Thoughts that can't wait

It's hard to know what to say, but fortunately there are others to say it. At times like this, I'm grateful for LiveJournal as a communications tool.

I'm impressed that a community like wtcdisaster can appear spontaneously. It may be full of unsubstantiated rumors, but it's definitely filling a need.

As always, I'm even more impressed with those who write responsibly and provide the rest of LJ with a useful stream of information in a situation like this. A notable example is one of LJ's programmers, ntang, who's located in Manhattan. There are others -- consider spreading the word when you find them.

I can't quite grasp everything that's happening, so my thoughts are largely with the workers who have put themselves in danger to help others during this disaster. Many of them were undoubtedly caught in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, yet others continue to save lives in streets made unbreathable by dust and combustible by broken gas mains.

I don't think anyone I know is in personal danger. I hope all of your friends in the affected areas get through this safely.

Earth Day, so I look out the window ...

It's snowing again. Last time I posted an entry about snow, the power went out half an hour later, and it didn't come back on again for more than 12 hours. Better luck this time?

A pair of kestrels is sitting in a cottonwood tree behind the house. This is the first time I've ever had a good look at a kestrel. Back in high school (actually an English grammar school), we spent way too much time studying a book about a boy and his pet kestrel; it was strangely frustrating, because all I knew was that kestrels were vaguely hawk-like. I always felt like I was missing the significance of the key word in the book.

A few years ago, I got into the habit of trying to identify the birds I see. I learned that kestrels are small falcons, which I'd be able to recognize easily enough if I could ever see one clearly. Today at last, I know I could go back to that high school reading assignment, and not be troubled at all by wondering what a "kestrel" is. But the characters would still spend most of their time bullying poor Billy (in Yorkshire dialect, no less), so I think I'll pass.

Better stories about falcons have come my way since high school. My favorite was told by Anglo-Danish archaeologist Geoffrey Bibby, in his book Looking for Dilmun. I'm sad to learn, as I write this, that Bibby died two months ago. His book -- a marvelous blend of history, travel, and science -- is one of the most memorable I've ever read.

Bibby and his co-workers used to excavate in Bahrain for part of each year. As I recall, his colleague came into possession of a white Greenland falcon during one of the off-seasons. Falconry being a popular and prestigious sport in Arabian lands, they decided the bird would be an exotic and ideal gift for the sheikh whose hospitality they relied on. En route to Bahrain, the falcon showed no ill effects from travelling in the baggage compartment during the European leg of the journey. Upon changing to an Arab airline for the last leg of the flight, the travellers were told that the bird would under no circumstances be allowed to travel as baggage. Nothing less than First Class seating was suitable for such a distinguished guest.

I believe Bibby and his colleague were allowed to move into the First Class section, too.

Greek sushi?

I've never been sure, when buying dolmades at the deli in Alfalfa's Market, whether I should choose the imported or domestic kind. So today, I finally tried both at the same time for comparison.

And the winner is ... unfortunately not clear. The smaller, imported variety has a better-tasting wrapper (though I don't know whether it's the leaf, or the oil, or what, that makes the difference). But its filling is too bland, not as good as the filling in the domestic variety, which is flavored (unsubtly) with dill. Would it be so hard to make both the wrapper and the filling tasty?

Maybe I need to expand my taste test to include dolmades bought elsewhere. It's hard to see a downside to that .... :)

You are what you eat:
dolmades
marmalade-filled pastry
Celestial Seasonings green tea
Carr's lemon ginger creme cookies
turkey ragout
carrots
zucchini

At last.

Vernal Equinox: Bank holiday in Japan. I wonder where else?

It's a perfect day To post a vernal haiku, But I don't have time.

Leaving tomorrow For a week-long vacation. Might not be here much.

You are what you eat:

(Sunday the 18th)
Irish soda bread
marmalade-filled pastry
peanut butter creme cookies
Temple Pine green tea
sliced ham and mozzarella
Brussels sprouts
petits fours

(Monday the 19th)
orange sherbet in orange juice
Irish soda bread
orange juice
country wheat bread
Temple Pine green tea
sliced pork with applesauce
mashed potatoes and gravy
baby sweet peas
raspberry gelato

Is the devil in the details?

This is part of my reply to The Book Foole's post today, regarding Buddhist "mindfulness" and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

I think it's no coincidence that I chose Zen Buddhism as the ostensible subject of my journal. Buddhist ideals are in many ways an antidote to excessively detail-oriented behavior. This is only one of many reasons that Buddhism appeals to me, and it isn't one I was consciously aware of before I started my journal, but its importance (to me) has become obvious through discussions I've had with people on this site. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in appreciating Buddhism for this reason.

Buddhism does emphasize mindfulness (a term given much weight in our time by Thich Nhat Hanh). It's an integral part of all the Buddhist teaching I've encountered so far. In spite of that, a person accomplished in Zen practice usually performs acts with what many consider an "unconscious" ease, and the Zen doctrine of "no-mind" is well known. There may well be a paradox in all this; learning from paradox is an important part of Zen training.

Someone more knowledgeable might correct me, but I think the goal of Buddhist practice is always a greater, expanded awareness (mindfulness). Paying attention to "the big picture" ensures attention where it's needed, but also frees one from fussing too much over an isolated problem. I imagine that clearer thinking along these lines would resolve any paradoxes that might appear troublesome at the outset. I wouldn't expect to conclude that attention to detail is bad, only that it gets carried too far when one becomes inattentive to context.