Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Parliament of Fowls by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Parliament of Fowls is perhaps the first St. Valentine's Day poem
ever written. Brewer suggests that it was begun in May of 1382 and finished
for Valentine's day in 1383.

A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes
Upon a ryver, in a grene mede,
There as swetnesse everemore inow is,
With floures whyte, blewe, yelwe, and rede,
And colde welle-stremes, nothyng dede,
That swymmen ful of smale fishes lighte,
With fynnes rede and skales sylver bryghte.

On every bow the bryddes herde I synge,
With voys of aungel in here armonye;
Some busied hem hir bryddes forth to brynge;
The litel conyes to here pley gonne hye.
And ferther al aboute I gan espye
The dredful ro, the buk, the hert and hynde,
Squyrels, and bestes smale of gentil kynde.

Of instruments of strenges in acord
Herde I so pleye a ravyshyng swetnesse,
That God, that makere is of al and lord,
Ne herde nevere beter, as I gesse.
Therwith a wynd, unnethe it myghte be lesse,
Made in the leves grene a noyse softe
Acordaunt to the foules songe alofte.

Th'air of that place so attempre was
That nevere was grevaunce of hot ne cold.
Ther wex ek every holsom spice and gras;
No man may there waxe sek ne old;
Yit was there joye more a thousandfold
Than man can telle; ne nevere wolde it nyghte,
But ay cler day to any mannes syghte.

The Salmon Of Knowledge

There once lived a young man by the name of Demne, who was the son of Cumhail Mac Art. His father was slain while Demne was still in his mothers womb. Fearing for the boy's life his mother sent him away to be trained by a Druid on the isle of Skye. If you did not know, I'll share it with you now, the name Druid, translates to "Oak Wise", if one was to believe the old scholars of Greece and Rome. They were said to be great philosophers striving to understand the elements of nature, curious seekers of truth. They often gathered in groves and taught lessons or shared tales in the shade of Oak trees, and maybe that is where they get their name. Knowing that no one would harm a druid, his mother felt he was safe from the same fate as his father. But that wouldn't make for a good story, now would it?

So it was that Demne stayed on the Isle of Skye until he had come of age, and much lore did he learn in those years. Not only could he name the trees in all the woods, or know which herbs help what affliction - he also was a fine poet and harper. But he was not content with the the simple life of a Druid, especially one on the isle of Skye, so he decided to seek adventure.

Demne had heard that there was a sacred well, which was the primary source of inspiration to be found in Ireland. From where all inspiration flowed... If there was anything he would need, to suit him best on any adventure, it was unfettered access to the knowledge the well could bestow on someone. So he set himself on the task of finding it. He followed the river Boyne, which was named after Boann, of the Tuatha De Dannan, the people of Danu. The Tuatha De Dannan, a legendary race of people that were said to have arrived on Ireland with the mists. They came from four great cities that had perished due to some natural disaster or another. They were a regal people and holders of a great amount of knowledge. Boann was married to the harper of the great Dagda himself, so the bards relate.

[Extend this to include husbands name, and a brief about their children]

But it is not the story of the Tuatha De Dannan, but a story of a young man's adventures, I am relating for you this day. So as our hero followed the Boyne further and further upstream and into the mountains and glades of wild Ireland, the river became smaller and smaller until it resembled a stream. Finally he came to a well from which the stream poured. Nine old and purpled hazel trees encircled the well and it is said that there is a certain time when one of the trees will drop a hazelnut that, if caught by a salmon before it reaches the water, and said salmon is caught by a Druid before the fish gets back into the water, eating that salmon will bestow great wisdom and inspiration. Demne was not familiar with that tale, though his nose was familiar with the smell of fish over a fire.

Demne followed his nose a short distance away, passed by a couple of Oak trees, where he came to clearing at the center of which a fire was blazing and over the fire was a salmon cooking on a spit. There was no one to be seen, and the woods were quiet, as they often are when a stranger approaches. Demne cried out, "Hello?". He heard no answer. He cried out again, a little louder "Hello, is there anyone here?", still no answer. He cried out a third time in his booming voice, "Hello, is anyone going to eat this here fish?". Demne was hungry, the fish smelled good and maybe the one that left it would not mind him tasting a wee bit...

So he reached down to taste a small piece of the salmon and in doing so he burned his thumb on the hot flesh. Immediately he stuck his thumb in his mouth to cool it. Just then he heard a soft voice, "Hello, I see someone warming themselves by my fire". Demne turned around to see a wise old Druid come into the clearing. They exchanged the warmest of courtesies as they did in the old days. The Druid asked Fionn if he tasted the fish. Demne, being an honorable man confessed he had. So the Druid, with a sigh, handed the fish over to the young man and said "I suppose this is for you then". Demne accepted the Druid's hospitality and while Demne was enjoying his meal, the wise man told Demne the story of the Salmon of Knowledge, and that the proper conditions to produce such a fish only happens but once every seven years. Demne, embarrassed by his hasty hunger he apologized for any inconvenience. The old Druid, smiling, explained that his patience will persevere for the next Salmon of Knowledge.

[The Druid renames him Fionn, for the glow of inspiration.]

Now, since Fionn's first taste of the fish was when he burnt his thumb upon it, whenever he found himself faced with a perplexing problem all he had to do was put his thumb in his mouth and think for a while. Soon the answer would come to him. This is how Fionn came onto the great knowledge he is said to have possessed. It served him well. Later he went on to be a King and the leader of an incredible band of exceptionally skilled men, known as the fianna. I'll save that story for another time.

Becase of that knowledge Fionn became so famous in his day, that it was said if ever a day went by that his name was not mentioned, at least once - the world would come to an end. So it is good fortune for the world that I picked his story to tell and so goes the story of Fionn Mac Cumhail and the Salmon of Knowledge.

The Three Beauties from Criminal minds Show up some Wannabe

Thomas Beatie, a married man who used to be a woman, is pregnant with a baby girl

A married man who used to be a woman says that he is pregnant and will give birth to a baby girl in July.

“How does it feel to be a pregnant man? Incredible,” wrote Thomas Beatie, 34, from the Pacific North West of the United States, in the latest issue of the gay magazine The Advocate.

“Despite the fact that my belly is growing with a new life inside me, I am stable and confident being the man that I am.”

Mr Beatie was born female, named Tracy Lagondino, but had gender reassignment surgery and is now legally male and married to a woman.

He decided to carry a baby for his wife, Nancy, because she had a hysterectomy years ago. He was able to get pregnant because he kept his female organs when he switched genders.

“Sterilisation is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights,” he writes. “Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire but a human desire.” The couple, who have been together for ten years, run a custom screenprinting business in Bend, Oregon, where neighbours do not know that Mr Beatie was once a woman.

“Our desire to work hard, buy our first home and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child,” he wrote.

Before becoming pregnant, Mr Beatie stopped the testosterone injections he was receiving as part of his gender reassignment. “It had been roughly eight years since I had my last menstrual cycle so this wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. My body regulated itself after about four months and I didn’t have to take any exogenous oestrogen, progesterone or fertility drugs to aid my pregnancy,” he wrote.

The couple bought donor vials from a cryogenic sperm bank and, facing resistance and prejudice from doctors, resorted to home insemination. “Doctors have discriminated against us, turning us away due to their religious beliefs. Healthcare professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognise Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy’s family doesn’t even know I’m transgender,” he said.

Mr Beatie’s first successful insemination ended in a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy with triplets that required surgery, resulting in the loss of all his embryos and his right Fallopian tube. “When my brother found out about my loss, he said, ‘It’s a good thing that happened. Who knows what kind of monster it would have been?’,” he wrote.

The second pregnancy resulted in a baby girl who is due to be born on July 3. “I will be my daughter’s father, and Nancy will be her mother. We will be a family,” he wrote.

Mr Beatie would not be the first transgender man to give birth, according to Lisa Masterson, an obstetrician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles.

“A transgender man can be pregnant because he has the same organs as a woman,” Dr Masterson said on the ABC Good Morning America show.

Dr Masterson said, however, that transgendered men face special health risks resulting from their sex change. “It’s really important that he doesn’t take any testosterone early on in the pregnancy and later on,” she said. “That can cause male-type characteristics in the female baby.”

Some of the Beaties’ neighbours in Bend voiced scepticism about the pregnancy claim. One resident, Josh Love, told ABC: “I couldn’t say that he looks pregnant. I can stick my stomach out and almost make it look like that. I think it’s kind of bizarre. I don’t know if I believe it or not.”

The Advocate said it had confirmed the story with Mr Beatie’s doctor.

Gay Unions Sanctioned in Medieval Europe

Civil unions between male couples existed around 600 years ago in medieval Europe, a historian now says.

Historical evidence, including legal documents and gravesites, can be interpreted as supporting the prevalence of homosexual relationships hundreds of years ago, said Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

If accurate, the results indicate socially sanctioned same-sex unions are nothing new, nor were they taboo in the past.

Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize," Tulchin writes in the September issue of the Journal of Modern History. "And Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures."

For example, he found legal contracts from late medieval France that referred to the term "affr�rement," roughly translated as brotherment. Similar contracts existed elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, Tulchin said.

How To Make International Coffees

Special Thanks to Bitchin' Kitchen

New CPR method takes 20 minutes to learn

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Quebec is launching new guidelines for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

The new method is supposed to be more efficient in helping a patient survive.

A new teaching style of the technique will help people remember what they've learned.

The procedure is vital in keeping a patient's heart pumping, until emergency services arrive.

Old school

For 50 years, people have been learning to give 15 compressions followed by two breaths, to a person who is in cardiac arrest.

Now, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Quebec says it's better to use 30 compressions, followed by two breaths.

The new method is based on scientific data from thousands of international studies, says ambulance technician Marc Gay.

The research shows blood circulation drops when the compressions stop, meaning it's important to give more compressions and allow more blood to flow through the body.

"Then your heart's going to stay in an excitable fashion which means that it is easily and readily defibrilated with the defibrillator," Gay said Monday as the new technique was shared with journalists.

A person's chances of survival increase dramatically if CPR and defibrillation are administered within the first minutes of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Alphonse Montmigny of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Quebec.

"The survival rate can be 50 to 75 per cent, it's really high," Montmigny said.

The new CPR technique will now take only 20 minutes to teach, instead of four hours. Research shows that volunteers will retain just as much with the new learning method.

The heart and stroke foundation will begin teaching it in the spring.

The History of Eggnog

Eggnog literally means eggs inside a small cup. It is used as a toast to ones health. Nog is an old English dialect word (from East Anglia) of obscure origins that was used to describe a kind of strong beer (hence noggin). It is first recorded in the seventeenth century. Eggnog, however, is first mentioned in the early nineteenth century but seems to have been popular on both sides of the Atlantic at that time. An alternative British name was egg flip.

It all began in England, where eggnog was the trademark drink of the upper class. "You have to remember, the average Londoner rarely saw a glass of milk," says author/historian James Humes (July 1997, "To Humes It May Concern"), former speech writer and adviser to four presidents. "There was no refrigeration, and the farms belonged to the big estates. Those who could get milk and eggs to make eggnog mixed it with brandy or Madeira or even sherry." But it became most popular in America, where farms and dairy products were plentiful, as was rum. Rum came to these shores via the Triangular Trade from the Caribbean; thus it was far more affordable than the heavily taxed brandy or other European spirits that it replaced at our forefather's holiday revels."

An English creation, it descended from a hot British drink called posset, which consists of eggs, milk, and ale or wine. The recipe for eggnog (eggs beaten with sugar, milk or cream, and some kind of spirit) has traveled well, adapting to local tastes wherever it has landed. In the American South, bourbon replaced ale (though nog, the British slang for strong ale, stuck). Rich, strong eggnog — the richer and stronger, the better — is no stranger to holiday celebrations in New Orleans, and at this time of year the drink takes its place alongside syllabubs on the traditional southern table. (Syllabub is a less potent mixture than eggnog but just as rich. Made with milk, sugar and wine, it straddles the line between drink and liquid dessert.)

Eggnog goes by the name coquito in Puerto Rico, where, not surprisingly, rum is the liquor of choice (as it is these days for many eggnog lovers in the U.S.). There the drink has the added appeal of being made with fresh coconut juice or coconut milk. Mexican eggnog, known as rompope, was created in the convent of Santa Clara in the state of Puebla. The basic recipe is augmented with a heavy dose of Mexican cinnamon and rum or grain alcohol, and the resulting drink is sipped as a liqueur. In Peru, holidays are celebrated with a biblia con pisco, an eggnog made with the Peruvian pomace brandy called pisco.

The Germans make a eggnog or rather egg soup with beer (Biersuppe). Here in Iceland, we do have a soup here that resembles eggnog somewhat but there´s no alcohol in it. It is served hot as a dessert. Other than that, we have nothing that resembles eggnog and no eggnog traditions.