Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Real Age: Restaurant Catastrophes

LLOOLL – I thought we were good, sharing a dessert between two people. Real Age suggests sharing a dessert with 4 – 5 people! Just a few bites are all you need! LLOOLLL!

The truth, as I see it, is that Real Age gives lots of really good advice on health maintenance and prevention. Do I always follow their advice? . . . hmmmmm. . . . Take their Real Age test, sign up and they send you newsletters with lots of great ideas. Even if, like me, you adopt some but not all, it is probably a good thing.

Avoid Restaurant Catastrophes
To us, a restaurant catastrophe isn’t just when a waiter spills something on you or when you accidentally miscalculate the tip. When it comes to your health, a catastrophe is what can happen in the first and last 10 minutes of a meal. But it doesn’t have to. Here’s how to dine out, enjoy your meal, and be trim and healthy, too:

Before You Go

Don’t arrive starving! Eat a little healthy fat — like about six walnut halves — before a meal. The healthy fat in walnuts triggers a chain reaction that slows the rate at which your stomach empties, so you’ll feel fuller faster. But the chain reaction takes 30 minutes, so plan for it.

The First 10 Minutes

• Raise a glass. Of water. To your lips. This can fill you up, so you don’t overeat.

• Ask for cut-up veggies instead of bread. Most quality restaurants (including inexpensive ones) provide this option.

• Dip in olive oil. If the restaurant brings you whole-grain bread, dip it in olive oil. People who opt for this over butter eat less bread.

• Request the bottles. Order oil and vinegar on the side. Relying on the kitchen to dress your salad — even with oil and vinegar — can deliver as many as 450 extra calories!

The Last 10 Minutes

• Share. Get one dessert for every four or five people, and have just a few bites. If there are just two of you, take half of the dessert home, and freeze it for a special occasion.

• Savor your wine. Ending a meal with a glass of wine lets you avoid the cloying aftertaste of sweets . . . and helps you avoid calorie-bombs, too.

• Go European. Do what many Europeans do: Make salad the last thing you eat.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Diet / Weight Loss, Eating Out, Health Issues | 2 Comments

Eliot Pattison: Prayer of the Dragon

As you can see, I am into some serious reading. Not heavy reading, but books like carrots – I am the donkey, plodding way, packing my boxes, sorting, weeding, throwing out – it is time consuming, and it is pitiless work. I need the promise of a great excape at the end of my day to keep me going.

Prayer of the Dragon was a GREAT carrot. I like all of Eliot Pattison’s Inspector Shan Tao Yun series, set in Tibet. In his very first book, we meet Shan as he is still in the Tibetan prison camp, imprisoned for exposing corrupt officials in China. He learns a huge appreciation, in prison, for a different way of thinking, and his treasured companions become the Bhuddist monks with whom he is imprisoned. If you want to read this series, you can read any book as a stand-alone, but it helps to read them in order, starting with The Skull Mantra. The Chinese eventually free Shan; they find him useful – as long as he is not exposing corruption in the Chinese bureaucracy. He is free on parole; he lives with the sword over his head. At any time, if he crosses an important person, he can be sent back to the merciless gulag.


In The Prayer of the Dragon Inspector Shan finds himself involved in a series of murders on the mountainside, in a small mining village. The village headman has a great scam going, skimming the miners take, charging passage on the mountain trails, and keeping his village hidden from the Chinese bureaucracy.

Here is what I learned that surprised me. There appears to be a connection between the American Navaho nation and the native Tibetans. They share some body-prototype similarities, and they share many symbols and earliest legends. An first-nation Navaho and his niece are exploring similarities, and commonalities, when two members of their party are murdered while sleeping. The Navaho is charged, by the headman, with the death, because he survived although he is covered in blood. It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to. The headman needs a scapegoat, and he chooses the Navaho.

It is a fascinating read. Here is an excerpt from a conversation Inspector Shan has with the local director of Public Security:

“I know your type so well, Shan, ” Bing said. “God, how well I know you. I was responsible for ten barracks of prisoners, like you – pathetic, morose creatures with no vision, only bitterness about the past. They would sit in reeducation classes and copy out slogans from the little red books like robots, praising the Chairman, reading aloud apologies printed in other books, using someone else’s words. Never a one among them with the balls to stand up and say Fuck the Chairman, screw the Party secretaries, and screw the limo drivers who brought them to town.”

“I tried at first,” Shan replied in a weary voice. “They sent me to a special hospital for the criminally insane.”

“Unfortunately,” Bing said soberly, “you are the sanest person I have ever met.”

AdventureMan knows I love these books. “Do you want to go to Tibet?” he asks me, and I say “No, if I went I would want to hang around with Inspector Shan and his gang of monks, not do tourist things allowed by the Chinese.” These are great reads, Pattison is doing a great job of bringing the plight of the Tibetans to the conscience of his readers, depicting, in graphic, horrorific detail how the Chinese are systematically crushing and obliterating every shred of Tibetan culture, while claiming they are not. I think one of the very worst things they have done is taking over the Tibetan monastery system and corrupting it into something it was never meant to be, a cruel, ugly deformity.

I can hardly wait for the next book to come out. I am on the waiting list for The Lord of Death, yet another book about Chinese bureaucratic corruption and the adventures Inspector Shan has in Tibet confronting and evading all its manifestations.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, Cultural, Detective/Mystery, ExPat Life, Fiction, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues | | 3 Comments

Susan Wittig Albert: Nightshade

In her ongoing China Bayles mystery series, China and her husband investigate the death of China’s father, with some amazing outcomes.

These are not heavy reading. This series features a burned-out criminal defense lawyer, who, sick of the slime and the jockying for power and position, cashes in her retirement plans and buys a shop in the small fictional town of Pecan Springs, Texas, where she opens an herbal shop, Thyme and Seasons, which sells live potted herbs, but also herbal wreaths, herbal soaps, herbal bath bombs, herbal teas, herbal shampoos, etc – and shares space with a new age shop called The Crystal Cave, a tea shop called Thyme for Tea, a catering company called Party Thyme and a personal chef service called Thymely Gourmet. She and her girlfriends have a lot of fun.

And, somehow, even in this idyllic life, mysteries seek out China, and she is often involved in crime-solving outside of her normal business. This time, her brother – the brother she never knew she had, the brother her father had with his secretary while China was growing up, wondering where her father was all the time – is murdered, in what appears to be a hit-and-run accident, but is no accident at all. Her brother was trying to get China involved with finding out how and why their father died – another apparent accident, which was no accident. When China isn’t interested (she is still very angry with her dad for what she perceives as a betrayal of her and her mother), her brother hires China’s husband as a private detective to examine the evidence. Then – her brother is killed. China gets involved.

It’s great escape reading, but you often end up learning something, too. China is an idealist, fighting crime and corruption, and God knows, there is enough of that, all the world around, to keep a legion of fictional crime fighters busy.

“After I grew up and joined the Houston legal fraternity, I began to understand what was common knowledge in that gossip-driven oil company town: Robert Bayles and his partner Ted Stone had built their legal practice on dubious oil and energy deals, questionable land transactions, and political dirty work. Their clients included polluters, looters and influence peddlers. Both Ted Stone and my father were frequent guests of the Suite 8F crowd, the group of influential conservatives who met on the eighth floor of Houston’s Lamar Hotel and collectively decided who was going to run for what political office, at the state level and beyond. To ensure that their picks – LBJ had been one of them – made it to the winner’s circle, Suite 8F slipped wads of campaign cash into the necessary pockets. Their contributions decided which politicians moved into positions of power and influence.

Just as important, their money brought them preferential treatment when the bidding opened on lucrative government contracts for dams, ships and shipyards, oil pipelines, military bases at home and abroad, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Lamar Hotel was demolished in 1983 to make room for a skyscraper, but the political influence of 8F lingers like a foul odor, a dirty fog. It’s the subject of books, of doctoral dissertations, of documentaries. It’s common knowledge.”


Reading Albert is a great escape. Even knowing that sweet little Pecan Springs is a microcosm of the rest of the world, not untouched by human frailty, it is a sweet place with a culture all its own. China’s life, surrounded by her loving husband, her stepson, all their pets, their friends, the places they eat, it’s all comfortable, an herbal scented different world.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Local Lore, Marriage, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Dean Koontz: The Face

Dean Koontz writes a lot of books with children in them, usually children in very vulnerable positions, abandoned, neglected, or at the mercy of a cruel adult, or at best, a negligent adult. Adults do play positive roles in his books, but the positive adult is usually damaged in some way – maybe a history of alcoholism, a history of broken relationships – in short, a lot like most of us. Real people, who make mistakes along the way, and try to learn something from them.

I like Dean Koontz. It makes me sad to say that this is just another great escape. Young boy, lost in his famous father’s huge mansion, beautiful-model mother who spawned him and then walked away, like a cat leaves her kittens – it’s a sad, lonely life for a child.

There is the usual creepy, badly twisted bad guy.


There is a good guy in pain, mourning his dead wife, and a ghost who intervenes in human affairs. There are deus ex machina aplenty, and a couple page-turner moments where you don’t want to stop reading, not yet!

It was not a bad book, but if I weren’t so desperate for escape reading, I would not have wasted a minute on this book.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Books, Crime, Detective/Mystery, Entertainment, Family Issues, Fiction | Leave a comment

Light Haze Sunrise

At six in the morning, it is already almost 90°F / 32°C. WeatherUnderground says there is a “light haze.” I can’t imagine what they call a heavy haze. At least the light haze is white, not the orange of yesterday’s sandstorm, but there is still an awful lot of the “light haze.”


Hamd’allah, I have air conditioning. I feel human again. The Alaska girl in me has it turned up to 72°F / 22°C, and I am comfortable.

It took me a long time to capture a glimpse of the sun, early this morning, through the “light haze.” Even as I write, the sun is a great big hazy ball, high in the May sky, oh-so-early on a Friday morning.


I happened to be up early this morning, and was shocked to see busses arriving and laborers – Moslem laborers, like from Pakistan and Afghanistan, getting off buses, carrying shovels and picks and tools to go to work. I thought all Moslems in Kuwait got to take Friday off. Guess I was wrong – and I so often am.

Have a sweet, quiet day, Kuwait. We will be praying for you, in our little church, and for your leadership and your upcoming election, this Friday morning. We wish you only the very best.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | Leave a comment