articles concerning the delayed (bowed to political pressure from the Chinese) meeting between President Obama and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. (about time said the prickly Buddhist) but I’m not happy with the “low key” approach President Obama decided to take. Makes the U.S. look weak bending to the Chinese if you ask me, but we all know what my bias is and I’m sure it affects my world view.

We left the (continuing great service) Waldorf around 0930hrs Thursday to pick up Q and had a car take us to the Cloisters. Q was able to show off her Old French by reading the tapestries to us (some of them have captions!) and recounting some of the history of the period. The adorable husband is taken with the tapestries which he wanted me to see since I do needlework and I enjoyed them, but for me the fascination lay in the building itself. The stones are steeped in history and I can almost hear the whispers of past ladies sitting at their embroidery in one of the courtyards discussing their children,politics, and marriage; and lords pacing the halls or in front of the fireplace planning the next year's crops or the defense of their lands and bitching about taxes, their children, worrying about disease... much the same as us but without computers and flush toilets eh? I was surprised and pleased to see the number of mothers with children there. I'm very big on children in museums; how else will they grow to be adults in museums?

Q left last night on the train back to Philadelphia after we stuffed her full of wine and good Italian food at the great little restaurant we discovered. I miss having her about every day, but you know what that's like. They grow up and have their own lives, as it should be. She remains as much a delight to me as an adult as she was when a toddler.

Today is our last day. No plays today. After some morning - yoga - the adorable husband has plans to take me downtown to the Strand with the understanding that I can’t take all the books home and we will most likely be shipping them due to the pricey increase on airline transporting of luggage. Q had planned to go shopping on Tuesday afternoon after her meeting at NYU – some new boots, some dress material she had her eye on, perhaps some new trousers. When we met her for dinner she was lugging a large bag full of books from The Strand. “Oh yeah she’s your daughter all right,” said the adorable husband. Apparently The Strand boasts 18 miles! of books she said rubbing her hands together in anticipation and delight.

Then we shall likely stroll down to Washington Square and have a look see around that area. I’ll let you know eh?

Back to Houston tomorrow and I have (bleck) doctor appointments both Monday and Tuesday - just check-up stuff but I do so hate going to the doctor. I've agreed (because he still thinks he can 'fix' them) to see one more neurologist for the adorable husband - this one thinks I may be having some sort of seizure activity associated with the migraine so he's doing a sleep deprived EEG. Doesn't that sound fun? Ug. It's difficult to complain too much when it's because someone loves you and I know that it is so much more difficult to watch someone you love in pain that it is to be the one having the pain so I will do it.

It’s been a grand week and I expect today to be filled with delight as well. I’ll give you a recap on Sunday then shall I?


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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Disappointment and Delight

On Monday it was time for walk about in the fun shopping areas of New York City, obtain that missing link (story coming up), and try once again to watch the skaters do their stuff at the Wollman Rink. It went well and …. funny.

Charm: An object, act, or saying believed to have magic power
• an object kept or worn to ward off evil and bring good luck

A few months after our reunion in Paris I found myself walking through Tiffany’s, as I often do simply for the pleasure of it, and spotted a display of their charm bracelets and a sampling of the available charms. I found it delightful, like wearing memories on your arm – touch one and you are transported back to the event or time. I have never really considered myself to be a ‘charm bracelet’ sort of woman, if I ever gave it any thought at all - proven by later conversations with Q and J.

“I think I would really like a charm bracelet from Tiffany’s.”

“Really, I would not have thought you would care for a charm bracelet.”

“I know! Neither did I but there you are…”

On the first anniversary of our marriage I was sent on a delightful and romantic treasure hunt (no one is surprised I like those!) complete with a stack of clues that sent me all about our house, and at the discovery point of each rhyme was a small turquoise box tied with a white satin ribbon – the unmistakable sight that shouts “Tiffany’s!”. J had bought me the charm bracelet and filled it with tiny physical manifestations of our time in Paris, representations of private jokes we share, and a few that just say ‘me’. I love it and wear it all the time.

So it was that on Valentine’s Day the item he had been so carefully hiding because just the sight of that little box would have given it away, held the world – literally. A tiny, perfect, replica of the earth and a reminder of all the years I have spent trekking it.

But alas it had been packaged in the perfect little blue pouch without the extra link needed to attach it to the bracelet. Oh no what tragedy! This means we HAVE to go to Tiffany’s while in New York City. OH too bad, but if we must I suppose I can drag…(are we laughing out loud yet?) myself there…

And so it was on Monday we found ourselves in the middle of one of the most fun places on earth – oh boy it was sparkly on the first floor! And of course lickedy split and with gracious service as always, the link was provided, and the charm attached. Sigh. I love Tiffany’s – and boyo it was packed with shoppers.

Next was Central Park, which is still buried quite deep in the snow, as are the pathways once you are into the park, just like a postcard. It was all lovely – again packed with people.

J loves to watch the skaters at Wollman Rink in the Park. Let me restate that, the adorable husband would love to watch the skaters in Wollman Rink if only they would skate while he is there! Last year just as we arrived at the rink, the skaters were called off and the Zamboni came on. When it was done the skaters still did not return as the rink was closed but for private lessons – not what he wanted to see.

As we rounded the curve in the path on this day we could see the pond through the bare branches of the trees and over the small river where the ducks were congregated in great numbers to make the most of the two chaps throwing bread bits out onto the surface for them. It was full of holiday skaters bundled up and circling nonstop. We could hear their shouts of delight and surprise as some twirled and some fell.

“Ah the curse is broken just look at all the… uh oh… is that what I think it is?”

“Yes damn it, the Hoffman curse strikes again! I can’t believe it!”

As we approached the front side of the pond and crossed the elevated area over the bleachers and benches for the skaters to lace up we could see the Zamboni begin its appointed rounds.

“Perhaps they will let the skaters back on after it’s done?” I said hopefully.

“No, look they are putting out the cones to mark off the areas for lessons. It’s happening again. I’m never going to see the skaters on the pond.”

“We could watch the skaters taking lessons…”

“It’s not the same.” He sighed as we took of leave. Another year of disappointment and the legend of the curse grows.. Exit music please maestro, and off we went back into the park.

After the park we made our way back toward the hotel and over to The Emery for a pre-theatre dinner and it did not disappoint. I had a crispy and perfectly seasoned Caesar salad with melt in the mouth grilled chicken sliced and to the side in such quantity I had to fork over half of it to J. He had the chicken soup, which he pronounced delicious, and sliders, which are mini cheeseburgers with shoestring fries. It was all so well done it took the chill right out of us.

I never thought to use the next sentence as it’s as bad as if I were to say the movie was better than the book but..I liked the movie better than the stage production of Chicago. It was such a disappointment. It had a lot of energy, and incredible bodies, sculpted along the lines of Michelango's David, and impressive technical expertise but no heart! Who wants to sit through two to three hours of dance numbers and singing with no soul, no story? We were both so disappointed. J has not seen the film but all the things he found missing in the play – a story, characters you could connect with, someone to root for – all that I found in the film. I couldn’t believe it.

In no way due to the show (it wasn’t that bad, and it doesn’t work that way) I had a bad but not deadly migraine and was out of it just as snow began to fall…

On Tuesday…

Sadie, a Scottish terrier, captured the coveted ‘Best in Show’ title at the Westminster Dog Show that’s on now in town.

For us it was lazy stay in bed, watch movies, read your book, and for J long naps day as I recovered from the Migraine Monster.

Q came up from Philadelphia as she has a couple of meetings at NYU with her doctorate advisors this week and is going to be our very well informed guide to the Cloisters on Thursday. She came over through the snow mush that was both on the ground and in the air by Tuesday afternoon – it was a great day for staying inside – and we took her out to dinner then sent her off to bed after her long day.

We were then rewarded and compensated for all our disappointment from the night before. Billy Elliot! Where do I begin with the over the top adjectives? It was brilliant! It tugged at your heart and left us cheering. It was visually stunning and the energy and sheer joy pouring off the stage into the audience left us both staggering and energized. Wow is such an understatement.

Billy Elliot is actually based on the original film: director Stephen Daldry, choreographer Peter Darling and writer Lee Hall. The actors change up but Michael Dameski played Billy, Trevor Braun played Michael the brother, and Philip Whitchurch as the Dad with Kate Hennig as Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy’s teacher.

The story is about a boy from the mining towns of England, set during the heartbreaking strike of 1984, who wants to dance the ballet – not box as his Dad had hoped.

The cast, aside from the lead actors, is full of one delightful surprise after the other, from the hysterically funny and totally adorable young man who plays Billy’s best friend to the magic feet of the pudgy piano player employed by Mrs. Wilkinson.

We were smiling five minutes in and grinning ear to ear as we left, our hands sore from banging them together in some small token of appreciation for the delightful evening. I can’t recommend this musical highly enough. As it garnered 10 Tony awards I am apparently not alone in my judgment.

After that we barely noticed (but we did) the rather distinct plummet the temperature had taken when the snow clouds moved out as we were watching the show; it did speed our walk home.

I’m looking forward to some mother-daughter time together with Q today as the adorable husband takes himself off to a matinee. We are having breakfast together then off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. J and I have a premier to attend this evening so I must get tarted up a bit for that eh?


Monday, 15 February 2010

Sunday in New York

The adorable husband woke yesterday morning with an achy back that I believe is the result of his recent re-entry to the game of golf, lugging about heavy luggage, not getting out of his cramped seat for the entire three hour plus flight, and a night in a strange bed – oh all right I’ll do it! He insist that if I tell you about his stiff back I mention that it is due in part to strenuous fulfilling of his husbandly duties, and that did not involve luggage! Testosterone, you have to love it.

I got him on the floor, this time for yoga. He has long admired the fact that I am very ‘bendy’. I am bendy for a thirty-year old, so that makes it even better, and I give credit to years of yoga. I can’t tolerate standard yoga very well, too slow, makes my teeth itch, so some years ago when Power Yoga was introduced I took right to it. My personal favorite, there are many excellent teachers, is Rodney Yee. I’ve had him about for many years as far back as videotape, and now on DVD. I took J through about twenty minutes of stretches, then put him in a warm bath, wrapped him in his robe and gave him his Starbucks that I had already brought back to the room. After a bit he was feeling quite better and was ready to go. He has agreed to join me from now on in my daily yoga. I highly recommend it. Yee makes a DVD – AM/PM Yoga that is excellent. Just 20 minutes in the morning, and again at night. I can’t say how many ways I think it positively affects the body and mind. Men are not bendy by nature and I think it is especially important for them.

Then we were ready to go walk about in New York. The snow is still lying like icing on the buildings and shrubberies, and melting and forming thin ice puddles on the sidewalks and streets. The cold was just right – we were warm and toasty in our coats and hats, and the wind was chilling our noses.

J needed a hat so that was the first order of business as we had spotted a nice shop not far from the hotel. Barclay-Rex Shop at 570 Lexington Avenue carries the cigar smokers’ paraphernalia along with a high quality selection of men’s chapeaux in the front room, and a cigar smoker’s delight of excellent quality cigars in the back room. While J was trying on his hat I went in just to inhale the aroma and relive some great memories of a well spent youth – brandy and cigars are not just for the gents. Sigh. J found an excellent fit and style and he was set for the day.

We decided to head down 47th and walk to the theatre because aside from the vigor obtained from a brisk walk, New York provides a kaleidoscope of samples for great people watching and it did not disappoint.

Race written and directed by David Mamet is playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. We had the most excellent seats, as theatre is the reason for the NYC trip after all.

Seated just in front of us, and all science fiction fans will recognize her from Star Trek The New Generation –First Contact, was Alfie Woodard who I can tell you is ageing really well. She looks gorgeous and was very gracious.

The play, starring James Spader proved that once again James Spader is always interesting to watch. Also starring Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, and Richard Thomas the play moved through the first two acts like a well written, witty, thought provoking and entertaining piece – all you would want in a good drama. The last act was…puzzling.

The play was about duh – racial prejudice and how the interactions between black and white are affected differently in 2010, but nonetheless still affected. As well it dished out some cutting and right to the bone truth about the difference between justice and law.

A rich white man is accused of raping a young black woman and goes to a law firm that consist of both a black and a white attorney, as well as a young black woman who works as an assistant.

The question of course is never, “Is he innocent or guilty?” but rather, “Can we get him off?” and for the young woman, “Is he getting off because he’s white?”

J thinks it was the writing that did in the third act; I think it was the directing. The play took a steep climb from nice and easy to full bore intense right through to near violent anger. I think the play was meant to end in ambiguity. How else could it end on such a question? But the writer who was also the director decided it needed to be tied up with a neat bow at the end so that people would know what to think instead of questioning – which to me would be the point of the play.

So yes, it was well worth going to see, but yes we had a different vision of how it could have/should have ended.

The other big event was my outrage at the apparently changed rules on Broadway or hopefully, just at the Barrymore? After we sat down, a young man came up the aisle hawking food and drink! Looking so much like nothing as much as one of the chaps running up and down the stands at a baseball game! I DON’T WANT food and drink in the theatre! That’s what the break is for – that’s why the bar has always been in the lobby or downstairs. And as for that – he was selling, wait for it….wine (I can only imagine the quality) in plastic swizzle glasses! Then just as J defined my behavior-

“ I am a... what do you call it, those people who don’t want things to change…?”

“A reactionary.”

“Yes, that’s it. Boy you had that word right at hand!”

“Only because that’s what the boy calls me all the time.”

The play began, the play began – you heard me yes? They continued to seat people! How does that happen? I have never been in a theatre where after the curtain goes up that people are seated. And not just one or two but many – in front of us, to the side, and in back of us. I was gob smacked. I’m sorry but reactionary I am, because that’s just wrong. And that’s my word on it.

Walking back to Pescatore we spotted (we are always so lucky at finding little gems of places) a bar that looked very inviting for a pre-dinner drink, The Emery at 125 East 50th and Lexington. There we found the adorable husband’s perfect martini – desert dry and chilled to frosty. I think the secret is to have me order, that seem to be the key. They also serve great little appetizers that we decided would be grand for pre-theatre snacks.

At Pescatore they lived up to the wonderful meal we had there yesterday, as well as continued great service. J had the lamb, after another appetizer serving of the delicious steamed clams, but I was busy with my calamari served with (again) just unbelievably fresh and delicious tomato sauce, and pasta for my entre. We shared a hazelnut chocolate mousse for dessert that was so dark and rich as to be thoroughly wicked – topped with fresh whipped crème – luscious.

We managed a brisk walk back to the hotel as the temperature had dropped into the teens and the wind was whipping up to hold onto your hat speeds.

J has been reading Dark Sun, an excellent telling of the making of the hydrogen bomb; but as a result has had some dreams where is concerned with the containment of radiation and other various issues. Last night he finished the book so we are off to the bookstores today to replenish him. I brought my now much-loved Kindle so my travel library has lightened considerably.

Two other matters to consider – I read a website that is quite grand I think called TED. It is a gathering place to encourage new and innovative ideas by some very smart people. I check in as often as I have time and today there is a listing of “10 Big Ideas” on CNN taken from the site. I thought you would enjoy it.

$60K a year can make you happy
Psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman says millions of dollars won't buy you happiness, but a job that pays $60,000 a year might help.
Happiness levels increase up to the $60K mark, but "above that it's a flat line," he said.
"Money does not buy you experiential happiness but lack of money certainly buys you misery," he said. But the real trick, Kahneman said, is to spend time with people you like.
Save the world through games
Jane McGonigal, a game designer, says playing online video games gives people "superpowers" that help them improve the real world.
We currently spend a collective 3 billion hours a week playing online games, she said, but we need to spend seven times that much time doing so to make sure we're up to real-world challenges.
"My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games," she said. To do so, she develops social games that merge the real-world challenges with online gaming.
Anonymity promotes honesty
Christopher "Moot" Poole runs one of the seedier corners of the Internet. His site, called 4chan, is known as a den of porn, hacking and anonymous rants.
But Poole, a 22-year-old college student, says 4chan also protects its users privacy and promotes honest discourse. Without names in the way, people can focus on ideas, he said.
"It's anonymous and it has no memory. There's no archive. There are no barriers. There is no registration," he said of the site. "That's led to this discussion that's completely raw, completely unfiltered."
We can end slavery
Kevin Bales, founder of a group called Free the Slaves, said he was surprised to learn slavery still existed when he read a pamphlet saying just that.
Now he's on a crusade to end modern slavery, which he says is every bit as bad as the type of slavery that preceded the U.S. Civil War. Some 27 million people are enslaved today; and a person in some parts of India can be sold into slavery for about $5, he said.
But awareness and action could abolish slavery for good in 25 years, he says.
Moral ideas are right or wrong, not both
Writer Sam Harris -- who is perhaps best known as a stern critic of organized religion -- says we use science to prove or disprove hypotheses, and we should similarly use evidence to say some activities are moral and others are not.
"Why does every opinion have to count? Why does every culture have a point of view worth considering? Does the Taliban have a point of view on physics worth considering: No."
'What we eat is really our chemotherapy three times a day'
William Li, president and medical director of The Angiogenesis Foundation, which focuses on the connection between blood vessel growth and aggressive cancers. There are 11 FDA-approved drugs that inhibit growth of blood vessels that sustain cancers, but Li pointed out that there are a number of foods and beverages that could offer substances that accomplish the same thing -- and could help prevent cancer.
"Men who consume two to three servings of cooked tomatoes per week have a 40 to 50 percent reduction in risk for prostate cancer," he said.
Red grapes, strawberries, soybeans, dark chocolate, oranges, and green tea are among the foods with the ability to prevent blood vessel growth.
The ukulele can stop war
Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro says his traditional, Hawaiian instrument, which he learned to play at age 4, can make the world a less violent place.
"I've always believed it's the instrument of peace," he said, "because if everyone played the ukulele, this would be a much more peaceful place."
Shimabukuro says people can't help but smile when they hear the two-octave, stringed instrument. He likened its tone to the sound of children laughing.
$28 billion mostly wasted on placebos
Holding up bottles of herbal supplements, writer Michael Specter spoke out against what he sees as a growing rejection of science. He says it's resulted in parents refusing to vaccinate their children due to an unfounded connection to autism and people shunning genetically modified foods that have the potential of helping the world fight increasing hunger.
The herbs, he said accomplish one thing: "They darken your urine. You want to pay $28 billion for dark urine? That's OK."
'Stop politicians doing stupid things that spread HIV'
Elizabeth Pisani, epidemiologist who has studied drug abusers and sex workers who are involved in the spread of HIV-AIDS, said nations that have followed former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's example by creating programs to provide sterile needles to drug abusers are much more successful in curbing the spread of the disease.
Nations such as the United States that have resisted such programs have seen higher spread of the disease among drug users who share needles.
Every eight days, the toll of a Haiti quake
Esther Duflo, a professor in MIT's economics department, said, that every day, 25,000 children die of preventable causes, adding up every eight days to the approximate death toll of the Haiti earthquake. Though $2 billion has been pledged for the Haiti earthquake, Duflo asks why we don't make the same level of commitment to prevent the daily death toll of children.
Amid the conference's many ideas, one thing is clear -- the joy speakers experienced in having a receptive audience to share their deepest thoughts and feelings.
David Cameron noted that politics has been called "show business for ugly people." TED2010, in some ways, is summer camp for brainy ones.”

My other thought is that Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, is as useful as a headache. Argh.

Ciao, have a great day.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Dogs, airplanes, ministers, and food

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I hope you all have someone to hug and if you don’t I suggest you find someone (I include cats and dogs in that category).

We arrived in New York City late yesterday afternoon after what proved to be a not-so-terrible flight from Houston (which is about the best flight one can have these days of sardine packed flights with no leg room and food that I would not feed above said dogs or cats). It proved quite an interesting beginning with the “hearing dog” at our gate before we boarded. He was drawing a good bit of interest as he was a very large dog and not in a container. He was allowed on the airplane with his owner and had his own first class seat. I must confess that I envied him the legroom. I tried to find a photograph for you but I am unsure of his breading other than he is some mixture of large poodle and some other breed with short ears. He was very well behaved; we didn’t hear a bark from him the entire flight.

Our airplane was one of the smaller ones that flies cross-country and was seated three to each side of the aisle. As the adorable husband is a “window seat” kind of chap, I made the sacrifice and took the middle seat; this is only possible because he lets me drape myself all over him and he helps to entertain me during longer flights. All 5'10" of me becomes very antsy after the flight time passes three hours. I become very grateful for my IPod as it helps me escape to somewhere else during the flight. I used to be able to do that with a good book but flights now are so uncomfortable that the music works better for me.

Seated next to me was a well dressed chap who was obviously on some sort of trek with three of his likewise well dressed mates sitting nearby. As he spoke to the surprisingly cheery (I’ve come to expect them to be pissy or angry) flight attendant, I immediately picked up the English accent (Essex as it turns out). He was a tremendously good sport about my climbing over him several times to make my way to the bathroom. A bit of conversation revealed that he and his fellow travelers were ministers going to Brooklyn for a week long seminar and help “getting further along our spiritual path”. A lovely sentiment and a worthy goal for us all I thought. He has been in America for the past thirty years or so but we had a nice time reminiscing about London (where we have both lived at one time), comparing neighborhoods, and laughing about common adventures in Scotland and the misnomer that the Scots are inhospitable. As it turns out we are both in agreement that Houston is the home of the worst and most unpleasant weather on the planet, but filled with lovely people.

My adorable husband joined in toward the end of the conversation and when the nice minister asked, “What will you be doing in New York?” J. had not been able to hear much of our previous conversation over the ambient noise level of the airplane and replied,

“We will be eating, drinking, and fornicating.”

I quickly added, “We are married.” And J. gave me a funny look, as if to say, ‘When did you become so prudish?’

Later as we were retrieving our baggage I mentioned something about the “ministers” and J. said, “He was a preacher?!”

“Why yes dear.”

“Oh that’s why you said the bit about our being married? I wondered why you said that. He was a minister?! Oh I can’t believe I told a preacher I would be ‘fornicating’!”

He was so embarrassed. I reassured him that the chap appeared to take no offense and had appeared to me much like many of the Church of England ministers I had known while living in London; they are all very laid back and tolerant of transgressions to the point of being almost lax in their view of (da da de da – heavy organ music) sin.

J continued to shake his head over his faux pas and I continued to giggle.

We arrived at the Waldorf and once again I am amazed at the American version of a “mini suite”. In Europe that would mean that your room would have a chair and you would be able to fit more than one person comfortably in the bed. In America it means a huge room with tables, a couch, a desk with internet connection, a mini kitchen with refrigerator and microwave oven, a massive television, two big closets, a dressing room as well as a bath complete (unusual for America) a bidet. The Waldorf is a rather old hotel but she wears her years well and so far the service has been quite good.

We made our way down to the bar thinking we might eat in the hotel rather than venture out into the cold as we were both a bit done in by the long day. Sir Harry’s Bar was a disappointment as J’s martini was not the frigid temperature he prefers and it was far from the desert dry he requested -more like a soggy biscuit really. My Kir Royal was quite good but the service in the bar was well below par.

We took a look at the casual restaurant in the lobby but were put off by the extremely limited menu, and we didn’t feel up to the posh and dressy Bull & Bear Steakhouse also in the hotel, so we buttoned up and headed out.

Just a couple of blocks away we found a nice little store for stocking up on water and snacks for our little kitchen , and ask about local good restaurants. Thank you Mr. man-at –the-checkout!

Pescatore Restaurant at 955 2nd Avenue was brilliant. Superb service and our timing was right on the money as the place filled up just after we were seated. J had steamed clams that were melt in the mouth delicious, served in a broth that was ambrosia when dipped with the bread. For the entrée I had the yellow tail tuna in a tomato sauce that was so fresh I could taste the vine. J had a pasta dish, a Rigatoni Pomodoro with Italian sausage that was perfectly al dente and he said “just really good”.

We were so impressed that we made reservations for today after the play for our Valentine’s Day celebration.

We are attending the matinee of Race, written by David Mamet and starring James Spader this afternoon. Review forthcoming…

I began my day at 0600hrs by making my way down to the first floor of the hotel where tucked over in the corner is a Starbucks – ah yes the stars align. I’ve been up telling you about the beginning of our trip while J had a sleep in but he woke about eight and presented me with one of those lovely turquoise boxes with white satin ribbon!

Have a lovely day. Ciao.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Hearts. Snow, and Politics

Chilly enough for you? America is all covered in snow! Stem to stern it’s all chilly here. EXCEPT of course, Houston where it is rainy and at least not-hot. But WE are off to New York City on the morrow where there is loads of snow, and I read chilly breezes are there to be had.

A week of theatre (yes I will write reviews for you), great restaurants, long walks, museums, and loads of romance loom on my horizon. We have a suite at the Waldorf which is always lovely and puts us in good position for finding that morning cafe'. Actually the husband got an early start on the romance part when he arrived home this morning. Ah humm… Isn’t life grand? Yes it is!

Q is coming up from Philadelphia to be our incredibly well informed guide (this is HER period of French history and language) to the Cloisters. She and I will have some nice mother-daughter time over lunch and some shopping I expect.

Go out now and on Valentines Day and hug someone or something – dogs and cats do very well for affection if a human is not handy. It is proven that loving will make you live longer and enjoy it more. So I wish for all of you some love in your life today and the next day and the next…

On the other side - I am incensed to pick up the New York Times this morning and find a photograph of Roman Polanski on the front with an article touting his new film. The man confessed to being a pedophile in 1977 (heinous acts with a 13-year old girl), then left the country to (and this one is “alleged”) abuse another young girl (Natassja Kinski). I don’t think his past, nor his tragedies, nor his talent give him a free pass on this one. How can we as an ethical society ignore his abuse of children in favor of his “talent”? I don’t get it. I’m offended by it.

And on the political front the scary Board of Education of Texas and their wide ranging influence on the textbooks that end up in most of the schools of America. This is a ten page article and well worth reading especially if you are unaware of the influence of this small group of people. I have culled some excerpts for you below, but if you have time I encourage you to read the entire article. It give the phrase “all politics is local” new power…

Texas“…what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines,…”
“the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming.”
The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands.
This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper.
The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State.
The cultural roots of the Texas showdown may be said to date to the late 1980s, when, in the wake of his failed presidential effort, the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition partly on the logic that conservative Christians should focus their energies at the grass-roots level. One strategy was to put candidates forward for state and local school-board elections — Robertson’s protégé, Ralph Reed, once said, “I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members” — and Texas was a beachhead.
Since the election of two Christian conservatives in 2006, there are now seven on the Texas state board who are quite open about the fact that they vote in concert to advance a Christian agenda.
But it isn’t merely the case that their Christian orientation shapes their opinions on gay marriage, abortion and government spending. More elementally, they hold that the United States was founded by devout Christians and according to biblical precepts. This belief provides what they consider not only a theological but also, ultimately, a judicial grounding to their positions on social questions.

As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”
Don McLeroy, “I’m a dentist, not a historian,” he said.…his Christian perspective both governs his work on the state board and guides him in the current effort to adjust American-history textbooks to highlight the role of Christianity.
This” — the Texas board’s moves to bring Jesus into American history — has drawn anger in places far removed from the board members’ constituencies.
“Texas was and still is the most important and most influential state in the country.” And James Kracht, a professor at Texas A&M’s college of education and a longtime player in the state’s textbook process, told me flatly, “Texas governs 46 or 47 states.”

That means what they say goes in the textbooks are the textbooks that are passed out all over the country, not just in Texas.

“The fallout from that fight cost McLeroy his position as chairman. “It’s the 21st century, and the rest of the known world accepts the teaching of evolution as science and creationism as religion, yet we continue to have this debate here,” Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group, says.

...says Gail Lowe, who became chairwoman of the board after McLeroy was ousted and who is one of the seven conservative Christians, 'As we try to promote a better understanding of the Constitution, federalism, the separation of the branches of government, the basic rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, I think it will become evident to students that the founders had a religious motivation.”

When it was presented to them by historians,Gail Lowe and the other conservative members ignored the fact that Thomas Jefferson said it was not the place of the president to involve himself in religion, and he expressed his belief that the First Amendment’s clauses — that the government must not establish a state religion (the so-called establishment clause) but also that it must ensure the free exercise of religion (what became known as the free-exercise clause) — meant, as far as he was concerned, that there was “a wall of separation between Church & State.

“As Frances FitzGerald showed in her groundbreaking 1979 book “America Revised,” if there is one thing to be said about American-history textbooks through the ages it is that the narrative of the past is consistently reshaped by present-day forces.
Merely weaving important religious trends and events into the narrative of American history is not what the Christian bloc on the Texas board has pushed for in revising its guidelines. Many of the points that have been incorporated into the guidelines or that have been advanced by board members and their expert advisers slant toward portraying America as having a divinely preordained mission.
The idea that the Bible and Mosaic law provided foundations for American law has taken root in Christian teaching about American history. So when Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., testified at the board meeting last month in opposition to the board’s approach to bringing religion into history, warning that the Supreme Court has forbidden public schools from “seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through the curriculum,” and in the process said that the founders “did not draw on Mosaic law, as is mentioned in the standards,” several of the board members seemed dumbstruck. Don McLeroy insisted it was a legitimate claim, since the Enlightenment took place in Europe, in a Christian context. Green countered that the Enlightenment had in fact developed in opposition to reliance on biblical law and said he had done a lengthy study in search of American court cases that referenced Mosaic law. “The record is basically bereft,” he said. Nevertheless, biblical law and Moses remain in the TEKS.
Marshall recommended that textbooks present America’s founding and history in terms of motivational stories on themes like the Pilgrims’ zeal to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the natives.
To conservative Christians, there is no separation of church and state, and there never was. The concept, they say, is a modern secular fiction. There is no legal justification, therefore, for disallowing crucifixes in government buildings or school prayer.
“The founders deliberately left the word ‘God’ out of the Constitution — but not because they were a bunch of atheists and deists,” says Susan Jacoby, author of “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.” “To them, mixing religion and government meant trouble.” The curious thing is that in trying to bring God into the Constitution, the activists — who say their goal is to follow the original intent of the founders — are ignoring the fact that the founders explicitly avoided religious language in that document.
The board has the power to accept, reject or rewrite the TEKS, and over the past few years, in language arts, science and now social studies, the members have done all of the above. Yet few of these elected overseers are trained in the fields they are reviewing. “In general, the board members don’t know anything at all about content,” Tom Barber, the textbook executive, says. Kathy Miller, the watchdog, who has been monitoring the board for 15 years, says, referring to Don McLeroy and another board member: “It is the most crazy-making thing to sit there and watch a dentist and an insurance salesman rewrite curriculum standards in science and history. Last year, Don McLeroy believed he was smarter than the National Academy of Sciences, and he now believes he’s smarter than professors of American history.”
“The process of reviewing the guidelines in Texas is very open, but what happens behind the scenes after that is quite different,” Barber says. “McLeroy is kind of the spokesman for the social conservatives, and publishers will work with him throughout. The publishers just want to make sure they get their books listed.”
“I met with all the publishers,” McLeroy said. “We went out for Mexican food. I told them this is what we want. We want stories with morals, not P.C. stories.” He then showed me an e-mail message from an executive at Pearson, a major educational publisher, indicating the results of his effort: “Hi Don. Thanks for the impact that you have had on the development of Pearson’s Scott Foresman Reading Street series. Attached is a list of some of the Fairy Tales and Fables that we included in the series.”
Anyone looking for signs of where the Republican Party is headed might scan the results of the Texas school-board District 9 Republican primary on the morning of March 3. If Don McLeroy loses, it could signal that the Christian right’s recent power surge has begun to wane. But it probably won’t affect the next generation of schoolbooks. The current board remains in place until next January. By then, decisions on what goes in the Texas curriculum guidelines will be history.”

I find this all fascinating and something that we as concerned citizens ignore at our peril.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

My Shout

We humans turn our faces away when the sight is too horrible to comprehend. When tragedy is so heinous that our brains cannot decipher the event, it is as if it doesn’t exist.

I believe that is what is happening now with the world and the ongoing situation in the Congo. The world we live in is too flat, too small, communication too accessible and available, a world where travel to geographically distant sites is for us too fast for us to even contemplate that weak excuse that was heard when six million Jews were exterminated: ‘I didn’t know.’

“…the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.”

I can’t even imagine those figures as real lives, as individuals. It’s so overwhelming in its horror and sheer numbers of the dead that my brain can’t envision it as real, but what may be even more difficult for us, in our protected lives to envision, is the rape, torture, and mutilation that is daily fare in this ravaged country.

This article in the New York Times Sunday edition gives details of one young woman’s heart-rending journey and struggle to survive. I have a daughter not much older than Jeanne Mukuninwa and I shudder to think of her being born into such circumstances.

What can we do? It’s not our country. I have no political power that would make a difference. It’s not our responsibility. Africa has always been a violent mess. I’m not a famous person who can command public attention, we say.

We can bear witness. We can put fingers to keyboard and blog our outrage. We can tell our friends. If enough of us shout out our dismay, our horror, our objection to a continuing war that is killing our fellow human beings on such a scale and causing lives to be mutilated beyond endurance, we will be heard by those to whom we have given power.

If our governments can bring sanctions to bear in North Korea and Iran out of fear that they may strike us with nuclear weapons, why can’t we bring that same international pressure to bear on a part of the world that is committing appalling atrocities daily?

“ ‘Sometimes I don’t know what I am doing here,” Dr. Mukwege said despairingly. “There is no medical solution.” The paramount need, he says, is not for more humanitarian aid for Congo, but for a much more vigorous international effort to end the war itself.”

“That means putting pressure on neighboring Rwanda, a country so widely admired for its good governance at home that it tends to get a pass for its possible role in war crimes next door. We also need pressure on the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, to arrest Gen. Jean Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. And, as recommended by an advocacy organization called the Enough Project, we need a U.S.-brokered effort to monitor the minerals trade from Congo so that warlords can no longer buy guns by exporting gold, tin or coltan.”

This is my shout. Please read it and pass it on. Do some shouting of your own. When will we (in the West), we (with money, military might, and international cache), we (who say we are moral, ethical, compassionate beings) – when will we act? How many more young women will suffer a fate similar to or worse than Jeanne Mukuninwa?

I lived in Northern Africa for over two years and I can tell you that their eyes are as firmly averted as are ours. The Butterfly Effect of Chaos theory tells us the simple truth that what happens in Congo effects what happens to us in America, in Britain, in France, everywhere on Earth. Spiritual awareness tells us that what happens to anyone’s daughter could happen to my daughter. Personal responsibility tells us that we are accountable for slaughter and torture that occurs next door, next country, or next continent.

“In chaos theory, "The Butterfly Effect" refers to the discovery that in a chaotic system such as the global weather, tiny perturbations in the system may sometimes lead to major changes in the overall system. It is theoretically possible that a slight rise in temperature in the ocean off the cost of Peru will create tiny changes in the air flow that would eventually lead to different weather in North America and Europe. In most cases the slight change would make no difference whatsoever, but when the system is unpredictable at a certain stage, the future may unfold quite differently, depending upon what little difference occurred.
Chaos theory is reminiscent of Gestalt theory; a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

There is a Korean proverb, Taggeulmoa taesan (티끌모아 태산). “Gather dust to build a mountain.” Every mountain begins as a mote of dust. Let’s start shoveling shall we?

Monday, 8 February 2010

thought provoking

My daughter sent me the link to this post. It is well worth your time to read - that would be both sexes.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Speed Bump

For those of you who have been reading this blog the past two years, you know I am a geek. A geek who loves particle physics and all the mathematical possibilities and potential for insanity that includes.

I have been waiting 15 years with baited breathe (really, like Posh at Paris fashion week) for the new Large Hadron Collider at CERN to go online and start kicking some quark ass. But alas the project has been plagued with stops and starts, rumors and breakdowns. First there were the scaredy cats who said, “Oh no! You will create black holes that will encompass the earth.” In other words, ‘eat us alive!’ Ooooh – so not likely. Then the sci-fi buffs (yes, like me) who said, ‘Oooooh it will create wormholes to be a gateway for time travelers’. Also unlikely.

It took 15 years to build and cost $9 – 10 billion, but worthwhile endeavors surely as we are looking for a more succinct understanding of our universe and thereby more clearly understand our own existence. The problems began as early as 2007 when the housing around one magnet exploded during a pressure test, this cause the removal and redesign of nine 80-foot magnet assemblies.

When they first cranked it up 10 September 2008 it was more a whimper than a bang. Sigh.

A faulty connection between two magnets triggered a meltdown, which delayed the world’s biggest science experiment by two months – or so we thought at the time. However… the collider was forced to shut down for another year in order to carry out repairs. It has been in a winter shutdown since December for more problems with the magnets.

The plans now are to crank the Collider up to half power later this month and run experiments for the next two years, and then shut it down (again) for repairs in 2012, with plans to crank her up again in 2013. Ooof. “Testing revealed that the collider is riddled with thousands of defective electrical joints and dozens of underperforming magnets that will keep it from reaching its full potential until an overhaul scheduled for 2011.” (New York Times)

What it will hopefully do is show us, even at half power, some nice quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that existed just after the Big Bang.

“That future [of the experiments], physicists say, includes not only the sheen of announcing exotic particles and strange dimensions, but also the ancillary rewards of increased technological competence and innovation that spring from the pursuit of esoteric knowledge.” (New York Times) One of the collider’s main targets is the Higgs boson, a particle that is thought to imbue other particles with mass and has even been theorized to be “the God particle” – in other words a Rosetta Stone of particle physics.

Meanwhile I will, like the scientists at CERN, take what I can get at half power the next two years and hope for more revelations after the overhaul in 2012.

And two shameless pleas for support: please go over to Power Room Graffiti and read my latest article, and click on the widget to the right to vote for Best Moroccan Blog. Thank you.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

New article

I have a new article,over on Powder Room Graffiti. Please go by and give it a read. You all gave me such grand support on the last three articles, I really appreciate it. Thank you. You can still find it here.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

“Hey that’s MY religion Buddy!”

Recently during the Tiger Woods brouhaha, one of the Fox Network commentators, Brit Hume, made the case that if only Mr. Woods would give up his interest in Buddhism, which in his words: “The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," said Hume. "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of redemption and forgiveness offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger is, 'Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
- all would be well. If only he would take up what I can only assume is Mr. Hume’s choice of a spiritual path, his life would take on a new and lasting sheen of goodness and serenity.

Now I take this all rather personally since I am, and have been for all my spiritual life – a Buddhist. We are the most non-proselytizing of religions and therefore I am not looking for converts here but rather I feel a need to defend the spiritual Path that not only works for me but for millions of others as well.

I have studied Christianity, along with many of the world’s religions, unlike I fear many who claim knowledge without study; and I find it to be as sure a spiritual Path as any. As His Holiness the Dalia Lama has said on many occasions, there is no need to convert to Buddhism to find your way to Enlightenment – you can be the best Christian, the best Jew, the best Jain – whatever spiritual Path works for you; for unlike Mr. Hume, we Buddhists, allow that there is more than one Path.

Now I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Woods' problems and quite frankly I don’t want to know but I do know that choosing a spiritual Path is a deeply personal experience. I’m glad that Christianity works for Mr. Hume but quite frankly I think he might want to look into “tolerance” and see what his scripture has to say about that. As for Mr. Woods, I think he is best suited to pick his religious preference.

The following links give some other views and a more detailed clip of Mr. Hume’s statements.

Buddhist blog:

US News:

full clip: