Arab bathtub yogurt

yogurt-bagNo yogurt in the fridge and the Arab store is 40 minutes away. What to do.  Time to break out the yogurt bag and make yogurt myself.  The nice Arab kind of yogurt called labna you can spread on pita bread.

What you need: a quart of milk (skim works best), small container of yogurt (with live cultures), pan for heating, bowl to hold the milk mixture overnight, special yogurt bag for straining out the liquid, from my neighbors in Jebel Webdeh.

yogurt-overnightThe process: Heat the milk in a pan at low heat until a skin forms on the top.  Remove the skin. Let cool until you can keep your hand in the mixture, but it’s still warm.  Mix in the yogurt with live cultures.  Poor the mixture in a bowl, cover with a clean cloth, and let sit overnight.

yogurt-lazeezaIn the morning the mixture will have become solid. Pour into the bag and hang over the bathtub (in the Middle East they hang it on the balcony).

At the end of the day, it will be the consistency of butter. Take it out of the bag and put in a covered container.  Refrigerate. Don’t forget to eat some–dip your pita bread in it.



Peggy Agar’s sweetie rematch

agar-rematch-4-cropt2It is probably the best kept secret in the blogosphere, but remember back when Presidential candidate Barack Obama called a reporter Sweetie? Then he apologized and promised to give her an interview later. Well, someone left a message on a thread here earlier today saying Agar was going to get her interview. But when I googled it, I found out the interview had already taken place–back in June.

What did Peggy Agar want to ask a presidential candidate back in May?

I wanted to ask him what he plans on doing for, you know, auto workers in America, which of course specifically means Detroit…. you know, he’s shaking hands with auto workers, he’s running for president, he hasn’t been here in ten months, you know. That’s the time to say what you’re gonna do for these people, how you’re going to help them keep their jobs and keep their homes.

agar-head-shotWhen the interview did take place on June 2, that’s exactly what Agar asked him about. Then she went on to ask about seating the Michigan delegates at the Denver convention, about education for Michigan’s children, continuing with questions about how his answers for Michigan differed from McCain’s.

Early in the interview, she even got a laugh from him

AGAR: Most people I think are probably saying now that they think you’ll have the nomination. If that does come to fruition, do you think Hillary Clinton will vote for you?

OBAMA: Yes, I do.

agar-rematch3cropt3Not a difficult or hostile interview, and not one that asked any tough questions, but to the point and done in a way that let him give his prepared answers to the issues. About what you would expect from a local reporter in a major metropolitan area–if one who got an unexpected 15 minutes of fame.  And since everyone wants to comment on how women look these days, let me just say that Agar looked very put together and so did Obama.

Transcript and video here.

John Wesley’s anti-slavery broadside

John Wesley (1703-1791) is sometimes remembered as a pious university student who fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, as a “brand plucked from the fire” who survived a house fire at the age of five, as a fiery open air public speaker, or as an indifferent hymn writer, especially when compared to his musically prolific brother Charles. But you have to dig a bit to find out he was also an early opponent of slavery.

John Wesley started reading about slavery in 1772 when the court case of Granville Sharp came into the public eye. He read Some historical account of Guinea by the Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet. He also maintained a correspondence with the abolitionist William Wilberforce, and on his deathbed wrote to him about the Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano he was reading. One of the people John Wesley met and wrote about in his diary was the slave ship captain John Newton, who later converted to Christianity, became abolitionist, and wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.

As a bit of an aside, we also find that Wesley was a bit of a linguist. Wesley was a missionary in Savannah, Georgia for two years. Besides teaching French on the ship during the passage to America, we find that once in Savannah he apparently is swimming in Italian, German and Spanish as well:

In a solution to the problems of language differences, Wesley began to teach himself Spanish in order to converse with the Jewish parishioners. He would travel to the outlying villages of Highgate and Hempstead that were five miles southwest of the town and also to Vernonburgh and Acton that were ten miles to the south. Upon arriving at these rather remote hamlets, Wesley would read public prayers and counsel the French, German, and Swiss settlers living there. A typical Sunday as rector of the Church of Savannah went as:

5:00-6:30 English Prayers

9:00-10:00  Italian Prayers

10:30-12:30  English Communion and Service

1:00-2:00  French Prayers

2:00-3:00  Catechism of children

3:00-4:00  English Prayers

John Wesley’s  broadside pamphlet, Thoughts upon Slavery, was published in 1784 and in the first two years quickly went through several reprintings. The fifth edition was published in 1792, a year after his death. It is now available electronically  in “A Collection of Religious Tracts” here. This is a sample, a description of the “middle passage” from Africa to the New World:

5. Thus they are procured. But in what numbers and in what manner are they carried to America?–Mr. Anderson in his History of trade and commerce,
Page 21

observes, “England supplies her American colonies with Negro slaves, amounting in number to about an hundred thousand every year.” That is, so many are taken on board our ships; but at least ten thousand of them die in the voyage: About a fourth part more die at the different Islands, in what is called the Seasoning. So that at an average, in the passage and seasoning together, thirty thousand die: That is, properly are murdered. O earth, O Sea, cover not thou their blood!

6. When they are brought down to the shore in order to be sold, our surgeons thoroughly examine them, and that quite naked, women and men, without any distinction: Those that are approved are set on one side. In the mean time a burning iron, with the arms or name of the Company, lies in the fire, with which they are marked on the breast. Before they are put into the ships, their masters strip them of all they have on their backs: So that they come on board stark naked, women as well as men. It is common for several hundreds of them to be put on board one vessel; where they are stowed together in as little room, as it is possible for them to be crowded. It is easy to suppose what a condition they must
Page 22

soon be in, between heat, thirst, and stench of various kinds. So that it is no wonder, so many should die in the passage; but rather, that any survive it.*

*Thomas Philips in his account of a voyage he made to Guinea, and from thence to Barbadoes, with a cargo of slaves relates, “That they took seven hundred slaves on board. When they were brought in the vessel, the men were all put in irons, two and two shackled together, to prevent their mutinying or swimming ashore. The negroes, he says, are so loath to leave their own country, that they have often leapt out of the canoe, boat and ship, into the seas, and kept under water until they were drowned, to avoid being taken up, and saved by the boats which pursue them.”–They had about twelve negroes who willingly drowned themselves; others starved themselves to death– Philips was advised to cut off the legs and arms of some to terrify the rest; (as other captains had done) but this he refused to do: From the time of his taking the negroes on board, to his arrival at Barbadoes, no less than three hundred and twenty died of various diseases: Which the author says, “was to their great regret, after enduring much misery and stench, so long, among a parcel of creatures nastier than swine: No gold-finder, says Philips, can suffer such noisome drudgery as they do who carry negroes, having no respite from their afflictions so long as any of their slaves are alive.” How unreasonable was it in Philips, thus to reflect on negroes; could such a number be crowded together in so warm a climate, even if they had all been healthy, without being extremely offensive: How much more when so many lay sick, dead and dying. He speaks of the English people’s great sufferings by nastiness, stench, &c. but he forgets the sufferings of the poor blacks, which must have been incomparably greater than their’s; not to mention the painful sorrow, and anxiety of mind these distressed creatures must have laboured under.

Shape note version of Amazing Grace:


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The Buddhist connection to Norway

Am I the only person on the internet interested in the connection between the Norwegian stavkirke and the Thai temple?


Perhaps not. A google search for “stavkirke” and “Thai” turns up a thousand hits.  Three of them are from a discussion that ended up with the above photo from Norway posted here. The rest are a bunch of predictable travel sites that include both Norway and Thailand. And…oh ho!…a bunch of people talking DNA genetics on a closed forum of a website called But through the miracle of Google cache, we can find out what they were saying here and here.

danish-bog-man-grauballemandenThrough that discussion we also find a link to the Danish bog man–a closeup of his face that you don’t usually see in photos (click to enlarge). He does look very awfully Asian. I don’t remember him looking so Asian, and my Danish relatives seemed to think he was some sort of ancestor, but maybe I was a bit creeped out when I saw him, what with him being so dead and everything.

oseburg-ship-837-pixelsThen of course the DNA forum had to discuss the Aesir and Vanir and their war and what peoples might have migrated and whether they could have been Asian. The Oseberg ship from 834 has long been thought to be the burial of the legendary Queen Asa. But now DNA testing shows one of the women in the burial came from the Black Sea area. Apparently geneticists are now in the vanguard of research into migrations.

Then there’s this wiki in Norwegian. The comment posted with it says:

That there have been practises similar to Buddhism in Scandinavia is supported in a book called ” The Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations” (1725), the illustrations actually show how they are offering to a statue with crowned head and amulet on chest, holding a stick (Vajra?). Picart illustrated Buddha in similar ways for instance in India and Ceylon, see pictures in added site.

A pre-Christian Scandinavian deity Picart (1725).

These engravings likely reflect the remains of Buddhism in Scandinavia and Buddhism might be a forceful explanation of why it took so long to Christianise parts of the population in the Nordic areas.

It is known that Picart was a propagandist of Christianity and often made rather ridiculing illustrations and descriptions of people practising other religions.

You can see examples in the following site:

Take a look at the images in this URL to see for instance how he illustrated Ceylonese worshiping of religious deities, and how he illustrates worshipping of Shiva in India. Picart, 1723.…art/picart.html

Worshipping of the God Thor in Scandinavia. This is an illustration of a pre-Christian Deity (Picart 1725). A God carved in stone photo by Worm-Petersen (1914), this was likely Thor. It seems like Thor was another God than the Buddha-like God in the first engraving of this posting.

Thor was described as the God of the Goths or Geats (ref. “Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus” by Olaus Magnus, 1555). The Goths mixed with the people of origin here, that is known from the Norse Mythologies. The mix of European and Asian people likely resulted in and is reflected in the Vikings culture of Scandinavia. It seems like the Saami people are mix of the old peoples of Scandinavia, Europeans and Asians as well as with newer people migrating to these areas. The Goths were far back in history more likely of South Asian origin, however they might have been a 50:50 mix of southern and eastern Asian if they for instance had Khotan / Kushan origins. If the Goths mixed with the Scandinavian indigenous people and these later became the Vikings, then the Goths must have been the ones that came with Buddha and Buddhist ornaments. Was Thor part of Buddhism or did he belong to the first people of Scandinavia?

It seems like there is need to look into Iron Age history in Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden) to understand what happened with the “Buddhist” Vikings that always have been described as Pagan. There is something is clearly missing in our story here. There are good reasons to question the pagan-descriptions of the Vikings. I doubt the correctness of Snorre when it comes to offering humans, to my knowledge that kind of offerings do not excist within Buddhist practises. Telling such awful stories might have been part of a pro-Christian campaign, in the same way as we later see with for instance Picart.

According to Wikipedia-sources it is told that many farms were built between 300-600 CE in the southern and western areas of Norway. That fits well with the “Buddhist” Vikings that seem to have brought new agricultural technologies here. However this article tells that something seems to have happened, because these farms were left during 600 CE. During 700eds a new agricultural expansion starts in the same areas. With and increase in the number of inhabitants in south, mid and northern Norway.

Is the timing of new immigrations to Norway twisted, in the same way as the truth about religious practices?

The same trust in our official history is reflected in the following book:
“Archaeology and World Religion” by Timothy Insoll (2001)
In Scania in southern Sweden, for example, the long-standing pagan practice of making lake and bog-offerings appears to have been abandoned in the sixth century, before the introduction of Christianity. This change in ritual practice roughly coincided with the introduction of timbered halls as the most prominent type of building in local settlements, and thus could be related to changes in the local social structure, which may in turn have laid the foundations for the subsequent adoption of Christian beliefs by the elite (Fabech 1999:459).” (End of quote from “Archaeology and World Religion” by Timothy Insoll, 2001)

My Question is: Then why does the Timbered halls (Stavkirke) have Stupa-temple similar constructions and clearly Asian ornaments that fits well with the Viking symbolism from about 400 CE?

What has actually happened? (I do not have an answer but there must be some historical deceptions around).

Christianisatity triumphed early as a religion at least for the power elites in some Nordic areas, however the Christian religion does not seem to have affected the kings and queens buried in Oseberg or Gokstad in Norway during the 800eds CE. Clearly a religion with Buddhist symbolism have been present in Sweden and Norway at least from 400 CE or earlier and until about 900 – 1000 CE . We know that Asians were present in the Nordic as early somewhere between c. 300 – 50 BCE, referring to the finding of a bogman called Grauballeman / Grauballemanden in Denmark, so they likely have come here well before 400 CE. I do not know if they ever tested his haplogroup.

The Norse mythologies were written by Snorre, the politician, after new populations had settled in. Snorre died in 1240 CE. Were these myths partly constructed political tools rather than fairly reflecting an old history tradition? Did the camouflaging of Buddhism in the Nordic start with Snorre? Mythology has been a known and often used powerful political tool for a long time.

What a great rant–I love these geneticists, whoever they are.  If only I could understand the genetics they’re talking about.

The group then goes on to discuss pre-Christian religious practices.  They get to the inevitable comparisons between Indra’s Vajra and Thor’s hammer.

thorshammer2 thorshammer3 vajra_bell_tibet1

What did I leave out?–oh, a list of eras in which the Buddhists sent out missionaries and to which countries, including Syria and Macedonia. Silk road theory-yes!

Then the geneticists did something every other group on every other thread does–they went off topic.  One of them mentioned hair color, another posted a map link to blond hair distribution, another disagreed with hair color being genetic marker, and anther protested at being accused of posting a map since it was someone else who did that.  Then someone posts this–uff da!–and you would think that a hissy fit with this eloquence would halt the discussion.  But no. It merely adds fuel to the fire:

It is not correct to say that men here in the Nordic with R1a or R1a1 are Asian, but the origin of their genes might be Asian. The same is true for R1b and additionally for men from Finland, they have extreme high percentages of Eastern Asian genes (haplogroup N). However men with haplogroup N in Finland are not from East Asia. It is a long time since a fraction of their ancestors migrated to the Nordic.

Lets make it clear – once and for all – this is a discussion about the origin of haplogroups, not about living people, but genetic and cultural ancestors far back in time.

Eugenics was a quasi-science made such correlations of features such as eye, skin, hair, nose form, skull form and stature etc. and generalized it to group averages. All of that resulted in crude simplifications and racism. Eugenics overlooked variations within groups. There are good reasons why such approaches are called “quasi-sciences” and cannot be considered more than that. Referring to haplogroups is not racist, because it is only a small fraction of our genes that is reflected in them. That is why white men can have Sub-Saharan African haplogroups and vice versa. However the probability for being East Asian looking is higher if you have a haplogroup with origin in East Asia. Please do not make this a dicussion about looks. Eugenics is not very interesting.

What a free-for-all!  Apparently going off topic is not encouraged among these folk as it is elsewhere. Finally they started a new thread for the “new” topic and there we lose the geneticists’ discussion in a password protected link.  Ah, those rowdy geneticists!  But we do have the map from this intriguing cartography website:


Seeing and rating

A while back on Charlie Rose’s show, someone was talking about tryouts for hiring musicians for some major orchestra.  The tryouts used to be in front of the people who were doing the hiring, but then they decided to do the tryouts with the musician invisible to the listeners.  You’ll never guess what happened.  When they couldn’t see the gender of the musician, they rated women higher.  And they started hiring more women.

The internet makes things interesting in the same way because you can’t see the person writing.

A while back I was amused when someone linked to me and called me a Jordanian.  Hey, maybe it’s true.  The Arabs have a saying, when you live with a people and eat their bread (or is it salt?) for 40 days, you become one of them.  There are worse things that could happen.

Now there are more ways to rate your website.

Blog Personality

Typeanalyser (Via Riverdaughter) will give your blog a personality test. It’s based on the Myers-Briggs personality inventory,  (you can take the test as an individual here) which is based on Jungian psychological theory, and measures personality according to 4 dichotomies: Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/iNtuition, Thinking/Feeling,  Judging/Perceiving.  Here’s how they envision me:

INTP – The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Blog Gender

Moving onwards and upwards, the GenderAnalyzer tests your blog for gender.

We have strong indicators that is written by a man (91%).

Hee, hee.

Should I tell them? They have a little poll set up, and the results reported now are 54% accurate. But in at least one blog thread, the accuracy of the results is running more around 25%.

Browser Gender

So much for your writing habits.  But what about reading?  This Social Analyzer has a Java script that will analyze your gender based on your browser history.

Even better, the author of the script tells how he gets his numbers.  Gender neutral is 1.0. Higher numbers are masculine, lower numbers are feminine.  As far as political candidates’ websites, the male/female ratio for is 0.6 0.68 1.27

For politics: 1.82 1.56 2.08 1.13 1.7 1.35

Shopping is a bit more intuitive: 0.68 (a no-brainer) 1.2 (now in bankruptcy) 0.67 1.11

Is a high male score for shopping an predictor of financial difficulty? Hint: keep an eye on Radio Shack.

Technology sites tend to rank more male, except for cellphone corporate websites, which run more towards female.

So, what am I?  On the PC I’m 61% female.  On the laptop, I’m 98% male. Go figure.

UPDATE: 11/30/08 Camel’s Nose is now testing 100% female, but is still INTP Thinker, and the laptop history is still 98% male. That was a pretty quick gender switch for the writing– a 180 degree turn in just ten days–but good to know the thinking and reading are rock solid…I guess.

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Book list for women’s rights

century-of-struggle11On a late night thread, the discussion turned to books about women’s rights and politics. Here are my recommendations.  I am also emailing this list to the person who wants to stock their bookshelf.   A lot of the books are from the 60’s.

For books, I remember two classics from the 60’s: Sisterhood is Powerful, an anthology, and Century of Struggle about winning the vote (you can’t even say “suffrage” any more because they don’t know what that means) and there’s a lot in there about women in trade unions too.

Here is the Amazon review for Sisterhood is Powerful, ed. Robin Morgan with the red fist on the cover. Out of print and there are several more modern ones by Morgan, but I don’t know anything about them to recommend or not.

This was the eye-opening book, the manifesto, the “click” that happened when you suddenly saw your situation from the outside and realized the deck was stacked. It was divided into sections by topic, politics, psychology, sexuality, lesbians…so you could start with something you were interested in and work into the other stuff that was more difficult or controversial later.  This is probably really dated, birth control was new at the time, but it was a classic.

I don’t know that I’m recommending (since it’s out of print) so much as putting it out there for discussion since it was so influential.

Here is Century of Struggle, the history of the battle for the vote by Eleanor Flexner. The version I read was much older with a different cover. For me this is required reading and I see someone else reviewed it by saying “required reading” too. I would worry that it isn’t dumbed down enough for today’s crowd though. At least this one has stayed in print. Nice index too.

I am reminded of what the African Americans I used to work with used to say, “No one gives you your rights voluntarily–you have to take them.”

Of course you want The Feminist Papers, ed. Alice Rossi. Not exactly readable but has all the documents from Abagail Adams to Mary Wollstonecraft to British feminists and a description of Seneca Falls Convention.  If you need to quote something historical, this is the reference to have:

I don’t know if anyone is looking for religion/goddess type historical stuff but I love Barbara G. Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.  At first glance this one looks like it’s way out there, and you say to yourself, “Oh I have that reference and what she’s saying just isn’t in there”, then you pull your copy off the shelf to make sure and it’s in there all right–down in a foot note–you just never connected the dots.

In a similar vein but not as comprehensive, is Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman with some archaeological conjecture—lots of biblical references to ancient goddesses too. Still, I enjoyed reading it– since you won’t hear that sort of evidence from male archaeologists.

Also, textbooks on Public Administration and maybe Personnel often have sections on women, especially in light of legal changes for those who have to follow the law in hiring practices (hostile workplace environment, anyone?) without necessarily having a law background.  Sometimes there’s a rather interesting philosophical/theoretical discussion that goes with it.

Have fun.

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USB Speakers: Logitech Z-5 beats Insignia 2.0

Today I finally settled on speakers for my laptop. I had wanted a set of USB speakers that I could use both to listen to ordinary YouTube music or CD’s, and also something that would be both loud enough and lightweight enough to bring to the classroom to play music for my ESL students.

speakers-insignia1First I decided on the Insignia 2.0 Portable USB Speaker System (2-piece). It was in the $50 range at Bestbuy, had a case for carrying, and was lightweight enough to pack easily in a bag that fills up with heavy books and papers pretty quickly. But when I got it home and plugged into the USB port (and it played in Vista immediately without installing any software), the sound just wasn’t right.  Maybe it would have been all right for voice, but after listening to some music on YouTube and one of the CD’s I use for the students, I found I just wasn’t enjoying the sound of the music. It wasn’t just the lack of good bass, the music just didn’t have any depth of tone. Some reviewers who bought this speaker were satisfied with the sound, but I wasn’t. If you don’t enjoy it, why listen?

speakers2Fortunately Bestbuy has a good customer service, and I was able to return it for the Logitech Z-5, a 2-speaker set. They had just set one up in the store and I was able to listen to it before buying, although it was plugged into the headphone output and not the USB port.  This speaker was a bit larger and heavier, but was on sale for eighty-something dollars. Unwrapping the speakers at home, I plugged them into the USB port and installed the software from the CD that comes with it. Ah, much better.

speakers-box1As you can see, everything runs from one USB port without any external power source. The cord between the two speakers is about 45 inches, the cord to the USB port about 75 inches. Long enough to put on a shelf above the desk, but not across the room.  The accoutrements that come with it are a mystery cord, presumably to plug into a speaker output (one of the speakers has an external jack for “iPod or external music player”), a software CD, and a terminally cute remote control (smaller than a deck of cards) so you can change the volume and stop and start the player from across the room.  I’m so in love with this little remote; I know it will fit in my sport jacket pocket without a bulge.  I have yet to test the speakers in the classroom, but at home they are loud enough to hear in the next room.

As I write this, I am listening to some folk music from Sur Sudha I bought in Nepal that I haven’t heard for years because it was skipping on the CD player.  I can hear every sitar string twang and the bongos actually sound like drums.  The flute is so clear you can tell it’s not a western metal flute.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  I am definitely NOT going to miss the extra money I spent on these speakers.