Friday, 31 July 2015

AeroFarms to open "world’s largest indoor vertical farm"

Hello, some interesting news I thought you might like to read:
AeroFarms uses "aeroponics" to grow crops, which employs mist to deliver hydration and nutrients to crop roots

An upcoming indoor vertical farm is not only claimed to be the world's largest, but to use cutting edge growing technology. AeroFarms' new 69,000 sq ft (6,410 sq m) facility in Newark, New Jersey, will be based in a converted steel factory and will incorporate a new corporate HQ for the firm. It's expected to grow high-quality and healthy produce all year round.

As with the soon-to-start-trading Growing Underground, which is based in formerly disused tunnels beneath London, AeroFarms' new indoor farm will look to serve local markets. This will minimize the farm-to-fork journey and benefit both the environment and the produce itself in the process. Where Growing Underground uses hydroponic technology for crop rearing, AeroFarms uses an "aeroponics" approach.

Similar to hydroponics, aeroponics employs a cloth medium for seeding, germinating and growing crops and LED lighting for photosynthesis. Specific wavelengths of light are targeted to help to maximize photosynthesis efficiency and to minimize energy consumption. The major difference between the two growing systems is that hydroponics uses a liquid solution to deliver hydration and nutrients to crop roots and aeroponics uses mist. AeroFarms says this produces faster growing cycles and more biomass than other approaches.

The new facility is a public-private partnership and has been variously funded by the City of Newark, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), Goldman Sachs, United Fund Advisors, Dudley Ventures and Prudential Financial. Designed by KSS Architects, it offers a controlled, safe and sanitary environment in which to grow crops without the need for sun or soil.

In addition to faster crop cycles and the ability to grow crops all year round, the benefits of this sort of farming are said to include the elimination of pesticides, increased produce shelf-life, a reduced contamination risk through the lack soil used, the production of clean and dry produce at the point of harvest and minimized wastage through the use of a closed-loop irrigation system (one that repeatedly recycles any run-off water). In addition, the modular vertical stacks used for growing the crops make the operation highly scalable.

AeroFarms says its approach to farming is 75 times more productive per square foot annually than a traditional field farm and uses over 95 percent less water. Once up-and-running, it estimates that the new facility will have the capacity to grow up to 2 million pounds (910,000 kg) of baby leafy greens and herbs every year.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

If one could make visible the possibility of alternatives...

If you look at it this way, you find that if one could make visible the possibility of alternatives, viable alternatives, make a viable future already visible in the present, no matter on how small a scale...then at least there is something, and if that something fits it will be taken...If the little people can do their own thing again, then perhaps they can do something to defend themselves against the overbearing, big ones.

So I certainly never feel discouraged. I can't myself raise the winds that might blow us, or this ship, into a better world. But I can at least put up the sail so that when the wind comes, I can catch it.

Good Work (E.F. Schumacher)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


So every once in a while I like to stop and take stock. At the moment, things are surreal. I never know what is going to happen tomorrow. I mean I never knew before either, but at least, days had more structure, they were more predictable.

Or were they?

Do we go around with just an illusion of predictability, an illusion of a known illusion of control as long as you have your trusty to-do list and tick, tick, tick?

I don't know. I am told that meditating helps. It helps curb the strangeness or rather, it helps you deal with all that uncertainty because...well, you acquire this sort of strength to be able to take it all in and not be fazed. Or too fazed.

I have to say, the times where I actually did make a practise of meditating, my life did flow more smoothly, no matter what was happening all around. I was less affected. I was slower to react.

And that is a good thing.

I was reading a Jeanette Winterson article on the benefits of a prolonged fast. That's a fast not a diet. Eating nothing for a specified number of days and allowing your body to get on with the job of healing itself.

I think of the food overload and the sensory overload I subject to my system constantly.

I think I am due for a fast. For a whole manner of fasts.

I think I am due for a detox.

Pretty soon. Or maybe now.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

How Girls Fight

I thought you might enjoy this. It's funny because it's true.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Week 30: Practice Patience

There is a tradition in which people believe that when they go too fast, they cause their souls to be left behind. Believing this, they will sometimes purposefully stop in order to allow their souls to catch up.

Your exercise this week is to practice having this belief yourself in order to experience patience. To do so, you have to recognize when you are in a situation where you are moving so fast that you lose your sense of presence. In the language of this theme, you have left your soul behind.

Once this has happened and you recognize it, your job is to pause long enough for your soul to catch up. In that pause, reach out to another person and provide her/him the warming acknowledgement that you are aware of her/his existence. This person could be the reason for your impatience or it could be someone else in close proximity. The key here is to recognize your impatience and then relax, engaging with another person mindfully and fully.

Don't write in your journal this week until you have fully completed the activity. Be patient with the experience. When the time is right, write about the part of this week's experience that was the most meaningful to you.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

How Monty Learned to Speak Equus

I read this a few years ago. I had always wanted to read the book, it had been referenced by so many of the other authors I read and when I finally stumbled upon a copy at the Payless book sale (sadly a thing of the past) I grabbed it so fast, there was no time for you to say Whaa?

Anyway, this is the most fascinating part of the book...the part where young Monty observes a pack of wild mustangs and picks up on how they talk to each other. Without words of course.

I noticed in particular a dun mare with a dark stripe along her back and zebra stripes above her knee. Older than most of the others, with a heavier belly that hinted at many more pregnancies, she seemed to give a lot of commands in the group. It was she who ordered her group to move off. She started and the others followed; she stopped and so did the others. It seemed she was the wisest, and they knew it.

What I was observing, in fact, was the dominant mare. No one had told me that wild horses were controlled by a dominant mare before, and I suspect that a lot of people today still think that it's the stallion who runs the show. That isn't true. The breeding or dominant stallion, sometimes called the alpha male or lead male, will skirt the herd and defend it from marauders. His motivation is to prevent anyone or anything from stealing his harem.

But was the dun mare who was in charge of the day-to-day running of this group. There was no mistaking it.

And then I saw an extraordinary sequence of events. A light bay cold was behaving badly. He was about 20 months old, I guessed, with a vast amount of feathering around his fetlocks and down the backs of his legs and mane running down well below his neck line. Right in the middle of the group, he took a run at a filly and gave her a kick. The filly squealed and hobbled off and this colt looked pleased with himself. He was only about 550 pounds in weigh, but very aware of the fact that he was the owner of a pair of testicles.

As I watched, he committed another crime. A little foal approached him, snapping his mouth in a suckling action to indicate he was no threat but subservient, only a little foal. That didn't cut any ice with this colt; he launched himself at his younger cousin and took a bite out of his backside. He really was a terrorist -- if he wasn't kicking, he was biting. Immediately after the attack, he pretended nothing had happened; he went neutral. It was as though he was trying to avoid having the blame pinned on him. Each time he behaved badly, the dun mare -- the matriarch -- weaved a little closer to him. I became certain that she was watching to see if there was going to be any more of this behaviour. Even though she showed no sign of interest, she'd left her station and was getting closer to him all the time.

She witnessed about four such episodes before she made her move. Now she was within 20 yards but this sugar-coloured colt couldn't help himself; he launched at a grown mare, grabbed the nap of her neck and bit down hard.

The dun mare didn't hesitate. In an instant she went from neutral to full-on anger; she pinned her ears back and ran at him, knocking him down. As he struggled to his feet, she whirled and knocked him down again.

While the chastisement was going on, the other members of the herd didn't turn a hair. It was as if they didn't know it was happening.

The dun mare ended by driving the colt out of the herd. She drove him out 300 yards and left him there, alone.

I thought, what in the hell am I seeing? I was amazed. The dun mare took up position on the edge of the herd to keep him in exile. She kept her eye on his eye, she faced up to him. She was freezing him out.

He was terrified to be left alone. For a flight animal. it's to be under a sentence of death; the predators will get you if you're separated from the group. He walked back and forth, his head close to the ground, executing this strange, uncomfortable gait several times. It looked like a sign of obedience, similar to a bow made by a human being.

Then the light bay colt made his way around to the other side of the herd and attempted to come back in that way, but the dun mare had followed his circle. Again she drove him out, running at him until he was about 300 yards away before returning to maintain her vigil on the edge of the herd. She kept her body square on to him, and she never once took her eye off his.

He stood there, and I noticed there was a lot of licking and chewing going on, although he hadn't eaten anything. I remembered the foal and how it had snapped its mouth, which is an obvious signal of humility as though it was saying, "I'm not a threat to you." Was this the more adult version? Was this colt saying the same thing to his matriarch?

By this time, some hours had passed and it was rapidly getting dark.

A few hours later after it had turned dark and he focussed once again on the herd to see what was happening...

To my astonishment, the dun mare was now grooming the light bay colt. She was giving him little scrapes on his neck and his hindquarters with her teeth, and generally fussing over him. She'd let him back in; and now she was keeping him close by and giving him a lot of attention. She worked away at the root of his tail, hips and withers.

So...after his purgatory, came heaven. As I watched, she groomed the hell out of him.

It was the single most important thing I saw -- this matriarch disciplining the young, adolescent horses. There was a gang of adolescents she had to deal with, and it was educational to watch her do it because a lot happened. Their youthful energy drove them to do things, and their inexperience meant they made mistakes, much like the young of any species.

It was the dun mare's job to keep them in order -- and over the three-week period I watched every move.

Certainly, she went and made a Christian out of the sugar-coloured colt. Often, like a child, he would reoffend immediately after being let back in, to test the disciplinary system and gain back the ground he'd lost. Maybe he'd start fighting with another colt or bothering the fillies.

The dun mare came right back and disciplined him again. She squared up to him and said, "I don't like your actions. You're going away."

He sinned a few more times, but she always drove him out and kept him out there before letting him back in and welcoming him into the group with extensive grooming. The third time he sinned, he practically owned up and walked out there by himself, grumbling about it but accepted his fate.

Then he came back in and stuck to the group like glue. He was a positive nuisance; he turned out so nice and cooperative, wandering about and asking everyone, "D'you need any grooming?" when all they wanted was to be left alone to eat. For four whole days the dun mare had made the education of this awful brat her number one priority, and it had paid off.

After a time spent observing these signals, I could see how exact a language it was; there was nothing haphazard about it. These were precise messages, whole phrases and sentences which always meant the same thing, always had the same effect. They happened over and over again.

Perhaps I could use the same silent system of communication myself, as I'd observed employed by the dominant mare. If I understood how to do it, I could effectively cross over the boundary between man -- the ultimate fight animal -- and horse, the flight animal. Using their language, their system of communication, I could create a strong bond of trust. I would achieve cross-specie communication.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Diary of a Social Butterfly

Meet Butterfly: She's a socialite, party-goer, shopper and acute observer in Lahore, Pakistan. She is married to Janoo, who went to Oxford University and now rakes in the big bucks. But other than paying for her lavish shopping sprees and holidays, he is a bore-bore with a social and political conscience who spends two hours watching the news. Poor Butterfly, the things she has to put up with. Not only is Janoo a bore-bore, he has a conniving mother (the Old Bag), two awful sisters-in-law (the Gruesome Twosome) and friends who will do anything to upstage her. What with their holidays in London or New York, their husband's's a wonder Butterfly manages to look as good as she does and handle everything with such grace and aplomb. Or does she?

I came across this book recently, and didn't think anything of it, expecting the usual empty-headed drivel that passes for chick lit. The cover looked interesting...and having just finished a biography of Wordsworth (most of the books I seem to read nowadays tends to veer on the heavy side), I was in the mood for something light. I didn't quite expect to this to make me laugh as much as it did...

Here is a page from her diary...

May 2001

Guess what? The Old Bag has gone and had a heart attack! Last night only, while Janoo and I were sitting in the lounge, eating strawberries and watching TV, the phone rings and who should it be but one of The Gruesome Twosome, Janoo's younger sister Saika. (I call her 'Psycho'.)

"Ammi's going," she wailed like a mad dog howling at the moon. "Tell Bhaijaan."

I said, "Bhaijaan's busy watching TV and in any case, where's she going?"

Psycho howled louder and louder until I couldn't hear a word of TV, so I put the phone down and reached for the strawberries.

"Who was that?" Janoo asked.

"Nobody," I replied. "Only Psycho."

"You mean Saika," he said. "What was she saying?"

"Nothing," I said. "Only that your mother's going."

"Going where?"

I shrugged. Just then, stupid phone rang again. This time Janoo picked up.

I was lying back on the sofa licking strawberry juice from my fingers when his colour flew out of his face and he started shouting into the phone, "When? Where? How?"

Then he banged the phone down, turned to me and announced, "Ammi's had a heart attack!"

"Must be gas," I muttered. She's always leaking gas, like an old boiler.

"Get up!" he snapped. "We're leaving for her home right now."

"At least let me finish this programme," I protested. "He's just three questions short of a crore. And the servants will eat all the strawberries if I --"

Janoo didn't even let me finish the sentence. "Come on!" he snapped. As if I was his servant or something.

You can imagine the rest. We sped off to The Old Bag's house with him muttering away.

"I'll have to take her to London. I'll fly her out tomorrow. Book her into the Cromwell Hospital. I'll call Dr Khalid Hameed. There's bound to be a direct flight tomorrow."

Between you, me and the four walls, my blood really boiled. Here I am begging every summers to go to London, and all The Old Bag has to do is get gas and she's flown out immediately. And probably biz class too. Fat cow.

"What's wrong with Akram Complexed Hospital next to the Gulberg Drain?" I asked. "She'll feel so at home on the Gulberg Drain. And anyways, I think so you're gushing to conclusions here. No offence but heart attacks happen only to those who have hearts, I mean caring types like me. Mummy always said that when food went bad in the fridge I never allowed it to be thrown away, even as a child. I always gave it to the servants and insisted they eat it there and then, so caring I was..."

Anyways, we got to The Old Bag's house and there she was lying on her bed like a collapsed hippo with her eyes shut and muttering, "Hai, hai." Her legs were being pressed by The Gruesome Twosome and all her three maids. The minute they saw Janoo they all started bawling like Bollywood film extras on a death scene. The Old Bag immediately sat up and grabbed Janoo's hand and, with tears pouring down her face, started banging on about her "dying moments" and her "last wishes". I couldn't help noticing, however, that respite claiming to have had a heart attack she still hadn't taken off her heavy gold bangles. They were still jammed on to her fat wrists. I swear, what a tamasha! And so bore also. I tau sat down on the sofa and helped myself to some fruit. Nice plums, but not as nice as at Mummy's house.

Doctor came and did a check-up and then he asked her about her signs and systems. Apparently The Old Bag had been feeling some tightness in her chest. And breathlessness also. Naturally. If she will wear her shirt so tight what does she expect? All she had to do was to let out some seams and darts in her poplin shirts but no, she had to go and fake a heart attack. Anyways, doctor took Janoo aside while I was having my third plum and told him that she'd had a vagina attack.

"See," I said, "it's only vagina, not heart."

"Angina," Janoo said loudly.

As if I'm deaf or something. This is the thanks I get for abandoning my TV and my strawberries.

(The Diary of a Social Butterfly, Moni Mohsin)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The True Legend of Prince Bladud

Long, long ago, long before English was the language in the land, the forests were roamed by wolves.

Wolves! Hunted for their skins, hunted for their meat, hunted for sport, and hunted, most notably, by the young and muscular Prince Bladud, son to Lud-Hudibras, eighth King of Britain. In the days of the late summer, in the thick grassland, Prince Bladud and three large dogs -- bred in a litter across the sea -- would venture near the wolf dens. The dogs would find the scent, and drag down a wolf as it returned to its cubs or chase it into the path of Bladud's arrow.

Earlier in the year, during the lean times for wolves, Bladud would hunt at night, carrying a piglet in a sack, which he would take out and tether in a clearing in the moonlight. Before long, a wolf would come. It would jump on the terrified piglet and sink its teeth in, and then when it was distracted the dogs would be released, and sink their teeth into the wolf, or Bladud's arrow would fly straight into the wolf's heart.

One such moonlit night, Bladud carried a piglet in a sack through the trees. The piglet had been chosen by a servant, and Bladud had not seen the animal until the moment when he undid the drawstring. Normally he would sacrifice a piglet without a second thought, but when he removed this one from the sack, and it squealed, he saw that it had a bent foot. For some reason, which perhaps even Bladud himself could not explain, he stroked the foot and said: 'Poor thing." And when he placed the piglet down and tethered it to the stake, the piglet looked imploringly into Bladud's eyes. Still, Bladud walked away to hide with his dogs. A little while later, he saw the wolf creeping out of the tall grass, and the piglet trembled, and then it turned its head towards the very spot where Bladud hid. The prince suddenly stood up, waving his arms, and he cried at the top of his voice: 'Go away with you, wolf!' The wolf ran into the night. Bladud walked towards the piglet. He took out a knife and cut the tether. The pig limped into the forest, turning to look at Bladud once more before it vanished. 'You may or may not survive,' said Bladud, 'but neither you nor the wolf will die tonight.'

The next morning, Bladud received a summons to his father's throne room. The king was a great fat man, so fat that Bladud had been heart to call him 'The Giant Egg', and this may perhaps lead to comparisons with Humpty Dumpty, if one wished to cite a nursery rhyme which did not then exist.

Courtiers witnessed no happy exchange between father and son. Too much time, said the king, had been devoted by the prince to the idle pleasure of hunting. No more would he let his son roam the forests. Bladud pleaded, asking for just one more season, one more month, even one more night of hunting. He made every argument in hunting's favour that he knew, of which the principal one was that it made a man sharp for war. But the king's decision was irrevocable. His son would sail to Athens in the morning to learn the arts of civilisation and conquest, and become the king's worthy successor. With the heaviest of hearts, the prince bowed and left the throne room, realising that there was nothing to do but accept.

It was strange then that, once in Athens, Bladud became a changed man. No longer did he show the slightest interest in the hunt; he embraced his new Greek life wholeheartedly. He sought all that Greece could teach, and he immersed himself in Plato, Zeno, Epicurus and Pythagoras. He loved especially the stories of the gods and heroes, and would listen intently to the tales of Athena and Apollo. He had learnt the Greek language, of course -- he was the keenest of students, and he chanted aloud the syllables pi-pa-pu-pe, mi-ma-mu-me as his instructor pointed to them on a tile. He mastered the Athenian accent to perfection. As if that achievement was not enough, he even wrote verses in Greek, first on sand with a finger, then on wax with a stylus, and finally on parchment with a pen and ink. His inspiration was the works of the great poets. He learned their manliness and their wisdom. He cherished their great storehouse of virtues.

In short, he did all he might to become a Greek. He would be seen wrestling on the sand, or drinking wine in honour of the gods. He would be heard chanting his poems, which often had a patriotic theme, and he accompanied himself on the seven-stringed lyre.

Never did he mention the land of his birth, that far and rainy kingdom founded by Brut. Bladud loved only the rough, mountainous terrain where figs, olives, grapes and lemons grew.

Yet underneath Bladud's calm assimilation lay a desire for a particular syllabus of Grecian knowledge -- and this desire possessed him like a mania. He sought out the Greek shamans, and begged then to teach him their dark arts.

He had heard that shamans could free their souls from their bodies, and travel forth across the world in spirit form. Night after night he tried to master this wizardry, and followed the course the shamans prescribed. He placed some simple object -- a small piece of pottery, a shoulder-pin, a stylus -- upon a low table at his bedside, and imagined himself, willed himself, believed himself, in the last moments before sleep, separated from his physical body as he attempted to stretch a spirit hand out of his physical hand to clutch the object on the table. Once or twice he thought he had done so. But it could have been a dream. Then came a night of conviction, when he knew the object was in his invisible fingers.

His thirst for secret knowledge had been awakened, and he needed more.

The shamans led him into underground chambers. By torchlight, they whispered that one day he would control the wind and the rain, and that he would melt hailstones. With more study, he could predict earthquakes, and close fissures in the ground. In time, he would calm giant tidal waves. With more study still, he might both be in the underground chamber, and yet be seen on the surface by other men. Finally, he would attain the knowledge of the air-traveller, the knowledge of the great Abaris who rode on a magical arrow, who flew over wide seas and ascended mighty mountains.

All this held Bladud in Athens. For 11 years he stayed and studied the arts of the shamans, ignoring his father's many entreaties to return. For what was a small earthly kingdom on the western fringes to the vast empire of shamanic knowledge?

And then, one morning, when he awoke, Bladud noticed a rash upon his forearm. He dismissed it as nothing. He said to himself that during physical exercise a wrestler had gripped him too hard.

The next morning the mark had spread. Soon marks were on his chest and thighs.

Now his sleeves were always down. He said he was too weary to wrestle. He refused the pleasures of women, confessing that he was too tired. But the spreading of the marks to his hands, calves and face made concealment impossible -- and the suspicion was aroused before that moment.

He entered the underground chamber and begged the shamans for a cure. They told Bladud that the disease was a sign that he must return to his homeland. They would teach him no more. He must leave their chamber, leave Athens, leave Greece.

He implored the shamans to allow him to stay, saying that his knowledge was but superficial, and he needed complete mastery. They turned their backs and vanished into the darkness. Their refusal distressed Bladud far, far more than the marks that were gradually spreading, and that threatened to consume his whole body.

So, leper that he was, Bladud, eldest son of Lud-Hudibras, eighth King of Britain, concealed himself in a hooded cloak and found passage on a ship, though it took great persuasion in gold for the mariner to take a diseased man as freight. For freight he was -- kept in a hold away from the others on the vessel.

The Giant Egg's cheeks boiled and cracked in rage when he saw his disfigured son. Athens was to blame, the king screamed, the city had poisoned his son with its disgusting food and pox-riddled women. Bladud confessed to his father, on bended knee, that he had studied secret arts, and believed that if he could but return, with the king's blessing, the shamans would accept him once more and cure the disease. This admission merely provoked the king. If Bladud practised the dark arts, children in Britain would go missing, the corn would not grow, the realm would collapse, and invaders would come from overseas. The disease was the prince's just and fair punishment.

Bladud left the throne room in disgrace. His brother sure to inherit the kingdom now, approached and said, with a cruel smile: 'You will need this.' It was a leper's warning clapper, to be sounded when nearing healthy folk.

Bladud might have seized the clapper, and used it to strike his brother around the face; instead he took it meekly, and saying no more, walked away.

Some believe that the king banished his son; others that, overcome with shame and despair, Prince Bladud quit the court of his own accord. Whatever the facts of the case, one day at dawn, Bladud left to seek the wider world. A simple message was left behind: 'Consider me dead.'

So Bladud wandered around Britain, cloaked and hooded, with no particular destination in mind. And although his strain of the disease was not the worst, still he was called leper. He was classed with those whose skin was rough and scaly, whose voice was hoarse, those who had lost all feeling in their bodies until only the tongue retained sensitivity, and that resided in a fog of foul breath. 'And who,' said Bladud to himself, 'would respect the proclamations of such a tongue, no matter how wisely it wagged?' He knew he had no right to be his father's heir.

At first, he sought the company of other lepers sitting at night around a fire with men whose fingers bore burns and abrasions, because they could not feel the heat of a pot when lifted from the fire, as well as with others whose hands had stiffened and turn to claws. One leper, who ate a bowl of soup, had a noisome discharge from his nostrils, and when Bladud looked at this man he realised he had sunk lower than he had dreamt possible. He resolved that no more would he associate with human beings. He left the company of lepers and took the lowly, lonely occupation of swineherd.

Before long, Bladud started to enjoy the company of pigs. He imitated their grunts and their little woofs and came to know the sounds which meant satisfaction and the sounds which meant hunger. 'Ah, pigs,' he said -- for he spoke to them often -- 'I am not so sure that you eat too much. Poor maligned beasts.'

The pigs rooted around in the soft spring earth, seeking an old tuber or a piece of decayed bark. One pig would bite the ear of another, and even rip off flesh amidst much blood and shrieking; yet later the same day the two pigs would sleep side by side, as though they had infinite capacity of forgiveness. Deciding that Bladud was not too disgusting, they would sometimes lick his face -- to the, in spite of his royalty, he was a pig. And when a pig was slaughtered, some of its lard was used by Bladud in a lamp: he watched its flames burn out upon the wick in the evening, and he would bid his brother farewell.

One day, a new pig was given into his care -- one that had a bent foot. 'It is surely not possible,' he said to himself.

He came to believe - and then it became an unyielding conviction -- that this was the very piglet he had freed all those years before, now fully grown. There was a look the pig gave him, which was exactly the look he had received from the piglet in the moonlit grasslands. Bladud needed no more evidence. He felt the greatest joy he had experienced in ages! To think they had been reunited, these old friends! The pig licked his face.

So life continued for Bladud, and he herded the swine into ancient forests of beech, where early spring flowers and fungi free, to forage for mast; but pigs, being pigs, had wills of their own, and if they were herded one way, they would take it into their minds that the food was better the other. Indeed, it was most peculiar: they seemed to know which food would make them the tastiest to eat. The roast pork of Bladud's pigs was renowned.

As the pigs ate, Bladud stood against the trunk of the largest tree he could find, with foliage so thick that some lower branches were rotting for lack of sunlight. There was nothing to apply his mind to, except the appearance of trees. He knew trees by their frost-cracks and by their twig-scars, their roughnesses and irregularities. He admired in particular the ornamentation of ivy, and the pleasing way it wound around the bark of an oak. All the same, this knowledge was no substitute for the knowledge he desired. He carved Greek letters into the bark, forming the start of an incantation, but he could not remember the end. He slapped the bark, as though fearing that soon all his knowledge would be gone.

One cold day, in late autumn, the pigs roamed far in search of mast. Bladud found himself among forest he did not know. Dead leaves were still clinging to some trees. Then one of the pigs -- the one with the bent foot -- wandered a long way from the others. Bladud called and the pig turned, but grunted and continued, and vanished behind a rock.

Bladud found the pig wallowing in a mudhole. He had seen pigs wallow many a time in summer to cool down, but it was a cold day, and steam rose from this mud, as well as a herby, sulphurous odour, which the pig must have scented from afar. The heroines was easy to explain, for dead leaves and beechnuts were on the surface. Bladud bent and touched the mud, and rolled its warmth between his finger and thumb.

The next morning the corrupted skin of his fingertips was not as red as before. When he saw his friend the pig, there was a change in its appearance, too. Its skin looked softer overall, and a crustiness around its ears had lessened.

Bladud immersed himself in the mudpool. He rubbed mud all over his body, even around his eyes, and within his ears and nostrils. He felt the heat reach deep into his pores. He stayed in the hot mud, and his friend the pig joined him. Bladud let the mud dry on his skin, then he stood beside the pool, and gave praise to Sulis, goddess of healing. With beech twigs, pebbles, stones, moss and ivy, he decorated the perimeter of the mudpool. He decorated too, the beech tree nearest the pool, whose large overhanging branch dropped its fruit into the hot mud. The pool and the tree formed a sacred pair in his mind. He also returned at night and stared into the black steaming mudpool, which reflected, unsmoothly, the stars and the moon. It was as though he knelt at the very entrance of the underworld, and the celestial bodies were torches to mark the way down. He praised the goddess Kerridwen, for whom pigs were sacred and magical.

For a full month, Bladud stepped into the mudpool. By the end of that time, his skin was as normal as any man's. With pride, he ran his hand over his smooth arms and chest.

He released all the pigs. and lingered over the goodbye to one.

It was now that he returned to his people. As he approached the city walls, he sounded the leper clapper -- but now flaunting it proudly above his head, waving it was the one thing he did not need, to announce that he was leper no more.

Bladud would, in due time, exchange the clapper for a sceptre. He ascended the throne, married and ruled.

There were glories in Bladud's reign, and his foundation of the city of Bath at the site of the mudpool, was certainly one of his finest achievements. The healthy hot springs that continue to attract so many travellers are Bladud's legacy.

Yet Bladud was unfulfilled. He yearned for shamanic knowledge. Often neglecting the needs of his subjects, he spent his days working on wooden contraptions, inspired by the arrow of Abaris. Sometimes it was said that the leprosy had been cured on his skin, but the true scar of Athens had been left in his mind -- he had not completed the course he had set for himself.

In Trinovatntum, the place now called London, Bladud climbed to the top of a wooden tower, the height of 20 men. He wore a knee-length tunic; around his neck was a beechwood amulet in the shape of a pig with a bent foot; and strapped to his back was a structure of timber, cloth and feathers, which he could flap by ropes attached to his hands and feet. He said incantations. He moved to the edge of the tower. 'I will do what birds do,' he proclaimed to the crowd below. 'I will do what the gods do.'

The tower stood upon a hill. there was an uplift of wind, which he felt upon his face at the tower's edge. Soaring jackdaws came close, and looked him in the eye.

'I have the will to soar,' he said, in a low voice. 'I believe I shall soar. I imagine I am soaring.'

In the crowd below, Bladud's son looked up, hand over his mouth. At one shoulder stood his mother the queen, who covered her eyes; at the other shoulder stood a boy his own age, dressed in a jester's outfit -- an exact copy, in miniature, of the outfit worn by the boy's father, Bladud's jester.

'I say that if your father thinks he can fly,' remarked the little jester, 'he must be feather-brained indeed.'

'I'll have you whipped!' said Bladud's son. 'We must pray for a storm or a hurricane to lift him up.'

Bladud now raised the wings and they filled with wind. He said one more incantation with his eyelids firmly closed. Then he opened his eyes and launched himself off the edge of the tower.

An up draught caught his contraption and for a moment Bladud attained flight. He laughed in triumph and was lifted higher.

Then he twisted in midair, and Bladud plummeted down, down, down. At the instant he struck the earth, the crowd, acting as one, drawn in their breath, and this covered the sound of his neck snapping.

(Henry Jarvis, Death and Mr Pickwick)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

An act of uncommon kindness

A friend posted the following story on Facebook. And it touched my heart, mainly because the person who helped had nothing to was a pure and simple act of kindness and I am so glad that this man found sanctuary in a seemingly cold and heartless world.

(The last photo taken at the hospital a day before Low (left) died. Rajagopal visited him everyday)

AT a time when some refuse to take care of their own parents, one man took care of a stranger of a different race in his own home for 10 years.

Office boy R. Rajagopal, 52, bumped into Low Saw Piow, 67, in Jalan Pudu in 2004.

Rajagopal recognised the frail old man who used to work for a building contractor doing a project near the bank where he worked.

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“I used to see him laying telephone cables near my office, but we only said “hello” to each other and nothing more.

“When I saw him in Jalan Pudu, he told me he had not eaten a good meal for days and was living off cucumbers disposed of in the market.

“He told me that he was retired and lost all his Employees Provident Fund contributions to a conman while trying to buy a house.

“He had no money and the landlord had thrown him out, so he was living on the streets.

“I bought him lunch and brought him home,” he said.

Rajagopal lives with his wife and daughter in a three bedroom apartment in Cheras. He let Low stay in one of the bedrooms.

Rajagopal has seen his own share of hardship. He lost sight in his right eye after an accident in 1997. But Rajagopal remains positive and says life must go on.

“All Low needed was a place to live and food to eat.

“If I do not cook, there is a restaurant nearby where I have arranged for him to eat whenever he wants. I settle the bill on a monthly basis.

“There are also many generous people who know his story and offer to pay for his food and give him money when they see him.

“Every Chinese New Year, there is also one man who will buy new clothes and give Low an ang pow.

“Low gets very happy when people give him money, even if it is just RM10, because to him it is a big amount.

“He uses the money to buy food and occasionally go for a movie, but lately he spends most of his time at home ,” Rajagopal says.

Low’s application for welfare aid was finally approved by the Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur State Social Welfare Department in 2012 and he started receiving RM300 every month.

“However, it was slashed to RM80 in March without notice.

“When I called the Welfare Department to enquire, the officer who declined to be named told me to tell Low to take it or leave it,” Rajagopal said.

When Low fell ill late last month, Rajagopal and a friend rushed him to the hospital.

“The hospital staff were all puzzled seeing an Indian bring in a Chinese man and asked a lot of questions.

“I told them that I was his guardian and they proceeded with the treatment.

“He was diagnosed with dengue and passed away on June 29.

“The hospital refused to release his body to me and I had to contact his sister who lives in Klang to claim it.

“His sister and younger brother arrived and handed his remains to us.

“I was told by his family members that he was rebellious and left home at a very young age.

“He was traced by his sister some years ago to settle the matter of a house that was willed to the siblings.

“The case was still in court and the sister gave him money from time to time.

Rajagopal and his friends arranged for a funeral service and cremated Low the next day.

“I messaged the people who had helped Low to inform them about his passing and some came forward to contribute for the funeral expenses.

“We attracted a lot of attention at the crematorium because it isn’t usual to see four Hindus and a Punjabi cremating a Chinese man, assisted by a Buddhist monk.

“Many people asked me why I did this and I just tell them that he needed a home. But it was easy as he was also going senile.

“I am not rich but I realise that there are many generous people among us. Every time Low needed something, there were always people who would volunteer to chip in,” he said.

While clearing Low’s room, Rajagopal stumbled upon diaries he kept about the sorrows in his life.

“I learnt that he had a hard life. He died in his sleep and I take it as a good death. But I still think he was gone too soon.

“However, I am glad that I did the best I could for the last 10 years of his life,” he said.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Siegfried came away from the telephone; his face was expressionless. "That was Mrs Pumphrey. She wants you to see her pig."

"Peke, you mean," I said.

"No, pig. She has a six-week-old pig she wants you to examine for soundness."

I laughed sheepishly. My relations with the elderly widow's Peke was a touchy subject. "All right, all right, don't start again. What did she really want? Is Tricki Woo's bottom playing him up again?"

"James," said Siegfried gravely."It is unlike you to doubt my word in this way. I will repeat the message from Mrs Pumphrey and then I shall expect you to act upon it immediately and without further question. The lady informed me that she has become the owner of a six-week-old piglet and she wants the animal thoroughly vetted. You know how I feel about these examinations and I don't want the job scamped in any way. I should pay particular attention to its wind -- have it well galloped round the paddock before you get your stethoscope on it and for heaven's sake don't miss anything obvious like curbs or ringbones. I think I'd take its height while you're about it; you'll find the measuring stick in ..."

His words trailed on as I hurried down the passage. This was a bit baffling; I usually had a bit of leg-pulling to stand ever since I became Tricki the Peke's adopted uncle and received presents and letters and signed photographs from him, but Siegfried wasn't in the habit of flogging the joke to this extent. The idea of Mrs Pumphrey with a pig was unthinkable; there was no room in her elegant establishment for livestock. Oh, he must have got it wrong somehow.

But he hadn't. Mrs Pumphrey received me with a joyful cry. "Oh, Mr Herriot, isn't it wonderful?I have the most darling little pig. I was visiting some cousins who are farmers and I picked him out. He will be such company for Tricki -- you know how I worry about his being an only dog."

I shook my head vigorously in bewilderment as I crossed the oak-panneled hall. My visits here were usually associated with a degree of fantasy but I was beginning to feel out of my depth.

"You mean you actually have this pig in the house?"

"But of course." Mrs Pumphrey looked surprised. "He's in the kitchen. Come and see him."

I had been in this kitchen a few times and had been almost awestruck by its shining spotlessness; the laboratory look of the tiled walls and floors, the gleaming surfaces of sink unit, cooker, refrigerator. Today, a cardboard box occupied one corner and inside I could see a tiny pig; standing on its hind legs, his forefeet resting on the rim, he was looking round him appreciatively at his new surroundings.

The elderly cook had her back to us and did not look round when we entered; she was chopping carrots and hurling them into a saucepan with, I thought, unnecessary vigour.

"Isn't he adorable!" Mrs Pumphrey bent over and tickled the little head. "It's so exciting having a pig of my very own! Mr Herriot, I have decided to call him Nugent."

I swallowed. "Nugent?" The cook's broad back froze into immobility.

"Yes, after my great uncle Nugent. He was a little pink man with tiny eyes and a snub nose. The resemblance is striking."

"I see," I said, and the cook started her splashing again.

For a few moments I was at a loss; the ethical professional man in me rebelled at the absurdity of examining this obviously healthy little creature. In fact I was on the point of saying that he looked perfectly all right to me when Mrs Pumphrey spoke.

"Come now, Nugent," she said. "You must be a good boy and let your Uncle Herriot look at you."

That did it. Stifling my finer feelings I seized the string-like tail and held Nugent almost upside down as I took his temperature. I then solemnly auscultated his heart and lungs, peered into his eyes, ran my fingers over his limbs and flexed his joints.

The cook's back radiated stiff disapproval but I carried on doggedly. Having a canine nephew, I had found, carried incalculable advantages; it wasn't only the frequent gifts -- and I could still taste those glorious kippers Tricki had posted to me from Whitby -- it was the vein of softness in my rough life, the sherry before lunch, the warmth and luxury of Mrs Pumphrey's fireside. The way I saw it, if a piggy nephew of the same type had been thrown in my path then Uncle Herriot was going to be the last man to interfere with the inscrutable workings of fate.

The examination over, I turned to Mrs Pumphrey who was anxiously awaiting the verdict. "Sound in all respects," I said briskly. "In fact you've got a very fine pig there. But there's just one thing -- he can't live in the house."

For the first time the cook turned towards me and I read a mute appeal in her face. I could sympathise with her because the excretions of a pig are peculiarly volatile and even such a minute specimen as Nugent had already added his own faint pungency to the atmosphere in the kitchen.

Mrs Pumphrey was appalled at the idea at first but when I assured her that he wouldn't catch pneumonia and in fact would be happier and healthier outside, she gave way.

An agricultural joiner was employed to build a palatial sty in a corner of the garden; it had a warm sleeping apartment on raised boards and an outside run. I saw Nugent installed in it, curled up blissfully in a bed of clean straw. His trough was filled twice daily with the best meal and he was never short of an extra titbit such as juicy carrot or some cabbage leaves. Every day he was allowed out to play and spent a boisterous hour frisking round the garden with Tricki.

In short, Nugent had it made, but it couldn't have happened to a nicer pig; because, though most of his species have an unsuspected strain of friendliness, this was developed in Nugent to an extraordinary degree. He just liked people and over the next few months his character flowered under the constant personal contact with humans.

I often saw him strolling companionably in the garden with Mrs Pumphrey and in his pen he spent much of the time standing upright with his cloven feet against the wire netting, waiting eagerly for his next visitor. Pigs grow quickly and he soon left the pink baby stage behind, but his charm was undiminished. His chief delight was to have his back scratched; he would grunt deeply, screwing up his eyes in ecstasy, then gradually his legs would start to buckle until finally he toppled over on his side.

Nugent's existence was sunny and there was only one cloud in the sky; old Hodgkin, the gardener, who's attitude to domestic pets had been permanently soured by having to throw rubber rings for Tricki every day, now found himself appointed personal valet to a pig. It was his duty to feed and bed down Nugent and to supervise his play periods. The idea of doing all this for a pig who was never ever going to be converted into pork pies must have been nearly insupportable for the old countryman; the harsh lines on his face deepened whenever he took hold of the meal bucket.

On the first of my professional visits to his charge, he greeted me gloomily with "Hasta come to see Nudist?" I knew Hodgkin well enough to realise the impossibility of any whimsical wordplay; it was a genuine attempt to grasp the name and throughout my nephew's long career he remained "Nudist" to the old man.

There is one memory of Nugent I treasure. The telephone rang one day just after lunch; it was Mrs Pumphrey and I knew by the stricken voice that something momentous had happened; it was the same voice that had described Tricki Woo's unique symptoms of flop-bott and crackerdog.

"Oh Mr Herriot, thank heavens you are in. It's Nugent! I'm afraid he's terribly ill."

"Really? I'm sorry to hear that. What's he doing?"

There was a silence at the other end for gasping breathing then Mrs Pumphrey spoke again. "Well, he can't manage...he can't his little jobs."

I was familiar with her vocabulary of big jobs and little jobs. "You mean he can't pass his urine?"

"Well...well..." she was obviously confused. "Not properly."

"That's strange," I said. "Is he eating all right?"

"I think so, but..." then she suddenly blurted out: "Oh Mr Herriot, I'm so terribly worried! I've heard of men being dreadfully ill...just like this. It's a gland isn't it?"

"Oh you needn't worry about that. Pigs don't have that trouble and anyway, I think four months is a bit young for hypertrophy of the prostate."

"Oh, I'm so glad, but something is...stopping it. You will come, won't you!"

"I'm leaving now."

I had quite a long wait outside Nugent's pen. he had grown into a chunky little porker and grunted amiably as he surveyed me through the netting. Clearly he expected some sort of game and, growing impatient, he performed a few stiff-legged little gallops up and down the run.

I had almost decided that my visit was fruitless when Mrs Pumphrey, who had been pacing up and down, wringing her hands, stopped dead and pointed a shaking finger at the pig.

"Oh God," she breathed. "There! There! There it is now!" All the colour had drained from her face leaving her deathly pale. "Oh, it's awful! I can't look any longer." With a moan she turned away and buried her face in her hands.

I scrutinised Nugent closely. He had halted in mid gallop and was contentedly relieving himself by means of the intermitted spurting jets of a normal male pig.

I turned to Mrs Pumphrey. "I really can't see anything wrong there."

"But he's...he's..." she still didn't dare to look. "He's doing it fits and starts."

I had had a considerable practice at keeping a straight face in Mrs Pumphrey's presence and it stood me in good stead now.

"But they all do it in that way, Mrs Pumphrey."

She half turned and looked tremblingly out of the corner of her eye at Nugent. "You mean...all boy pigs...?"

"Every single boy pig I have ever know has done it like that."

" odd, how very odd." The poor lady fanned herself with her handkerchief. Her colour had come back in a positive flood.

To cover her confusion I became very business-like. "Yes, yes indeed. Lots of people make the same mistake, I assure you. Ah well, I suppose I'd better be on my way now -- it's been nice to see the little fellow looking so well and happy."

Nugent enjoyed a long and happy life and more than fulfilled my expectations of him; he was every bit as generous as Tricki with his presents and, as with the little Peke, I was able to salve my conscience with the knowledge that I was really fond of him. As always, Siegfried's sardonic attitude made things a little uncomfortable; I had suffered in the past when I got the signed photographs from the little dog - but I never dared let him see the one from the pig.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Week 29: Provide Something Wonderful For Someone To Find

The exercise this week is intended to help you experience the idea of each of us being vehicles of kindness in a user-friendly universe.

What we are doing here is participating in what educator David Spangler calls manifestation, "the art of fashioning a co-creative, synchronistic, and mutually supportive relationship between the inner creative energies of a person's own mind and spirit and their counterpart within the larger world in order to bring a new and desirable situation into being."

In providing something wonderful for someone to find, think creatively. In doing so as part of a greater whole, think holistically.

Note, the word "wonderful" is being used purposefully but it needs to be defined by you. And an equally important part of this exercise is that you set up your act so that something is found by another while you remain anonymous. This need not be as elaborate as you might think. Quietly emptying the dishwasher at night after your partner has gone to bed so she/he enters the kitchen the next morning with that chore done can meet the intention. But feel free to be more elaborate, too!

Please summarize your experience in your journal, keeping your summary concise yet complete.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Kenko on the changing seasons

I picked up this book, A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees by Kenko, a slim black volume for about RM5 and kept it in my bag. It is light enough after all and not like the hefty tomes I usually lug around. Yesterday, I decided to open it at random (it is the philosophical musings of a Japanese monk) and happened upon the following. I thought it would be a good thing for this blog:

The changing seasons are moving in every way.

Everyone seems to feel that "it is above all autumn that moves the heart to tears', and there is some truth in this, yet surely it is spring that stirs the heart more profoundly. Then, birdsong is full of the feel of spring, the plants beneath the hedges bud into leaf in the warm sunlight, the slowly deepening season brings soft mists, while the blossoms at last begin to open, only to meet with ceaseless winds and rain that send them flurrying restlessly to earth. Until the leaves appear on the boughs, the heart is endlessly perturbed.

The scented flowering orange is famously evocative, but it is above all plum blossom that has the power to carry you back to moments of cherished memory. The exquisite kerria, the hazy clusters of wisteria blossom - all these things linger in the heart.

Someone has said that at the time of the Buddha's birthday and the Kamo festival in the fourth month, when the trees are cool with luxuriant new leaf, one is particularly moved by the pathos of things and by a longing for others, and indeed it is true. And who could not be touched to melancholy in the fifth month, when the sweet flag iris leaves are laid on roofs, and the rice seedlings are planted out, and the water's rail knocking call is heard? The sixth month is also moving, with white evening-glory blooming over the walls of poor dwellings, and the smoke blooming over the walls of poor dwellings, and the smoke from smouldering smudge fires. The purifications of the sixth month are also delightful.

The festival of Tanabata is wonderfully elegant. Indeed so many things happen together in autumn - the nights grow slowly more chill, wild geese come crying over, and when the bush clover begins to yellow the early rice is harvested and hung to dry. The morning after a typhoon has blown through is also delightful.

Writing this, I realise that all this has already been spoken of long ago in The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book -- but that is no reason not to say it again. After all, things thought but left unsaid only fester inside you. So I let my brush run on like this for my own foolish solace; these pages deserve to be torn up and discarded, after all, and are not something others will ever see.

To continue -- the sight of a bare wintry landscape is almost as lovely as autumn. It is delightful to see fallen autumn leaves scattered among the plants by the water's edge, or vapour rising from the garden stream on a morning white with frost. It is also especially moving to observe everyone bustling about a year's end, preparing for the new year. And then there is the forlornly touching sight of the waning moon around the twentieth day, hung in a clear, cold sky, although people consider it too dreary to look at. The Litany of Buddha Names and the Presentation of Tributes are thoroughly moving and magnificent, and in fact all the numerous court ceremonies and events at around this time, taking place as they do amidst the general end-of-year bustle, present an impressive sight. The way the Worship of the Four Directions follows so quickly upon the Great Demon Expulsion is wonderful too.

In the thick darkness of New Year's Eve, people light pine torches and rush about, so fast that their feet virtually skim the ground, making an extraordinary racket for some reason, and knocking on everyone's doors until late at night -- but then at last around dawn all grows quiet, and you savour the touching moment of saying farewell to the old year. I was moved to find that in the East they still perform the ritual for dead souls on the night when the dead are said to return, although these days this has ceased to be done in the capital.

And so, watching the new year dawn in the sky, you are stirred by a sense of utter newness, although the sky looks no different from yesterday's. It is also touching to see the happy sight of new year pines gaily decorating the houses all along the main streets.

Thursday, 16 July 2015


So I thought I'd take a time-out and just talk to you. Long time followers of this blog (all one of you) will notice that the selection has become a lot more eclectic lately. It used to be that I excerpted only feel good stuff...but now, I throw in anything and everything I find interesting. Sort of like a mishmash.

Among other things, it will give you some idea of the things I'm interested in or happen to be reading at the moment. I read a whole lot. And am intrigued by various things.

And I thought it would be a pity keeping it all to myself.

So I do two things.

I share stuff on this blog.

Or I send my friends books I have just read that I think they would like.

It helps keeps things going you know? I was told recently that my whole life revolves around work and that I really have to figure out other avenues of satisfaction. Now, let's see, I love preparing for Christmas. Normal years, I order stuff way in advance and take a lot of trouble with my gifts. Abnormal years I leave everything to the last minute and don't even care because there is too much I'm having to process.

How's this year looking?

Pretty normal so far. Although I haven't really decided where to spend it. Or who to spend it with.

The other thing I love is my dogs. They constantly infuriate me (I guess the two young ones don't know any better) but after the meltdowns, I cool down and sayang them. And sometimes, bathe them and run a comb through all that fur. Shed shed shed.

I also like writing letters although I have been pretty remiss about this lately.

I would like to tell you more of what I like...but, well, if you read this blog regularly, you would have figured all that out for yourself by now.

Later for you.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Letter to Roger Fry

You never know what you will find in the pages of The Bright Side, do you? That's because my mind (and reading material) is full of this and that, and at odd times, I think, hmmm....I liked that particularly, I think I'll share it.

Well, I love Virginia Woolf's letters. I think if one is to appreciate her properly, one must read her letters...they are performances of course, but wise and witty and malicious (ooooh, did she love to gossip and she seemed to have a poor opinion about...well, many people) they are charming and delightful and I don't know, somehow satisfying.

Anyway, there were plenty to choose from, but I decided to go with the one she wrote to Roger Fry...because I think it encapsulates a Virginia letter...all the parts. Here we go!

Oct. 17 1921 Hogarth House, Richmond

My dear Roger,
Your letter arrived precisely one hour ago, and here I am sitting down to answer it. Whether the answer will be sent is, of course, another matter. Your last - slightly tipsy, very brilliant, sympathetic, inspiring and the best you ever wrote, - sent me flying to the inkpot, but when I read my production and compared it with yours my vanity as an author refused to be pacified. I can't endure that you should write so well. If you want answers let your letters be like bread poultices; anyhow, I tore up what was, I now think, the best letter I ever wrote. Would you like it if I dashed off a little sketch of the eclipse of the moon last night, which entirely surpassed your great oil painting of the Rape of Eurydice - or whatever it is?

You will say that you don't have eclipses of the moon on the shores of the Mediterranean. Well, its true we have been having the devil of a time - the influenza. Leonard refusing to go to bed; Nelly [Boxall] like a hen run over, but unhurt, by a motor car; Lottie [Hope] something after the pattern of an intoxicated Jay: the house ringing with laughter and tears. Do other people go on like this, I sometimes wonder, or have we somehow (this includes you, by the way) slipped the coil of civilisation? I mean, we've jumped the lines. There you are bathing naked with 50 prostitutes; yesterday we had Goldie [G. Lowes Dickinson] to tea. I do my best to make him jump the lines. He has written a dialogue upon homosexuality which he won't publish, for fear of the effect upon parents who might send their sons to Kings: and he is writing his autobiography which he won't publish for the same reason. So you see what dominates English literature is the parents of the young men who might be sent to Kings. But Goldie won't see this -- having a mystic sense, in which I am deficient. He was as merry as a grig, though; and had forgotten whatever it was -- the ruin of civilisation I suppose -- that used to distress him.

Tonight we go to Weybridge go dine with Mrs Forster and read an address upon article 22 of the Convention. Wells has asked us to a party. George Booth has asked us to another. Life, as you see, whizzes by with incredible rapidity, and its all I can do to coin to my arm chair in Richmond, and add page upon page to a story [Jacob's Room] which you won't like but will have to say that you do. That reminds me of the Nation; of Murry; of Sydney, of a thousand things which I long to say but can't see how to get in on this sheet of paper. Murry has bred in me a vein of Grub Street spite which I never thought to feel in the flesh. He has brought out a little book of those clay-cold-castrated costive comatose poems which he has the impertinence to dedicate to Hardy in terms which suggest that Hardy has adopted him as his spiritual son. Thank God, he is soundly drubbed in the newspapers. But his article on you has drawn his fangs for ever; he has no sting: all one hopes is that he may bite each one of us in turn before he is finally discredited and shuffled off to some 10th rate Parisian Cafe, where you'll find him, 20 years hence, laying down the law to the illegitimate children of Alaister Crawley [Aleister Crowley, the famous Satanist], Wyndham Lewis, and James Joyce. Eliot says that Joyce's novel [Ulysses] is the greatest work of the age -- Lytton says he doesn't mean to read it. Clive says -- well, Clive says that Mary Hutchinson has a dressmaker who make me look like other people. Clive has cut his hair, drinks wine only once a day, says eggs and sausages is his favourite dish, and comes to Richmond to confess his sins -- after which, I suppose, he sins them worse than ever. But he is trying to reform.

Love to Nessa -- I don't write to her on principle. Nor do I read over what I have write to you: but now, send me another.


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Journey of Scar Face

I got the following from my book Original Thinking by Glenn Aparicio Parry I thought it was really cool and I know the insights are supposed to be profound. But what they are, you have to figure out for yourself.

Scar Face lived with his grandmother because his mother and father had died shortly after his birth. His face had a birthmark that set him apart from all others and became the source of ridicule and shame. Because he was different, he was taunted by the children and other members in the tribe. As Scar Face grew older he withdrew and spent much of his time alone in the forest befriending and learning the ways of the animals he encountered. It is said that he learned to speak with them. And through them he learned how to be related with all things.

As Scar Face grew older he fell in love, as young boys do, when they come of that age. The focus of Scar Face's affection was a young woman, Singing Rain, the chief's daughter. Singing Rain was also a special person, kind and with a gift of insight. Although all the other young men competed for her affection, it was Scar Face who she came to respect and love because of his honesty and good heart. However, when Scar Face asked for her to marry, she revealed her sacred vow to the Sun never to marry. This was her pledge of spiritual piety in the way of the Blackfoot. The only way she could marry was if the Sun were to release her from her pledge. And so, it is said that Scar Face began his visionary journey to the land of the Star People.

Scar Face did not know where the Star People lived, only that they must live in the direction the Sun set every evening, beyond the Great Water in the West. So Scar Face prepared himself with help from his grandmother, and when he was ready he set forth on his journey, a journey to the land of spirit. He first travelled familiar territory, but then began to enter into lands that neither he nor other members of his tribe had ever seen.

As the snow of Winter began to fall, a hundred paths became open to him, and he became confused; he did not know which way to go. He met a wolf on one path, and with great humility asked for help and direction. Knowing the goodness of his heart, the wolf spoke to him and guided him to the right path.

He travelled that path for a great distance until he came to another series of paths. Again, he became confused. He stopped, set his camp and prayed. Soon a mother Bear and her cubs appeared on the path in front of him. Again, with great humility he asked for guidance from the mother Bear. The Bear spoke with great kindness and pointed out to him the right path. Scar Face followed the bear's path for many days until the path ended. Now there were no longer any paths in front of him to follow, only the vast expanse of the great forest. As he stood and pondered in front of the forest, a wolverine approached him. He called out, "Good wolverine, my friend, I need your help." Again, he asked for direction and help from this fried. Knowing his heart and the nobility of his quest, wolverine responded with great kindness and guided him through the forest to the edge of the Great Water, where, exhausted, he made camp. He thanked the wolverine, as he had thanked each of the animals that had helped him, by offering them a gift of song and tobacco. He could see a twinkling of lights across the Great Water, and he knew that was the land of the Star People.

Scar Face did not know how to cross the water to "that place that his people talked about." But he was determined to find a way. Then two snow geese swam by and offered to take him across the Great Water. When they arrived on the other side, he thanked the geese in the same manner as he had done the other animals for their kindness and great service to him. He made camp and then fasted and prayed for three days and nights. On the fourth day, a path of sunlight began to form in front of him leading toward "that place." He leaped onto the path and followed it as it took him higher and higher into the sky. Whe he reached the end of this path of sunlight, he came to a beautiful forest and another path that was of great width as if it had been made by thousands of people travelling on it for a long, long time. As he followed the path he came upon a quiver of arrows leaning against a tree. He wondered whom they must belong to, so he waited to see. Soon, on the path coming from the other direction was an extraordinary looking Warrior dressed in richly decorated white buckskin. As the Warrior approached, Scar Face could se that this man was an image of perfection. He asked Scar Face if he had seen a quiver of arrows. In response, Scar Face showed him where the arrows were. Grateful and curious, the stranger introduced himself. "I am Morning Star." Then he asked Scar Face his name and where he was going. "I am called Scar Face and I seek the lodge of the Sun."

"Then come with me, Sun is my father and I live with my mother Moon in his lodge."

When Scar Face arrived at the lodge of the Sun, he saw that the walls were painted with the history of all people of the world. Morning Star introduced Scar Face to his mother the Moon. As his father the Sun entered the lodge, a great light entered with him. Morning Star introduced Scar Face to his father Sun, the greatest chief. Scar Face was so impressed that he could not bring himself to reveal his reasons for coming to the land of the Star People. Sun and Moon treated Scar Face with great hospitality and asked Scar Face to stay with them as long as he wished. Over the next few days, Morning Star showed Scar Face the many paths in the beautiful land of the Star People. There was one path to a distant mountainy that Sun had warned Morning Star and Scar Face never to go near. It was a mountain on the top of which lived a flock of seven giant birds that the Star People greatly feared.

One morning, Scar Face woke to find Morning Star gone. Scar Face arose and quietly left the lodge of the Sun to take a walk and decide how he might ask Sun to release Singing Rain from her vow. He thought he might meet Morning Star and ask him for advice. But as he walked, he began to feel that something was wrong, and the nearer he came to the mountain where the Giant Birds lived the stronger his feeling became. He knew that there was some reason Morning Star had gone to the forbidden mountain.

Scar Face set out in search of Morning Star. As he climbed to the top of the mountain of the Great Birds, he found Morning Star engaged in a ferocious battle with the birds. These birds were indeed savage and extremely large. They were about to overcome Morning Star when Scar Face joined the battle. Scar Face fought valiantly and soon turned the tide of battle. One by one, Scar Face and Morning Star began to kill the Giant Birds until all seven were slain and their tail feathers taken by the two warriors.

Tired, yet proud of their accomplishment Scar Face and Morning Star descended the mountain and returned to the Sun Lodge to inform Sun and Moon of the defeat of the Star People's most feared enemies. Sun and Moon were very impressed by the courage shown by both young men and were especially grateful to Scar Face for saving the life of Morning Star. In honour of the courage of Scar Face, Sun offered to fulfil any desire he would request. Yet, Scar Face could not speak his greatest desire. He remained silent until Moon, knowing his hear, spoke of Scar Face's love for Singing Rain and her vow to the Sun that prevented them from being together. Sun immediately responded by saying to Scar Face that he would release Singing Rain from her vow. Sun touched the cheek of Scar Face, and the scar he had borne all his life disappeared. Morning Star in turn gave him special personal gifts and revealed to him that he was his spirit father, confirming the feeling that Scar Face had all along. Then Sun and Moon began to sing songs in praise of Scar Face and Morning Star. Sun and Moon then gave Scar Face many gifts. In addition, Sun renamed Scar Face "Mistaken Morning Star" because now without the scar on his face he looked like Morning Star. Sun taught Mistaken Morning Star his own special dance, the Sun Dance. He said that if Earth People wished to honour him and bring health and well-being to their tribe, they should dance the Sun Dance each year when he has reached the highest place in the sky. Then Morning Star led his Earth son to the path called Wolf's trail (the Milky Way) and placed a wreath of juniper on his head. In an instant, Mistaken Morning Star was back on Earth and on a path leading to his own village.

Singing Rain was the first to meet Mistaken Morning Star as he approached the village. He told her that Sun had released her from her vow, and she knew in her heart from seeing and feeling the magnificence of him that they could now be together always. Mistaken Morning Star called the people together and taught them the rituals of the Sun Dance. He showed the women how to build the Sun Dance Lodge, and he taught the men how to conduct the sweat lodge ceremony and raise the Sun Dance pole. He taught them about the nature of sacred visioning. He taught them from "that place that the Indians talk about."

Monday, 13 July 2015

Week 28: Send a 'Thank You' card

The purpose of this week's exercise is to have you bring forward in your awareness the little things done for us by strangers, things that we often take for granted.

Take the first couple days to pay extra attention to this as you go about your day. What has to happen behind the scenes to make your everyday activities go smoothly? As a starting spot, think about the effort needed to get food to the shelves of the grocery store, or the work needed to keep the streets operating smoothly, or about the people who do your dry cleaning, pick up your trash, deliver your mail, etc.

You might find yourself thinking that since you pay some of these people for these services there is no need to thank them. Resist that urge and see the work they do for you as an act of kindness on their part.

By midweek, choose one of these people and send that person a thank you card.

In your journal, write about the person you choose for your thank you card. As you do this, you might yourself wanting to ask this person questions about their life. Do so!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Deep and Dark and Woodsy

This is extracted from one of the little known books by LM Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. I always loved the heroine, Valancy Stirling, the plain 29-year-old girl (woman?) whom life had passed by...the one who had been thwarted at every turn, whose own mother didn't love her, whose father was dead, who was looked down on by her clan, who was scared of everybody and everything. And then she finds out she only has a year to live and suddenly, she's not afraid of everything anymore. It was life, a long life, that scared her. But now that she is approaching death, she is finally free to do or say whatever the hell she wanted to before, because there are no consequences, or if there are, they won't be for very long.

Anyway, the following is a passage from a fictional book, Thistle Harvest, that Valancy was reading. Thistle Harvest had been written by John Foster...and nobody knows who he is, but Valancy loved all his books and couldn't get enough of them. His books were ostensibly nature books, but they seemed to hint at something more, something akin to the secret of life.

The woods are so human that to know them one must live with them. An occasional saunter through them, keeping to the well-trodden paths, will never admit us to their intimacy. If we wish to be friends we must seek them out and win them by frequent, reverent visits at all hours; by morning, by noon, and by night; and at all seasons, in spring, in summer, in autumn, in winter. Otherwise we can never really know them and any pretence we may make to the contrary will never impose on them. They have their own effective way of keeping aliens at a distance and shutting their hearts to mere casual sightseers. It is of no use to seek the woods from motive except sheer love of them; they will find us out at once and hide all their sweet, old-word secrets from us. But if they know we come to them because we love them, they will be very kind to us and give us such treasures of beauty and delight as are not bought or sold in any market-place. For the woods, when they give at all, give unstintedly and hold nothing back from their true worshippers. We must go to them lovingly, humbly, patiently, watchfully, and we shall learn what poignant loveliness lurks in the wild places and silent intervals, lying under star shine and sunset, what cadences of unearthly music are harped on aged pine boughs or crooned in copses of fir, what delicate savours exhale from mosses and ferns in sunny corners or on damp brook lands, what dreams and myths and legends of an older time haunt them. Then the immortal heart of the woods will beat against ours and its subtle life will steal into our veins and make us its own forever, so that no matter where we go or how widely we wander we shall yet be drawn back to the forest to find our most enduring kinship.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Love No Matter What

You know I update this with random things...depending on what someone puts up on my Facebook page, what book I am reading at any one point in time or whatever thoughts I feel called to share with you. Also pictures, cute pictures.

Life jogs along and I try to be more present, more aware, of how I engineer the things that happen in my life, even when it seems that I am being carried upon a tide of randomness. It's funny but you only see things or feel things fully in hindsight. That's all there is to it.

All those people I want in my life, all those people I insist on having in my life, all those people I expend all my money and energy to try and force them to be in my life (because no matter what I say, I'm lonely and I'm scared of being alone. There! I said it). I realise that I put too much pressure on them to BE with me, constantly, and mostly, people have their own stuff to deal with. Those who try to live up to all I expect of them, end up drained, exhausted and not talking to me for the rest of their lives.

I'm reading Sonia Choquette's memoir of her time walking the Camino. It came out recently. The following passage was highlighted in my Kindle. And I would like to share it with you.

We cannot feel love unless we open our hearts, and yet, when we do open them, they can and do get broken. It just works that way. If we close our hearts off, however, as a means of protecting ourselves, and cover them over with anger and rage, we break our hearts from the inside. If we look to others to give us the love we are not giving ourselves, we become frustrated and disappointed and often feel rejected, creating even deeper wounds than before.

Only when we love ourselves fully and forgive all the people and experiences that have caused us pain, both inside and out, can we truly heal and find inner peace. There is no other way. We cannot avoid the pain of life, no matter how spiritually awakened we are. Life involves loss. It is impermanent and messy and causes suffering. Only when we feel our pain, feel our losses, and allow our feelings to move through us, and then onward, are we able to heal and live as fully empowered beings in the moment.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Sing us a song, you're the piano dog!

The owner recieved noise complaints from the neighbours, so they set up a nanny cam. This is what they saw LOL

Posted by Share it on Friday, November 16, 2012

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Now that's what I call service!

Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing. Our world-renowned packing specialist lit a local artisan candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, September 9, 2013.

We hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. In commemoration, we have placed your picture on our wall as "Customer of the Year". We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We miss you already. We'll be right here at patiently awaiting your return.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Week 27: Let There Be Light

Consider some of the meanings of the word "light." What "lightens" your load? What does it mean to "light" a fire? What is "light" to your touch? Have you ever met someone whose eyes "light" up?

With that awareness, look for the inner light in each person you encounter this week. Allow this light to illuminate your path and imagine how the light inside of you does this for others. Complete a kind action that causes you to believe that your light has been made visible to at least one other person.

As part of this week's exercise, thumb through your kindness journal from start to finish. See what jumps out to you as significant and consider why this is so. Write about the experience.

Sunday, 5 July 2015


For example, if your dog howls annoyingly, don’t react at all. This response, or lack of response, is known as the LRS, or “least reinforcing scenario.” Offer praise or treats only when the dog is quiet. (You may have to be persistent. I did this for 15 years with my beagle, and now he has totally stopped howling, partly because, as noted in a previous blog, he is dead. So stick to it!) When an animal does something you like, such as administering acupuncture correctly, give him a reward: a pat on the head, a romp in the yard, a Lexus.(Martha Beck)

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Bless Me Anyway

But still. Still bless me anyway. I want more life. I can't help myself. I do. I've lived through such terrible times and there are people who live through much worse. But you see them living anyway. When they're more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they're burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children - they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don't know if that's just the animal. I don't know if it's not braver to die, but I recognize the habit; the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that's it, that's the best I can do. It's so much not enough. It's so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life. (Prior Walter, Angels in America)

Friday, 3 July 2015

To Do List

1. Make vanilla pudding. Put in mayo jar. Eat in public.

2. Hire two private investigators. Get them to follow each other.

3. Wear shirt that says "Life". Hand out lemons on street corner.

4. Get into crowded elevator and say: "I bet you're all wondering why I gathered you here today."

5. Major in philosophy. Ask people WHY they think they would like fries with that.

6. Run into a store, ask what year it is. When someone answers, yell, "It worked!". And run out cheering.

7. Become a doctor. Change last name to Acula.

8. Change name to Simon. Speak in third person.

9. Buy a parrot. Teach parrot to say, "Help, I've been turned into a parrot."

10. Follow joggers around in your car blasting "Eye of the Tiger" for encouragement.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Building cities like forests

Because I love the concept of biomimicry; and I think this is a really cool article!

By Martin Smith

During the last century and a half, humans have created cities that ignore natural cycles such as the weather and surrounding conditions, and have developed urban areas that have little to do with life in the natural world. The control of resources and mastery of energy sources has allowed us to become carelessly independent from our natural environment—which has led to a downward unsustainable path, currently incapable of supporting the massive population growth predicted for the world’s biggest cities.

How do we reverse this grim trajectory? How are we going to allocate the amount of resources necessary to feed and house a predicted 2050 world population of over 9 billion people? What can we observe and copy that engages, adapts, and consumes resources not only sustainably, but also replenishes them after use?

Nature is holding sustainable solutions to numerous city design and development problems we are currently facing—we just have to look deeper to see where the solutions are already being applied in the natural world.

Biomimicry is the art and science of observing nature, and applying the particular function you are observing to human design. Whether you’re looking at a beetle’s outer shell, or the swimming pattern of a school of fish, there are design solutions to be obtained nearly anywhere. Urban planners and designers are starting to use biomimicry to find out how nature allocates resources within a system effectively, eliminates the idea of “waste,” and completely bounces back from disturbances.

How can a city be more like an ecosystem?

Cities as urban ecosystems

Urban areas behave a lot like complex natural systems: they have interconnected components such as buildings, streets, and sewer systems—like birds, plants, and insects all living within the same tree. The difference is, nature’s interconnected parts all exist harmoniously with one another. Ilaria Mazzoleni, a biomimicry architect at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, says, “Nature is really a master example of making different things work one to the other and eliminating things that don’t fit with the picture.” By observing how each puzzle piece in nature fits to the larger picture (or system), designers can get an idea of what is or isn’t necessary in a city’s development.

Janine Benyus, pioneer and author of the book Biomimicry 3.8, has said that cities can function like nature’s communities—where she argues mutualism is the driving force. Building mutually beneficial relationships in cities would result in a surplus of resources. For example, in nature, the monsoon forest’s plants store water in their deepest roots during the rainy season, and push it back up through shallow roots during the dry season to benefit all the other plants and organisms in the surrounding area.

If a city ultimately provided the same level of services as the forest next door, it could build fertile soil, clean water, filter out pollution, produce food, and keep the temperature cool. One small example of a component in a city providing these kinds of services can be seen at the Bank of America building in New York. This skyscraper has air-filtering technology that allows air to leave the building three times cleaner than when it entered. How much better would the air quality be in Beijing if the majority of their buildings were required to have this type of air filtration system?

How else do you think a city might be redesigned to function more like a forest? Where else in the world are we seeing designers, engineers, and biologists teaming up to tackle urban design problems?

Biomimicry being implemented into urban design

The city of Lavasa, located about 60 miles southeast of Mumbai, India, is being developed with biomimicry in mind. Janine Benyus teamed up with the architecture firm HOK to study the area’s ecosystem and give a set of design recommendations that the city’s developers can use.

Since the area is essentially a monsoon hotspot, pavement here is designed to allow water to permeate back into the ground, building foundations grip the hillsides like the roots of trees, and roofs function to help re-release some of the monsoonal water back into the air as water vapor. Even the roads here are planned to mimic the local anthills, which remain structurally intact during the areas heaviest rains.

Mary Ann Lazarus, HOK’s director of sustainable design, says that in Benyus’s ideal design solution, “your new built environment would perform as if it were a moist deciduous forest.”

Lavasa is a great example of how designers (with the help of biologists) can piece together a forest’s interconnected components with their associated functions, and then use this knowledge to develop a sustainable city.

Where else, on a much smaller scale this time, can we look to nature for smart design clues?

Researchers studying urban transport have recently found an organism that has the potential to provide efficient transport routes between cities, and mimic regularly occurring events, such as rush hour. This single-celled organism—a type of slime mold—grows outward from a single point, searching for food sources. Once the mold locates the food source, most of the slime branches that it has sent out to find the food die off, leaving only the most efficient route between food source nodes.

By rearranging pieces of oat flakes (food source) on top of a country’s major cities, researchers can watch the mold create the most efficient transport routes between each city. A team of researchers, led by Professor Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England, did this experiment by creating models of 14 countries and placing each in a petri dish. The results showed that cities in Belgium, Canada, and China had existing transport networks similar to the model the slime produced, and thus were already efficient, while networks in the US and Africa were indicated to be least efficient.

Since the slime mold is also a living “supercell,” meaning it has multiple nuclei, it can be used as a dynamic modeling tool. This means that the mold can bounce back from disturbances and create new routes around affected areas. Problems in the system such as flooding or a car accident can be simulated in the experiment by adding salt to a point on the map. Since salt is toxic to the mold, it will retract its branches from this spot and create new routes across the network, which can provide information for traffic planning contingencies.

Examples like the slime mold and development in Lavasa prove that biomimicry can play a major role in future urban design and planning. The technology and tools for implementing nature’s strategies are all there. As Janine Benyus puts it, “now we need pilot cities.”