Beginners Guide To Opera

Peter's pondering

This is in response to Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #274 where the given word is OPERA and the word count is 95.


I really tried, but with 95 words, and only five lines, and knowing little about opera, and adding more commas than I ought, I failed to write an acrostic poem. So…….

Otello, a resounding success but sixteen years in the writing.

Porgy and Bess, ten years to write, in English, and great success for one song in particular.

Eugene Onegin, a lyric opera, dramatic music, love, a duel, regret, what more is there?

Rigoletto, Verdi’s masterpiece, a randy hunchback and a nubile young lady.

Aida, the history of Egypt, sung over 1,100 times since 1886.


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My first cat – Whiskers
Me (Janet) and Whiskers – late 19040’s
3 pals 70+ years ago
Son James holding the cat and his younger brother Andrew looking proud in his Wesley uniform – 1985


Remembering the busy weaver birds at Tsavo, halfway stop on our travels between Nairobi and the coast.

Something Over Tea

I have already devoted two posts to the Spectacled Weaver (Ploceus ocularis) yet cannot resist doing so again if only to highlight the joy I feel every time one visits my garden. Unlike the other weavers, this one retains its bright plumage throughout the year. It appears to prefer the tangled growth of the Cape honeysuckle that twines through other indigenous vegetation on the edge of the area I have set aside for the bird feeders. At first I have seen one only after the ‘breakfast rush’ is over, however, it has become bolder over the past three years and so I am featuring pictures of it venturing out into the open. Here it [there is actually a pair – I generally only see one at a time though] has ventured out of the bush to find a titbit to eat on the feeding tray. This is a…

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Operation Downfall – part one

Pacific Paratrooper

Plans for Japan – click to enlarge

The original idea for the invasion of Japan was approved in July 1944 and received constant, precise detailing up until the actual signing of the surrender. Operation Downfall was broken into two separate plans, Operation Olympic which would be followed by Operation Coronet.

With all the devastation already incurred on Japan, a forceful occupation would still be very costly. The Japanese Army controlled the government and their wish was a fight down to the last man, woman and child. Later on, members of that army stated that it would have been an all out suicide effort of every person in Japan to fight to the death.

Women pose for propaganda poster as “beachfront kamikazes”

Operation Olympic, which included 750,000 troops were to land on Southern Kyushi 1 November 1945. In the first wave, Army, Navy and Marine personnel – 436,486; the second wave…

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More Musings on Lineage: Emma Livry (1842-1863)

Gangleri's Grove

Lineage is a fragile thing. I think about that every time I think about ballet, and I probably learned more about what it takes to maintain and nourish a lineage through having been a dancer than in all the studies and religious work I’ve done since. Lineage is connection, power, tradition, rootedness, identity, culture, and that culture is directed at maintaining and expressing something precious (be it devotion in our case as polytheists, or beauty and art, a different type of devotion, in the case of the dancers I’m discussing here). It is passed through bodies, through the stories, material culture, and lived experience of one generation to the next.One generation takes the next in hand, carefully forming them, teaching them, helping them, and entrusting to them whatever lineage and tradition it is that one carries. That is a sacred trust, something to be cherished, reverenced, protected.

In ballet, it’s…

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My Cats Are Blurring In My Memory

Katerina – our cat in Seattle, she still roams our neighborhood in Ballard. Officially she lives one street over but we visit her in her new home and she visits us in her old home (we still own the house)

Quasimodo – who? when? a gift from Jan Bartlett, a friend in Dublin, named Quasimodo because as a kitten she had a cute sideways way which she used to hop about. as an adult she would meow outside my sons’ windows in the middle of the night – they would let her in and she would sleep on one of their beds

Slinki Malinki – yes a splendid cat I just liked the name. a black? cat

Thatcher – a white cat we had in Bhutan, given to us by a Danish couple, liked to bite us, I don’t remember this cat’s name but the next owner named it Thatcher because the cat continued its biting habit

Whiskers – a black and white cat we had in my youth. Can’t really remember any distinguishing characteristics. except she could look in the kitchen window when she wanted to come in

And I have a photo of her eating alongside our dog Duchess and watched by Brian, a little boy who lived across the street

Dogs are so much easier to remember than cats

Name? of the cat in Fiji – when it was cold at night this cat slept with the dog Grover

Caty 1 and Caty 2 – at rest in our back garden, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Suva, Fiji

Stripe?? – was this cat given to Joan Blackmore, the wife of the Head Master at Wesley, the boys boarding school. she ran away, the cat, not Joan

Our family dog Duchess 1950 Belmont Massachusetts

Cat in Bhutan – used to go for a walk with me on a trail high above our house – me, followed by the dog followed by the cat

Not my cats
I loved my dog Duchess, 1951?
Brian, Whiskers, and Duchess, early 1950’s

Destroying PFAS: Less Than Meets the Eye

Wickersham's Conscience

Model Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (C8HF15O2) molecule, one of several thousand PFAS substances

On the long list of things you need to worry about is the problem of PFAS. “PFAS” is an acronym for perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances. It’s a class of chemicals composed of long chains of carbon molecules very strongly bonded with fluorine atoms, and they are damned near indestructible. Other chemicals break down by bacterial action, weathering or naturally occurring chemicals. Not PFAS.

At the same time, the stuff is ubiquitous. It’s been detected in rainfall Tibet, snow in Antartica and pretty much everywhere in between. Industrial chemistry has developed hundreds of variations, with different properties of varying utility. It’s PFAS that make your non-stick frying pan non-stick. It’s PFAS that make your carpet stain resistant. It’s PFAS that makes fire-fighting foam more effective. It’s included in many forms of woman’s makeup…

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Something Over Tea

I have often noticed the tubular flowers of the Cape honeysuckle lying on the ground as if something had deliberately cut them off – well, that ‘something’ has generally proved to be one or other of the weavers that frequent our garden! Keen to get to the store of nectar at the base – and having beaks far too short to reach inside – the weavers simply nip off the base of the flowers for their prize snack.

During July and into early August, I have observed the stalks of the Aloe ferox growing outside our lounge have increasingly been stripped too. This time I caught a pair of Streakyheaded Seedeaters in the act. Apart from probing the base of the flowers to get to the nectar, they also eat the buds, anthers and stamens – this picture was taken through the window:

Other birds enjoying the rich source of…

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