Sunday, November 04, 2007

Two sides of an old story

I have recently completed In the Shadow of the Pomegranate by Tariq Ali and am currently reading The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel. Ali’s book is set around 1500 in Spain/Al Andalusia and tells of the final days of Moorish presence in Spain. It paints a picture of an almost edenic Islamic society being put to the sword by a horde of bloody minded Spanish catholics. Werfel’s book is set in 1915 in the former Ottoman Empire and is about the persecution of the Christian armenians by the Moslem Turks.
Both books are exercises in demonizing the “other” while telling the truly sad story of the victimization of one’s own group. The Islam/Christianity conflict is so ancient that it will probably never go away. It is older, even, than the two religions and goes back to the Greek/Persian conflict of antiquity.
My conclusion? The best that can be hoped for is a truce. Not peace, love, and understanding. Just a truce.

Featured wines

Our government liquor store has begun holding special promotional events which feature wines from different places. So far we have had events for Bordeaux wines, Chilean wines, and (the latest) wines from British Columbia, where I live.
Real wine experts would dismiss such events as blatant consumerism on the part of the store and as a sign of amateurism on the part of someone like me. So be it! I find them an excellent form of guided learning. I supposed I could spend a lot of time and money trying out a lot of different wines (sounds like fun, actually), enjoying the good ones and hating the bad. But this way, with a bit of preselection from experts, I can try a variety of good wines set at a variety of price points.
I’m not going to buy the $1,300 Bordeaux and I’m smart enough to know that the $20 Sauvignon Blanc from BC is probably not going to be as enjoyable as the $40 Pinot Noir from Chile (Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir—it was fantastic).

It's been a good six weeks

I’ve became serious about this one in late September. All I have done is to make small adjustments to my eating habits, and I have been able to lose an average of a pound per week since then.
Changes include cutting out orange juice with breakfast, limiting the size of lunches, taking only a single helping of dinner (but a generous one), and not snacking after dinner. I have also tried to drink a minimum of one litre of water per day.
I weight myself daily, but don’t get bent out of shape if I go up on any particular day. The important think is for there to be a downward trend.
In the past, I have lost large amounts of weight with the Atkins Diet, only to put it back on again. Any diet is hard to stay on because, though they might be scientifically balanced, they are not affectively balanced. You always feel deprived, limited, or controlled. Perhaps, for me, weight loss is tied into emotional control and the need to be the one steering the car.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Book overload is near

I’ve been buying a lot of books lately, so there is a danger that my bookshelf will be filled to overflowing and the books will have to be stored elsewhere. I don’t know if that’s really disorganization, but it is lack of discipline. It’s not like I buy rare books that someone else will snap up. I could buy them later, when there is again room on the shelf.
I’m just not a naturally organized person when it comes to physical things. I think too many people see a correlation between an organized room and an organized mind. To me the latter is essential; the former is a nice to have.


We visited my son almost a month ago. It went very well and we had a good time. He and I still chat via the internet almost daily and we exchange email regularly.

We will be visiting my daughter in two weeks. We don’t communicate as ofter, but it all seems to be going well between us. We are facebook buddies.

Swann in Love

I’d read it about a dozen years ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. Now there is a new edition of the translation, so I bought the paperback version and again, enjoyed it thoroughly.
I’ve tried in other place to write long, Proustian sentences that slalom across the page. They were long, but obvious parodies. Good for a laugh and nothing more.
Proust must have been the world’s keenest observer. And the world’s biggest neurotic; the worries with which Swann and the narrator torment themselves are truly brilliant in their craziness and truth to reality.
I plan to read the other volumes over time.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


About 15 years ago I read the first volume of the old two volume Moncrieff translation.It was slow going, but I enjoyed it. I would read at least 10 pages per day, at around 6:30 a.m., in the family room, with the gas fireplace glowing: I live in a part of the world where we have long, cold winters, when the sun doesn’t rise until after 8 a.m. long after I have arrived at my office at work,a black coffee nearby to warm my innards, while Proust’s sinuous sentences unwound themselves before my eyes and my inner eye saw hawthorns and I could almost smell the aroma of the chicken that Francois was turning on the spit for the family’s Saturday lunch, always taken an hour early on that particular day,until I was so hungry that I went upstairs and made myself some bacon and eggs, because I was on the Atkins diet, which helped me lose 30 pounds but shot my cholesterol level to such heights that, a decade and a half later, I am still taking a lipitor daily.
Last week, while on vacation, I wandered into a book store and found the new revised paperback of Swann’s Way, and on a whim, bought it and can’t put it down. The flow, the detail, the ironies and side issues. Formidable!


I don’t know if this is a great book, but it’s really good. The novel tells the story of a 139 year old con man whose life parallels the development of Australia from the beginning of the twentieth century. The only problem is that, because it is told by a con man, how much can we believe what he tells us? Of course, this is the question that all books raise.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Long term planning

We have moved another step down the road. Now that we have a successful monthly routine/saving plan that has worked for over a year, we have moved on to the next stage and begun to plan our longterm, big expenditures. Better to spend the money on things we want and/or need, and not let it slip away with impulse purchases.
To help with the planning we have created one of those free online whiteboards and whenever we have an idea or want to change something one of us goes online and adds or subtracts.
At first we had one long list, but we have broken it down into longterm, short term, and nice to have.
By writing things down, we keep make explicit what we are thinking and there are no surprises.

Expanded opportunities

The BC Liquor Commission has opened a new signature store in our community and the wine opportunities have just expanded exponentially. In just over a week we have enjoyed an excellent Barbaresco, a Vouvray [well, it was ok], and a sancerre. Ten days ago none of them were available in our community.
I’ve begun a little notebook to keep the names and vintages of the ones we enjoy.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Three Quarks Daily

The Quarks Daily is a brilliant, eclectic, intellectually challenging blog. On Mondays it presents original essays by the editors or by invited authors. On the other six days, it provides commented links to some of the most interesting writing on the web. The five person editorial board consists of 3 PhD's and 2 MD's. Here is how they describe themselves:

On this website, my guest authors and editors and I hope to present interesting items from around the web on a daily basis, in the areas of science, design, literature, current affairs, art, and anything else we deem inherently fascinating.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir

I’ve just finished this book. I’m not sure if it is a “great” book; it certainly is stirring, thought provoking, and irritating. It made it easier for me to understand the still present split in French society about WWII collaborators. It highlighted the fact that moral absolutes are an impossibility. We are all implicated; we will all compromise to save something we love. The compromise leads to further compromises, perhaps even loss of that loved thing for which the original compromise was made.

As settled as it gets

I have realised that this goal is always only tentatively possible. I’m settled in here with Christine for as long as I can possible foresee. We are married. We have joint ownership of the house. I have invested money into it. I’m as settled as it’s possible to be. One day, after we retire, we might stay where we are, we might move on.
For now, I’m happy, content, at home, settled. Goad met.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Still organizing the house--a year after the move

I’m on vacation for a few weeks and I’ve spent parts of the first three days working on organization in the house. It’s about a year since I moved in. A lot of stuff got put into boxes and moved into the storage room and the garage. We had stuff that we didn’t have an immediate need for, but didn’t want to part with in the fear that we might need it “some day”.
That day has come and gone. If I haven’t needed it in the past year, I’m assuming I’ll never need it. Now, after trips to the dump, the recyling shed, and the thrift store, the garage is tidier, the storage room has empty space on the shelve, and I’m feeling as if a big weight of anxiety has been lifted from my back.
I used to think it’s about having more, but now I know it’s about wanting less. I think there’s a direct correlation between letting stuff go and the fact that my line of credit is paid off.

Done, done, done

I’ve finally paid off the line of credit. From over $20,000 in the hole to back even. It took over two years of $1,000/month payments to do it. I’m saving over $100/month in interest payments alone. It took a complete change of mindset, but it’s done.