A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

Seattle sparkles

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 19, 2009

Seattle was beautiful today – utterly beautiful. I have more to post from this weekend, including shots of a very nice pro-Gaza protest we ran across yesterday – but for now, a shot of the harbor water catching the sunlight this morning:


Taken on the waterfront walkway across from the lower level of the Sculpture Park, which we wandered through this morning as the sun was just beginning to dry off the nighttime damp.


Posted in family, photography, sea, Seattle, weather | Leave a Comment »

Life in the wintry mix

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 29, 2008

The forecast calls for a “wintry mix” tomorrow, I said Friday evening, looking up from my computer screen. What do you think that means?

The icon under the forecast descriptor showed snowflakes, rain, and funnily-shaped blobs that looked a lot like my memories of cellular mitosis.

When we awoke the next morning, it was to the sound of a constant stream of little taps on the windowpanes. Apparently, the mitotic cells represented rain pellets: freezing rain in which each raindrop carried a frozen hail pellet at its core.

Roads are often described as “sheets of ice” during Iowa winters – but in this case, the rain pellets really did create a thick ice glaze over everything.

I think this is a day that the State Patrol advises “no unnecessary driving”, my father said as we creeped our four-wheel-drive way to the gym. I wonder whether going to the gym qualifies as necessary.

Well, I said, noticing that Perkins’ (a local diner) parking lot was fairly full, If breakfast at Perkins counts as necessary, surely going to the gym does!

Driving wasn’t too bad – but getting out of the car was a challenge. My father’s car is a bit tall for me, so when he let me out on the street on our return home, to pick up Friday’s mail and then walk to the house, I put my foot down on the icy road and kept on going.

Happily, my backside turned out to have enough padding to keep my fall from involving more than a few light bruises, but it was a good reminder of the dangers of ice.

This is one of the living room windows, thickly coated in ice:


The west-facing windows were totally covered, while the east-facing windows had only individual ice splotches:


It was a nice day to be inside, and to be grateful for cozy indoor heating.


Posted in home, Iowa, weather | 2 Comments »

preparing for the storm

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 22, 2008

My neighborhood is always quiet early in the morning, but the hush was different on Saturday. It was a snow hush – the quiet that comes from the presence of a soft white coverlet, draped over everything from tree branches to car hoods.

My office closed early on Friday afternoon, along with a number of others. It wasn’t the absolute volume of snow – we had three inches, at most. But three inches in a city that relies heavily on public transportation and that rarely gets any snowfall was more like seven or eight inches in Iowa. I was glad that we were sent home – I took a book in case the trains to Brooklyn were slow (or stuck), but it was a relief to be able to be cozily ensconced in my apartment by 5:00, rather than after the dark and cold had truly settled in.

This is how my street looked, early Saturday morning:


Its been a big weather week for the entire continental United States – or, in honor of Abu Owlfish, perhaps I should describe it as a Weather week. From Seattle to New York, the country seems covered in snow, ice, and freezing temperatures.

My parents lost power last week – briefly, they said, but still a rare occurrence.

I realized that I have no idea where our flashlights are, my mother said to me after recounting how my father had turned on both (electric) fireplaces. And even if I did, I doubt they have fresh batteries.

Part of the problem, I think, is that American houses (like most modern homes) are designed with the expectation of a steady and relatively inexpensive flow of electric current that not only lights but also heats and cools. I wouldn’t know where to find flashlights at my parents’ house either – and I doubt that the two electric fireplaces would be able to provide much heat.

But I am prepared for power emergencies – after living in Lebanon, I know almost instinctively what to do when the power goes out.

I know where my flashlight is – stuck to the hood of the stove (its magnetic) for easy access. I know where my candles are, as well as my matches and two back-up lighters. And I know that I can keep myself warm by bringing a chair into the kitchen and turning on the stove. (Actually, this I learned years ago from friends with a semi-legal sublet in Chinatown – but it came in handy in Beirut.)

Its good to be prepared for emergencies – but it was better to be home on Friday with the power on, so I could wake to a warm apartment, a hot cup of tea, and a fast Internet connection on Saturday.

Posted in Beirut, Brooklyn, home, Iowa, Lebanon, weather | 3 Comments »

the power of curry

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 5, 2008

Last night I had dinner with my friend R. It was one of those cold, wet nights that I think of as an early winter specialty in New York – and we had decided to combat the chill with Thai. We went to Lemongrass Grill, a local chain, and happily began poring over a long menu of flavor-filled items, each more tempting than the next.

But one in particular stood out: the massaman curry dish, which Lemongrass’ menu described as “Muslim influence curry”:


Hmm, I said. I think it means “influenced”, as in “a curry influenced by Muslims”, not as in “this curry will influence you in Muslim ways”.

I’m ordering it, said R, who has an adventurous spirit.

Both of our dishes were delicious, and neither of us seemed particularly altered by them – happily for me, as mine featured both peanuts and spinach, neither of which I particularly wish to resemble.

But I am curious about the name. I have seen this dish in other Thai restaurants, spelled mussaman and massalman. This latter to me looks a lot like the French term for Muslim: musulman/e, so perhaps many people over the centuries have  misheard “Muslim” or “Muslimeen” (the plural) as “Musalm” or “Musalmin”.

I looked online and found that while most food writers agree that this is “Muslim curry”, there seems to be no definitive view on how it received its name.

Here is the general consensus, from the foodies’ view:

Food blog Taste Buddies states that the dish is from southern Thailand and “was born from the Arab spice merchants who settled in the region a thousand years ago.”

The Curry Focus Blog agrees, noting that 60% of the population in southern Thailand is Muslim. It describes the curry as more sweet than spicy, and notes that that: “Spices were introduced to southern Thailand by early Portuguese traders who brought spices (such as turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and nutmeg) from the Middle East and India.” It suggests that the curry does well with pork, which to me seems to take away from the “Muslim” influence, but perhaps its a sign of how popular the curry is beyond its original makers.

A few sites suggest that the dish was traditionally made with beef. EnjoyThaiFood and others who suggest using chicken note that this is a departure from the traditional dish, since “Thai Muslims of course usually eat this dish with beef.” Does this sound familiar to anyone? I don’t think of Muslims as avoiding chicken (or poultry generally) – is this more of a Thai Muslim culinary tradition, or is it something I simply do not know?

In any case, what I do know is that we were both delighted to find ourselves warm and cozy on a chilly night, catching up and filling up on sweetly spicy food.

Posted in animals, Arab world, Brooklyn, food, Islam, neighbors, religion, research, weather, women | 1 Comment »

seven years of fat, seven years of lean

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 11, 2008

This is a sad day for those of us who were in New York, Washington, D.C., or rural Pennsylvania when the planes hit seven years ago. What I remember most clearly is the confusion of it: I was walking home from the gym when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, and so I had no idea that anything had happened until my friend K called from work.

Diamond, something big has happened, she said tightly. We don’t know what exactly, but a plane has hit the World Trade Center.

That’s awful, I said sympathetically, while thinking to myself: oh, K is always a bit dramatic. I’m so sorry for the people in the plane, and those who witnessed it – but I’m sure that the building will be fine.

No, I remember her saying to me. You don’t understand – our cell phones aren’t working and we can’t get any of the news sites to open.

At the time, I had just moved into a new apartment with a roommate. We had no television and no radio, and only a dial-up internet connection. When K hung up, I tried to go online, but it took ages to connect. And she was right: I couldn’t get any US news website to load.

My mobile phone wasn’t working well either, but I was finally able to reach my father, who had been on his way to vote in their town primary election when he realized that what he was hearing on the radio was not a replay of the 1993 World Trade Center attacks but breaking news.

Later I learned that my sister, who lived in Washington, had also been able to get through to my father. She had been at the doctor’s office when the plane hit the Pentagon, and didn’t know whether she should continue to work or return home. 

It was still early enough that people wondered whether more planes might still be in the air and heading towards unknown targets, so my father cautioned her: try to avoid walking near any building that looks like it might be a target.

My sister looked around and saw government buildings, IMF buildings, embassies and other political headquarters. 

But Dad, she said, this is D.C.. Every building here could be a target.

Three years ago CNN replayed its full coverage of the day on its website, and I watched it from 8:30 am, curious to see what I had missed by being away from the television that day. What I realized was that there was as much confusion on the television as I had experienced on the ground. The news didn’t break immediately, and when it did, the newscasters were unsure how serious – or how big a story – it would be.

The coverage evolved gradually from breaking news into a morning newscast to full live coverage of a story that superceded all others – but even then, confusion reigned. The screen clearly showed the second plane hitting the second tower, but the commentators missed it entirely – and when they were informed of eyewitness accounts reporting the second hit, they initially dismissed them. None of us could believe what happened at first, I suppose – which one could call a gut response or a “failure of imagination”.

Just like 2001, its a beautiful sunny day today, although several degrees cooler than it was then, and the clouds are a bit thicker in the sky. I’m seeing my city with two sets of eyes today, both a bit misty – and its hard to reconcile the seven years that separate them.

Posted in Americans, explosion, home, neighbors, New York, politics, time, weather, women, words | 1 Comment »

stadium seating for no one

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 12, 2008

Tripoli has been on my mind frequently in the past seven weeks – the weeks since I left Lebanon. As I have mentioned before, I am good at living in foreign cities as a resident (I can locate a neighborhood dry cleaners, a local locksmith and a good grocery store in record time) but I am a terrible tourist. Consequently, my first visit to Tripoli was the day before I left the country.

H’s family is from Tripoli, although none of them live there now. So part of the draw (and his incentive in taking me there) was to get a sense of the mysterious forces that make him tick his roots.

The other reason I wanted to visit Tripoli was to see the Rashid Karame International Exhibition Center, a World’s Fair-like complex designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in the early 1960s. (Yes, Niemeyer was Jewish – he was a native-born Brazilian but his parents were immigrants from … Eastern Europe? Russia? I forget. Lebanon has a number of modernist structures designed by Jewish architects, including the Gefinor Center in Beirut. I’m not sure how receptive the population today would be to a Jewish architect, but I’d like to think that he or she would be welcome. Some people in Lebanon do seem to conflate “Israeli” and “Jewish”, but many are able to differentiate the two categories.)

Construction on the Rashid Karami complex was begun and the major physical structures were completed, but none was finished. I don’t think that work stopped precisely in 1975 – my understanding is that it had slowed before then and petered out over a longer period, but I’m not really sure of the precise time line.

What I am sure of is that the complex is an utterly fascinating place. We loved wandering around its several buildings and spent over an hour there, despite the 95+ degree weather.

Fascinating, but also a bit eerie. What struck us most were the theater seats set up for outdoor performances. Apparently there have been some performances here – including one as recent as 2005, I believe – but in general, the seats look a bit forlorn. As does Tripoli in general.

(You can read a bit more about the complex here, at the World Monuments Fund’s website, or by googling Niemeyer and Tripoli.)

Posted in Arab world, Lebanon, photography, time, tourism, travel, Tripoli, weather | 3 Comments »

Beirut moments

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 26, 2008

This morning I went on a walking tour of our new neighborhood, sponsored by a local architectural preservation society. (H claimed work as an excuse, but I suspect that the 90-degree weather also played a factor in his decision. Its also cleaning time again in our apartment, so perhaps he was penning an ode to Lebanon’s housekeepers.)

The tour was definitely focused on Brooklyn, but for the alert tour-goer it did offer a few Beirut moments.

One, a similar “more is more” approach to electricity wires:

near the Gowanus ... or Gemmayzeh
near the Gowanus … or Gemmayzeh

And two, a shared “batten down the hatches” view of strangers:

"The enemy is everywhere"
“The enemy is everywhere”

I bet the guy who created that sign thinks I’m secretly a CIA agent, too 😛 .

Posted in Americans, Beirut, Brooklyn, home, laundry, Lebanon, photography, tourism, weather, words | Leave a Comment »

summer rain

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 4, 2008

I’m in Boston for the weekend, celebrating the 4th today and my father’s 60th birthday tomorrow. (H is in the Carolinas, where his older siblings are having a big holiday weekend reunion. We had a very romantic weekend-getaway cab ride to the airport together, but parted ways at our boarding gates. Its okay – we each wanted to see our families, and we’ll see one another again on Sunday.)

I arrived in Boston yesterday evening, just in time to join my parents & grandmother for dinner with some family friends at a seafood (what else!) restaurant on the waterfront (where else!). And we in turn arrived at the restaurant just in time to watch a summer storm come in across the water. It was beautiful to watch, and lasted only 15 minutes or so, but it made us lose our wistfulness at the restaurant’s decision not to set its outdoor tables.

This morning, I awoke to the sounds of a gentler storm: a soft steady summer rain. I can hear the hushed sound of rain falling on leaves and grass, and the quiet rustle of wet greenery as the wind blows it in one direction or another. And every so often I hear the rubber sound of car tires on asphalt as early morning 4th of July’ers head out to meet friends for morning coffee or to help set up the town parade, which starts at 10.

After spending so many summers in Beirut and Damascus, summer rain totally delights me. Cool wet mornings and booming early evening thunderstorms, which we’ve been having in New York, are a wonderful surprise.

Its now 9:30 – I started this post around 6:30, but took a break to go for a walk with my mother. We’re off to see the town parade – I’m betting that the red white and blue of the Fourth will stand out beautifully against the grey sky :).

Posted in Arab world, Beirut, Brooklyn, Lebanon, rain, weather | 3 Comments »

a day in the country

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 25, 2008

Last weekend, while the Doha negotiations were still underway, H and I decided that we needed to get away from it all. So we joined one of Lebanon’s many outdoors appreciation groups (Blue Carrot, Esprit Nomade, and Vamos Todos are the best known, but there are others) for a hike in the mountains.

It was a “typically Lebanese” hike in many ways: we waited 45 minutes after the scheduled departure date to make sure that the “group” had all arrived; we stopped for manoushe before starting our hike; and when we did start, we hiked for 10 minutes and stopped for 20, hiked for another 10 and stopped for 15, hiked for another 10 and then stopped for tea and coffee. (No, I’m not exaggerating – I was wearing a watch!)

But it was a convivial group and we enjoyed the much-needed dose of fresh air and sunshine – not to mention the hike leader, who knew a great deal about the region, and entertained us with bits of history and geography.

He also had a great sense of humor. As we passed an area covered in scrub flora and rocks of all sizes, he said: w hal manta2a ghaniye kteer bi ramal, with an utterly straight look on his face. It was a type of richness, I suppose – and his description made us all laugh.

View behind us as we started the first ascent:

View overlooking the Metn and/or Keserouan, I forget which (and as an American I claim no skill in geography):

It was a lovely day, and worth the two days of hobbling around that followed. Sore muscles and work-appropriate heels don’t mesh well together.

Posted in bugs, health, Lebanon, travel, weather, women | Leave a Comment »

hi no, hi no, its off to work I go!

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 7, 2008

I took this photograph a few days ago, when H and I were heading out of the city on one adventure or another:

I love how the truck drivers decorate their cars here – it reminds me of India. And I think that this truck’s “Hi No” message is very appropriate for the day of a general strike.

I’m at work, but I am definitely in the minority. I’m the only one in my office, and for some time I thought I might be the only one on my floor as well. Its not bad, though – I’m getting lots of work done. Who would have known: to increase worker productivity on an individual level, organize a strike.

More seriously, I hope that the day ends well. I saw burning tires on the television, but none on my way to the gym or to work. Its a big change from the January 2007 strike, when the sky was grey with rubber ash and I passed three flaming tires despite sticking to the side streets.

But its also a beautiful spring day after months of almost no conflict, and as H said to me on the phone a bit ago, Its early yet. Schools are closed, businesses are closed, and that means measurably more young men free to roam the streets, testosterone at the ready. And measurably more television news crews roaming the streets as well, hoping for any sign of breaking-new “action”. Not a healthy mix.

Naturally, I’m hoping for a big afternoon rain shower. Wet bodies bring cooler heads 🙂 .

Posted in Beirut, Lebanon, politics, weather | 3 Comments »