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Excerpts from Michel Peissel's Zanskar: The Hidden Kingdom #


I stepped outside and again I was struck by the magnificent view: a full circle of peaks surrounded the flat sea of the central plain dotted with its villages, refuges in a world unfit for man. If ever there lay a valley cut off from the world, a hidden, secret land, it was Zanskar. I could hardly believe that only recently I had left a world which is polluted and over-populated. Everything in Zanskar I found near to perfection: nothing, so it seemed, was out of place or unnatural. ... There was nothing here to tarnish the harmony of nature in which man has his natural place blending with the earth...

Fleas in Heaven

Finally I retired to a nocturnal safari against the terrible fleas. Someone, alas, had forgotten to explain to them the deadly effects of DDT, for they completely ignored the floods of insecticide with which I had covered my body. Leeches in the lower, damp southern Himalayas and fleas in the north are responsible for the real hardships of Himalayan travel. My parasites and I awoke early the next day.

At last I lay down to what I thought was well-earned sleep only to appreciate I had overlooked the fleas for which Kargil is famous. As I sat scratching myself I thought of all those travellers who had passed sleepless nights at this ancient crossroads of caravans heading for Tibet, Afghanistan, China and Sinkiang.

I must admit I needed self-control not to kill the fleas I caught in the chapel. Instead, with traditional respect for life, I placed the offenders on the ground without squashing them, thus leaving them free to start a new career on someone else.

For the night I was offered a small room in a large house that seemed neat and reasonably clean. Little could I then foresee that this was to result in severe wounds, much frustration and eight full days of furious scratching. 'To bite a flea is hardly food for the stomach but how nourishing for the soul,' goes a Tibetan proverb. I had to agree as, forgetting all taboos about respecting life, and in spite of the difference in size and the Geneva convention, I killed all prisoners!


Usually it takes me a week to get rid of the habits of my rational Western self, to stop querying every fact and figure and searching for an explanation to every phenomenon. This period over, I began to believe in witches and ghosts, gods and demons, good and evil spirits and endless other characters that in the West I liked to consider imaginary—in the same manner that Lobsang would consider unreal and laugh at all the dreary statistics in which we believe, such as the height in feet of our tallest buildings, or the exact distance in miles between the earth and the moon, the facts and figures which mould our lives and command respect in our figure-mad world. But what do figures mean, or spirits, if one docs not believe in them? The answer is nothing, for it is Faith that counts. Often we would be at a loss to check many of the facts we believe in; we accept them with that same blind faith with which I now accepted the presence of demons and the miracle of the [imprint in rock of a] footprint [said to be Padma Sambhava's].

/misc | Apr 19, 2018

A scattering of dried figs and nuts #

Free from hindrance are those things which lie in the sphere of the moral purpose, and subject to hindrance are those which lie outside the sphere of the moral purpose. And so, if he regards his own good and advantage as residing in these things alone, in those, namely, which are free from hindrance and under his control, he will be free, serene, happy, unharmed, high-minded, reverent, giving thanks for all things to God, under no circumstances finding fault with anything that has happened, nor blaming anything; if, however, he regards his good and advantage as residing in externals and things outside the sphere of his moral purpose, he must needs be hindered and restrained, be a slave to those who have control over these things which he has admired and fears; he must needs be irreverent, forasmuch as he thinks that God is injuring him, and be unfair, always trying to secure for himself more than his share, and must needs be of an abject and mean spirit.

When a man has once grasped all this, what is there to prevent him from living with a light heart and an obedient disposition; with a gentle spirit awaiting anything that may yet befall, and enduring that which has already befallen? "Would you have me bear poverty?" Bring it on and you shall see what poverty is when it finds a good actor to play the part. "Would you have me hold office?" Bring it on. "Would you have me suffer deprivation of office?" Bring it on. "Well, and would you have me bear troubles?" Bring them on too. "Well, and exile?" Wherever I go it will be well with me, for here where I am it was well with me, not because of my location, but because of my judgements, and these I shall carry away with me; nor, indeed, can any man take these away from me, but they are the only things that are mine, and they cannot be taken away, and with the possession of them I am content, wherever I be and whatever I do. "But it is now time to die." Why say "die"? Make no tragic parade of the matter, but speak of it as it is: "It is now tune for the material of which you are constituted to be restored to those elements from which it came." And what is there terrible about that? What one of the things that make up the universe will be lost, what novel or unreasonable thing will have taken place? Is it for this that the tyrant inspires fear? Is it because of this that his guards seem to have long and sharp swords? Let others see to that; I have considered all this, no one has authority over me. I have been set free by God, I know His commands, no one has power any longer to make a slave of me, I have the right kind of emancipator, and the right kind of judges. "Am I not master of your body?" Very well, what is that to me? "Am I not master of your paltry property?" Very well, what is that to me? "Am I not master of exile or bonds?" Again I yield up to you all these things and my whole paltry body itself, whenever you will. Do make trial of your power, and you will find out how far it extends.

Who is there, then, that I can any longer be afraid of? Shall I be afraid of the chamberlains? For fear they do what? Lock the door in my face? If they find me wanting to enter, let them lock the door in my face!—Why, then, do you go to the gate of the palace?—Because I think it fitting for me to join in the game while the game lasts.—How, then, is it that you are not locked out?—Because, if anyone will not receive me, I do not care to go in, but always I wish rather the thing which takes place. For I regard God's will as better than my will. I shall attach myself to Him as a servant and follower, my choice is one with His, my desire one with His, in a word, my will is one with His will. No door is locked in my face, but rather in the face of those who would force themselves in. Why, then, do I not force myself in? Why, because I know that within nothing good is distributed among those who have entered. But when I hear someone called blessed, because he is being honoured by Caesar, I say, "What is his portion? Does he, then, get also a judgement such as he ought to have for governing a province? Does he, then, get also the ability to administer a procuratorship? Why should I any longer push my way in? Somebody is scattering dried figs and nuts; the children snatch them up and fight with one another, the men do not, for they count this a small matter. But if somebody throws potsherds around, not even the children snatch them up. Governorships are being passed around. The children shall see to that. Money. The children shall see to that. A praetorship, a consulship. Let the children snatch them up; let the children have the door locked in their faces, take a beating, kiss the hands of the giver, and the hands of his slaves. As for me, it's a mere scattering of dried figs and nuts." But what, then, if, when the man is throwing them about, a dried fig chances to fall into my lap? I take it up and eat it. For I may properly value even a dried fig as much as that. But neither a dried fig, nor any other of the things not good, which the philosophers have persuaded me not to think good, is of sufficient value to warrant my grovelling and upsetting someone else, or being upset by him, or flattering those who have flung the dried figs among us.

Excerpt from Chapter VII, Of freedom from fear, in Book IV of Epictetus' Discourses.

/misc | Dec 11, 2017

Demi-decennial coworking update* #

WeWork "transforms buildings into beautiful, collaborative workspaces." 237 buildings in 56 cities, for teams of 1 to 500+.

Previously: 2005, 2010

*Yes, this installment is running slightly behind schedule.

/misc | Oct 26, 2017

Veganism in a nutshell #

If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others... why wouldn't we?

-- Pam Ahern of Edgar's Mission

/misc | Sep 03, 2017

Proving the existence and content of a webpage #

ICanProve generates "digitally signed screenshots and session logs for legal evidence, proofs and discovery".

It uses a "remote controlled browser to create screenshots with extended logging of user actions and data transfer to create a timestamped and digitally signed document to give a very reliable proof of the website contents while allowing to selectively exclude sensitive information and transparently decoding ssl (https) sessions".

Would the generated files hold up in court? No idea. I am not a lawyer (thank heavens), this is not legal advice, etc, etc. It may be prudent to have an actual notary (or twelve) verify and notarize as well (after conferring with a phalanx of attorneys, of course).


/misc | Aug 16, 2017

Resetting an HP OfficeJet 5740 #


Support and Engineering main menu entries

Support Menu (Press Back/Return 4 times)

Some potentially useful/interesting options:

Engineering Menu (Press Home, Back, Home, Home)

Some potentially useful/interesting options:


/misc | Mar 04, 2017

Still using Yahoo Mail? #

/misc | Feb 10, 2017

Objections to veganism #

Vegan Sidekick has a handy guide to justifications for harming and exploiting animals. TL;DR: this comic covers much of it.

/misc | Jan 23, 2017

Combine an animated GIF with a static image while retaining the animation #

in Adobe ImageReady CS2:
  1. Open both images in ImageReady
  2. Rotate the animated GIF if desired (Image > Rotate Canvas > Arbitrary...)
  3. Make the animated GIF's canvas size larger than the static image's canvas size (Image > Canvas Size...)
  4. Copy and paste the static image as a layer into the animated GIF (Select > All > Edit > Copy > Edit > Paste)
  5. Using the Move Tool (V), drag the static image to the desired position, then use the Crop Tool (C) to crop it
  6. Set the static image as the background (Layer > New > Background From Layer)
  7. Check the delay timers and looping options in the Animation pane (Window > Animation)
  8. Save the new combined GIF (File > Save Optimized As...)

/misc | Oct 19, 2016

All empty boats #

If a man is crossing a river
and an empty boat
collides with his own boat,
he won’t get offended or angry,
however hot-tempered he may be.
But if the boat is manned,
he may flare up, shouting and cursing,
just because there’s a rower.

Realize that all boats are empty
as you cross the river of the world,
and nothing can possibly offend you.

From chapter 43 of Stephen Mitchell's The Second Book of the Tao

/misc | Jul 19, 2016

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