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Expat wanderer

Qatteri Cat’s Lazy Summer Days

The Qatteri Cat sends his greetings and wants you to know he is doing fine, just kicking back and enjoying the hot summer sun. He has a couple favorite places, near windows, where he can watch the world go by. He steps down to nibble a little grass from time to time, or to go get a bite to eat, or sip a little water (especially after AdventureMan has showered, he says that is the BEST!), but he is just taking life easy right now.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pets, Qatteri Cat, Relationships | 13 Comments

Jody Shields and The Fig Eater

This is one of those books I picked up off the staff recommendations shelf at Barnes and Noble – one of the very best sources for cult classics like Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, books that don’t get a lot of press hype but whose readership grows slowly by word-of-mouth.

The cover caught my eye. This woman is dressed modestly enough, all the important parts are covered, but look at her eyes – there is a sultriness there, and a challenge that I find intriguing. This shows signs already of being an-out-of the-ordinary book.

The book opens in the early 1900’s with a murder. We follow the investigations of the chief Inspector, and we follow the parallel investigations of his wife, a Hungarian, Erszebet, and her ally, the English Wally. It’s a mystery, and in this exquisite book, the process of solving the mystery is so much more interesting than who actually did it, or even why.

The most fascinating character in The Fig Eater is the nature of fin de siecle Vienna, it’s customs, it’s caste system, it’s manners, and the fusion of East and West. Entire meals are described, cafe’s, cakes, cooking methods. Clothing is described in loving detail, and we visit a tuburculosis sanitarium as well as an insane asylum.

We study Kriminalistics with the Inspector and his assistant, we learn the fundamentals of early photography from an three fingered photographer. We experience early Viennese medical practices.

We learn all kinds of Hungarian superstitions and beliefs, we dance at the Fasching Balls of Vienna, and we simmer with the repressed sexuality of the times. We mourn with the bereaved, we shiver in the cold winter, and we steam in the brutal heat of an extended summer.

The end is so totally unexpected that I had to go back and read it again. My bet is, that if you accept the challenge of reading this book, you will have to, too. Even after you have read it again, you will not be totally sure what has happened, and yet . . . it is a satisfying ending.

This was a wonderful read.

I will leave you with a quote:

The Inspector has always prided himself on his ability to listen, as a good Burger is confident of his business acumen. During interrogations, he can distinguish the different qualities of the witnesses silence, as if it were a tone of voice.

He had admonished Franz more than once for interrupting him. Don’t be so hasty. Slow down and listen. In the Pythagorean system, disciples would spend five years listening before they were allowed to ask a single question. That was in the 4th Century BC. Another philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, wrote about Banquets of Silence, where even the correct posture for listening was determined.

In Kriminalistic there is a text on the subject. He orders Franz to read it as part of his lesson. “To observe how the person question listens is a rule of primary importance, and if the officer observes it he will arrive at his goal more quickly than by the hours of examination.”

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Entertainment, Family Issues, Law and Order, Lies, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Pat or Scan?

Thank you to my good friend who sent this in an e-mail this morning. I had no idea the new scanners could see in such intimate detail. Makes me stop and think – would I prefer a pat down (shudder) or an invasive scan?

NEW YORK (AFP) – Security scanners which can see through passengers’ clothing and reveal details of their body underneath are being installed in 10 US airports, the US Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.

A random selection of travellers getting ready to board airplanes in Washington, New York’s Kennedy, Los Angeles and other key hubs will be shut in the glass booths while a three-dimensional image is made of their body beneath their clothes.

The booths close around the passenger and emit “millimeter waves” that go through cloth to identify metal, plastics, ceramics, chemical materials and explosives, according to the TSA.

While it allows the security screeners — looking at the images in a separate room — to clearly see the passenger’s sexual organs as well as other details of their bodies, the passenger’s face is blurred, TSA said in a statement on its website.

The scan only takes seconds and is to replace the physical pat-downs of people that is currently widespread in airports.

TSA began introducing the body scanners in airports in April, first in the Phoenix, Arizona terminal.
The installation is picking up this month, with machines in place or planned for airports in Washington (Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International), Dallas, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Miami and Detroit.)

But the new machines have provoked worries among passengers and rights activists.
“People have no idea how graphic the images are,” Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union, told AFP.

The ACLU said in a statement that passengers expecting privacy underneath their clothing “should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies such as evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances, penile implants, catheter tubes and the size of their breasts or genitals as a pre-requisite to boarding a plane.”

Besides masking their faces, the TSA says on its website, the images made “will not be printed stored or transmitted.”

“Once the transportation security officer has viewed the image and resolved anomalies, the image is erased from the screen permanently. The officer is unable to print, export, store or transmit the image.”

Lara Uselding, a TSA spokeswoman, added that passengers are not obliged to accept the new machines.

“The passengers can choose between the body imaging and the pat-down,” she told AFP.
TSA foresees 30 of the machines installed across the country by the end of 2008. In Europe, Amsterdam’s Schipol airport is already using the scanners.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues, Technical Issue, Travel | 9 Comments