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1) Pictures from the Net, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
A Mayan priestess prays during a ceremony marking the Mayan solar new year in Guatemala City. According to the Mayan Language Academy, the new year is called Kab’ Lajuj’ E’, or 12th Road. (Christian Science Monitor)
People sit along Havana’s seafront boulevard “El Malecon” during sunset (Christian Science Monitor)
Baraka, Democratic Republic of Congo: A woman waits outside a mobile military tribunal before the sentencing of 11 soldiers accused of rape and crimes against humanity (Guardian)
Sringagar, India Kashmiri fisherman on waters of Dal Lake (LA Times)
2) I have never played “Angry Birds”. If you have this is the perfect birthday cake. Even if you haven’t it is still a great, fun, addtion to any birthday celebration.
3) My friend Mandy asked a great question on her blog “I am …..” http://tinyurl.com/4evk4de
My answer to the question:
“I am a free man bound by the human spirit locked away in my DNA, and the chains of social law that make me civilized.
I open my mind to the great beauty in all living things, and lock my heart with the fear of being rejected by love.
I am human with all the imperfections of my species, and the amazing human gift of imagination that keeps us working to make a better world for our children.”
Mandy made an awesome video out of the answers. If an alien from space came to earth and asked, “What does it mean to be human?” the answer is in this video
How would answer that vistor from space?
Purely for you entertainment and edification. If you wish to, post a question you would like me to answer.
1) LA Times slide show, This Week in Pictures – http://tinyurl.com/6ztns9v
a. A four-month-old Luwak civet is tempted by some red coffee beans at the BAS Coffee plantation in Tapaksiring. Kopi luwak, the world’s most expensive and lowest-production coffee, is made from the beans after they have been eaten and passed through the digestive tract of the animal.
Kopi Luwak coffee cost around $300. This is what is looks like when harvested, sorta kinda looks like….nough said.
b. At the other extreme we have mud cakes some Haitians have to dine on.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti — A woman rests next to a pot of dried mud cookies. The cookies are made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening and are one of very few options the poorest Haitians have to stave off hunger.
c. My new hero is Cyril Wood. At 87 he was oldest competitor at the United Kingdom’s Cold Water Swimming Championship. Okay he is a tad crazy but I see that as a positive. Here he takes a towel after taking part in the male heads-up breaststroke. Check out those trunks. :)
2) Comedian Miranda Hart won the British People Comic awards for people’s choice vote, best actress and best new comedy. The following video shows why.
Warning – It does have some naughty bits, well it is British, but no nudity, thank god.
1) Pictures from a Guardian slide show of the 32nd Dakar Rally, a 5,976-mile off-road marathon stretching across Argentina and Chile,
Fans sit on a dune to watch the ninth stage in Copiapo, Chile.
Wonder how much these guys paid for their seats?
The BMW driver Guerlain Chicherit and his co-driver Michel Perin, from France, race their car in the sixth stage between Iquique and Arica in Chile.
Mitsubishi’s driver Guilherme Spinelli and his co-driver Youssef Haddad, both from Brazil, compete during the fourth stage between Jujuy, Argentina, and Calama, Chile.
KTM MRW Rally Factory’s Juan Pedrero Garcia rides through barren terrain between Iquique and Arica in Chile.
2) In 1944 Dr. Martin Luther King traveled to my home state to work at a tobacco field in Simsbury, Connecticut. The experience influence his decision to become a minister and heighten his resentment of segregation. The news story about that trip, linked to below, also gives us a window into the America I was born into, where in most places skin color dictated your place in society.
Can you remember any experiences from your youth that shaped your life?
From a Comcast news story – http://tinyurl.com/6kpwahz
“On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see,” he wrote his father in June 1944. “After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all. The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit any where we want to.”
Until then, King was thinking of other professions such as becoming a lawyer, Conard-Malley said. But after his fellow Morehouse College students at the tobacco farm elected him their religious leader, he decided to become a minister.
In his later application to Crozer Theological Seminary King wrote that he made the decision that summer “when I felt an inescapable urge to serve society. In short, I felt a sense of responsibility which I could not escape.”
In a letter to his mother three days after he wrote his father, King marveled over a trip he took to Hartford.
“I never thought that a person of my race could eat anywhere but we ate in one of the finest restaurants in Hartford,” King wrote. “And we went to the largest shows there.”
He wrote a week earlier of going to the same church in Simsbury as white people. His new calling as a religious leader was emerging, too.
“I have to speak on some text every Sunday to 107 boys. We really have good meetings,” he wrote.
King was nicknamed “Tweed” by his friends because he often wore a tweed suit to church, said Alexis Kellam, whose late father, Ennis Proctor, worked with King that summer in Connecticut.
In her book “Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith,” Farris wrote that her brother underwent a “metamorphosis” as a result of his time in Connecticut.
1) Weekend Pictures From The Web
Manila, Philippines: Thousands of Catholic devotees join a procession during the 404th Feast of the Black Nazarene
Myitkyina, Burma: Ethnic Kachin people dance during the Manaw festival to celebrate the new year
Puerto Principe, Haiti: People wait for food supplies at the Ministry of Women
2) Science Video
The video was made by the Riken Omics Science Center. This anime shows how molecular machines transcribe the genes in the DNA of every cell into portable RNA messages, how those messenger RNA are modified and exported from the nucleus, and finally how the RNA code is read to build proteins.
3) Diet Sense and Nonsense.
You have heard the expression “from the mouths of babes”, here is some nonesense about health from “the mouths of celebrities”
From the Sense About Science web site – http://tinyurl.com/34ff523
“This year, we have seen the biggest rise in dubious theories about how the body works, such as singer and actress Olivia Newton-John, saying that she takes digestive enzymes and plant tonics to boost her immune system. Other unusual ideas about boosting our bodily functions have prompted strange diets, from Naomi Campbell’s maple syrup, lemon and pepper regime to Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding sprinkling charcoal over her meals.”
“In sport and fitness, cage fighter Alex Reid shared his tips for preparing for a fight (he ‘reabsorbs’ his sperm). David Beckham and Kate Middleton have been spotted wearing a hologram-embedded silicone bracelet which claims to improve energy and fitness. And Cheryl Cole reputedly extolled a weight loss regime based on her blood group.”
# Nothing is chemical free: everything is made of chemicals, it’s just a case of which ones.
# Detox is a marketing myth: our body does it without pricey potions and detox diets.
# Energy and fitness come from, surprise, food and exercise: there are no shortcuts.
Have you ever gone on a diet to either lose weight, or improve your health?
Losing weight can be hard, but it’s simple. You must burn up more calories than you consume. It does make any difference what you eat as long as your total calories go down. Of course a healthy meal plan is a different question.
The much publicied “Twinkie Diet” that nutrition professor Mark Haub went on for 10 weeks.
When I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic I didn’t a choice. Change my diet or die, how’s that for motivation. I was lucky that I was diagnosed early enough so that I didn’t have to make too radical a change. I did have to pay close attention to my carb intake, more than calories. I started with 75 total carbs a day, but I can maintain a healthy blood sugar level at 125 carbs. Once a week I reward myself and eat pretty much whatever I want.
The best advice I will give to anyone is consult a nutritionist to help you develop a meal plan that will work for you. Most importantly what ever your meal plan is you much enjoy what you eat, or it is not very likely you will keep to it.
1) Picture post – Landscapes
A Pakistani observes the view from a dome-shaped terrace at a park in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Mount Merapi spews volcanic smoke. After a deadly week of activity, Indonesia’s most volatile volcano unleashed its most powerful eruption Monday, spewing searing clouds of gas and debris thousands of feet into the air. There were no immediate reports of new casualties.
A farmer works with his horses in a field in front of the Gantrisch mountain in Niedermuhlern, near Bern, Switzerland.
A person photographs a round rainbow seen around the sun in Johannesburg, South Africa. The rare phenomenon only appears on occasions when the sun is seen through a fine layer of moisture between the earth and the sun.
No one can look at a rainbow and not smile. What was the last thing you saw that brought a rainbow smile to your face?
2) “Waste Not, Want Not” – a saying from 1700’s that is even more true today.
We don’t really need the information contained in the following New York Times article to know how wasteful we have become. Just look in any garbage dumpster.
What do you think we can do to change our wasteful ways?
From the article by Tara Parker-Pope:
“How much food does your family waste?
A lot, if you are typical. By most estimates, a quarter to half of all food produced in the United States goes uneaten — left in fields, spoiled in transport, thrown out at the grocery store, scraped into the garbage or forgotten until it spoils.
A study in Tompkins County, NY, showed that 40 percent of food waste occurred in the home. Another study, by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, found that 93 percent of respondents acknowledged buying foods they never used.
And worries about food safety prompt many of us to throw away perfectly good food. In a study at Oregon State Univeresity, consumers were shown three samples of iceberg lettuce, two of them with varying degrees of light brown on the edges and at the base. Although all three were edible, and the brown edges easily cut away, 40 percent of respondents said they would serve only the pristine lettuce.
In his new book “American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half It’s Food” (Da Capo Press), Jonathan Bloom makes the case that curbing food waste isn’t just about cleaning your plate.
“The bad news is that we’re extremely wasteful,” Mr. Bloom said in an interview. “The positive side of it is that we have a real role to play here, and we can effect change. If we all reduce food waste in our homes, we’ll have a significant impact.”
Why should we care about food waste? For starters, it’s expensive. Citing various studies, including one at the University of Arizonia called the Garbage Project that tracked home food waste for three decades, Mr. Bloom estimates that as much as 25 percent of the food we bring into our homes is wasted. So a family of four that spends $175 a week on groceries squanders more than $40 worth of food each week and $2,275 a year.”
At 11:09 last night, September 22nd, the Autumnal Equinox arrived. There was also a Harvest Moon, and as a bonus for you star gazers, Jupiter made it’s closest pass to Earth in a decade.
1) A farmer harvests soybeans in Elkhart, Illinois, by the light of a harvest moon.
Cassandra Wilson – Harvest Moon
What is your favorite song about Autumn?
If you were a farm boy, or gal, do you remember any moonlight harvest?
2) In China they are celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, Zhongqiu.
Mid-Autumn Festival at Victoria Park, Hong Kong
Moon-cakes are traditionally eaten during the festival, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mooncakes .
Filipino chef, Angelito Araneta Jr., displays a 24-carat gold-covered mooncake garnished with .10-carat artificial diamonds at Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila on Wednesday. This mooncake is worth $1,830.
3) Summer continues to hold on here in Southeast Connecticut. The trees are still green, but in some parts of New England they are taking on the beautiful golden hues of fall.
Fall foliage mixes with frost in White Mountain National Forest in Twin Mountain, N.H.
Adirondack Mountains, Catskills, New York.
How is Fall beginning in your neck of the woods? Are the leaves on the trees starting to put on their spectacular Fall show?
1) My two favorite pictures from my weekend wanderings on the Web
Study of a child contemplating her world, from Russian photographer Geser Zavulonov.
I hope dogs celebrate mother’s day. This Mom deserves something special.
A dog feeds some of her 15 puppies in Huai’an, China. The dog gave birth about two weeks ago and to the surprise of the owner, all 15 of the puppies survived.
A cousin’s husband was one of 14 children. His father was a minister, who clearly took God’s message to “Be fruitful and multiply” to heart.
Among the couples that you know of which had the most children, excluding foster families?
2) Recipe of the Day – From the New York Times “Temporary Vegetarian”, Elaine Louie
Tomato Gazpacho With Vanilla Cream
What is not to like about soup served with whipped cream on top. What is your favorite summer soup?
Tomato Gazpacho With Vanilla Cream Yield 4 servings
Time 30 minutes
Adapted from William Bradley, Executive Chef, Addison Restaurant
- For the gazpacho:
- 1. For the gazpacho: Depending on the size of the blender, the gazpacho may be prepared in one or two batches; if desired, divide the ingredients in half and blend one batch at a time.
- 2. In a blender, combine tomatoes, cucumber, tomato paste, crème fraîche, lemon-flavored Perrier and sugar. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes. With motor running, slowly add olive oil until mixture is emulsified and smooth. Season with fleur de sel to taste.
- 3. For the vanilla cream: Whip heavy cream until stiff. Fold in vanilla pulp just until mixed.
- 4. To serve, ladle gazpacho into four soup bowls and garnish each with a dollop of vanilla cream.
3) Article from the “People Making A Difference” series in the Christian Science Monitor, the story of Fawzia al-Thiab, who defied tradition in Syra to become a surrogate mother, of more than 35 to date.
Fawzia al-Thiab stands surrounded by five children in their kitchen. This wouldn’t be an extraordinary picture in Syria, but these are not Ms. Thiab’s children, and their house is one of 12 similar houses in SOS Children’s Village, an orphanage in Qodsaya, north of Damascus, Syria.
Arranged around a central playground and gardens, each house is presided over by a “mother” such as Thiab, who runs her household like any other family.
“I think of these as my children,” she says. “It does not feel like an institution here.”
As a surrogate mother, Thiab lives in the brightly decorated house 24 hours a day, seven days a week, taking care of seven children – five girls and two boys, ages 3 to 14.
From getting the children up at 6 a.m. to putting them to bed at 8:30 p.m., she is responsible for the daily activities – preparing meals, seeing they dress properly for school, helping with homework, and solving issues that arise.
Thiab has been at the village 15 years and has mothered more than 35 children. It is an unusual – and unexpected – career, she concedes.
She applied for what she thought was a day job working with children that she’d seen advertised in a newspaper. When she got to the village, she was told the job would be live-in.
Thiab comes from a village in Daraa, in southern Syria, where traditional ideas are entrenched. Her family and friends were very resistant to her taking the job, she says. Her father was especially worried about her staying away from home overnight – a stigma for unmarried women.
More significantly, the job also meant giving up the traditional roles of marriage and children of her own. SOS demands that each mother must be single (they may be widowed or divorced) and have no children of their own to ensure complete focus on and devotion to the job.
“This goes against the expected norms,” Thiab says. “But I feel as though with these children, the other mothers, and the father [the head of the orphanage, Majd al-Ibrahim], I have more than gained what I have lost by not having my own family.”
While Thiab wanted to have her own children, she said she had not met anyone she wanted to marry, despite several offers. After a trial period working at SOS, she says she knew it was the job for her.
“It is so important to give these children love and care,” says Thiab, whose sister Souad followed in her footsteps to become a mother at another house. “Without SOS, they’d have no one.”
No statistics are available on the number of abandoned or orphaned children in Syria, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number is rising. What’s clear is that good institutions to care for such children are few.
“There are many orphanages in Syria, but very few that aren’t run along strict traditional models,” says Bassam Baldan, the country director of SOS. “We are giving children families, not just a home.”
“The children at SOS are so happy,” says Yusra al-Ahmad, a mother of two and a local Arabic teacher who takes her students to volunteer at the village. “A lot of that is due to mothers such as Thiab, who give them so much.”
Set up in 1981, SOS Children’s Villages are part of an international chain of orphanages founded by Austrian benefactor Herman Gmeiner. The organization supports more than 2,000 projects in 132 countries.
Link to the SOS Children’s Villages site:
Link to Article in “Bacon Today”
3) In the recent documentary ‘No Lips, No Laughter,’ a young Iranian-American filmmaker helps a small theater troupe of young refugees, with few resources other than their own creativity, stage a play.
What was the last creative thing you and a child did together?
The trailer for the film, “No Lips, No Laughter”
Article in The Christian Science Monitor, by Roshanak Taghavi:
In the recent documentary ‘No Lips, No Laughter,’ a young Iranian-American filmmaker portrays seven Afghan refugee children who – with few resources other than their own creativity – stage a play about a man who discovers true happiness comes from within.
In a recent documentary, “No Lips, No Laughter,” Iranian-American filmmaker Saba Farmanara provides an inspirational account of how art has helped a small theater troupe of young refugees define their individuality and find hope in a country where they have no official identity: the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mr. Farmanara takes viewers to the inner courtyard of a Soviet-style apartment building with austere walls, hidden off a side street near south Tehran’s Shoosh Square.
There, instructor Hamid Pourazari’s small theater troupe has succeeded – with little money and few resources beyond the young students’ own talent and creativity – in transforming an abandoned courtyard into an oasis of hope within the sometimes harsh Tehran cityscape.
In one scene of the 36-minute film, a dozen or so children and teenagers – all Tehran residents – circle the building’s sparse courtyard, which is enclosed by cobalt-blue walls. Mr. Pourazari – a tall, darkly handsome man with mussed curly hair and wire-rimmed glasses – recites verses from a children’s poem by famed Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou, directing the intensity of the youngsters’ movements as they wave their arms in concert to the poetry’s expressions of sorrow, hope, and patience.
“This is my one hour of the day where I can get away from my life … and be someone else,” says Nessar Zarifi, a slender Afghan teenager with a soft smile and cropped black hair. “It’s as if I leave my body and enter someone else’s skin.”
More than 1.5 million undocumented Afghan refugees
The theater troupe represents just a sprinkling of Iran’s more than 1.5 million undocumented, unregistered Afghan refugees, many of whom were forced to flee Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation of the country or fled during the 1990s with the imposition of Taliban rule.
Denied a legal identity that would allow them to attend Iranian public schools and universities, most undocumented Afghan child refugees in the Islamic Republic must depend on nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations to acquire basic education and life skills. Many are unable to complete secondary school, and very few manage to move beyond the menial, labor-intensive jobs their parents are restricted to working for most of their lives.
The documentary reveals the story of seven Afghan refugee girls and boys, following their daily activities in Tehran as they rehearse for a play based on a children’s story by Shamlou, the poet. The children are filmed rehearsing in various locations throughout downtown Tehran – which is home to much of the city’s lower and middle income residents – as well as at school and in the verdant parks of Tehran’s upscale northern districts.
Finding true happiness
Shamlou’s story, called “The Man Without Lips,” depicts the paradox of a man named Hossein-Gholi, who has all the physical and material things in life to make him happy, but has no lips for laughter. As Hossein-Gholi desperately struggles to find lips to laugh with and express his happiness, he comes to learn that it is not the physical image of a smile that defines true happiness, but a happy soul.
The children in Pourazari’s theater troupe personify Hossein-Gholi’s progression towards happiness because they aren’t chained to the material things that everyone else is held hostage to, says the film’s director in a phone interview.
“For these kids, the camaraderie that comes with working in theater and acting together in these classes is their way of finding laughter,” says Farmanara. “They’re not privileged, but make up for it with other things. These kids have the arts.”
An uncle helps Farmanara navigate a delicate topic
Creating a documentary in the Islamic Republic, where filmmakers must operate cautiously within the confines of the country’s stringent political climate, is a delicate affair.
And Farmanara wasn’t exactly a veteran when he started filming in December 2007. The young Iranian-American had no filmmaking experience before he decided to make a documentary about Iran, where he was born but left when he was 8 years old. A recent graduate of California State University at Northridge, Farmanara delayed completing his studies in order to take time off and move to the Iranian capital to make his film.
There he was mentored by his uncle, renowned Iranian director Bahman Farmanara, who introduced him to Pourazari’s unique theater troupe.
“It really interested me that there is a group of Afghan children who are working and acting in Iran,” says Farmanara, still in his 20s. “Meeting the director of the troupe and learning about the specific play they were working on alone made me commit 100 percent to filming them, even before I met the kids.”
“No Lips, No Laughter” focuses primarily on the experiences of one subset of young Afghan refugees living in Iran. But the trials, disappointments, and aspirations conveyed in the film reflect complexities that could be endured by an undocumented refugee living virtually anywhere.
Though addressing a politically sensitive issue within the Islamic Republic, the film manages to do so without directly referencing the Iranian government – adding yet one more graceful touch to an already touching film.
“Joyeux Quatorze Juillet” my French friends, on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789.
The “Storming of the Bastille” by Jean-Pierre Houel
A very stirring rendition of La marseillaise by Mireile Mathieu
Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts
To arms citizens Form your battalions
Let impure blood
Water our furrows
What do they want this horde of slaves
Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?
For whom these vile chains
These long-prepared irons?
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What methods must be taken?
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!
What! These foreign cohorts!
They would make laws in our courts!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would cut down our warrior sons
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brow would yield under the yoke
The vile despots would have themselves be
The masters of destiny
Tremble, tyrants and traitors
The shame of all good men
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will receive their just reward
Against you we are all soldiers
If they fall, our young heros
France will bear new ones
Ready to join the fight against you
Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors
Bear or hold back your blows
Spare these sad victims
That they regret taking up arms against us
But not these bloody despots
These accomplices of Bouillé
All these tigers who pitilessly
Ripped out their mothers’ wombs
We too shall enlist
When our elders’ time has come
To add to the list of deeds
Inscribed upon their tombs
We are much less jealous of surviving them
Than of sharing their coffins
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or joining them
Drive on sacred patriotism
Support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished liberty
Join the struggle with your defenders
Under our flags, let victory
Hurry to your manly tone
So that in death your enemies
See your triumph and our glory!
The relationship between countries are like those between people, Sometimes loving, sometimes rocky, often both at the same time.
When we Americans want to change the name of F. Fries we should remember that in 1781 it was the French Navy’s victory over the British, and subsequent blockade of Yorktown, that forced Cornwallis to surrender to the American rebels.
When the French complain that McDo (McDonalds) is polluting their taste buds they should think about the American soldiers who marched into Paris and liberated them from Hitler in 1944.
Not many French will complain about Louis Armstrong bringing Jazz to their country. I sure won’t complain about a nation that brought the world the Can Can. :)
All the food critics I can think of talk of the two great cuisines of the world, that of China and France.
What is your favorite Chinese dish?
Mine is Peking Duck, a video of one fairly easy American version, assuming your cooking talent exceeds that of boiling water, which mine doesn’t:
What is your favorite French dish?
I love seafood and steamed Mussels are my favorite, except of course for Maine Lobster.
A video by Chef Jean Pierre – Mussels Provencal (Steamed Mussels in a White Wine Sauce)