December 2013

We commence December with events from November, viz. a visit to picturesque Bibury, to reach which required a drive over the Swinford Toll Bridge (in both directions). Noteworthy site in Bibury: The picturesque Arlington Row cottages, built in 1380 as a monastic wool store and converted into a row of cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century. Arlington Row, a popular visitor attraction, has been used as a film and television location. The world’s oldest horse racing club, The Bibury Club, was formed in 1681 and held race meetings above Bibury village until the early part of the twentieth century.

As we stood admiring the Arlington Row cottages, which have stone roofs (not slate), a lady emerged from one, and graciously answered a few of our questions, including the fact that the inside beams are gigantic; she likened residing in her cottage, in fact, to “living inside a wooden ship”:

The Swinford Toll Bridge, conversely, thoroughly unpicturesque, is noteworthy chiefly for its unusual status as one of a mere two remaining toll bridges that cross the Thames River upstream of London. The bridge, built of local limestone, was opened in 1769, and is governed by its own Act of Parliament, which allows the bridge owner to collect tolls, and makes the building of bridges across the river illegal for three miles either way up or down stream from Swinford. Apparently the owners do not even pay tax on what they rake in from the tolls. The bridge was put up for sale in 2009 and was sold at auction on December 3 for nearly two million dollars. An interesting inheritance for a child who will grow up to collect tolls from his or her very own bridge:

While on an airplane I watched Wong Kar-Wai’s elegant The Grandmaster, starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, and the curious Siberian Education, starring John Malkovich. When in California, I took in the brutal 12 Years a Slave. Later in the month, in Houston, I watched All is Lost, Philomena, and the IMAX 3D version of Hobbit 2.

Vegan food beckons in L.A. at the three locations of The Vegan Joint (, and in Albuquerque at Thai Vegan’s locations – and one now in Santa Fe as well (

Wondering about our broken health care system? Wonder no more:

Moreover, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the less money spent in the final weeks and months of life, the better the death experience is for the patient:

The living should be wary of felines:

Other noteworthy URLs (in no particular order):

Starlings =

For more neat science stuff, try vsauce, e.g.

Let us raise a glass of hemlock in disgust at the inconceivably astonishing ruthless hubristic stupidity of certain so-called scientists (abysmally unworthy of that title) who located the world’s oldest living creature – and promptly slew it:

Sadly, humans specialize in murder; as Texas historian T. R. Fehrenbach, who died recently, observed (commented on a period a few centuries back): “The moral, upstanding Comanche who lived by the laws and gods of his tribe enjoyed heaping live coals on a staked-out white man’s genitals; a moral Mexican, for a fancied insult, would slip his knife into an Anglo back. The moral Texan, who lived in peace and amity with his fellows, would bash an Indian infant’s head against a tree or gut-shoot a ‘greaser’ if he blinked.”

Happily, most Texans are now better behaved. Many are even cultured, thanks to fine institutions like Blacksmith Coffee (, the Menil Collection(, which I visited in December for the first time, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science (, which I visit often, this time that I might see its splendid new permanent Egypt rooms, and take a peek at amaing reproductions from the ancient caves of Lascaux. While in Houston I also dined again with my sister at Beck’s Prime, a seven-minute walk from her house, where a veggie burger & a beer taste better than ever when consumed while communing with the two 400+ year-old live oak trees that shade the restaurant’s outdoor seating.

As usual, the choir at Tallowood Baptist Church (in which my sister sings soprano, and is a member of the hand bell group) aced their December performances of their Christmas music; and in honor of the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us close out the year with the testimony of Leonard Cohen:

Prayer for Messiah

His blood on my arm is warm as a bird

His heart in my hand is heavy as lead

His eyes through my eyes shine brighter than love

O send out the raven ahead of the dove

His life in my mouth is less than a man

His death on my breast is harder than stone

His eyes through my eyes shine brighter than love

O send out the raven ahead of the dove

O send out the raven ahead of the dove

O sing from your chains when you’re chained in a cave

Your eyes through my eyes shine brighter than love

Your blood in my ballad collapses the grave

O sing from your chains where you’re chained in a cave

Your eyes through my eyes shine brighter than love

Your heart in my hand is heavy as lead

Your blood on my arm is warm as a bird

O break from your branches a green branch of love

After the raven has died for the dove

Last Modified on July 20, 2015
this article December 2013