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small violet square I'm blessed with nice birds now. They wake me up at their appropriate dawn hour, and it's not unpleasant. During my last winter in DC (actually living in the wrong part of Alexandria <1>) there were a bunch of crows which would gather in nearby trees and caw annoyingly, always too early. (Loud crows are also a feature of Tokyo mornings.) But the bird songs I hear now are very like the ones I recall from Santa Monica - the two which stand out are the (actually not-so-nice) screech of the birds I call Sneetches (I think they're really Blue Jays), and the cooing of the small brown Mourning Doves - I used to think this sound was the "who"ing of Owls. Plus there a lot of continual twittering the source of which I can't identify - they're what actually start up, each morning.

small yellow square Today I called in sick. (Mild morale problem, remember.) Actually I was with a doctor first thing for what was probably my final podiatrist visit - he checked my scabs (from his surgical removal of the plantar warts) and said all was well. My company has a time-accounting policy which makes it easier to take a whole sick-day than to cut out briefly for a doctor appointment (that's one interpretation), so I came back home and went searching for the Prophet on the Internet.

small green square Here's some of what I learned today, probing into the pilgrimage, or hajj, and things generally Islamic:

  • The midpoint of the hajj is the ritual noon-to-sunset 'standing' on the flanks of Mount Arafat, site of the Prophet's last sermon
  • The physical landmarks of the hajj are not being worshipped - at all times the pilgrims are walking in Muhammad's footsteps, their "...desire is precisely to replicate the Prophet's Last Pilgrimage, not to question his motivation"
  • Between Mount Arafat and Mecca, on the plains of Muzdalifa, each pilgrim gathers seventy stones, each 'no larger than a hazelnut, no smaller than a chick pea'
  • Not only are the pilgrims walking around the Kaaba seven times; part of the stadium-like Sacred Masque (the Haram) surrounding it is a long tangent, which encloses the 'place of running' between the two small hills of Safa and Marwa. This huge 400-meter hallway, or gallery, can be jammed with pilgrims walking back and forth, doing their "course", the traditional seven circuits
  • Outside Mecca is Mina, a place with three stone pillars which represent Satan's temptation of Abraham. The pilgrims hurl the rocks they collected before at them - 'pelting the Satan'
  • A ritual sacrifice is part of the hajj. Typical numbers: 70,00 sheep, 20,00 cattle, plus goats and camels. The meat is frozen and distributed throughout the Islamic world
  • Mecca is restricted to Muslims. Christians, Hindi, Buddhists, Atheists and especially Jews aren't permitted, ever. You'll only see it in pictures

small red square Later I bought a new coffee machine at the Los Altos Peet's, the smallest "Bonjour" French press unit. Someone reading my Profile page might get the impression I've sworn off java forever; actually I've weakened somewhat, probably since around December when I first experienced Peet's! It's great stuff - not sure how they do it, but stopping there for a tall "half-caf" has become an almost daily habit. While traveling I frequently try a regular cup o' joe, and I've had good luck these days withstanding the jittery heart palpitations I started getting bad in 1992, which were diagnosed then as PVC - cure, just eliminate the stimulants (ie caffeine) from the diet, which I was miraculously able to do - since then, except for the times just mentioned, I've been strictly with decaf. But now (as in days of yore), when I get a headache I think of espresso - another enabling factor perhaps that neurologist I visited, who said coffee frequently helps negate headache pain - no kidding. The machine is fun & simple - my grinder output just wasn't working with my little Italian stove-top espresso unit. Grind quality isn't much of a factor with these steeping plunger jobs.

small purple square Listening to the audio feed from the PBS MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour about the Microsoft antitrust violations. The guy from Microsoft, a VP, sounds just like that fascist guy in "Animal House" - what was his name? - Niedermeyer.

VP - Vice President
PVC - Premature Ventricular Contractions

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