It's a pretty solid rain right now in Seattle. We're very close to the I'm always cold season. It doesn't matter how many layers one wears...always a little cold. I'm not complaing, at least not entirely. I can't abide excessive heat, and I believe all of us will be seeking cooler temps for the next...well, until it all burns up.

But if my dad reads this, he'll deservedly (is that a word?) say, "See, told ya." I've given him some grief about always being cold. Dude grew up on Long Island. Granted, he headed off to Florida and Oklahoma pretty early on and settled in Arizona, but still. There's snow deep in those memory banks. Well, yea, now I see how it goes. Luckily it's still just the wet cold that gets to me. I can be shivering outside, and once I get inside, it feels like a furnace.

I briefly hit a streak of focusing on one book, but I've regressed. I once again find myself 1/3 the way through several books. But they're all good books, and as is often the case when reading, I've spotted links to separate writing and discussions.

The Middle Sea, a History of the Mediterranean (John Julius Norwich) and The Sheltering Sky (Paul Bowles). [The links are affiliate links at Bookshop. If you buy a copy through the link, I'll get about $.25. Ten people read this blog. This is my path to riches. I just like linking to the books. Best to check them out at a library.]

If you like history, I'm very happy recommending Norwich's Middle Sea. At the heart of it, it's good fun. Comprehensive, accessible, with a wry humor. I also think it's an interesting way to focus on a massively diverse topic. The Mediterranean has been a target of a...well...to put it in a precise perspective... shit ton of conquerors. You can blame their methods, but you can't fault the desire. A lot of those conquerors shifted their focus elsewhere, and once they moved away from the Mediterranean, Norwich leaves them to their own devices.

I can't wrap my head around the logistics. I've moved overseas several times for work, in the era of electronic banking, email, and mobile phones. It never went smoothly. Belisarius, I want you to take our armies and re-conquer Italy and North Africa. How did they pay the troops? If a soldier died, how did his family get paid? How did soldiers pack? They can't have been allowed more than a small rucksack. What was the departure like? Bye honey, I love you, hope to see you in a year...maybe.

The following passage shows Norwich's appreciation of logistics:

There was another reason too for the slowness of the Arab advance after the conquest of Egypt. As anyone who has driven the 600-odd miles between Benghazi and Tripoli knows all too well, the desert terrain is featureless and the road apparently interminable; it certainly offered no chance of booty or plunder to make it remotely attractive to the Arab army.

I lived in Tripoli for about 18 months. Incredible place. I wanted to visit Benghazi, but there were two obstacles - the distance and the need for diplomatic permission. The distance was easily surmountable. There were regular flights, even though I wanted to drive to see some of the places mentioned in Greek and Roman history. The diplomatic requirement was also surmountable, albeit tedious and bureaucratic. The Libyan Government wasn't keen on U.S. embassy folks traveling around. I kept putting it off because I'm a procrastinator. And then the Arab Spring happened. It's never easy thinking about Benghazi or the challenges the Libyans have faced.

It's getting late, and I haven't blogged in a while. I'm rambling. I do that. I've been underlining and writing about all sorts of things that speak to a connection to then and now. But I'm not a great thinker, and I can't make much sense of my notes. I won't force it. Instead, I'll link to a New York Times article that looks back on the years since the Arab Spring.

I shouldn't just leave The Sheltering Sky hanging there. I've mentioned before that I'd like to get down to 5 - 10 books. If I wanted to add one, I'd have to give one away. Or I'd like to win the lottery and have a big library. Six of one, half-dozen the other. Anyway, The Sheltering Sky has always figured in my top 10. But I'm reading it again, and I clearly forgot about or tuned out the Tea in the Sahara scene. Not a fan. It's hard to imagine that not being based on the author's experience. It is a work of fiction...still. I'll read the rest and then consign it to a free library.

I'm very much enjoying Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It is a tour de force. An encyclopedia. Bittman is clear and concise, and he loves the idea of people having economical access to good, tasty, healthy food that can be cooked at home without too much fuss.

My first attempt at one of his recipes was a complete failure. It was a one skillet spaghetti. Sometimes size matters. The recipe called for a large skillet. I think my 10.5" skillet comes in at a medium. My kitchen looked like a crime scene. I've had better luck with some of the egg breakfast recipes. His scrambled eggs recipe is interesting. Start with a cold skillet, chuck in the eggs and butter, apply heat. I also had some success with his fried egg recipe. Added two eggs to some black-eyed peas. For me, heaven.

I'm adding a photo. 3 of my favorite people. (They're all vaxxed, the bar requires proof of vaccination, and they lowered their masks for 1 minute.)

Capitol Hill, Seattle, October 2021.