You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

I didn’t watch “The Wedding” or any part of the ceremonies. Weddings of royalty or us common folk 🙂 don’t really interest me. I did see this piece of Royal Wedding memorabilia on a Guardian slide show –

Ye Olde Royal Wedding Sick Bag. We yanks usually wait until the divorce, and hearing the size of the alimony payments, before we hand these out.

I do however enjoy attending any event where there is cake:

“The wedding cake, designed by Fiona Cairns, is made from 17 individual fruit cakes (12 of which form the base) and has eight tiers. The cake has been decorated with cream and white icing using the Joseph Lambeth technique. There are up to 900 individually iced flowers and leaves of 17 different varieties decorated on the cake. A garland design around the middle of the cake matches the architectural garlands decorated around the top of the Picture Gallery in Buckingham Palace, the room in which the cake will be displayed. The chocolate biscuit cake was created by Mcvitie’s Cake Company using a Royal Family recipe at the special request of Prince William.”

“I married beneath me, all women do.” Nancy Astor

1) Not pictures from the Royal Wedding:

Smallholding by liquid2liquid/Flickr

I love all the vibrant colors in the clothes of the women of India.

Ahmadabad, India: People crowd a vegetable market amid steep food price inflation. (Ajit Solanki/AP)

Two magnificent pearl-bordered fritillaries mating. A UK survey has revealed record numbers of this rare butterfly, which has been seen earlier than usual this year due to warm weather.
(Gary Pilkington/Devon Wildlife Trust)

2) What is your favorite wedding song?

Paul Stookey’s – The Wedding Song (There Is Love)

This is closer to my inclinations when it comes to love, well okay passion.

Etta James – “I Just Want To make Love To You” & “Born To Be Wild”


By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep, and alive.
Albert Schweitzer

1) World In Pictures – Wednesday

Pedestrians walk among blooming trees reflected in a pond at Fellsmere Park in Malden, Mass. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP)

A Thai girl takes care of her younger sister an evacuation center after they fled home following the fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in Surin province, northeastern Thailand. Officials said Thailand and Cambodia have traded fire for a sixth day as an increasingly bloody border dispute drags on.
(Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Malkiya, Bahrain: A child on the shore of the Persian Gulf at sunset (Hasan Jamali/AP)

2) To say I am not fond of cats is an understatement. Simon’s Cat (Simon Tofield) is however one feline I love following the adventures of. Here is his encounter with a rabbit.

Hop It

RIP Phoebe Snow, who died in Edison, N.J., on Tuesday. She had some of the coolest pipes on the planet.

Did the world suffer the loss of one of your cool friends in the past 12 months?

1) In Pictures – Children of the World

São Félix, Brazil: A boy of the Kayapo tribe plays in front of his house (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

Masaya, Nicaragua: Girls disguised as angels are carried during a Holy Week procession (Esteban Felix/AP)

Karachi, Pakistan Girls wish prawns at a fishery, earning about $1.15 a day (Fareed Khan / AP)

2) Chernobyl – 25 years, 25 Stories –

Valentina Grigorievna Koltunenko, known to her neighbours as ‘Baba Valja’ (Grandma Valja) is one of them.

“Although it is technically illegal for anyone to live permanently in the Exclusion Zone, some former residents have defied the rules and slipped back over the years. The authorities turn a blind eye to these mainly elderly ‘self-settlers’, whose numbers have dwindled through age to just a few hundred scattered in Chernobyl village and across other former settlements.

Valentina Grigorievna Koltunenko, known to her neighbours as ‘Baba Valja’ (Grandma Valja) is one of them. Now 76 years old, she lives alone in her four-roomed wooden house in the village of Opachichi. Her husband died before the accident, and her three children were living in Pripyat. The village was not evacuated immediately, since the wind was blowing the radioactive plume northwards from the plant into Belarus. But then it changed direction, radiation levels rose and the authorities moved everyone out.

She spent the winter in makeshift, shared accommodation in Makariv, west of Kiev, but got tired of waiting for the permanent housing that was promised. The following spring she returned to her old home and took up a cleaning job in Chernobyl, which had become a hub of emergency activities.

Now she lives on a small state pension, growing vegetables – potatoes, onions, beetroot, carrots – and buying other provisions from a shop that delivers once a week. Sympathetic forest wardens bring her wood and organise help to harvest her garden crops. Her home is warmed from the centre by a huge, wood-burning oven, and a radio-telephone chirrups quietly in a corner.

Scientists regularly monitor radiation around her house. In the uneven patchwork of contamination left by the accident, Opachichi survived with relatively low levels compared to other parts of the Exclusion Zone. This, and the advanced age of the self-settlers, helps explain the official tolerance.

“In autumn they come and measure beetroot, potatoes, everything that grows in the soil,” she says. “A special lab comes too, to check the water. They say it’s ok for us – we’re elderly people.”

One of the greatest tragedies of the Chernobyl accident has been the traumatic psychological impact on the population, fostering feelings of fear, uncertainty and helplessness. Attachment to the land runs deep, and many evacuees long to return to their native villages. Studies have shown that self-settlers like Baba Valja have generally coped better psychologically than those who were resettled and have not been able to return.

She says her children, who now live in Kiev and other parts of Ukraine, would have gone back to Pripyat if they could. “We like it here,” she says. “It’s good to live here.”

Spring Haiku – Abhinav Baruah

“Whirlpools of hilly Spring River
Thump and dance on adamant rock bed
Dimple of my smiling dream girl”

Spring is finally showing its face in Connecticut. A few clouds, a few rain drops, but I just might be able to put away my heavy coat.

Had a great walk in the park today.

Nature Trail

What thoughts come to mind when you hear the word “Spring”?

1) Weekend In Pictures

Modern Art in farm land – Lisse, Netherlands: Fields of tulips and other colourful flowers are seen from the air.

Love this pic from the Guardian. Moscow, Russia: Children hold candles during an Easter service

You know you luck is going bad when this is your blind date.

Mexican tattoo and body modification artist Maria Jose Cristerna, also known as “Mujer Vampiro” (Vampire Woman), attends an exhibition in Guadalajara, Saturday.

It has been a few year since my body was a bendy as this little girl’s.

A girl undergoes physical conditioning during a ballet training session at Feier Angel dance training centre in Beijing Saturday. About 100 girls, mostly between the ages of 3 and 7, learn ballet at the center.

2) At his New Mexico ranch, former Green Beret Rick Iannucci invites war veterans, suffering from Post Turmatic Stress Disorder, and other problems, to work with horses and heal his wounds.

From the People Making A Difference blog on the Christian Science Monitor –

“Rick Iannucci, director of Cowboy Up!, a horse therapy program for combat veterans, keeps a little notebook with quotations in the back pocket of his jeans.

As he searches for words to explain how working with horses helps heal war-torn veterans, he pulls it out and reads aloud the words of Winston Churchill, who served in the Boer War: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

A Christian Science Monitor video of Iannuucci’s The Crossed Arrows Ranch, and his “Cowboy Up” program.

Easter by Joyce Kilmer

The air is like a butterfly
With frail blue wings
The happy earth looks at the sky
and sings.

1) In Pictures – Holy Week

Penitents carry a figure of Christ on the cross during the procession of the ‘Cristo de la buena muerte’ brotherhood, during Holy Week in Zamora, northern Spain. Hundreds of processions take place throughout Spain during the Easter Holy Week.

Orthodox Christian nuns stand in the Jordan River during a ceremony for the upcoming holiday of Easter at the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud, where it is believed John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ, near the West Bank city of Jericho. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Young women pray at the Sevtitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta, Georgia (David Mdzinarishvili,Reuters)

2) I will be spending Easter Sunday with my cousin and her son. I find the passion with which Christians celebrate Easter to be deeply moving. We don’t have to believe a story to feel the passion in its telling.

If someone from another planet asked you what is Easter what would you answer?

“In Christ Alone” music video featuring scenes from “The Passion of the Christ”. It is sung by Lou Fellingham of Phatfish and the writer of the hymn is Stuart Townsend.

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.”
Garrison Keiller

I have survived another two weeks in feline hell. For their part the cats didn’t seem to notice my presence so much until the dinner bell, sound of the can opener, rang. Of course they also believe all the food in the house belonged to them, so I had to fend them off every time I eat. Two would even jump up on the dinner table, thank you so much Inga for feeding them while you eat. They were kind enough to give me a going away present, two lbs of cat hair on all my clothes.

My cousin has been invited on a cruise to Scotland, so I will be back in cat land between May 7th and the 16th. At least when I get back to my own home I appreciate my personal privacy, and being able to eat in peace, even more.

1) Here in the Northeast US the calendar tells me it’s Spring, but mother nature has yet to get the message. The Boston Globes “Big Picture Blog” slide show “Flower Power” shows me what is so far missing from the view out my window.

A daisy floats in a rain barrel on April 4 in Kaufbeuren, southern Germany. (Karl Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Cherry trees bloom during the National Cherry Blossom Festival along the Tidal Basin in Washington April 2. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A woman sits on a bench in a park wher hundreds of crocus flowers bloom in the warm sunny weather in the western city of Duesseldorf (Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images)

A couple relax amongst daffodil flowers in St James’s Park on March 29 in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

2) Behind the Veil

Two women, one wearing a niqab, a conservative Muslim garment that only exposes a woman’s eyes, walk side by side in Marseille, France.

Nothing symbolize the control some conservative Muslim religious leaders exercises over women than the niqab. Many Muslim women are rebelling against this control, such as Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed, a british born Muslim woman, educated and trained in both London and New York City, writing in the Christian Science Monitor:

“France’s recent “burqa ban” unveils the ignorance surrounding Islam, an ignorance shared by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push to ban the face-veil, the niqab – put into effect last week – shocks Western elites. Legislating self-expression is surely more the provenance of draconian states like Iran and Saudi Arabia, than secular La France. To many, Mr. Sarkozy’s France smacks of uncivilized intolerance. But is Sarkozy really so wrong?

I first saw a veiled woman when I was six, possibly seven. Fascinated, and – never having seen anything like this – frightened, I looked up at my father, who explained she was from Arabia. Like us, he told me, she too was a Muslim.

Thirty-five years later, veiled women no longer catch the eye of pluralistic Muslim famoles like mine. Instead, in an extraordinary distortion of social mores, I find they now symbolize all of us, even assimilated, heterodox Muslim women like me.

France’s ban of the niqab in the public space is logical and one that many Muslims, myself included, welcome. Why?

Intensely secular societies, which not only tolerate, but actively celebrate multicultural pluralistic diversity, have been exploited by insular, Islamist neo-orthodoxy. They do so at my expense – the expense of the moderate Muslim. Be clear, neo-orthodox Muslims place no priority on the status of their women, whether living in Bamian or Brittany.”

“In the early Islamic period, the word khimar, “veil,” did not necessarily connote face covering. In the Quran, Sura 24:31, the reference to “khimar” reminds Muslim women of the need to “draw…[it] over their bosoms” as integral to female modesty.

Similarly, the verse of the veil commanded only the prophet Muhammad’s wives, as a mark of high distinction, to speak from behind a “hijab,” meaning a curtain (Quran Sura 33:53).

Later, theological scholarship indicates traditions asserting use of the khimar specifically to mean niqab may have been fabricated. Records show Aisha – one of the most eminent of the prophet Muhammed’s wives, a great scholar of Islam and one of the foremost teachers of early Muslims – provided great detail on the color and fabric of the khimars in her day. Nonetheless, no record exists as to how exactly they were worn.

This convenient vacuum allowed others to insert their own interpretation of veiling, for their own motives, including enforcing gender segregation and even gender apartheid – extraordinary, given Islam’s central emphasis on equality of both men and women and profound regard for justice above all other values.”

“As Muslim women, we must always remember that we are more than our womanhood. We are Muslims first, women second. We are more than our modesty, whether it is swathed in fabric or faith. We are more than these practices, whether mandated by men at home, or men of state. In this regard, Sarkozy’s ban is, in fact, not a test of France’s tolerance, but rather a test of our own.

Can Muslims overcome the rigid myopia of Islamism that emerges from within our midst? Or will we, too, be smothered in a veil of our own making – the asphyxiating veil of ignorance that threatens to strangle us all?”

My Christian friends don’t have to explain hell to me because I experience it every year, when I house sit my cousin’s six cats. This is the friendly one:

I will likely be off-line from the 7th to the 17th. If my Christian friends want to pray for me I won’t object. 🙂

1) Art In Photography

“After the Concert” by Julia Medvedev

“Boats” by Valdimir Melnik

“Fiery Tree” by Dmitriy Kiselev

2) I’ll leave you with this video, from the Planet Earth series – Mountains. I’ll back in two weeks, hopefully with most of what is left of my brain still intact

“Dreams” by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Do you have any recurring dreams, either when you are alseep or when you are awake?

1) World In Pictures

A goose wearing an ‘identification card’ around its neck walks down a hutong (small alley) next to its owner in central Beijing. The goose is a regular sight in the alley since it goes for a walk each morning with it’s owner who adopted the stray goose a few years ago. (David Gray/Reuters)

Devotees carrying chariots participate in the Chariot Festival in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Chariot Festival is celebrated by the Newar community. People wear colorful hats and carry chariots of Goddess Kankeshwori, Shankata and Bhadrakali. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

A Colombian amputee soldier, victim of a land mine, walks through a shoe installation marking International Day for Landmine Awareness at Simon Bolivar Square in Bogota, Colombia. As part of the event, more than 9,000 shoes, each bearing the name of a land mine victim, were placed in the main square of the South American capital. Colombia is second to Afghanistan as the nation with the largest number of victims. (Fernando Vergara/AP)

2) Art in Science. Guardian slide show – Satellite eye on Earth: March 2011

Tassili n’Ajjer national park covers 72,000 square kilometres (27,800 square miles) in south-eastern Algeria. Part of the Sahara Desert, the park has a bone-dry climate with scant rainfall, yet does not blend in with Saharan dunes. Instead, the rocky plateau rises above the surrounding sand seas. Rich in geologic and human history, Tassili n’Ajjer is a Unesco world heritage site (Photograph: Landsat-7/NASA)

The Tian Shan – “celestial mountains” in Chinese – is one of the largest continuous mountain ranges in the world, extending approximately 2,500 kilometres roughly east-west across Central Asia. This astronaut photograph provides a view of the central Tian Shan, about 64km (40 miles) east of where the borders of China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan meet. Two types of glaciers are visible in the image; cirque glaciers occupy amphitheatre-like depressions on the upper slopes of the mountains, and feed ice downslope to aggregate into large valley glaciers such as the one at image center. Low clouds obscure an adjacent valley and glaciers to the north (upper left). Two high peaks of the central Tian Shan are identifiable in the image. Xuelian Feng has a summit of 6,527 metres (21,414 feet) above sea level. To the east, the aptly-named Peak 6231 has a summit 6,231m (20,443ft) above sea level (Photograph: ISS/NASA)

Holbox Island and the Yalahau Lagoon on the north-east corner of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula (Photograph: Kompsat-2/KARI/ESA)

1) Words

a. Tomb of the Unknown – 2011 “Followed the Golden Rule. Obeyed every law. Never the hint of a scandal. No remembers her name.” Non Sequitur comic strip.

What do you want your epithet to say?

b. Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha

All beings quiver before violence.
All beings fear death.
All beings love life.
Remember that you are like them.
As they are like you.
Then whom would you hurt?
What harm would you do?
He who seeks happiness
By hurting others who seek happiness
Will never find happiness.
Not in the sky,
Nor in the depths of the sea,
Nor in the deepest mountains,
Can you hide from your misdeeds.

2) Pictures

Colombo, Sri Lanka: Buddhists monks lead prayers during a special ‘pooja’ wishing success to the Sri Lankan team ahead of the Cricket World Cup final match against India.
[In the US priest pray for the Catholic school Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish. It is good to know that people everywhere have the same priorities 🙂 ]

Aksai, Kazakhstan: School pupils stand by ballot boxes as a voter leaves a polling station during presidential elections (Photograph: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)


Dadabili, Nigeria: Crude oil spills from a pipeline. The country postponed national parliamentary elections after voting materials failed to arrive in many areas (Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

It was the start of lambing season as newborn lambs sleep on fresh straw at Barracks Farm, Fetcham, Surrey, UK (Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

3) News

I Had to put the belt up a notch this morning. Then I read this story. I could have gone for a workout. Felt depressed and had a donut instead. 🙂

It should be noted that Charles Eugster was already rowing six times a week at 80, so his version of looking like a wreck is a little different from mine. By his standards I am the Titantic of fitness. 🙂

From an article in the Guardian –

“My personal trainer and I are always getting into arguments about what part of my body needs the most work. I’m not happy with my abs – I have the remains of a small spare tyre – but she says my bottom is a catastrophe because it’s so flat. What we both agree on is that bodies can be remodelled, no matter how old you are.”

[Ninty-one and he has a personal trainer, I hate him already 🙂 ]

“Then at 85 I had a crisis. I looked at myself in the mirror one day, and saw an old man. I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me where muscle used to be. I looked like a wreck. I started to consider the fact that I was probably going to die soon. I knew I was supposed to slow down, but I’m vain. I missed my old body and wanted to be able to strut across the beach, turning heads.”

[He’s 91 and talking about struting across the beach turning heads. Now I hate him less. 🙂 ]

“There’s no research into bodybuilding for the over-80s, so it’s been an experiment. With weight-lifting and protein shakes, my body began to change. It became broader, more v-shaped, and my shoulders and biceps became more defined. People began to comment on how much younger I looked, and my new muscular frame drew a lot of admiring glances from women.

Everything I learned was tailored to help my body cope with old age. I took up judo to teach me how to fall properly. My circulation and posture improved, and I was told that there was a chance more muscle mass could protect my brain from Alzheimer’s. I stopped thinking about dying. As I approached 90, my focus was on getting my body back.”

[Now he is talking about, at 90, drawing admiring glances from women. Any women glancing at me are getting ready to call 911 🙂 ]

In 2008, I signed up for my first championship. I was nervous, but although I was the oldest contestant by around 20 years, everyone was very welcoming. I got higher scores than all the women taking part, and a lot of the men. Then, at last year’s event in Germany, I triumphed, scoring higher than any contestant in any age category for my 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds. As I’m over 70, they did make allowances – I could do the push-ups on my knees, for example – but I proved I wasn’t past it.

[Sixty-one chin-ups? 50 push-ups? At 90! Now I hate him again. 🙂 ]

“I’m not chasing youthfulness. I’m chasing health. People have been brainwashed to think that after you’re 65, you’re finished. We’re told that old age is a continuous state of decline, and that we should stop working, slow down and prepare to die. I disagree. To me, a 65-year-old is young. I turn 92 this year. It is a frightening prospect – the law of averages is against me, and, yes, one day something will happen and that will be it. But until that day comes, I’m going to carry on working on my abs.”

[Now I love him again 🙂 ]

1) Friday – April 1, 2011

My favorite Net posting was for one spa treatment I would love to sign up for, a Spa Lami from Living Social, Porkland.

“Discover the hautest trend in beauty with today’s deal from Spa-Lami, Porkland’s first meat-themed med-spa.”

“Your treatment begins with a paté facial, complete with deli-cut slices of premium salami that are placed over your eyes by USDA-certified, hormone-free owner Carl Nivore.”

“A prosciutto neck wrap and ground beef compress come next, followed by a soothing gravy-aroma therapy treatment (in beef or turkey) and Swedish meatball massage”

2) World In Pictures

A view of tranquil Llyn Dinas in Snowdonia national park in Bethania, Wales. The National Trust is launching an appeal to buy the lake and adjoining farm for the nation (Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Flooded rivers systems are seen from the air in Windorah, Australia. Queensland recently suffered a series of extreme floods, affecting more than 200,000 people across more than 70 towns. The state is recovering and after the flooding, many areas of outback Queensland are now thriving with the resulting effect on wildlife and flora being described as once-in-a-generation (Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

An Indian family travels on a train in the city of Calcutta. India is now home to 17% of the world’s people as its population climbed to 1.21 billion this year, though growth actually slowed for the first time in 90 years, census officials said. With 623.7 million males and 586.5 million females, India’s population was bigger than the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh. (Photo by : Piyal Adhikary/EPA)

3) Art – The amazing modern murals of John Pugh –

Siete Punto Uno (7.1) – 49 East Main St, Los Angeles, California

Reverse, Lateral, and Loop – Main Street, Tehachapi, California

Who is your favorite artist who is still living?

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