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How do you know that you've had a great time with someone? When it's only half an hour after you leave them that you realize that you're tired and cold. I went to see my half-sister Carlotta in Cambridge, and the time just flew. She's a lovely person, physically and mentally, and we found that we had no end of things to talk about. We even have the same research interests.
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The Carabinieri, Italy's military police, are known for strict adherence to regulations and stern notions of duty. Each Carabiniere, it is said, has another Carabiniere watching inside him. Which is why there is nothing surprising about the fact that, once a shop-owner in the lovely hilltop village of Torgiano, near Perugia, called the local force to deal with a shoplifter, they dealt with her strictly according to the rules, arresting her, taking her to their station, and questioning her. The embarrassed prisoner - a respectable OAP aged sixty - freely confessed to stealing twenty euros' worth of meat, because her tiny pension could not stretch to the whole month. The Carabinieri quite properly charged her - then had a whip-round among themselves, paid for her weekly shopping, and took her to dine in a local restaurant. That second inner Carabiniere can be a pretty soft-hearted old fellow at times.
POST SCRIPTUM: You don't get rich on a Carabiniere's wages either.


Feb. 17th, 2011 10:09 pm
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The practice of music, in my experience, has a curious effect on character. It may be that, being the most spiritual of all the arts, to be exposed to it is close to being exposed to Spirit itself; but I have often been struck to what extent many musicians, people who live day in and day out with the most noble and beautiful and enlivening and even just plain fun of all the arts, indeed of any way to make a living, turn out to be miserable, odious, selfish, and especially expert at all the sins that make for immediate and lasting unhappiness. Not all of them, mind: some are great and noble people. But of the worst people I have ever known, many have been musicians. It is as though contact with this greatest of art must either raise or depress a man, as though moderate decency became impossible. After all, the greatest of them all, Beethoven, was enormous both in his virtues and his vices.

But I would rather speak of heroes than of cads. So let us speak of three musicians I know who can all be said to be integrity incarnate, who proved it by by resisting the greatest evil of their time, and who nevertheless were as different - in anything except greatness - as three men could very well be.

Read more... )
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Yes. I distrust corporations on principle, but when you have to, you have to. Yesterday I addressed readers to an Amazon-baiting cartoon - just because I found it excruciatingly funny. Today I got the last of a lot of six rare books I had ordered from Amazon two or three weeks ago, and which I did not expect until April. All the books have been delivered in better than expected condition, well ahead of time, to my complete satisfaction. A corporation that does exactly what it was asked to do. Of course the six books cost me a small fortune, but I don't regret it in the least. So, no, I don't really believe that Amazon are the kind of people who leave horse heads in your bed.
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Say, what is that astoundingly bright round thing in the sky this morning? I think I've seen it before, but it must have been a long time ago.
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...except that as of now, I do have a hundred friends. And we are doing something fun more or less every evening. Many thanks to all my online friends.

And no, I still don't have a pony. Or (my version) a Harley Davidson. Ah well.
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Some sports have, above and beyond the matter of winning or losing, certain and special kinds of achievement which can be quite unique; never, perhaps, to be held even by confirmed champions, and yet accessible, with a little bit of luck, to any player. They are lifetime achievements, whom the player is allowed - indeed, expected - to dine out on and bore his/her friends silly for the rest of his/her life: my hole-in-one, the hundred-pound salmon I landed, the time I took a world champion ten rounds and lost on points.

Not all sports have such achievements, which is why I am explaining the point. Now in baseball (and softball, which is its female version), the special achievement is the home run: to strike the ball so high and so hard that, by the time the opponents have recovered it, you have had the time to touch all three bases and score a full point (a run). If you are feeling particularly showy, you can do it at a canter or a walk, just to underline your confidence. Every child who knows baseball dreams of a home run.

A day or two ago, the Central Washington University ("Wildcats") softball team was playing Western Oregon University in Ellensburg, Wash., for a local league. The Wildcats were one game behind their opponents, with a chance to reach the playoffs. Western won the first game 8-1, extending its winning streak to 10 games. The Wildcats desperately needed the second game.

Western Oregon's 5-foot-2-inch right fielder came up to bat with two runners on base in the second inning. Sara Tucholsky's game was off to a rough start. A group of about eight guys sitting behind the right field fence had been heckling her. She tried to concentrate and ignore them. She took strike one. And then the senior did something she had never done before -- even in batting practice: shesmashed the next pitch over the center field fence for an apparent home run. With two players already on base, that was worth three points and an almost certain victory - not to mention shattering the Wildcats' hopes.

She started running. As she was about to touch first base, she looked up to watch the ball clear the fence and missed touching it with her foot (as the rules require). Six feet past the bag, she stopped abruptly to return and touch it. But something gave in her right knee, and she collapsed.

"I was in a lot of pain," she told the local newspaper. "Our first-base coach was telling me I had to crawl back to first base. 'I can't touch you,' she said, 'or you'll be out. I can't help you.' "

Tucholsky, to the horror of teammates and spectators, crawled through the dirt and the pain back to first.

Western coach Pam Knox rushed onto the field and talked to the umpires near the pitcher's mound. The umpires said Knox could place a substitute runner at first. Tucholsky would be credited with a single and two RBIs (points scored by others on her hit), but her home run would be erased.

At that point, Mallory Holtman stepped in. Mallory Holtman is the Wildcat's star player, and as a rule opponents are not happy when they see her. However, what she had to say stopped their breath: could they, the Wildcats, the opponents, help Tucholsky complete her home run?

The umpires scratched their heads and decided that they could think of no rule against it. And so began one of the most beautiful scenes in the history of sports. Mallory Holtman, the Wilcats' star, made a chairlift together with teammate Liz Wallace, picked up Tucholsky, and resumed the home-run walk, pausing at each base to allow Tucholsky to touch the bag with her uninjured leg.
the home run
"We started laughing when we touched second base," Holtman said. "I said, 'I wonder what this must look like to other people.' "

Holtman got her answer when they arrived at home plate. She looked up and saw the entire Western Oregon team in tears.

"My whole team was crying," Tucholsky said. "Everybody in the stands was crying. My coach was crying. It touched a lot of people."

Even the hecklers in right field quieted for a half-inning before resuming their tirade at the outfielder who replaced Tucholsky.

Western Oregon won 4-2, putting an end to Central Washington's playoff hopes. But as far as any one of us who values certain things is concerned, Central Washington had won a lot more than playoffs. And I hope that any time any of us feel cynical or angry at the human race, we can stop and remember two girls carrying another, in a different colour uniform, so that she could be certified the score she had deserved.


Feb. 14th, 2007 06:10 am
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Some nice person has sent me a virtual gift of chocolates. This would be just a pleasant way to underline the day, but what the person concerned cannot possibly have known is that this is the first time anyone has sent anything to me for St.Valentine's day in all my life. So thank you very much, Anonymous, you've made my day.


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