Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Swallowtail is Born

“Come down! Come down!” AdventureMan is calling me from the garden, and I can tell it is something special.

“Look! He just came out of the chrysalis! He’s still wet!”

It is a beautiful new swallowtail butterfly. When the eggs are laid – it takes a mere second, a mere brush-by as the tiny egg is placed on the fennel – they are a mere 1/32 of an inch, you can barely see them with your bare eyes.

It is 78° in the cool of the morning, the best part of the day. The sun is coming up, and a new swallowtail is drying off, preparing to fly away to a new life.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Gardens, Living Conditions, sunrise series | Leave a comment

Clouds for Daggero (and my other Hot Friends in Kuwait)

Can you imagine a daytime temperature of 120°F? Can you imagine fasting, not eating – or drinking – in that kind of heat?

Daggero asked for clouds. It’s the least I could do. We may have a big cloudburst coming tonight, but I chased it today and it only sprinkled:

Clouds didn’t stop the fun at Palafox Pier

A few large tantalizing drips of rain, and then nothing . . .

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Spy the Lie on the Diane Rehm Show

Thursday, July 24th, Diane Rehm had another wonderful show. Diane Rehm has a gift for asking thoughtful questions, listening carefully, and then following up with another thoughtful question. She treats her guests with great civility, but she never hesitates to ask the tough question.

Thursday, she interviewed Senator Marco Rubio, who did pretty well until she started asking him the tough, revealing questions, and you could actually hear him squirm.

Far more interesting than Senator Rubio was her interview with former CIA employees Philip Houston and Michael Floyd, discussing their new book Spy the Lie. We’ve all heard different ways liars give themselves away, but these two former interrogators told us how to ask questions, and a “cocktail” of responses – not one response, eyes shifting away, but a variety together – which tell you that you are being lied to.

Deflection, change of voice tone, swearing to God, anger at being asked – these and other giveaways work together. Bottom line – if your instincts are screaming “Lie! Lie!” then chances are good you are being lied to.

The truth is, most of us know when we are being lied to. There are times the liar will never admit to it, but you have to work with the knowledge that what he or she is saying is a lie. At least you know. You don’t have to buy into the lie. And you know my position – lying hurts the liar most of all.

It is a fascinating, sensitive interview. You can listen to an excerpt and read a part of the book by clicking this blue type.

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Books, Character, Civility, Experiment, Mating Behavior, Relationships | 4 Comments

Sunlight May Help Prevent Heart Attacks

This report is from Bottom Line. It seems to me that we are more primitive biological organisms that we think ourselves, but it also occurs to me that if sunlight helps prevent heart attacks, and helps limit damages, do people in the sunny places have a lower incidence of death due to heart attacks?

Sunlight Helps Prevent Heart Attacks

Ah, sunlight.

There’s nothing like being outdoors on a summer morning.

What you may not know is that sunshine doesn’t just boost your mood and your vitamin D level—it also may help you ward off a heart attack or minimize the damage that one can cause, according to a new first-of-its-kind study.

I talked to the researchers to find out more about how we can all harness the power of light to brighten our heart health.

I called the study’s lead author, Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology, cardiology and cell and developmental biology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.

Dr. Eckle told me that our circadian rhythm—the physical, mental and behavioral changes prompted by light and darkness that occur over each 24-hour period—helps determine the level of a certain protein that can minimize the cell damage and cell death caused by a heart attack. This protein might even stop a heart attack in its tracks. So Dr. Eckle and his colleagues were eager to see whether exposure to certain kinds of light at a certain time might be effective at boosting levels of this protein.

In the study, researchers divided mice into two groups. One group was exposed to light boxes emitting light that was the same level of brightness as daylight (“bright light”), and others were exposed to regular room lighting (“regular light”). Both groups were exposed to the light first thing in the morning at 6:00 am.

Then the mice were given anesthesia and heart attacks were triggered in them. Researchers found that mice that had been exposed to three hours of “bright light” had three times the amount of the protective protein as the mice that had been exposed to “regular light”—and, incredibly, the “bright light” mice’s hearts had experienced only one-fifth as much damage!

There are, of course, unanswered questions—for example, how the findings might apply to humans and how lasting the benefit of the protein might be.
That said, the results are promising. What’s especially interesting is that it’s the light exposure on the eyes—not the skin—that affects the protein levels, said Dr. Eckle. So humans wearing sunscreen or long sleeves wouldn’t blunt the effect.

Several forces have conspired over recent decades to keep people out of the sun during the day, such as indoor work and fear of skin cancer. But many people would be likely to benefit from getting more sunlight exposure as early in the morning as possible.

Here are some safe ways from Dr. Eckle to shed more light on your daily routine…

1. Take a daily walk outdoors, and keep wearing sunscreen. Even 10 to 20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Since, as I mentioned earlier, it’s the way that light affects your eyes (not your skin) that matters, apply sunscreen—that won’t dampen the benefits. The added exercise will boost your heart health, too.

2. Get sunlight while indoors. Sit near large, bright windows.

3. Use a light therapy box. If you can’t follow either of the first two tips, or if you’re at high risk for skin cancer and want to avoid UV rays at all costs, this may be the best option for you. Available online for about $50 and up, light therapy boxes mimic the brightness of sunlight while filtering out most damaging UV rays.

Source: Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology, cardiology, and cell and developmental biology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver. His study was published in Nature Medicine.

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Experiment, Health Issues, News, Weather | Leave a comment

James Lee Burke and the Creole Belle

James Lee Burke is number one on my guilty-pleasures list.

I first met his main character Dave Robicheaux in A Morning For Flamingos, a book I picked up in a military library at Lindsay Air Station, a post that doesn’t even exist any more. In the cold dark endless winter in Wiesbaden, Germany, James Lee Burke lit up my life. I had thought I was picking up just another escapist mystery novel, but when James Lee Burke puts words together to describe the way a storm moves in over the bayou, prose becomes poetry.

There is a downside. Whether it is his character Dave Robicheaux, the former New Orleans cop, now head homicide investigator in New Iberia, Louisiana, or his Hackberry Holland series set in West Texas, James Lee Burke’s books are filled with extreme violence and disturbing images that live in your head for a long time.

I’ve recommended James Lee Burke to friends, some of whom have said “Why do you read this trash??? It is HORRIBLE! It is full of over-the-top violence!”

And then again . . . he is writing about some really really bad people. They are out there. There are people who exist who inflict cruelty. I don’t understand it, I can’t begin to fathom where the urge would come from, but I’ve seen it. It’s out there. James Lee Burke pulls up that rock and exposes the dark happenings underneath.

On one level, as I started reading Creole Belle, I thought “Oh James Lee Burke, stop! Stop! It’s the same old formula! A downtrodden victim (often a beautiful woman) cries for help. You and Clete start looking for information and end up beating people up and then they retaliate by threatening your family! There is a rich, beautiful woman who seems vulnerable and who you kind of like, but she is complicated. There are rich amoral people who keep their hands clean, but who are calling the shots and never go to jail! Stop! Stop!”

Well, I should say that, and maybe I should stop. Then he starts talking about the smoke from the sugar cane fields and the bridge over the Bayou Teche, and the big Evangeline oak in St. Martinsville, and I am a goner. I’m sucked in, I’m hooked.

I detest the violence and the images. I keep coming back because James Lee Burke has some important things to say.

I’d love to have him to dinner. I’d love for him and our son to have a chance to talk about Law Enforcement. Here is what James Lee Burke has to say in Creole Bell:

There are three essential truths about law enforcement: Most crimes are not punished; most crimes are not solved through the use of forensic evidence; and informants product the lion’s share of information that puts the bad guys in a cage.

My son hates shows like CSI, and Law and Order, where the evidence convicts the criminals. He says it raises unreal expectations in juries, and makes it harder to get a conviction.

We watched a Violation of Parole hearing, or actually a series of hearings, where the judge asked each individual whose parole was about to be revoked what had happened when he or she was re-arrested. In each case, the parolee had done something stupid; drove a car with an expired license, drove to another state, was arrested driving drunk, etc. EVERY time. The judge made his point, I believe.

From Creole Belle:

But if Caruso was the pro Clete thought she was, she would avoid the mistakes and geographical settings common to the army of miscreants and dysfunctional individuals who constitute the criminal subculture of the United States. Few perpetrators are arrested during the commission of their crimes. They get pulled over for DWI, an expired license tag, or throwing litter on the street. They get busted in barroom beefs, prostitution stings, or fighting with a minimum-wage employee at a roach motel. Their addictions and compulsions govern their lives and place them in predictable circumstances and situations over and over, because they are incapable of changing who and what they are. Their level of stupidity is a source of humor at every stationhouse in the country. Unfortunately, the pros – high end safecrackers and jewel thieves and mobbed-up button men and second story creeps – are usually intelligent, pathological, skilled in what they do, middle class in their tastes and little different in dress and speech and behavior from the rest of us.

And then there are paragraphs like this that discuss the human experience, and have a far wider application than the book:

No one likes to be afraid. Fear is the enemy of love and faith and robs us of all serenity. It steals both our sleep and our sunrise and makes us treacherous and venal and dishonorble. It fills our glands with toxins and effaces our identity and gives flight to any vestige of self-respect. If you have ever been afraid, truly afraid, in a way that makes your hair soggy with sweat and turns your skin gray and fouls your blood and spiritually eviscerates you to the point where you cannot pray lest your prayers be a concesion to your conviction that you’re about to die, you know what I am talking about. This kind of fear has no remedy except motion, no matter what kind. Every person who has experienced war or natural ctastrophe or man-made calamity knows this. The adrenaline surge is so great that you can pick up an automobile with your bare hands, plunge through glass windows in flaming buildings, or attack an enemy whose numbers and weaponry are far superior to yours. No fear of self-injury is as great as the fear that turns your insides to gelatin and shrivels your soul to the size of an amoeba.

Last, but not least, this is what keeps me coming back to James Lee Burke, so much so that I buy the book almost as soon as it is released. James Lee Burke isn’t afraid to take on the big guys. He “gives voice to those who have no voices.” (Proverbs 31:8) His focus is always on the dignity of the common man, the dignity of hard work, done well, and on the dignity of doing unexpected kindnesses to those who have no expectation of kindness.

. . . All was not right with the world. Giant tentacles of oil that had the color and sheen of feces had spread all the way to Florida, and the argument that biodegradation would take care of the problem would be a hard sell with the locals. The photographs of pelicans and egrets and seagulls encased in sludge, their eyes barely visible, wounded the heart and caused parents to shield their children’s eyes. The testimony before congressional committees by Louisiana fisher-people whose way of life was being destroyed did not help matters, either. The oil company responsible for the blowout had spent an estimated $50 million trying to wipe their fingerprints off Louisiana’s wetlands. They hired black people and whites with hush-puppy accents to be their spokesmen on television. The company’s CEO’s tried their best to look ernest and humanitarian, even though the company’s safety record was the worst of any extractive industry doing business in the United States. They also had a way of chartering their offshore enterprises under the flag of countries like Panama. Their record of geopolitical intrigue went all the way back to the installation of the shah of Iran in the 1950’s. Their even bigger problem was an inability to shut their mouths.

They gave misleading information to the media and the government about the volume of oil escaping from the blown well, and made statements on worldwide television about wanting their lives back and the modest impact that millions of gallons of crude would have on the Gulf Coast. For the media, their tone-deafnessness was a gift from a divine hand. Central casting couild not have provided a more inept bunch of villains.

James Lee Burke has a voice, and he uses it. He could just cash in on his reputation as an Edgar Award winning author, but he uses his voice to speak out against injustice and corruption. He is a champion of the people. I’ve written several book reviews, and taken some trips just because I wanted to see James Lee Burke country; if you are interested in those, you can read them here.

I have a concern about this series, in that this book ended differently than all the others. So differently it made me seriously question whether Burke intends to continue writing about Dave Robicheaux or if Dave is about to hang up his shield and call it a day. He’s a guilty pleasure I am not yet ready to give up.

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Environment, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Law and Order, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel | , , | 5 Comments

Ramadan in Kuwait and Qatar

As I was taking a look at today’s weather in Pensacola (why do I bother? It’s pretty much the same every day, in the low nineties and HUMID) I glanced up at my favorites bar and sent up a prayer for my friends observing the Ramadan fast in Kuwait and Qatar:

My friends, I am in awe of your sacrifice. I cannot imagine the hardship, abstaining from water, as well as all food, from sunrise to sundown. May God be with you.

July 23, 2012 Posted by | ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Qatar, Ramadan | 3 Comments

The Mediterranean Plus on a Hot and Humid Day

“What can you say? It’s summer in Pensacola!” my Pensacola friend laughed. We had been talking about the week of rain-bursts and thunder and lightning we’ve been having – with more the same to come. I don’t mind, the cloud cover keeps the temperatures down, even if it makes the air more humid and heavy.

A perfect day for lunch at the Mediterranean Plus.

There isn’t any time of the year that is not perfect to eat at the Mediterranean Plus. In the winter, you can have their lentil stews and heavier main dishes. In the winter, their lentil soup and seafood soup (it isn’t on the menu; the chef has to make it as the soup of the day) are wonderful. In the summer, we love the salads and often order a plate to share, like the Vegitarian Plate or the Mediterranean Plate.

We split an order of baba ghannoush to start.

This time I had Chicken Kabob (known in the Middle East as Shish Taouk):

While AdventureMan had a felafel sandwich:

There was so much Shish Taouk that I brought the rest home and we split it for dinner, too. Nice light eating on a hot Pensacola summer’s evening.

6895 North 9th Avenue Pensacola, FL 32503
(850) 469-9225
(Between the liquor store and Rob’s Cameras; around the corner from Four Winds)

You can look at the menu here.

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Middle East, Pensacola, Restaurant | Leave a comment

Welcome from Ougadougu

I am sharing this scam with you today because it makes me smile. When we had our embassy assignments, one of the Department of State people told me that you had to behave, or you would be sent to Ougadoudu 🙂 Don’t you love that name?

July 21, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Crime, Geography / Maps, Scams | Leave a comment

Closer to Normal

LOL, Saturday is almost always a low stats day. Sigh, guess I am getting back to normal:



July 21, 2012 Posted by | Blogging, Ramadan, Statistics | Leave a comment

Nigeria Wants Looted Art Works Back

From AOL/Huffpost

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the governmental body in Nigeria that regulates the nation’s museum systems, is demanding the return of 32 artifacts recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Consisting of various bronze and ivory sculptures looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897, the Director-General of the commission, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, states that the pieces were illegally taken by the British Expedition as spoils of war.

The MFA in Boston acquired the pieces last month as a gift from New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, who purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s. But the pieces were originally looted by British soldiers in the late 1890s, following the Benin massacre of 1897. In a statement made by Usman, the commission stated: “Without mincing words, these artworks are heirlooms of the great people of the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria generally. They form part of the history of the people. The gap created by this senseless exploitation is causing our people, untold anguish, discomfort and disillusionment.”

According to Huffington Post blogger and Princeton art history professorChika Okeke-Agulu, the laws governing cultural heritage in the United States are lenient toward museums holding works like those from the Benin Court. Commenting on the ethical imperatives associated with the looted art acquisitions, he has stated that “calls for the resolution of the problem caused by British looters of Benin royal art collection will not go away — especially now that Nigerian/world-citizen voices have learned to harness the popular power of the Internet to demand action.”

July 21, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Heritage, Political Issues, Public Art | | 1 Comment