Tuesday, August 26, 2014

So, now that I'm back in the states, I thought I might mention to the world that I've been in Lebanon for the last week.  A co-worker was marrying a local girl, and they were having a ceremony outside of Sidon at the Saida Country Club.  Lebanese weddings are spectacular.   This particular display during the cake-cutting (with a sword, can't believe they let Jeremy have live steel) caught the grass on fire.   But only a little bit.

I have a bunch of photos, but I think I'll be working on organizing them over the next week or so.  I visited Beirut, Byblos, the back country of Sidon, and briefly, a little hill-town between Batroun and Tripoli called Hamat that my Uncle Ron's family comes from.

Good to be back, folks.  Travel is interesting, but draining.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How small those mountains looked from space! Little wrinkles on the skin of a globe he could cover with his hand, all their crushing mass made invisible. Which was illusory, distance or nearness? Distance, Miles decided. Distance was a damned lie.

- "Mountains of Mourning", Lois McMaster Bujold

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire 
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

- T.S. Elliot, "East Coker", Four Quartets

Thursday, November 28, 2013

As under cover of departing Day
Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazan away,
Once more within the Potter's house alone
I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.

Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor and by the wall;
And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Listen'd perhaps, but never talk'd at all.

Said one among them--"Surely not in vain
My substance of the common Earth was ta'en
And to this Figure moulded, to be broke,
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again."

Then said a Second--"Ne'er a peevish Boy
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy,
And He that with his hand the Vessel made
Will surely not in after Wrath destroy."

After a momentary silence spake
Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"

Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot--
I think a Sufi pipkin-waxing hot--
"All this of Pot and Potter--Tell me then,
Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"

"Why," said another, "Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Pots he marr'd in making--Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

"Well," Murmur'd one, "Let whoso make or buy,
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry:
But fill me with the old familiar juice,
Methinks I might recover by and by."

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
The little Moon look'd in that all were seeking:
And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother!
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"

 - stanzas 82 through 90 of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated(?) by Edward Fitzgerald, Third Edition

Friday, October 18, 2013

Say not the struggle naught availeth, 
  The labour and the wounds are vain, 
The enemy faints not, nor faileth, 
  And as things have been they remain. 
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; 
  It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd, 
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, 
  And, but for you, possess the field. 
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, 
  Seem here no painful inch to gain, 
Far back, through creeks and inlets making, 
  Comes silent, flooding in, the main. 
And not by eastern windows only, 
  When daylight comes, comes in the light; 
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly! 
  But westward, look, the land is bright! 

"Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth", Arthur Hugh Clough
Oh yesterday the cutting edge drank thirstily and deep,
The upland outlaws ringed us in and herded us as sheep,
They drove us from the stricken field and bayed us into keep;
But tomorrow
By the living God, we'll try the game again!

Oh yesterday our little troop was ridden through and through,
Our swaying, tattered pennons fled a broken, beaten few,
And all a summer afternoon, they hunted us and slew;
But tomorrow
By the living God, we'll try the game again!

And here upon the turret-top the bale-fires glower red,
The wake-lights burn and drip about our hacked, disfigured dead,
And many a broken heart is here and many a broken head;
But tomorrow
By the living God, we'll try the game again!

 "To-Morrow" by John Masefield

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Things you thought you knew, that just weren't so: British use of mustard gas in the Iraq Revolt of 1920.  I had read about this ten-fifteen years ago, and just assumed it was substantiated.  After all, mustard gas was part of all major armies' inventory right through World War II - an Allied supply stock of the stuff in Bari during the Italian campaign was smashed open in a German air strike and the cloud killed hundreds.  And the British were pretty open about their legal opinion that the Geneva Accords only applied to "civilized" opponents, and had just spent four years gassing and being gassed by the nominally civilized Germans.  They had even used chemical weapons in Palestine a few years previously.  And both the Spanish and the Italians used chemical weapons against North Africans and Ethiopians between the wars, so it's not as if this was unthinkable at the time... just maybe not actually true.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Well, the live trap caught an adult cat overnight.  Unfortunately, it isn't the mother, who is much smaller and still has a red collar from whatever irresponsible jackass didn't bother to spay their pet & then abandoned her to the wild.  My co-worker Brian H is overwhelmed, he doesn't know *what* to do with this cat.  It's too burly to be somebody's indoors cat, doesn't have a collar, and is surprisingly well-fed for a wildling.  Based on the coloring and so forth, it has to be related to the kittens and momma cat - it may be the father.  Hard to tell without propping the live trap up on a shelf and checking its junk, I guess.  It does *not* like being in a trap, it was frothing slightly, and had torn its claws fighting with the trap, enough to be bleeding at the paws.

We may have to go to the animal rescue people at this point.  We've also ran out of adoption slots for the kittens, everyone who can take one right now is full up.