Understatement of the day


The U.N. inspectors mandate dictates they will only seek to determine whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them. Western diplomats said that limitation undermined the usefulness of the inspectors findings.

via U.N. investigators to exit Syria, chemical probe may take weeks | Reuters.



Are women better swimmers?


The average annual death rate from drowning for males 2.2 per 100,000 population was more than three times that for females.

via QuickStats: Average Annual Death Rates from Drowning,† by Sex and Age Group — United States,§ 1999–2010.


On the end of the football


…half of the settlement amount will be paid over the next three years, if the deal is approved, with the balance paid over the next 17 years.

via N.F.L. Agrees to Settle Concussion Suit for $765 Million – NYTimes.com.


First, the roughnecks, then the hookers. Now this.


“But to come in and want to change everything and be the big dog — no. I don’t like bulldogs.”

via White Supremacist Takeover Bid Angers Town – NYTimes.com.


‘The Road to Oxiana’

The Road to OxianaThe Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recommended, if you are 1) an anglophobe and 2) keen on descriptions of architecture.

View all my reviews

Which is to say, this book is not for everyone. His intended audience, I am sure, was more erudite than me. I needed a dictionary to understand much of how he described the lonely ruins he visited — in part because he employs more than a few archaic spellings. And there were plenty of British 1930s-isms that were over my head. Still, I am a sucker for these sorts of things. I sometimes entertain the desire to have lived in that time, knowing some of those people. These thoughts, warmly persistent like nostalgia, quickly dissipate when I reflect on the relatively dismal state of medical science and public hygiene in the 1930s. And the probable fact that this literate generation of snaggle-toothed Brits, Robert Byron, Patrick Fermor, Cyril Connolly, Norman Douglas and so on, were lecherous fiends.

At least there is no shortage of such books. In the introduction, the writer Paul Fussell writes that it sometimes seemed “that in the twenties and thirties virtually no one stayed home.” My favorite remains Mr. Fermor, whose “A Time for Gifts” is perhaps the best of the lot.

Toward the end of “Road,” Mr. Byron makes a comment that allows me to flatter myself that he and I would have got along, as we picked nits out of our flea bags and cracked jokes about Horace’s dirtier poems under the Central Asian night sky. In a paragraph where he mocks any advice for travelers that doesn’t allow for what books to take on a trip, he imagines endowing a prize for the “sensible traveler.”

£10,000 for the first man to cover Marco Polo’s outward route reading three fresh books a week, and another £10,000 if he drinks a bottle of wine a day as well.

Present circumstances perhaps make that particular route untenable. But the idea is one worth exploring. May I recommend a tiny plaza off the Carrer de l’Argenteria in Barcelona?

Ask for a bottle of the house red, a cutting board of cheeses and a plate of pimientos de padron.

Ask for a bottle of the house red, a cutting board of cheeses and a plate of pimientos de padron.

Tragedy of the Shopping Mall

One of the outer arcades, in 2009. Notice the Barcelona Zlatan Ibrahimović jersey.

One of the outer arcades, in 2009. Notice the Barcelona Zlatan Ibrahimović jersey.

“This is actually about deciding who is supposed to pay for the refurbishing.”

via Report: Grand Bazaar in Istanbul in Danger of Collapse – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

The Grand Bazaar is mostly tedious, but there are numerous gems tucked away in its venerable arches and winding passageways. Worth a visit, especially if you hit the Cemberlitas Hammami afterward, to get all the commerce off you. (Straight out the main southern entrance, and to the left.)

The bazaar made a lasting impression on me — during a visit in 2009 — for two reasons. One was that even the simplest, most inexpensive transactions were prolonged by an absurd tradition of haggling. (“How much is that keychain?” “Three lira (about $1.50).” “O.K.” “For you, though, I will take two. Two lira.” “O.K.” “I cannot take less.” “O.K.”)

And two was the rat that bounded joyfully across my path somewhere in the northwestern quarter. I was unconcerned; the whole place is open air, and I imagined the rat knew right where it was going. But the nearby shopkeepers rallied like townspeople oppressed by a mythical beast. Before I knew it, a mob had cornered the rat with broomsticks and mops. After a few seconds of human and animal protest, an abrupt, agonized squeak marked the end of the drama. The victim was placed in a mop bucket and wheeled away. The crowd melted back into the arcades. I passed through a centuries-old arch.

On secrets


…and it would be hidden in the nondescript brownstone.

via They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford | The New York Review of Books.

How soon we grow used to the most depressing possibilities about our government — and how soon, too, we commercialize on them.

via Three Days of the Condor Movie Review 1975 | Roger Ebert.


That sounds familiar.


Mr. Kerry accused the Syrian government of cynically seeking to cover up the use of the weapons and he rejected its denial of responsibility for what he called a “cowardly crime.”

via Kerry Says Chemical Arms Attack in Syria Is ‘Undeniable’ – NYTimes.com.

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didnt have to. We already knew.”

via Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran – By Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid | Foreign Policy.