Tarek Durrani

Durrani’s mission takes him on a journey of espionage and subterfuge, discovery and enlightenment, violence and love. While the dedication and allegiance of men like Durrani may be exploited by the opposing forces of volatile governments, Durrani’s integrity could turn out to be the Achilles’ heel of those who would exploit him. While this novel neatly fits a long-established spy thriller formula, its setting is fresh and unique. It weaves a timely tale of extremist politics and terrorist plots with the insight of one who knows the field. 

And purely from the cultural perspectives of the characters involved. I was impressed by the author’s ability to tell the story from an authentically cultural perspective, rather than from a western point of view. I was occasionally distracted by editorial oversights, but on the whole the story is well-structured, and it flows nicely. I especially appreciated the cover art, as it accurately captures the essence of the story. North from Calcutta is a strong offering from a new author; I had to look twice to confirm that this was in fact his first novel.

North from Calcutta

A time bomb is ticking. It has been so for centuries, but the ticking has suddenly grown louder. Tension in Kashmir is about to explode in yet one more, perhaps final, international episode. Tarek Durrani has always been driven toward what he considers to be the greater good. He has met unsought challenges with determination, and successfully balanced his humanity with the brutality of his life. From his early days as an anti-soviet mujahedeen in Afghanistan, to his current position as an officer of Pakistani intelligence... 

Durrani has sought only to do that which his conscience can reconcile. Durrani is a loyal man. His intelligence gathering mission for the Pakistani government seems, at first, to be inconsequential. But he begins to suspect that it is part of a larger, more sinister plot to upset the fragile balance of two vehemently opposed two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. He suspects that he may have become involved in an attempt to precipitate war over the long-contested control of Kashmir.

It’s Been Awhile - part 4

Next year I want more boxes as I have more ideas on how to grow things. This year was the first with this type of gardening and I did learn a lot. Next year the dirt will be better as well as I will be adding in more compost etc. also painted a bunch of old tires laying around, and threw a bunch of wildflower seeds in there and it grew like crazy. Hailstorm knocked quite a bit of it down, but it sure looked good before that. Same thing with this old planter barrel. Found it hidden in this bed of trees that had overgrown. I brought them outside and while we were gone the end of July, first week of August, they bloomed and I am going to have a ton of peppers on them. Last year they were inside and I had to pollinate them myself and got quite a few peppers, but now that nature has done its thing, I am going to get hundreds Ssile I love living out in the country. I love the gardening and I still don’t mind the commute. I could retire and keep myself busy for sure. I have been reading some blogs when I have had the time, and I hope to spend more time catching up soon. Hope you are all doing well and enjoying your summer.

It’s Been Awhile - part 3

It would be my perfect dream to ride out in the mountains with this couple. So I’m working on it by getting moving, then I will get back into the strength training program. Got to get these legs strong again. I’ve been busy gardening as we have had a unusually warm summer for a change. It’s been so nice... Mr. Sandra built me two above ground garden boxes and they grew like crazy (however last Tuesday it got hit by hail pretty hard and some is damaged). But look what we did... We built the boxes in the garage in the spring, and I painted them. They were so heavy and well built that he dragged them to the garden spot with the BobCat (which I am proud to say I also know how to drive). We filled the bottom with rocks, then put down a layer of landscaping cloth. Then poured in the dirt. This year I planted yellow and green Zucchini, yellow and green beans, kohlrabi, carrots, peas,  red and spanish onions and beets. The tomatoes and Brussel sprouts I started from seed in my basement in February. This picture shows them just kind of starting out. Today they are full of fruit and flowers. My Kohlrabi and Brussel Sprouts got attacked by a moth and its larvae and the leaves are almost gone. I’m not sure how to battle that and need to do some research as I want to keep this as organic as I can.

It’s Been Awhile - part 2

I’ve increased my walking as well (finally) and am really noticing less pain in my hips. If I could only get it stretched out to where it needs to be, then maybe one day I can ride a horse. Have I ever mentioned my goal is to get back on a horse? Since we now live out in the country it would be so easy to get a couple and get back into riding. But I know my back/hip will not tolerate longer than maybe 20 minutes sitting on the back of a horse. We had a big BBQ in July, and had invited many friends from around the neighborhood (as well as family) and one of our friends rode his horse (and led another) to our place. Nothing like seeing someone riding onto your property on a horse. Anyway… I was going to get up on the horse, as that is why he brought them over, and there were 30 people watching me. I didn’t have the strength to lift myself up into the stirrup and had I gotten up there, I am unsure I could have swung my leg up and over to sit in the saddle. It was a bit embarrassing. But we talked afterwards and we are going to get me over to their place, where there won’t be 30 people watching me, use a step ladder, and get me on that horse. Then I can ride around their place and see how I do.

It’s Been Awhile - part 1

I’ve been a slacker blogger lately. Downright missing in action kind of blogger. What can I say, I’ve been busy. You know... work, life, gardening, diets, camping holidays… that kind of thing. I started this year with a bang, fizzled for awhile there, then started back head first into the game in July. I’m slowly making permanent changes in my life that are slowly affecting my weight and my over-all well being. These small changes are affecting different areas of my body. For one, by removing grains, dairy and for the most part other complex carbs, I have reduced the inflammation in my body and am experiencing a lot less pain in my hip/back. And my sinuses have cleared up too. Sleep has improved as well. And because of those improvements, I can certainly tell when I go off the wagon. Which is very easy to do during the summer camping months. The story will be continued in the next few days.

Understanding Taoism

Taoism views everyone as a Taoist, each person has their own "way", each person has a personal choice on how to live life. Taoism as a practice falls into several categories (I am just using western terms now to keep things simple): just living; actively seeking; letting go; transformation. Most people fall into the just living category and at each "level" Taoist practice offers different advice to movement of life. The advice and the teachings in Taoism will always be relative to where you are in life. So a person who is just living often leaves things alone (to be as is) while a person seeking often stirs things up to find answers. As a teacher I am careful when answering questions for this reason and vary my answers to each person to best fit to where they are. So when reading answers in my blog, my site, or in books like the Tao Te Ching, know the answers received are not static. That as you look at the materials you will see answers and ideas shift as you explore life. Westerners want defined answers which are true at all angles: a Taoist instead views answers as shifting depending on the angle of life.

Now this is important for many reasons, however here is one consideration right now. Often times when stuck trying to understand a Taoist answer or writing. Look at it not in terms of the answer you think it contains, instead look at the statement in terms of release. An important Taoist key in translating various Taoist texts: Taoism is "rarely" ever about destination, so conversely never about direct answers. Taoism is about the way, a path, a journey itself. So most passages are the key, not to answers, but rather towards some form of release of assumptions, expectation, ego, etc, anything that holds a person down. A key is about opening possibilities and not about what is actually in the locked box that the key opens. This means when stuck a person is often looking at the Taoist passage or answer in older personal terms which they need to release in their life to move on. So when stuck, always look the element of release over a solid answer which helps you move on in your life.